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Word of the Day: Argument from Authority (and How Consensus Fits In)

An authority could argue that God exists, but why believe them?I can’t count the number of times that I’ve said something like, “I accept evolution because it’s the scientific consensus” and gotten the response, “Gotcha! Argument from Authority Fallacy!”

Let’s take a look at this fallacy and see where it applies and where it doesn’t.

Suppose I said, “Dr. Jones is smarter than both of us put together and he agrees with me, so I’m right!” This statement could fail due to the Argument from Authority Fallacy for two reasons: (1) we haven’t established that Dr. Jones’ expertise is relevant to the question at hand, and (2) even if Dr. Jones is an expert on the subject, that he agrees with my position doesn’t make me right—at best, it would make me justified in holding my position.

Chastised at my poor argument, I go back and rework it. Now I’m careful to first establish Dr. Jones’ relevant expertise and I modified my claim this way: “Dr. Jones, an established authority, agrees with me, so therefore my position is well justified.” This is better, but my statement could still fail due to this Fallacy. What if Dr. Jones is a maverick in his field? He could be a cosmologist still holding on to the Steady State model of the universe now that the Big Bang model is the overwhelming consensus. Conversely, imagine that it’s the 1930s and he is arguing for an expanding universe when that was the minority position. Either position makes Dr. Jones a maverick, and the layman (as an outsider) has no grounds from which to conclude that this minority position is the best approximation.

The Argument from Authority is not a fallacy when the person indicated (1) is an expert in the field and (2) is arguing for the consensus. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make you right, but being in line with the relevant consensus is the best that we can hope for.

I’m amazed when I hear people reject evolution who aren’t biologists. I can imagine browsing biology textbooks and concluding that evolution is a remarkable claim. I could even imagine thinking that the evidence isn’t there (though the fact that I’ve only dipped my toe into the water would scream out as the explanation for this). What I can’t imagine is concluding, based in my “research,” that the theory of evolution is flawed. I mean—on what grounds could I possibly make this statement? On what grounds could I reject the consensus of the people who actually understand this stuff? The people who actually have the doctorate degrees and who actually do the work on a daily basis?

And yet I hear people justifying this step all the time.

Let’s move on to another topic, the question of consensus. After many discussions that have forced me to carefully think my position, let me offer my views on consensus from different fields. Note that this is the view of a layman—someone who is an outsider to these fields.

  • Scientific consensus: I always accept this.
  • Historical consensus: I always accept this.
  • Consensus of religious scholars about their own religion: I always accept their statements of what their beliefs are. For example, when the consensus of Catholic scholars says that within the Catholic church the eucharist (the communion wafer) is believed to transubstantiate into the body of Christ, I accept that.

But don’t accept everything. I draw the line at supernatural claims, whether by scholars or believers, and whether the consensus or not. I will consider evidence for these claims, but so far I have always rejected them.  If I were to accept these claims, that would probably be based either the scientific or historical consensus.

Supernatural claims are in a very different category than scientific or historical claims.  For more, see my post Map of World Religions.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Rick Townsend

    Bob,

    Thanks. This clarifies your view. However, I do have a couple of questions. (I’m sure you’re shocked, nay amazed!)

    1) Your “not a fallacy” link does not lead me to a place that validates your claim in this area, I don’t see that arguing for the consensus leads to the appeal to authority being appropriate. Can you check that link and clarify?
    2) You state you always follow the scientific consensus. But you haven’t established that it is the consensus by your own criteria, you simply allege it over and over. What is your absolute evidence that practicing evolutionary biologists have proven or are absolutely convinced evolution is fact?
    3) If I were to provide evidence that your consensus view is wrong, would you seriously reconsider your view of consensus concerning the issue of biological and information sufficiency concerning evolution and specifically, macro-evolutionary change resulting from undirected mutation and natural selection?

    I still claim that many things don’t require an expert. I’m not DK of NY or elsewhere, and I’m not in the Gucci family, But without fashion expertise, I can still tell when the emperor has no clothes. So your appeal to experts in all areas is still subject to reasonable question.

    But in keeping with your own standards, tell me what you would do if I provided evidence that your consensus was anything but consensus on this issue.

    Rick

    • Bob Seidensticker

      1) Your “not a fallacy” link does not lead me to a place that validates your claim in this area, I don’t see that arguing for the consensus leads to the appeal to authority being appropriate. Can you check that link and clarify?

      Search for “These conditions” and read from there.

      But you haven’t established that it is the consensus by your own criteria, you simply allege it over and over.

      Are we talking about evolution? Hey–who doesn’t know that evolution is the scientific consensus?

      But if you want to again see that long list of quotes by authorities stating that evolution is the consensus, I can put that here.

      What is your absolute evidence that practicing evolutionary biologists have proven or are absolutely convinced evolution is fact?

      (1) I have no absolute (that is, irrefutable) evidence about anything.

      (2) Biologists don’t claim to have proven anything. Similarly, if “absolutely convincing” means “irrefutable,” they don’t have that either. Nor will they.

      (3) Science starts with facts and ends with theories. No one says that the theory of evolution is a fact–just a very well-evidenced theory.

      What is admittedly confusing is the fact of evolution–that’s the evidence that shows that life changes over time. In other words, biologists start with the fact of evolution (evidence for change) and have created the theory of evolution (that is: an explanation of why we see this change).

      If I were to provide evidence that your consensus view is wrong

      I’m not following. Do you have evidence that evolution isn’t the consensus, or do you have evidence that evolution is flawed?

      … would you seriously reconsider your view of consensus

      I follow the scientific consensus. If you showed me that the consensus wasn’t evolution but was actually something else, I’d change in an instant. If you showed me evidence contrary to evolution, I’d be happy to consider it and do my best to see what it means (time permitting), but I’m certain that I wouldn’t reject the scientific consensus.

      I don’t reject the consensus. Not how I roll.

      I still claim that many things don’t require an expert.

      Agreed. Figuring out what the consensus is doesn’t require an expert.

      without fashion expertise, I can still tell when the emperor has no clothes.

      That may be true, but you’re not qualified, as an outsider, to evaluate the evidence. The critique of evolution by a layman, though possibly interesting, does nothing to change the consensus or my mind.

      tell me what you would do if I provided evidence that your consensus was anything but consensus on this issue.

      I’ve already made this clear. I go where the consensus goes.

      • Rick Townsend

        I spent much of the afternoon listening to a podcast which was pretty convincing on the subject. Greg Koukl interviewed Stephen Meyers in the April 2, 2012 podcast. (Pro-Darwin consensus doesn’t rule out intelligent design) One of many significant comments from Meyer was on the developing idea becoming common within evolutionary biology practitioners that there is simply no creative power present in any Darwinian mechanism that could account for increases in information complexity.

        While I have been unable as of yet to find proof of where consensus truly lies on these issues, I clearly could not find any demonstrated proof that it is on your side. There is a growing body of evidence against naturalistic explanations, and in time the alleged consensus will be undermined convincingly.

