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A new "Monkey Bill"
  • SimonSimon May 2012
    Saw the following two articles in Nature:


    and



  • Michael May 2012

    Sadly too many Christians both church leaders, bishops and members of CIS seem unwilling to take on creationism. It is being smuggled into schools with too little opposition.


     


    We should make clear that creationism is simply a fraud.


    Time to stop pussy-footing about

  • exchemist May 2012
    Yes, I looked at the links. But the Tennessee bill is very vague, and does say that only SCIENTIFIC theories are to be compared. I'd have thought that Kitzmiller had established that, as far as US law goes, ID and creationism are not scientific. If so, they will be off-limits and any transgressor will risk a very much abbreviated re-run of Kitzmiller, this time without the backing of the laughably named "Thomas More" institute. In fact I note that at the conclusion of the article, someone thinks that climate change is a more likely target, for precisely this reason. 

    I also thought the second article link had some slightly hysterical statements in it. For example, the writer seems too badly informed to understand that Pakistan mandating classes to teach that " Allah … is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe” is not in itself inconsistent with teaching evolution. 

    The whole thing looks like a pretext for protagonists on either side of the US "Culture Wars" to saddle up and take to the field for another pointless and unproductive battle. (By the way, is it only me that thinks this phenomenon is singularly badly named? Calling them "Lack of Culture Wars" would seem nearer the mark.) 

    But I do very much agree with Michael that what we need is not scientists but religious figures to point out that evolution is fine for Christians (or at least for the major denominations - pace Anthony and others of his ilk). That's the only way to break out of the silly, megaphone diplomacy that afflicts this topic. 
    I've been told that the clergy often are reluctant to preach on this subject for fear of "shaking the faith of simple people". I'm not sure I buy this in today's world. It seems pusillanimous. Everyone is taught some science at school now, and TV programmes regularly assume viewers take evolution as being as close to a fact as anything in science. A policy of silence in these circumstances seems tantamount to encouraging cognitive dissonance among believers - not a good idea, surely? 

    Are there any clergymen in CiS and what do they think they can do? 

  • croc May 2012

    In an earlier thread I noticed exchem (I think) make a disparaging/dismissive comment re IDers and YEC's. This approach seems to be continued in this posting.

    Can you please tell me how the layman is supposed to reach a reasoned position on this area. Whichever position you look at , ID, YEC, Theistic Evolution, Atheist Evolution the proponents of each include Professors and Doctors of assorted science subjects. Who should I believe and why.

    (As a comment, my life experience is that, generally, those who just dismiss glibly opposing views are either afraid to check that view for philosophical reasons, or scared to check in case they are found to be wrong.)

  • SimonSimon May 2012
    Hi croc - welcome to the forum! Maybe start an introductory thread about yourself if you intend to stick around (and that goes for all you other posters who haven't done it yet!!).

    There are very few "Professors and Doctors" who take either the YEC or ID position, and even fewer who have their qualifications in the appropriate subject area. The vast majority of Christians with a science education both adopt the "theistic evolution" position and know quite a lot about the other two positions because of how popular they are amongst (mainly evangelical, protestant) Christians who are not educated in science. Indeed I used to hold both the YEC and ID position myself before receiving my science education. So yes I dismiss them as pseudoscientific nonsense, but from a position of knowledge and experience, not ignorance. I explain it more in the following post:

  • exchemist May 2012
    Croc, Simon sums it up pretty well. But since you imply that a stance like mine may be a closed-minded one based on fear of ideas, I offer the following brief explanation of my position. 

    Like Simon, I too have a scientific background. I admit my speciality is chemistry and that my knowledge of biology, geology, cosmology and the history and philosophy of science has been acquired by reading and osmosis from fellow scientists. But I have taken an interest in these things over the last 40 years.  

    Now, the argument that creationism (whether of YEC or ID type) is not science is extremely well-known and compelling. Without going into details, to subscribe to ID, you have at some point to give up on science, fold your arms and say "God did it" - a complete stopper of scientific enquiry. To subscribe to YEC you have to throw not only parts of evolutionary biology, but also geology and cosmology, in the bin. Since I am a scientist, it would take very persuasive arguments to get me to reject so much. I can't stop you calling this  fear, if you wish. However I argue it is because natural science has been extremely successful over the last 300 years at explaining the order in the natural world, enabling successful predictions to be made. Its continued progress is reported almost every day.

