Monday, March 30, 2009

An Albatrossitic misstep

Albatrossity is a frequent commenter at ERV, and is quite a character. In real life, he's a professor of biology at a major state university, but given the stridency of his speech, the level of profanity and mockery in his vocabulary, and his reading comprehension level when he gets riled up, one could easily be forgiven for mistaking him for your typical atheist troll who's read a few Dick Dawk books and little else.
Anyway, Albatrossity recently walked right into my cannonfire (see my preceding comment for the context), and I think it's funny enough to share.
Here's a clue-by-four. If both good design and bad design are considered to be evidence of your designer, your notions can't be discussed by rational people seeking useful explanations. But we knew that already, didn't we?
Let's take another look at his statement, shall we?
If both good design and bad design are considered to be evidence of your designer...

Now let me think about that one for a second... Design being evidence for a designer. Hmmmmmm...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Never tell me the odds!

A quick question.
The eminent Tom Foss, who used to interact with me but has moved on to greener pastures (and bully for him, I say!) said this:

Gosh, maybe it's just the years of calculus, but it seems to me that trying to apply probabilistic reasoning to a process that isn't random, isn't common enough to have its frequency even hypothesized about, and has never been observed by anyone, is just mathematical wankery.

That's pretty interesting.
1) I have been corrected by evolutionists that ToE is not random. (So I don't say it's random anymore; rather, I say "unguided natural selection acting on random mutations".)
2) Macroevolution isn't very common; else it would be really really easy to put forward numerous examples to satisfy the evolutionary skeptic like me.
3) Macroevolution via unguided natural selection acting on random mutations has not, as far as I know, been observed.

Evolutionists, Tom Foss is not your ally. Just FYI. No more mathematical...well, you know... please.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Would I give it up?

zilch asked:

Is there any evidence that would make you believe that the Bible is not true? If not, there's not much point in further discussion.
This is an existential question as well as an evidential one.
Several things would need to happen.
Producing an alternative system of epistemology and morality to the biblical one that is self-consistent and consistent with reality would be a good start, so there'd be somewhere to go. Naturalism is not somewhere to go; it'd have to be sthg else, and I've never seen one so far.
Said system would have to be able to acct for the origin of the universe and of life as well (since we're talking about me here - this question always bothered me as an atheist).
And probably a plausible alternative to the Resurrection of Jesus would have to be fwded. The alternatives I've so far seen are pathetic, so sthg else would have to be thought up.
Finally, Jesus would have to let go of my heart. And that's never going to happen.

In short, nothing I've ever seen would do the job, and given that Christianity is actually true, it is impossible. My will belongs to Jesus, not to me.

So, zilch... is there any evidence that would make you believe that naturalism (or, insert your current worldview, if not naturalism) is false?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Rebuttal to EAAN Rebutted

Here is the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. My friend Brian wrote a slimmed-down review of it here.

The EAAN casts serious doubt on the reliability of our cognitive faculties if evolution is true, and therefore naturalism (since the idea of naturalism was thought of by human minds, which are, according to EAAN, unreliable). Put another way, if ToE is true, there is little to no reason to think that your brain is reliably aimed at producing thoughts that align with the way things are, with reality. True beliefs. If ToE is indeed how we and our brains came about, then it is "concerned" with how organisms behave, not how or what they think. What does it matter whether I think strawberries are strawberries, alien life forms, or Carmen SanDiego CDROMs? It doesn't matter, as long as I eat them when I'm hungry and they keep me alive and strong, thereby aiding me in staying alive long enough to pass on my genes to the next generation of children that I'll father. Whether I thought all along they were actually CDROMs doesn't matter in the slightest. It mattered that I behaved in such a way as to keep me alive.
Alvin Plantinga, in his general talks on the subject, uses the example of a man seeing a tiger. The best behavior for him to engage in is to run away.
Plantinga says:

Beliefs don't causally produce behavior by themselves; it is beliefs, desires, and other factors that do so together. Then the problem is that clearly there will be any number of different patterns of belief and desire that would issue in the same action; and among those there will be many in which the beliefs are wildly false. Paul is a prehistoric hominid; the exigencies of survival call for him to display tiger avoidance behavior. There will be many behaviors that are appropriate: fleeing, for example, or climbing a steep rock face, or crawling into a hole too small to admit the tiger, or leaping into a handy lake. Pick any such appropriately specific behavior B. Paul engages in B, we think, because, sensible fellow that he is, he has an aversion to being eaten and believes that B is a good means of thwarting the tiger's intentions.