        The Altenberg 16 meeting demonstrates the degree of uncertainty on the part of serious scientists on this issue. As Meyer states in his CNN commentary, (Pro-Darwin consensus doesn’t rule out intelligent design) we ought to “… let the evidence, rather than a supposed consensus, determine the outcome of what is, in fact, a very legitimate and important debate about the Darwinian legacy.”

        A growing body of Peer Reviewed and Peer-Edited Articles is gradually getting out to the public sphere. Numerous Books Countering Atheism are being printed and are not being effectively countered by the “Dawkins and other angry atheists” crowd.

        It’s time to stop alleging consensus and look at the evidence, as Meyer and other clear thinkers encourage us to do. Stop ad hominem attacks and hiding behind the tired old mantra that you’re not a biologist, and look at what they are saying in tearing down your foundation. There is too much at stake for you to keep doing the same old dance.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          the developing idea becoming common within evolutionary biology practitioners that there is simply no creative power present in any Darwinian mechanism that could account for increases in information complexity.

          When the biologists make a course correction, I’m on board.

          While I have been unable as of yet to find proof of where consensus truly lies on these issues, I clearly could not find any demonstrated proof that it is on your side.

          The claim is: Evolution is the overwhelming consensus within biology for why life is the way it is. Are we in agreement?

          in time the alleged consensus will be undermined convincingly.

          How do you know? A little birdie told you? You’re clairvoyant? Just a hunch?

          As Meyer states in his CNN commentary

          Meyer is (1) not the scientific consensus and (2) not even a frikkin’ biologist. Seriously–who cares what he says? What I want (and surely what you want) is for the scientific consensus to change to reflect what Meyer is claiming. When it does, I’ll change right along with it, just like a weather vane. Until then, this is little more than mental masturbation.

          we ought to “… let the evidence, rather than a supposed consensus, determine the outcome of what is, in fact, a very legitimate and important debate about the Darwinian legacy.”

          Yes, scientists should be following the evidence. We laymen, on the other hand, flatter ourselves when we imagine that we can don an imaginary lab coat and match wits with the people who actually understand this stuff.

          A growing body of Peer Reviewed and Peer-Edited Articles …

          You know what I’m going to say, right? When this tsunami of compelling articles changes the consensus, then I’ll change and not before.

          Let’s let the scientists do the science. When the consensus changes, I’ll change. What’s the rush?

          Books Countering Atheism are being printed and are not being effectively countered by the “Dawkins and other angry atheists” crowd.

          This is a different story. I’m delighted to engage with the apologetics. (Note, however, that your link seemed to point to books from the evolution deniers, not the apologists.)

          It’s time to stop alleging consensus

          Consensus for evolution? That evolution is the consensus is a fact beyond dispute, I’m afraid!

          Stop ad hominem attacks

          Good idea. Where are they? Are you suggesting that I have made these?

          and hiding behind the tired old mantra that you’re not a biologist, and look at what they are saying in tearing down your foundation.

          Why stop at biology? I’m not a physicist either. Maybe I should be examining the so-called “evidence” for quantum physics. Now, if you want a set of nutty claims–that stuff is completely insane. It’s like crack on acid.

          Heck, smart guys like you and me could intellectually slap those pencil-necked nerds around and have them crying like little girls.

          There is too much at stake

          Why? What’s at stake? Biology is just one branch of science.

          So they’re getting it wrong–why is that any more urgent than any other branch of science getting it wrong?

  • Bob Calvan

    Bob,

    Lets take the theory of Neo Darwinian micro mutational evolution. Which started with the majority saying the fossil evidence will prove there are slow changes ( through mutation) from specie to specie. And none have been found. So now we have groups of scientist by there Darwinian presuppositions that will not admit there is no evidence. And we have a group of new young more enlightened scientists who hold to the late Stephen Jay Gould “THEORY” of punctuated equilibrium ( which is really believing in supernatural miracles) . And admit Neo Darwinian micro mutanal evolution has never happened and has never been observed by the empirical evidence of tens of millions of fossils. So which consensus do you hold to now? Do you count how many scientist are on either side ( and by the way each think the other side is heretical, sounds religious) and pick the one with the most as your scientific evidence the evolution is true?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      from specie to specie

      A small clarification: “specie” is money in coin form. A “species” is the narrowest category of life form. It always ends with an “s”–one species or five species. It works like “sheep,” I suppose.

      none have been found.

      Show me a fossil, and I will show you a transitional fossil. Every fossil is intermediate between what came before and what came after.

      It is true that scientists can’t always find transitions between any two fossils–the fossil evidence will always be incomplete.

      So now we have groups of scientist by there Darwinian presuppositions that will not admit there is no evidence.

      Why won’t they admit there’s no evidence? There’s a Nobel Prize waiting for the first person to overturn evolution. You’re saying that there’s a cabal of scientists who know that evolution is bunk but just don’t want to say anything? Has there ever been a successful conspiracy of the magnitude of what you’re suggesting?

      And we have a group of new young more enlightened scientists who hold to the late Stephen Jay Gould “THEORY” of punctuated equilibrium ( which is really believing in supernatural miracles) .

      I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you saying that there are some biologists who accept evolution and some who don’t? Or are you simply saying that there remain unanswered questions about evolution?

      You do realize that Gould accepted evolution, right? And that no scientist calls punctuated equilibrium supernatural?

  • Orbital Teapot

    To all,

    Scientists know at least one species that evolved within the timespan of our species: dogs evolved from wolves.

    In 2006, scientists reported the discovery of tiktaalik roseae, a missing link between fish and tetrapods. And it was found exactly where it was supposed to be, thus confirming a prediction of evolutionary theory.

    • Rick Townsend

      To Orbital Teapot: Dogs and wolves are still canines, not fish or birds. This is speciation within kind, not macro evolution.

      As for tiktaalik roseae, I found online references in which paleontologists “suggest” this may be a transitional missing link, but no proof has been offered. Certainly no telltale genetic markers demonstrate anything of the kind from what I can tell. So scientists “reporting the discovery” of a missing link are usually the first news flash which, like archeoraptor, are demonstrated later to be overstated.

      • Orbital Teapot

        To RT,

        The word “kind” is not part of the biological lexicon.

        There are species, genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, etc., but not kinds.

        Besides, even if we granted that “kinds” existed, it’s obvious that, biologically, people are of the same kind as chimps, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans. So human evolution is perfectly possible.

        Besides, paleontology is a historical science, and it deals with events millions of years old. So you won’t find proofs there as there are in hard sciences or in formal sciences (logic, mathematics). Still, it is good science. Tiktaalik may not be our direct ancestor, but it is at any rate closely related to the species which IS our ancestor. The thing is that we need to look for intermediate FEATURES rather than intermediate SPECIES, because we will never be sure that the fossil we dig up is really the ancestor (and not a species merely related to the ancestor, in the same way an aunt is related to her nephew’s mother, but not his ancestor).