    By contrast, creationism seems to have no predictive power, offers no good argument that I can see, and merely gives off the strong whiff of a motive - a religious one. But, as it happens, creationism is not even necessary for Christian faith, as authorities and thinkers in the major Christian denominations have attested for over a century. 

    So I find myself applying the advice popularly attributed to Richard Feynman to "keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out".         
  • croc May 2012

    Simon/exchemist

    Thank you. I would say you have stated your opinions without addressing my main question, that is, 'How should the layman decide'.

    You both suggest that science has unequivocally proven evolution. Simon says that those scientists who don't agree have not been trained in the right fields to make true judgements.

    So against this I offer the following;

    YEC believer, Professor of Physics (relevant enough surely), PhD Physical Chemistry; BSC (Hons) Geology & B.Eng (Hons), PhD (one person); Professor of Aerospace Engineering; B.Ag.Sc (Hons), PhD plant physiologist.     There is also an organisation called 'Creation Science Movement'. I also include a sentence from an e-mail I rec'd yesterday 'Today, he speaks passionately about the relevance and the scientific integrity of the biblical Creation'

    My purpose in putting these down is to give examples of  people who are properly qualified to comment on the subject, with expertise in many areas which relate to the subject. On one website, in excess of 100 scientists, minimum qualification of a doctorate, have put their names down in support of the YEC position.

    Please do not dismiss them all as incompetent or something. By all means disagree. They have the same evidence as you but reach different conclusions.

    My original question then, How does the layman decide?

     

  • SimonSimon May 2012
    If you are a layman then you need to look at whether there is a general consensus amongst experts. Regarding evolution there IS a general consensus with only a tiny tiny minority of religiously motivated extremists who speak against the evolutionary paradigm. If evolution was incompatible with Christianity then there might be reason to question the consensus from a Christian perspective, however the fact that THE MAJORITY of Christian professional scientists accept the evolutionary paradigm suggests this is not an issue to do with Christian vs other world view. We all trust experts to fly planes or drill teeth, so we should also trust them when it comes to science.

    Perhaps a related discussion on this forum is here, whilst an article I was reading this morning which may have some relevance is here.

  • exchemist May 2012
    Croc, I had a feeling you would come back with something like this. 

    I'm not sure how else anyone can advise a "layman" to decide, other than to put forward the line of reasoning that one has used oneself, and to point out what most informed people think. Simon and I between us have attempted to do both, though evidently not to your satisfaction. 

    I was thinking in my bath what line you would probably take in your inevitable rejoinder, and it struck me that in my first response to you I omitted two further aspects of my own reasoning. 

    There are, thanks to the web, all sorts of theories around on everything these days, many of which are not credible (the Bermuda Triangle, who really killed Princess Diana, mysteries of the pyramids and so forth). So I suggest our hypothetical "layman" is entitled to use some criteria as a filter, to avoid having to read up, at length, theories that are likely to turn out to be fringe stuff or bonkers, in other words a waste of his time.  

    One criterion is whether the new (or rival) theory does anything to simplify a complicated theory or to solve a fundamental problem with an existing theory. Copernicus' view of the cosmos, as compared to Ptolemy's, is an example of the former. Planck's discovery of his eponymous constant, in overcoming the "ultraviolet catastrophe" in classical physics at the end of the c.19th, is an example of the latter. Creationism appears to me, and to most informed people, to do neither, not for evolution, nor geology, nor cosmology. 

    The second criterion is more fundamental really and is an issue of basic ethics, rather than science. Simon's link to the discussion on charlatans is relevant here. I submit that our "layman" should feel free not to waste his time on theories put forward by people who have a history of intellectual dishonesty. This applies to a number of the proponents of creationism, as demonstrated for example in the notorious US Dover School ("Kitzmiller") trial in 2005. 

    So I would suggest that our "layman" need not consider himself under any obligation to read "The Signature in the Cell", "Darwin's Black Box", or any of the other material put out by the creationist PR industry, before forming an opinion. 

    P.S. To correct one small detail of your reply, I hope I would never make the error of saying that natural science has "proven" anything.  All theories in natural science are models of nature and as such are provisional (i.e. subject to revision) and can only be disproved or shown incomplete, never "proved". That goes not only for evolution, genome sequencing, sea floor spreading and the cosmic abundance of the elements, but also for relativity, quantum mechanics and Newton's laws of motion.   
           
  • SimonSimon May 2012
    Argh - how could I have forgotten to mention "Project Steve" in my earlier post!
  • It's a really interesting question - and an ethical question, in fact - how should a "layman" decide.