But clearly this avoidance behavior could result from a thousand other belief-desire combinations: indefinitely many other belief-desire systems fit B equally well. Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it. Or perhaps the confuses running towards it with running away from it, believing of the action that is really running away from it, that it is running towards it; or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a regularly reoccurring illusion, and hoping to keep his weight down, has formed the resolution to run a mile at top speed whenever presented with such an illusion; or perhaps he thinks he is about to take part in a 1600 meter race, wants to win, and believes the appearance of the tiger is the starting signal; or perhaps . . . . Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally fit a given bit of behavior.

ISTM that evolutionists' best strategy to attack EAAN is to call into question this idea that it's plausible that a person holding bizarre beliefs like the "large, cuddly pussycat" or the 1600-meter race would have no connection to their behavior. That is, Paul the hominid thinks such and such, it's implausible that he would act in an appreciably different way from the thoughts he is thinking. It is implausible that the man would reliably run away from the tiger unless he thought the tiger were dangerous.

Then I read something that Peter Pike wrote recently:
Further, what evolutionary benefit would there be to deluding yourself that God exists, as all but the 3% of people who are atheists (according to some polls) do? From purely naturalistic principals (sic), the universality of religion is impossible to explain: it must provide an evolutionary advantage, yet it is supposedly completely irrational! In other words, Darwinism has selected for make-believe, and not for the world as it actually is. And that is something that I just can’t put together rationally in my mind.

Humans have been overwhelmingly religious throughout the entire course of human history; very few atheists. We evolved that way, didn't we? Is this not an example of the 1600-meter race that also conveniently ends up escaping the tiger and conferring a survival-oriented behavior? This point, when properly connected, overturns the evolutionary objection to EAAN, further bolstering EAAN.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2 great sites for debates

You may have noticed that I enjoy a good debate. I have recently come across two very impressive compendia of debates and would like to share them with you.

Common Sense Atheism's 400+ Atheist Debates
Apologetics 315's The Ultimate Apologetics MP3 Audio Page


Monday, March 16, 2009

BEAR 2 - Assume it happened

(What is BEAR?)

Our next installment of bad evolutionary arguments comes courtesy of dang near half the commenters in the super-long debate thread in which I've been busily embarrassing the naturalist crowd.

I had asked what commenters' favorite lines of evidence for evolution was. A few responses showed that Hox genes were up there.
I asked neil, who has also done some commenting around here, to "explain how specifically this supports the idea that there *WAS* a common ancestor many billions of yrs ago". He answered:
Because of the pattern of those genes in living organisms. There is a clear predictable pattern of their distribution. Patterns of differences in sequence and duplications are perfectly consistent with what common ancestry predicts.

This is the same pattern repeated for other genes, ERVs, for pseudogenes (found out what they are yet?) etc.

So what's the big deal with Hox genes? They "(define) a region or position in the embryo", thus influencing more or less what parts grow where in the developing baby organism.
It's not my intention, nor is it very interesting to me, to re-summarise what Myers said in the linked article, but apparently evolutionists find it very significant that they can exercise their powers of assumption with Hox genes as their foil.

Just look at how Myers himself makes the running leap straight into midair:
There are also a few gaps; with duplication comes redundancy, and the possibility of deletion without detriment, and so we also see some examples of culling duplicates in our history.
Speaking of history, one of the things we can do with a phylogenetic analysis of the Hox cluster is see fascinating aspects of our ancient history...The anteriormost and posteriormost genes in the complex are the most different from one another, so we can surmise that they diverged earliest, and have had the most time to accumulate differences.