        • Rick Townsend

          I agree with your qualifiers. So when your original post stated, “scientists reported the discovery of tiktaalik roseae, a missing link between fish and tetrapods,” your degree of certainty seemed to be overstated. That is what I was trying to clarify.

          As for canines, you can interbreed various types of dogs up to and including wolves and many kinds of domestic dogs. You will not be as successful in interbreeding various breeds of hominid. There is a distinct difference.

          But I think you and I are in essential agreement on these points and need not quibble over the find points of refined disagreement. There are bigger issues in play. I’m researching some of those.

  • Bob Calvan

    In 2006, scientists reported the discovery of tiktaalik roseae, a missing link between fish and tetrapods. And it was found exactly where it was supposed to be, thus confirming a prediction of evolutionary theory.

    Not so fast my friend.

    Tetrapods from Poland trample the Tiktaalik school of evolution
    From Wikipedia.org

    Figure 1: This neat fish-to-animal transition has been transformed from an evolutionary icon into an evolutionary dead-end. Click to see larger image.

    Tracks of footprints found in a quarry in Poland have turned the palaeontological world upside down.1 For years there has been a neat evolutionary story about how fish evolved four legs and came out of the ocean onto the land (figure 1). Probably the most famous fossil in this sea-to-land icon of evolution is Tiktaalik roseae, a fish with fins that was claimed to have had features intermediate between fish and tetrapods. Creationists consistently rejected the evolutionary spin put on the fossil and showed that it had nothing to do with any alleged sea-to-land transition (see Tiktaalik roseae—a fishy ‘missing link’ and Tiktaalik—sticking its head out of water?). All the same, evolutionists promoted Tiktaalik relentlessly. It has its own website,2 features in evolutionary diagrams (e.g. figure 1), stars on the covers of books about evolution3 and was even the theme of a song to promote evolution.4 Richard Dawkins, in his latest book The Greatest Show on Earth, claims “Tiktaalik is the perfect missing link—perfect, because it almost exactly splits the difference between fish and amphibian, and perfect because it is missing no longer.” (See forthcoming book refutating Dawkins’ book.)

    Piotr Szrek, Uppsala University

    Figure 2. Limestone slab from Poland with fossil footprints.

    But now this footprint evidence from Poland consigns Tiktaalik and all its companion fossils onto the garbage heap. From being stars of the show they have suddenly become an evolutionary dead-end. So the creationists were right all along.

    At first glance the evidence does not look very impressive. The tracks are preserved as shallow indentations on the surface of large limestone slabs from Zachelmie Quarry in the Holy Cross Mountains of Poland. The rough surfaces have an array of roundish indentations arranged in lines (figure 2). But, with the use of lines and diagrams (figure 3), the authors have argued a strong case that these indentations are indeed trackways of four legged animals that resembled large lizards. They were even able to show the shape of the foot within some of the individual prints and identify the toe marks (figure 4). From the dimensions of the prints they concluded that some animals were more than 2 metres long.

    These trackways are a remarkable find but tracks are not particularly unusual in the fossil record. Thousands of trackways of land animals have been found in many different locations all over the world. What has captured world attention is that that these tracks are dated at 397 million years, which makes them fully 18 million years older than Tiktaalik. If four-legged animals existed 18 million years earlier, then Tiktaalik can’t be the transitional fossil it has been claimed to be. It’s suddenly been demoted to an evolutionary dead end along with all the other fossils connected with it. In other words, all those neat evolutionary diagrams that vividly displayed the transition from fish to four-footed animal ancestor (such as figure 1) need to be disposed of. The evolutionary house of cards, so proudly paraded before the world, collapses with a breeze of evidence from Poland.

    Figure 3. Illustration showing how animal could have made trackways. (from ref. 5).

    A total upset
    This is not some small correction or a minor detail. It has turned the paleontological world upside down. Something of the magnitude of the upset can be gleaned from statements made about the find.

    “They force a radical reassessment of the timing, ecology and environmental setting of the fish-tetrapod transition, as well as the completeness of the body fossil record.”5
    “[It] will cause a significant reappraisal of our understanding of tetrapod origins.”6
    “[They] could lead to significant shifts in our knowledge of the timing and ecological setting of early tetrapod evolution.”7
    “We thought we’d pinned down the origin of limbed tetrapods. We have to rethink the whole thing.”8
    “That’s surprising, but this is what the fossil evidence tells us.”9
    “These results force us to reconsider our whole picture of the transition from fish to land animals.”10

    Figure 4. Laser scan of surface showing detail of individual print and diagram relating it to an animal’s foot (from ref. 5).

    Note the terms “radical reassessment”, “reappraisal”, “surprising”, “reconsider … whole picture” and “rethink”. We are given the impression that paleontologists scratch around in the sediments and the evidence for evolution just pops out. Creationists are castigated because they are accused of working by faith and not evidence. Well, this Polish upset demonstrates that evidence does not speak for itself. It takes thought, ingenuity, mental exercise and interpretation to make sense of it. The paleontological world is going to take quite some time to rethink their stories.

    What could be some of the thoughts running through their minds? Remember that each scientist comes to the evidence with their own beliefs, biases and … vested interests. Those who have invested their lives and careers in the standard fish-to-beast story will not be very enthused by the implications of the latest find. They will be reluctant to change, especially since they have nothing to replace it with.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Not so fast, my friend.

      You cut and paste from an article at Creation Ministries International and expect that to be received as objective scientific information? Seriously?

      • Bob Seidensticker

        To elaborate on this thought, here is Creation Ministries’ agenda. It’s not “we follow the scientific evidence where it leads,” as you can see.

        1.The scientific aspects of creation are important, but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer and Judge.
        2.The doctrines of Creator and Creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • Retro

      They will be reluctant to change, especially since they have nothing to replace it with.

      Doesn’t this also apply to Creationists?

  • Bob Calvan

    There aint no missing links..

    One of the most famous and widely circulated quotes was made a couple of decades ago by the late Dr Colin Patterson, who was at the time the senior paleontologist (fossil expert) at the prestigious British Museum of Natural History.

    So damning was the quote—about the scarcity of transitional forms (the ‘in-between kinds’ anticipated by evolution) in the fossil record—that one anticreationist took it upon himself to ‘right the creationists’ wrongs’. He wrote what was intended to be a major essay showing how we had ‘misquoted’ Dr Patterson.1 This accusation still appears occasionally in anticreationist circles, so it is worth revisiting in some detail.

    Dr Patterson had written a book for the British Museum simply called Evolution.2 Creationist Luther Sunderland wrote to Dr Patterson inquiring why he had not shown one single photograph of a transitional fossil in his book. Patterson then wrote back with the following amazing confession which was reproduced, in its entirety, in Sunderland’s book Darwin’s Enigma:

    ‘I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used to visualise such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic licence, would that not mislead the reader?’
    He went on to say:

    ‘Yet Gould [Stephen J. Gould—the now deceased professor of paleontology from Harvard University] and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. … You say that I should at least “show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived.” I will lay it on the line—there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.’3 [Emphasis added].