    As well as being provisional, it seems that all half-decent scientific theories have huge gaping holes in them. General relativity and quantum mechanics are examples: they are both very successful, but they flatly contradict each other. Evolution, as far as I understand it, has big unresolved issues too. Astronomers can't come up with compelling models for the formation of stars and galaxies. That's not a bad thing. Just because a theory has huge problems (or has been "falsified", if you want to use that term), that doesn't mean we should throw it away, and it's probably a useful step towards a better theory that hasn't been formulated yet.

    I suppose you are acting within your epistemological rights if you say that (for some reason) you believe that the current scientific consensus is mistaken, and that you expect that in due course that will become clear. Someone in previous generations, if they had enough foresight, could have said the same about Newtonian mechanics, phlogiston, the spontaneous generation of life or the practice of bloodletting. Some theories that once had the respect of all of the experts turn out to be plain wrong, while others turn out to be only approximately correct. There's every reason to suspect that, in our own generation, at least some of what everyone thinks is true in science will turn out to be not entirely true (or completely wrong). So I don't think anyone is under any obligation to believe something, even if all the experts are sure it is the case.

    So maybe a rule of thumb: trust the experts, unless you think you have good reason not to do so. But in that case, tread carefully and try to be humble about it.

    In my own case, I would lean more towards the YEC position in many respects. I do this mainly because my Christian faith inclines me in that direction. I recognise that YEC scientific models have enormous gaping holes in them, but I'm okay with that. It also seems to me (tentatively - I'm not a biologist or geologist) that evolutionary models have quite a few enormous holes in them, and also that some of those holes are easily filled by YEC models (e.g., the origin of life, the origin of complex organs, and the origin of continental-scale catastrophic geological features, none of which are particularly surprising, if life was created recently and if there was a recent global flood).
  • exchemist June 2012

    Anthony, I’m afraid some of this again strikes me as a bit slippery. I notice you choose the terms "huge" and "gaping"  for the "holes" you refer to in current theories of science. And I see you are then happy to acknowledge "enormous", "gaping" holes in YEC creationist "scientific models". The suggestion seems to be that, really, it's just six of one, half a dozen of the other, take your pick, right? Well, no, actually, for the numerous reasons Simon and I have given already in this discussion. 


    While it may be risky to disagree with an astronomer on such a matter, it strikes me as unfair to state that quantum theory and relativity "flatly contradict” each other, without qualifying this statement heavily. The everyday implication of “flatly contradict” is that you can’t use the one without denying the validity of the other. But of course these models each work exceptionally well for the classes of phenomena they are designed to address, just as Newtonian mechanics works fine unless you deal with the very small or the very fast. Surely, within these limits, these models do not have “gaping holes” in them, they are amazingly powerful, unifying and consistent. It has always been my understanding that conflict only arises when you try to stretch them into each other’s domains, to provide a completely coherent set of laws of physics, across the whole of nature. This is not something most scientists need to do when they use these models for most purposes (though I can see that maybe astronomers bump up against the limits more than most). They are simply, like Newton’s laws of motion, acknowledged to be incomplete and attempting to reconcile them is one of the current frontiers of science. 


    Are you suggesting YEC can shed light on the way quantum theory and relativity can be unified?  Or that it offers a rival explanation that avoids the conflict, while retaining the explanatory and predictive power of them both? I bet you aren’t. No one working in this field would dream of suggesting: Hey, I’ve got it, we reject all these theories and say instead “God does it”, there you are, that’s your improved explanation.  


    Everyone would agree with you that nobody is under any “obligation”, as you put it, to “believe” any theory in science - this point obviously follows from them all being provisional. But this degree of reserve (element of agnosticism, one could say), is not at all the same as saying that every rival theory has to be taken seriously. The key question is what does the rival theory add to understanding (once we’ve decided the proponents are probably not charlatans, of course). 


    In relation to YEC, you mention that it might “fill a hole” in geology, regarding continental scale catastrophic geological features. Well I suppose it might, though saying “God did it” would not stop most geologists continuing to search for natural, as opposed to supernatural, explanations. (And if they succeeded, as has happened with the evolution of complex biological features, then YEC would have to move its goalposts to a new area where there wasn't an explanation - yet.) 