To repeat, the question at hand here is this: Is the data best explained by the hypothesis that a Designer DID all this, or the hypothesis that unguided natural selection working on random mutations DID all this? We're asking about what happenED. Notice that there is no argument given to take us from Point A to Point B in this.
The fact - Hox genes exist.
The interpretation - They diverged early on.

But what about...?
The interpretation - The Designer made them that way. To almost quote neil, but to go ahead and take him to the logical conclusion he so fears, "Patterns of differences in sequence and duplications are perfectly consistent with what a Designer hypothesis predicts."

Only two answers have been given so far, and I'll discuss the other one in my next BEAR post.

For now, today's answer is perhaps best revealed by neil.

No not with what a designer predicts. Only with what a designer mimicking common descent would predict.

That is precisely the point. Neil here concedes that the data is just as well explained by a Designer.
It looks like it could have evolved. Sure, whatever, fine. A Designer could also have done it. When I ask for proof for evolution in the context of a debate about ID, I'm expecting you to share some of your "mountains of evidence" with me that could not just as easily be evidence for ID. Get to work.

Friday, March 06, 2009

My cultist duty

Just a quick announcement that my wife, whom I very rarely permit outside the kitchen, let alone the house, has contributed another member to my subset of the populace (at 2:41 am no less!). He is tiny but he will be mighty, and the cult to which I belong has already rewarded me with promises of yet more abundant power and grandeur in The Age To Come, which Our Great Leader is pretty sure will come into being before 2196 (which adds up to 18, which divided into 3 is 666 - you do the math). Anyway, I will be taking a break for the next week or so. Sorry to all who want a crack at me. Patience is a virtue.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

All we are, dude, is dust. In the wind.

A poster (who shall remain anonymous) said:

Hands up who thinks it's hilarious that Rhology doesn't realise that his "Xtian worldview" is built on a scaffold of Greek philosophy?

First, kudos for spelling "realise" correctly.
Second, to use an ERV-ism, 0h n0es!!!!!111 My worldview resembles Greek philosophy! Next you'll be telling me that I sound an awful lot like some devout Jews you know.
Hopefully our anonymous poster understands that this speaks not at all to whether my worldview is wrong, but is simply a comparison to another worldview.
And sure, my worldview shares more in common with Greek philosophy than, say, Confucian or Hindu philosophy.
Maybe said Greek philosophers, to whichever you're referring, got it right from time to time. Maybe they saw the world fairly clearly and philosophised to that effect, got a lot of things right.
This kind of 'criticism' is similar to assertions like "Christianity is alot like those Roman mystery religions. I mean, just look at how similar some of their beliefs and symbolism are."
Apparently, in other news, US currency was in fact never printed by the US gov't and has always been worthless b/c someone printed a $3 bill one time.
God made the world and has ordained its events in a certain way. No one is arguing that anyone will get EVERYthing wrong in his life, or even that everyone or most everyone will get a majority of things wrong in his life. God has written His law on our hearts and has placed in each of us a knowledge (which we all suppress, outside of God's grace) of His existence and His invisible nature and power.
We would expect, therefore, people who have these things inside of them and who live in God's universe to mimic Him and true religion in many ways.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Aseem's Assumptions

A university student with whom I've recently become acquainted over the course of 2 ID events at the local university and who is a friend of the infamous and highly daunting blogger ERV, has posted a few comments, culminating in this one. I respond:

Hey Aseem,

Good to see you and talk to you and Scott Friday.

Rho - 'Ha ha! Caught you there! See? Assumptions! Evolution refuted!!!!'

Yes, an assumption masquerading as an evidence at a crucial point in your argument. *I'm* the one arguing that everyone has assumptions, remember? You assume what you have to prove in this case.

Who was the one asking question after question, Rho?

I think we both were. One of us produced answers consistent with his worldview and the other acted like a Christian sometimes and sometimes provided assumptions when he was asked for evidence.