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Your googling skills are phenomenal. You found an article on the Internet(s) that supports your position. Wow–startling.

      This article from a Creationist web site refers to a book written by a biologist with a damning quote. And yet the book is 35 years old. That’s the best the Creationists can do? What does it say that they can’t find evidence of the problem without looking so far back in time?

      I wonder what a modern-day biologist would say. That this article must go so far back in time makes me think that they are hiding something …

      • Rick Townsend

        This is rather unlike you, Bob, to get so irate. So what if it is a 35 year old argument? Darwin’s ideas are 150 years old. Should we trash those as well? That might suit me, but not for the reason that it is old.

        If the arguments presented are so unworthy, then your response efforts might be better spent doing something other than trashing the source. Perhaps you would do better to simply show why the ideas are false. Otherwise, your ad hominem attack is rather out of sorts with clear thinking about Christianity.

        • Orbital Teapot

          To RT,

          But it’s not the first time creationists dig up very old writings to support their claims. If newer ideas were in agreement with older ones, it would be more convincing to quote the former: they would appear to be state-of-the-art.

          Of course Darwin keeps being quoted, but generally for historical reasons: if you want to know about what scientists think about evolution now, you had better read a 2010 textbook than Darwin’s books (as if Darwin were supposed to be the infallible prophet of the chance-god of the atheists…). There are some truths to be found in Darwin, but science (evolutionary theory) has moved on.

          As for human evolution, lots of fossil findings happened within the last 15 or 20 years. A 35-year paper would not be state-of-the-art. Even Niles Eldredge, who is committed to punctuated Equilibria, said in “The Triumph of Evolution” that we had good fossil evidence (meaning a series of fossils) for the evolution of the human brain.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          This is rather unlike you, Bob, to get so irate.

          Touche.

          Darwin’s ideas are 150 years old. Should we trash those as well?

          As necessary, of course! And biologists do. That Darwin said it counts not a whit. I don’t care, and neither do today’s biologists.

          During the medieval period, what Aristotle said was considered gospel. It was unchangeable. And, as a result, it held back science. We’ve long since discarded that approach.

          If the arguments presented are so unworthy

          The argument is unworthy because it is of the form, “35 years ago, Colin Patterson, an evolutionary biologist said that he didn’t have examples of transitional forms” (a very rough paraphrase). This, of course, raises the question: OK, what about now? Is this the current thinking?

          In doing more research, I found my own damning web page. It’s a long page but the relevant point is this: “What Patterson was saying to Sunderland was that, of the transitional forms that are known, he could not make a watertight argument for any being directly ancestral to living species groups.”

          In other words, not an especially damning quote. Rather, it’s yet another quote taken out of context by a Creationist.

  • Bob Calvan

    Not so fast my friend..Being there are no missing links according to the “Neo Darwinian micro mutational theory of evolution as believed by our new breed of Paleontologist’s. They invented Punctuated Equilibrium. (P.E.)
    Read the basic definition of it. Problem is the battle between the Neo Darwin crowd, and the new batch of P.E. boys is funny. Each one thinks the other is heretical. There is no empirical evidence in the fossil record of slow changes from mutational effects. Like they say a bird came from a reptile. But from the 100′s of millions of fossils they expected to find physical proof for this..May a bunch of reptiles with 20% bird like features and 80 % reptile, than find some 50% reptile and bird. And later find some 75 % bird and 25% reptile and than 100% bird. But there aint any.. And they were so embarrassed by this , the new guys Gould and his buddies came up with P.E. But the die hard Neo Darwinian boys say Gould is a heretic because to say all of a sudden a bird fossil appears that was once a retile is the opposite of Darwin’s slow mutational changes. And this is more like a Miracle appearing all of a sudden. (Rare bursts of evolutionary change is a Miracle) And Gould said gradualism as Darwin preached is non existent..And Gould was “The man, the biggy”..And so are his disciples.
    Here is a basic definition of P.E. Keep in mind if Darwin’s theory was right they would not have to come up with P.E. So which consensus have you chosen? Are you going to take which side agrees the most? As there is a split.

    Punctuated equilibrium
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Punctuated equilibrium, bottom, consists of morphological stability and rare bursts of evolutionary change
    Part of a series on
    Evolutionary Biology

    Punctuated equilibrium (also called punctuated equilibria) is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis. When significant evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is generally restricted to rare and geologically rapid events of branching speciation called cladogenesis. Cladogenesis is the process by which a species splits into two distinct species, rather than one species gradually transforming into another.[1]

    Punctuated equilibrium is commonly contrasted against the theory of phyletic gradualism, which states that evolution generally occurs uniformly and by the steady and gradual transformation of whole lineages (called anagenesis). In this view, evolution is seen as generally smooth and continuous.

    In 1972, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould published a landmark paper developing this theory and called it punctuated equilibria.[2] Their paper built upon Ernst Mayr’s theory of geographic speciation,[3] I. Michael Lerner’s theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis,[4] as well as their own empirical research.[5][6] Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      They invented Punctuated Equilibrium.

      So? Are these fans of punctuated equilibrium not evolutionists? I don’t think so.

      Each one thinks the other is heretical.

      And yet they both support evolution. Kind of undercuts your premise, doesn’t it?

      But there aint any.. And they were so embarrassed by this , the new guys Gould and his buddies came up with

      My suggestion is to read a little more science and a little less dogma. You’ll learn more about biology. It’s fun!

      is the opposite of Darwin’s slow mutational changes

      You do know that no one cares what Darwin said, right? His work was important, but it’s in the History of Science bin. Biology has moved on.

  • Orbital Teapot

    To all,

    Even if there were NO fossils at all in the earth, we would still have evidence for evolution (from biogeography, from anatomy, from psychology, from DNA, and so on). Fossils are a gift nature gives us. We should be thankful to her, for the insights the fossils provide us with, rather than claim that there are “not enough” fossils to support evolution.

    And as I said, we need to look for intermediate FEATURES (four limbs, skull size, bones of bipedal ape-men) rather than intermediate SPECIES, which we would have a hard time knowing with certainty (because they could be only cousins to the actual ancestor).

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Even if there were NO fossils at all in the earth, we would still have evidence for evolution (from biogeography, from anatomy, from psychology, from DNA, and so on).

      Indeed, this is the point made forcefully by evangelical Christian Francis Collins.

    • Rick Townsend

      And why does similarity of features PROOVE common ancestor? You can only prove that at the genetic level, where it is being demonstrated NOT to be valid as a proof. “Junk DNA” is being found to be anything but. It is more like an operating system that is unique to each species, not remnants of the past. Unless you can find a genetic chain of causation from one trait to another, similarity of features is a waste of time.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        And why does similarity of features PROOVE common ancestor?

        Perhaps that was just a slip of the pen, but science never claims to prove anything. Proof is left for the fields of mathematics and logic. Science must rely instead on the preponderance of evidence.