    But just think what you would have to THROW OUT in order to achieve this goal. Plate tectonics successfully connects the magnetic and laser measurement evidence for seafloor spreading with mountain building, the shapes of the continental blocks, vulcanism and earthquake prediction. Not only that, it also successfully explains some divergences in the genealogy  of various life forms (via evolution, a totally independent theory), as land masses separated. This genealogy is evident both from the fossil record and, quite independently, from biochemistry via the  DNA sequences of their descendants. To adopt YEC, you have to throw this wonderful consistency, across independent fields of study, all in the dustbin and say instead, “God did it. Now, how do we predict earthquakes? Sorry, no idea, we’ve junked our theory of that - it’s just God’s will.” 


    How could that be progress? 



  • SimonSimon June 2012
    There's a difference between "unresolved issues" and "huge gaping holes". Sure there are plenty of "unresolved issues" within evolutionary theory, however for the vast majority of things the theory works just fine. The reason why it is such a universally supported theory is because there are not the "huge gaping holes" that are found in the pseudo-science of ID or YEC. In the YEC case dinosaurs, starlight, plate tectonics and sedimentation rates are good gaping holes to start with!

    I am hoping you are being provocative when you say "leaning towards YEC". Afterall the YEC position is not only terrible science but also even worse philosophy (as exchemist mentions above) and equally appalling theology - failing to take the genre of the biblical text seriously. For these reasons I cannot take seriously anyone who vocally supports such a theory because if their thinking is so faulty to accept YEC, they really are not worth listening to about anything else.
  • croc June 2012

    From the above responses it seems if you read YEC/ID literature and give credence to it you must be an imbecile. By extension then, all evolutionary reading must be wholesome and good.

    COBBLERS.

    If I am to accept science as my FAITH I have to believe it cannot be wrong. History proves, as stated previously, this is not so.

    To have doubts about evolution is not being brain dead it is; a) seeing there are flaws in the argument

    b) Having faith in God and not scientists.

    A couple of anomalies (from many) that cause doubts about evolution 1) Living fossils "Milliions of years" old fossil but no change in the still extant creature.

    Birds come from dinosaurs but no fossil has been found showing intermediate stages of bone structure which must have occurred if that transition did occur.

    Lastly, a quotation  

    An Open Letter to the Scientific
    Community

    cosmologystatement.org


    (Published in New Scientist, May 22,
    2004)


    The big bang today relies on a growing number of
    hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed-- inflation, dark
    matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there
    would be a fatal
    contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and
    the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this
    continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging
    the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious
    questions about the validity of the underlying theory.

     

    I do think I have enough grounds to be dubious about evolution and this is reinforced by my faith in a living and personal God, my Saviour jesus Christ. Presumably Simon won't want to speak with me now?

    Finally, I don't know anyone who says 'God did it' and metaphorically shrugs their shoulders.

    Plate tectonics are part of His creation and affect us all so yes, science should seek to understand it, and all natural penomena, as best they can.

  • exchemist - thanks for that. Yes, I agree with what you say about GR and quantum mechanics. They both work extremely well in the domains in which they work extremely well! But there's nothing in the theories that tells you when you are straying out of that domain into uncharted territory. So, as descriptions of the whole of reality, they are both, strictly speaking, wrong (but immensely useful).

    But I would never want to throw them away entirely. In fact, with evolutionary theory and long-age geology, I am sure there is a lot of truth to them, but I hold out the hope that those aspects of those theories may one day find themselves incorporated into a radically different theory. Very little research has been done into the alternatives - such as catastrophic plate tectonics and flood geology - and it may well be that investigations in those directions will prove fruitful. Note that there's almost nothing "supernatural" in those models - no one is saying "God did it" and stopping there. (I'm less optimistic about young-age models for cosmology, incidentally, and think we need to explore ways of reading Scripture that fit with an old universe. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of that - wanting to revise disciplines that I know nothing about, but sticking with the scientific consensus in my own discipline. But hey...)

    Simon - I think the difference between a "huge gaping hole" and "unresolved issues" is another of those distinctions that only a philosopher would insist on making ;)

    I hope you are being provocative to write off all YEC streams of thinking as terrible science, worse philosophy and appalling theology. It's not all equally bad. But we'd better leave it there for today!
  • SimonSimon June 2012
    Anthony - I'll look forward to future engagement on other topics given your new regression which I fear is based on nothing more than a slightly naive approach to theology (esp. penal substitution).

    Croc - why on earth are you talking about science as if it is an alternative to Christianity?? There is absolutely nothing incompatible with believing in "a living and personal God" and accepting evolutionary theory.