Logic and mathematics are concepts created by man to ease life up a bit

That won't fly unless you're seriously proposing that before there were any human minds (since you nix the idea of a supernatural mind) to think these thoughts, there was both a universe and not a universe at the same time in the same way. Evolution was both occurring and not occurring at the same time in the same way. There was simultaneously one planet that would eventually be called Earth, no planet, and 15,067 planets in the same place and in the same way.
Or perhaps you think I could make my own logic (since I'm a human) and it would be just as valid. Only my "logic" could conceivably not incorporate the law of non-contradiction, so my logic would both be and not be at the same time.
No, clearly laws of logic are not human convention. Try again.

It is a tool.

That man has DISCOVERED, not invented. You have to account for it, on naturalism. Christianity can acct for it just fine.

I show you the natural world and you ask me to prove it is exclusively natural. I cannot.

Correct. You ASSUME it is only natural, but you can't produce evidence to that effect. that's what we talked about this past Friday night. Point is, evidence cannot be the king, cannot take the highest place as decider of our epistemology.

because I see no evidence of there being any supernatural element, I conclude it safe to assume a natural world till somebody provides evidence to prove otherwise.

And we just got thru dispensing with evidence as the king, the firm foundation. It is no foundation at all.
Thus, it's on you to provide a framework worldview whereby you can acct for the big questions nearly as well as Christianity can, and then we can talk. Describe how it is that order emerged unguided from chaos. Describe how it is that non-moral matter became moral beings. How non-rational rocks turned into rational thinking beings. How the mind of a snail is qualitatively distinguishable from that of a man's. How, if we're bags of molecules in motion, we're any different than a table, which is also molecules in motion.

You are the one making the positive assertion of there being a conscious,living, metaphysical element to the world

And you're making your own positive assertions. You have just as much onus as anyone else. There is no neutral, default position.

Till you do that, naturalism is the default position.

What is your argument for that? Provide some evidence for naturalism! (You can't, as we've already discussed.)

of course, the God of the Bible created it all.
Again, evidence, please.

The communication of an infallible, omniscient, timeless, truthful being is the most potent evidence there could possibly be. Why should I trust your interpretation of the facts to which you come w/o benefit of a time machine when I could just ask the one who was there?

do not use circular logic.

Everyone uses circular logic when it comes to axiomatic statements like these.
I deny that mine is viciously circular; that is, it is self-justifying. God is a sufficient starting point that accounts for all these big questions. What is the start for naturalism?
Besides, your little graphic gets it wrong.
The Bible is infallible b/c it is the Word of the infallible God. We know that b/c God has told us so, but it starts with God, not the Bible.
Of course, we can compare this with the naturalist view of the world: Truth exists b/c I told you so b/c if it didn't our existence would be meaningless, but it's not meaningless b/c I told you so.
Pardon me if I put alot more weight on the omnipotent God than your word.

You are not an IDer; you are a creationist.

Correct, I am a YoungEarth Creationist.

you are honest enough to not disguise creationism in a cheap tuxedo and try to sell it as ID.

Such a pitiful ad hominem! ID, judged on its own merits, does just fine. To see how, I commend my challenge to you. I'd love to see your response.

Just how is yours any 'truer' than the rest?

Well, let's see. Mine accounts for reality, logic, value, morality, existence...Yours can't prove you're not a brain in a vat. That's a tough call!

Years of observed, tested, consistent, scientific, peer reviewed and published data is utterly full of horsecrap.

Correct. Why so surprised? Many more (and smarter) people have been believing Christianity for far longer, and you don't hesitate to call it horsecrap.

Scientists work on the premise that observed laws of nature remain consistent over time, which is an observation itself.

It has been an observation for about 100 years, but even that is flawed, since you can't be in all places at all times, even on Earth. You assume it b/c it's useful as a working hypothesis, and bully for you. You have no idea whether said processes were even close to how they are now even as much as 150 years ago, since you don't have a time machine. You know even less that they won't change in one second. You can assume it, that's fine, but call it what it is.

Literally everything you use today, from the clothes we wear, to the field of medicine, everything is a result of working with that assumption.

Which is an assumption much more reasonably held if one is a Christian, b/c God has promised to hold the world together in very similar natural processes until the end.