        “Junk DNA” is being found to be anything but.

        And yet DNA is still a marvelous obstacle to the Design Argument. A protozoa that has 200 times more DNA than a human? That’s not the handiwork of an omnipotent designer!

        • Rick Townsend

          Why not. Doesn’t the protozoa function elegantly? Would it not be in the purview of an orchestral master to compose a symphony for many instrumental voices or simply a single violin? No proof there, I’m afraid. Just a guess by you about how to do it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Doesn’t the protozoa function elegantly?

          Perhaps so, but that sidesteps the issue. No designer puts junk into his work. Of many traits (cost, size, durability, energy use, flexibility, etc.), he may optimize for one at the expense of others. But no designer that we know of will just throw in junk (and I’m assuming that most of the protozoa’s DNA is junk since it has 200x more than humans) just for laughs. Or, indeed for any reason. The Design Hypothesis then fails.

  • Rick Townsend

    To Orbital Teapot, you suggested that ” if you want to know about what scientists think about evolution now, you had better read a 2010 textbook than Darwin’s books ” I agree. That is why I provided four web sites with current article references concerning peer-reviewed papers published in professional journals within the last few years.

    To Bob: You allege consensus. Tell me where your data is. You stated, We do not agree on this. Your question repeated plaintively over and over is, “The claim is: Evolution is the overwhelming consensus within biology for why life is the way it is. Are we in agreement?” No, we are not, and no, you haven’t demonstrated this consensus. You just state it over and over. That doesn’t make it so.

    There is growing unrest in the research on this area, and none of it backs up the mechanism of Darwinian processes to do the heavy lifting. Get over it. Or prove me wrong. I’ve given you lots of material to debunk or refute.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      you haven’t demonstrated this consensus. You just state it over and over.

      OK. Here you go:

      • Evolution is one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science.Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2006
      • There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place.Source: National Science Teachers Association
      • “Evolution is not only universally accepted by scientists; it has also been accepted by the leaders of most of the world’s major religions.” Source: National Academy of Sciences, 1999. More: http://national-academies.org/evolution/
      • “Based on compelling evidence, the overwhelming majority of scientists and science educators accept evolution as the most reasonable explanation for the current diversity of life on earth and the set of processes that has led to this diversity.” Source: Joint statement of: American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, and National Science Teachers Association, 2001
      • “If there is so much evidence for creation and against naturalistic evolution, why do the majority of scientists believe in evolution? … A number of young and old alike seem perplexed that the creation evidences presented seem so easy to understand—so logical, so obvious—and yet the majority of scientists still profess that the evidence “obviously” fits with evolution.” Source: Kenneth Ham, Institute for Creation Research.
      • “…evolution-rejecting scientists are in a minority.” Source: Jonathan Sarfati, Creation Ministries International.
      • “…you are claiming that the church should adopt the scientific consensus today (on evolution and long ages)” Source: Jonathan Sarfati, Creation Ministries International.
      • In response to “Don’t many famous scientists reject evolution?”: “No. The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming. Those opposed to the teaching of evolution sometimes use quotations from prominent scientists out of context to claim that scientists do not support evolution. However, examination of the quotations reveals that the scientists are actually disputing some aspect of how evolution occurs, not whether evolution occurred.” — Source: Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences (Second Ed.), p. 28
      • “Darwin presented compelling evidence for evolution in On the Origin and, since his time, the case has become overwhelming. Countless fossil discoveries allow us to trace the evolution of today’s organisms from earlier forms. DNA sequencing has confirmed beyond any doubt that all living creatures share a common origin. Innumerable examples of evolution in action can be seen all around us, from the pollution-matching pepper moth to fast-changing viruses such as HIV and H5N1 bird flu. Evolution is as firmly established a scientific fact as the roundness of the Earth.Source: NewScientist magazine, 2008.
      • “…Our magazine’s positions on evolution and intelligent design (ID) creationism reflect those of the scientific mainstream (that is, evolution: good science; ID: not science)…” Source: the editor in chief of Scientific American.
      • “When naturalistic theories of evolution (chemical and biological) are evaluated in the scientific community, we see a majority consensus [is it fair to assume that this refers to evolution?] and a dissenting minority. Should a teacher be free to “teach the controversy” by describing evidence for (and against) the majority and minority views, and explaining why there is disagreement? Or does scientific integrity require that a science teacher should try to convince students that the majority view is true?” — Source: American Scientific Affiliation: A Fellowship of Christians in Science http://www.asa3.org/asa/education/origins/public2.htm#i
      • “It is clear from U.S. Supreme Court precedents that the Constitution permits both the teaching of evolution as well as the teaching of scientific criticisms of prevailing scientific theories. [in other words, evolution is a prevailing scientific theory] Those who would like to remove evolution from the curriculum altogether have been told in no uncertain terms that the right to teach about this subject is inherent in the First Amendment. (Epperson v. Arkansas, 1967) At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that criticism of the theory of evolution may also be a required part of the curriculum. In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the Court explicitly stated: “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. [here again, the “scientific critique(s)” would be things like ID, and the “prevailing scientific theories” would be evolution ]“” — Source: The Discovery Institute http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2543
      • Research!America supports the scientific community’s unanimous position that intelligent design does not meet the criteria of a scientific concept and thus should not be presented as one in the classroom. Evolution is backed by a substantial body of scientific evidence, whereas intelligent design is a matter of belief and not subject to proof. Research!America
      • Rick Townsend

        How many of these are speaking for evolutionary biologists, your chosen field of expertise in this field? I started at the first organization you quoted, (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and found it to be a general science clearing house. You wouldn’t accept that sort of source from me on this subject. It will take me a while to go through your list, but I doubt it will be convincing. Evidence is what matters, not alleged consensus stated over and over.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I doubt it will be convincing.

          And I’m certain that it won’t be convincing!

          You’ve seen this list before. You dismissed it then and I have no doubt that you’ll do the same.

          But do I wonder what it would take to get you to accede to this point.

          Evidence is what matters, not alleged consensus stated over and over.

          You do know what we’re talking about, right? My claim was: Evolution is the overwhelming consensus within biology for why life is the way it is.

          Evidence for evolution is very clearly not the topic–we’re on the same page, right? Rather, it’s evidence for this claim. And I’ve provided it.

        • TheRealRandomFunction

          How many of these are speaking for evolutionary biologists, your chosen field of expertise in this field? I started at the first organization you quoted, (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and found it to be a general science clearing house. You wouldn’t accept that sort of source from me on this subject.

          This is a good point.

          Skeptics are quick to reject other general organizations of scientists that are creationists, or ID, or old-earth or whatever on the grounds that those aren’t really experts. It’s the biologists that are experts on biology.

          So we can’t trust a group of general scientists when they reject evolution, as its the “consensus of biology”. On the flip side, if a group of general scientists say that evolution is true, that’s absolutely trustworthy, and evidence for the general consensus of biologists.. apparently.

          Bob does the same thing with historical claims. He is more than willing to accept a consensus that he made up, based on a lack of counter-evidence, but if its the consensus of biblical scholars on some historical piece of data, well.. they’re probably all Christians so they have “agendas”.

          The idea of accepting the consensus of experts is an entirely reasonable one, but we must A: Be consistent when we do this and B: Have some idea of what this consensus is.

          Really, to Bob consensus is another rhetorical tool and nothing more. He agrees to it when it supports atheism, and finds some reason, any reason to reject it when it doesn’t.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          How many of these are speaking for evolutionary biologists, your chosen field of expertise in this field?

          I certainly hope they all are.

          Let’s just make clear what we’re talking about. These authorities aren’t declaring that evolution is correct. We go to Biology for that. These authorities are simply vetting the claim that evolution is the consensus. We’ve gone from science to mere statistics.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          RRF:

          It’s the biologists that are experts on biology.

          Obviously. Who could disagree with this?

          if a group of general scientists say that evolution is true

          Let’s be clear on the distinction. As I noted to Rick Townsend, no one cares what these “general scientists” think about evolution. We care that they can accurately survey the field of Biology to find the consensus. That’s it.

  • Bob Calvan

    I think we need to define what we mean by “evolution” We all believe in micro evolution. A moth can change colors depending on the environment, but it is still the same moth..It did not evolve into a horse.
    Science has never observed macro evolution. Or neo darwinan micromutational evolution. In fact the evidence they need, the only empirical evidence would be the fossil record. And out of 100′s of millions of fossils there are none! As the leading late expert biologist’s claimed. Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species. So they invent Punctuated Equilibrium.

    Seems the creation definition holds to the fossil evidence 100%. And the Darwinian science is non-existent.. And P.E. hold more to creation.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Science has never observed macro evolution.

      Do you mean speciation? Science has observed that.

      And, of course, we have the arbitrarily-large changes within the fossil record. And the craziness in DNA. And all the other evidence for evolution.

      And out of 100′s of millions of fossils there are none!

      There are none what?

      So they invent Punctuated Equilibrium.

      And they accepted evolution. So where’s the problem? The rift within biology that you imagine just ain’t there.

  • TheRealRandomFunction

    Bob suggests that he will “always accept” the scientific consensus. One question this raises up (for me at least) is how Bob happens to know what this consensus is?

    There is no governing board of scientists that publish official memo’s detailing what the “scientific consensus” is on any given year. There is no ruling scientific authority that says “the consensus is.. “. There is no scientific authority, period. There are scientists and there are results.

    Now, at least with regards to science, one could, in theory, say that if a certain claim was accepted by the majority of scientists, or was accepted in the majority of published papers in accredited journals (all objective qualifiers), that that claim is accepted by the “consensus”. While still leaving room for error, we have at least an objective definition.

    The problem comes when Bob turns to theology and history.

    Bob has noted:

    The Argument from Authority is not a fallacy when the person indicated (1) is an expert in the field and (2) is arguing for the consensus.

    I agree with this, but we should apply it consistently. Bob has demonstrated that he does not. For instance, let’s take history. Bob said:

    ■Historical consensus: I always accept this.

    While reasonable, the problem comes in what Bob considers the “historical consensus”. So far the only sort of “historical consensus” he’s stood by, is the idea that to historians, “miracles have never happened.” Of course, his evidence for this is only the fact that historians don’t often address claims of the miraculous, which is not valid evidence for concluding “miracles have never happened”, but as Bob never understood that before, I don’t expect him to now.

    A far more serious issue is that for Bob, any historical , natural claims that support Christianity get lumped into “theology”, while anything that supports atheism get’s lumped into the “historical consenus”.

    • Orbital Teapot

      Hi Random,

      I don’t think there is any substantial consensus in biblical studies. There may be consensus on minor points though. But given that the stakes are high, it is understandable that scholars (both liberals and conservatives) bring their own biases into the field (which is not to say that nothing good can emerge from it). Some will say that Jesus’ actual resurrection is the best explanation of the facts, some won’t. In that respect, it is not like physics, in which scientists agree on the basics.

      • TheRealRandomFunction

        I don’t think there is any substantial consensus in biblical studies.

        1. Evidence?
        2. Biblical consensus on historical claims, is different from theological consensus on a point of doctrine. I agree there is less consensus on the latter, but I rarely talk about that.

        Bob feels free to reject both, on the basis of nothing more than his idea that biblical scholars must have an “agenda”.

        • Orbital Teapot

          Hi Random,
          Evidence? On the one hand, you got Bultmann, Spong, Ehrman, people from the Jesus seminar, who are liberal. On the other hand, you got evangelical scholars, who stick to biblical inerrancy, reformed theology and many of whom (like Craig) claim that Jesus’ resurrection is supported by the evidence. This is not what I call a consensus.

      • Rick Townsend

        I think you are mixing historic and scientific methods of providing evidence. There is very little theological debate on what the texts communicate about Jesus’ resurrection, just as there is very little debate about much of what the Bible actually says. The debates generally center on whether the Bible’s narratives are true or false.

        The Bible says Jesus performed miracles and was resurrected from the dead, and says it clearly. Is it true? That is a matter of faith, ultimately. Some Biblical facts can be archaeologically verified, and if they are found to be trustworthy, the extrapolation becomes more reasonable that perhaps the non-verifiable statements can also be reasonably held to narrate the truth as it was understood by the author and the community at that time. We then go to the question of whether or not an individual accepts those facts or not.

        This is very different from a repeatable science experiment. But it is the basis for all of our historic “sciences,” including archaeology, forensics, paleontology, etc.

        • TheRealRandomFunction

          I am not talking about the Biblical text.

          I know better to bring up the Bible to a skeptic. Its truly throwing pearls before swine.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          This is very different from a repeatable science experiment. But it is the basis for all of our historic “sciences,” including archaeology, forensics, paleontology, etc.

          The “ya gotta take it on faith” part is what always trips me up. I see the connection that you mention except for the miracles.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      RRF:

      Bob suggests that he will “always accept” the scientific consensus.

      Where are you on this question? How do you treat the scientific consensus?

      his evidence for this is only the fact that historians don’t often address claims of the miraculous …

      … and universally reject any that they do address.

      Right now, this is a hypothesis, and if you have a counterexample, I’ll be happy to reject the hypothesis.

      A far more serious issue is that for Bob, any historical , natural claims that support Christianity get lumped into “theology”, while anything that supports atheism get’s lumped into the “historical consenus”.

      History and theology are pretty easy to differentiate.

      • TheRealRandomFunction

        Right now, this is a hypothesis, and if you have a counterexample, I’ll be happy to reject the hypothesis.

        So your hypothesis are true until proven otherwise?

        I thought how an intellectual debate went was that you had a hypothesis, you gave evidence supporting that hypothesis, I gave either critiques or counter-evidence and so on and so forth.

        Apparently its more of a deal where you get to propose any hypothesis you want, not support it with any evidence, and then challenge me to prove you wrong.

        You said:

        … and universally reject any that they do address.

        I’m assuming that since you said that, you have a historian, who is in agreement with the historical consensus, who doesn’t have an agenda, who explicitly mentions miraculous claims, and explicitly rejects them. Not a historian who simply doesn’t speak to anything supernatural. Someone who is not a maverick, who doesn’t have an agenda, who specifically and explicitly rejects historical claims.

        You got one right? And a quote from him right? Or was that all just mindless blather from someone who doesn’t care about what he thinks?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          So your hypothesis are true until proven otherwise?

          Uh … provisionally true (to me), yes. That’s why I offered it. I realize that not everyone may agree, so I put it out there so that others can offer counterexamples.

          Where’s the problem?

          You got one right? And a quote from him right? Or was that all just mindless blather from someone who doesn’t care about what he thinks?

          Why would you think this unlikely?

        • TheRealRandomFunction

          Uh … provisionally true (to me), yes. That’s why I offered it. I realize that not everyone may agree, so I put it out there so that others can offer counterexamples.

          What does this mean “true to (you)”? Is it just a subjective opinion you happen to hold? Something that you just happen to like? Or do you happen to have objective reasoning and evidence that you think support it?

          As for counterexamples, I need not post any counterexamples to refute an argument that’s not based on any logic, reason, or actual evidence. See.. if you make a claim, you have to provide all that. If you don’t, I can point that out. That’s how intelligent conversation between adults work.

          Why would you think this unlikely?

          Why would I think its unlikely that you don’t actually have any evidence supporting your claim? Because you never do.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          RRF:

          Or do you happen to have objective reasoning and evidence that you think support it?

          Can it be that you still don’t know my position?

          If “objective” means “supernaturally or transcendentally grounded” then, no, I don’t have objective reasons. If “objective” means “accepted by most people” then yes.

          As for counterexamples, I need not post any counterexamples to refute an argument that’s not based on any logic, reason, or actual evidence.

          That is, you don’t have any counterexamples. OK, good to know.

        • TheRealRandomFunction

          If “objective” means “supernaturally or transcendentally grounded” then, no, I don’t have objective reasons. If “objective” means “accepted by most people” then yes.

          Haven’t see any “objective” evidence yet from you, even if we just have that term refer to things “accepted by most people”. Sure, you say that things are accepted a lot, but that claim isn’t worth the energy you took to write it.

          Just because you assume lots of people agree with you, doesn’t mean they do Bob.

          That is, you don’t have any counterexamples. OK, good to know.

          Of course I didn’t say that, but then again when has a little thing like the truth ever stopped you?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          that claim isn’t worth the energy you took to write it.

          Kind of a waste of your time to hang around here, isn’t it? I suggest you leave.

  • Bob Calvan

    I am not talking about the Biblical text.

    I know better to bring up the Bible to a skeptic. Its truly throwing pearls before swine.
    Amen brother! Glad to hear you say that! Praise God!

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Good call. Why waste your time? Just let them burn, eh?

      When you get to heaven, you might want to volunteer to turn the spit. You’d be doing the Lord’s work!

      • TheRealRandomFunction

        No, I wouldn’t.

        You universally disdain every part of the Bible. You universally disdain most things I say in general really, but as a skeptic, it truly is pointless for me to bring up any Biblical text, as though it had any authority to you.

        Even bringing up non-Biblical facts is mostly a wasted effort, as you have a large enough toolbox of skeptical arguments to reject any sort of evidence I might bring.

        1. Eyewitness testimony? Unreliable.
        2. Consensus of biblical scholars on historical facts? Well, you know they have agendas.
        3. Historical facts showing the trusworthiness of the Bible? That doesn’t prove anything. After all, all the miraculous stuff was due to the mythical mysterious “corruption”. The natural stuff wasn’t “corrupted” (only if its known to be true).

        The list goes on.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You universally disdain every part of the Bible.

          So you’re clairvoyant now?

          You universally disdain most things I say in general

          You’re pretty much on target here, but you do realize that you bring this on yourself, right? I chat with lots of Christians with whom I disagree, but the conversation is civil.

          it truly is pointless for me to bring up any Biblical text, as though it had any authority to you.

          Again, a point of agreement!

          1. Eyewitness testimony? Unreliable.

          Yes. I’ll need much more than 2000-year-old “eyewitness testimony” to support a miracle claim.

          2. Consensus of biblical scholars on historical facts? Well, you know they have agendas.

          Yes, I do know that they have agendas, but that’s not a point that I would raise. Religious scholars from around the world haven’t been able to agree on anything supernatural. (See my “Map of World Religions” post.) When it comes to belief, things work a little differently than they do in the fields of history and science.

          3. Historical facts showing the trusworthiness of the Bible?

          What kinds of facts are we talking about? That they got the names of the towns, mountains, and kings right? That’s the very least that I would expect from a document that claims to be historically true, so don’t expect any pat on the back for this. Let’s imagine that every single archaeologically documentable fact in the Bible was verified. How does that justify the miracle claims?

          The list goes on.

          And we have rare agreement here. Yes, this kind of evidence does very little to convince an outsider that the miracle claims actually happened. But why is this shocking or offensive? Christians themselves admit that faith is required. So why get so annoyed when I’m not convinced by evidence when evidence alone is insufficient by Christianity’s own standards?

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob, reference:

    Christians themselves admit that faith is required. So why get so annoyed when I’m not convinced by evidence when evidence alone is insufficient by Christianity’s own standards?

    And would you also stipulate that atheism requires faith?
    Faith that there is no intelligent designer?
    Faith that all the worlds religions have got it wrong and the chosen elite of the freethinkers and atheists have it right (based on no objective evidence)
    Faith that information complexity can come from random chance and that the second law of thermodynamics involving increasing entropy is suspended where evolution and natural selection are concerned?
    Faith that something came from nothing to provide matter in the first place?
    Faith that the fine-tuning of the universe to create a habitable universe is just good luck?
    Faith that the planet we call Earth having a habitable climate and just coincidentally all the constituent chemical parts is just a winning of the lottery?

    Let’s have a level playing field and admit that your world view also requires faith in the unknown and unprovable.

    As Norman Geisler and Frank Turek have said, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      And would you also stipulate that atheism requires faith?

      No, I don’t see a parallel here. My own philosophy is that if I don’t have enough evidence to cross an intellectual gulf, I just don’t cross. Of course, faith could get me to the other side (it could get me anywhere), but I have no use for that route.

      Faith that there is no intelligent designer?

      The evidence says to me that there is no intelligent designer. I don’t call that faith.

      Faith that all the worlds religions have got it wrong and the chosen elite of the freethinkers and atheists have it right (based on no objective evidence)

      On the contrary, I think that atheism is where the evidence points. That is, atheism is the most plausible conclusion given the (imperfect) evidence that we have.

      You have a long list there. I don’t see “faith” as the proper word in those examples.

      I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

      I’ve read the book and found it very weak. Perhaps I’ll do a few posts on why sometime.

      • Orbital Teapot

        Weak atheism (at least in theory) is not a belief, but a lack of belief. A lack of belief in God. There is no actual difference between weak atheism and agnosticism. When someone sees no evidence for God, and therefore disbelieves, that one is a weak atheist or an agnostic. When someone does not see any evidence for God, yet makes a leap of faith, that one is a fideist. Like Blaise Pascal. Or possibly Karl Barth.

        Strong atheism is the belief that no god exists. Strong atheists attempts to positively disprove the existence of God (with such arguments as the existence of evil or incoherencies in God’s concept).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          There is no actual difference between weak atheism and agnosticism.

          Most atheists I know would call themselves both atheists (“I have no god belief”) and agnostics (“I don’t know that there is or isn’t a god”). The key words are “belief” and “know,” respectively.

          I’ve heard forceful arguments against equating these two labels, but I think that in common parlance they’re not very far apart.

      • Orbital Teapot

        Well, to be fair Pascal saw some evidence for God, but not compelling evidence, especially for a stubborn atheist.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Rick:

        On the topic of Geisler and Turek’s book, if you have any particular argument that you found compelling, point it out. With luck, there will be enough content there for a blog post. If not, I’ll just comment on it here.

        • Rick Townsend

          I’ve only read excerpts, but after your panning of the book will plan to finish reading it. It can’t be as weak as you claim. Or maybe your arguments are just that compelling to your fellow atheists that Geisler and Turek pale in comparison?

          Your easy dismissal of the list of faith positions of the atheist reminds me that mere logic will not sway you. I still think you are angry with the God you think doesn’t exist.

          If I get any topics from Geisler and Turek to recommend, I will let you know.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          It can’t be as weak as you claim.

          Hard to believe, isn’t it?

          Your easy dismissal of the list of faith positions of the atheist

          Why does this trouble you? Atheists don’t have faith.

          I still think you are angry with the God you think doesn’t exist.

          Put your mind at ease! I have lots to be angry about where Christianity oversteps its bounds, but God isn’t in my sights.

  • Pingback: Word of the Day: Genetic and Ad Hominem Fallacies | Cross Examined

  • Brandon

    If you accept “micro” evolution, you accept the engine that makes it happen: mutation and natural or artificial selection. Guess what the engine is for “macro” evolution? Same thing: mutation and natural selection. The difference is time and perhaps some isolated populations.

    No evolution denier has ever explained the mechanism that stops the engine of mutation and natural selection from “going too far”. At what point does a genome say to itself, “Uh oh. I better not mutate anymore. I don’t want to cross the line into speciation.”

    Can you explain the mechanism that stops mutation/natural selection?

    • Rick Townsend

      Actually, Brandon, there is such a mechanism. In fact, it is well known enough in genetics research to have a name. It is called “genetic entropy,” and it basically is a self-policing function that effectively kills cells whose genetic mutation is too far off the reservation. It is one of the reasons why macro evolution is not tenable.

      Here is an article that covers this area: Four Scientific Reasons That Refute Evolution. Look at point number 3 in the cited article for this specific point, but the other points in the article, as the title implies, are pretty strong refutations as well.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        And when your conclusion about the limits imposed by “genetic entropy” is the scientific consensus, I’m there. Until that time, I don’t have much use for your conclusion.

        • Rick Townsend

          Such amazing hubris.

          I provide evidence that a process works in a particular way. You allege that there is some sort of consensus opposed to it, but don’t offer ANY evidence to rebut the description provided. And — Shazam — you win!! Wow. That’s some way to do clear thinking about whatever you are thinking about at the moment—fill in the blank. Because its clearly not clear thinking about anything having to do with Christianity.

          You simply insert the sacred alleged scientific consensus into whatever you want to support, then are absolved from evidentiary responsibility in the conversation. This is simply ad hominem attack (attacking the source but not the evidence) with a new set of clothes.

          The emperor indeed has no clothes. But he does have that hubris going for him! Who needs clear thinking when you’ve got that?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You allege that there is some sort of consensus opposed to it, but don’t offer ANY evidence to rebut the description provided.

          I provide no evidence … except the consensus against it. Is anything else required?

          But if I’m mistaken and your view is the consensus view, let me know. That is all that matters.

          No hubris required.

          You simply insert the sacred alleged scientific consensus into whatever you want to support, then are absolved from evidentiary responsibility in the conversation.

          If there is indeed no consensus in my favor then of course my alleging it would be fallacious.

          Otherwise, I can conceive of no more powerful and defensible position for a layman to take.

          This is simply ad hominem attack (attacking the source but not the evidence) with a new set of clothes.

          Your favorite argument! Hey, it’s great you were able to work that in.

          But you’ll have to educate me how “ad hominem” applies when I argue “I follow the consensus.”

        • Retro

          You allege that there is some sort of consensus opposed to it, but don’t offer ANY evidence to rebut the description provided. And — Shazam — you win!! Wow.

          And you allege that there is some sort of an opposing viewpoint, and Shazam you win??

          This is simply ad hominem attack (attacking the source but not the evidence) with a new set of clothes.

          The scientific consensus does have evidence, lots of evidence. Your viewpoint simply disputes this evidence.

          Simply saying the other side’s evidence is flawed is not the same as actually having evidence for your side. Rather than attacking evolution, you should be providing direct evidence for the existence of your particular God.

          As far as a new set of clothes goes, read the last three sentences from the article you cited:

          These four observations show why the umbiblical evolutionary idea that creatures change without limits is unscientific. If creatures evolved through nature—and not God—then Scripture is not trustworthy, since from beginning to end it credits God as Creator. But science clearly confirms the Genesis creation account.

          Clearly, this is not science, this is creationism dressed up in new clothes. Instead of following the evidence, your side clearly follows the Bible.

      • Brandon

        I’m not so sure you can say that “it is well known enough in genetics research to have a name”. From my Googling, “genetic entropy” comes back to one book written by John C. Sanford in 2005.

        Sanford and his claims are not treated too kindly from what I have found. These threads are interesting.
        http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=4aa14cc740a32ea2;act=ST;f=14;t=6034;st=60

        http://www.talkrational.org/showthread.php?t=16836

        Doesn’t look like a mechanism to stop “micro” evolution from turning “macro” to me.

        I also completely agree with Bob concerning scientific consensus. I can’t wrap my head around why any non-expert can feel confident disagreeing with the majority of experts in a field. As far as I’m concerned, my only job as a non-expert is to find out *if* there is a consensus and *what* it is. There are so many scientific consensuses out there, it’s telling that the only ones that get push back from non-experts are the ones that challenge theological or political beliefs. It’s a red flag, in my opinion.

        I wonder, can anyone name a scientific consensus that has a significant number of non-experts siding with the minority where no theological or political beliefs are believed to be threatened?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          We’re on the same page about the scientific consensus. Thanks for the comments.

  • Rick Townsend

    Correction to previous response due to hypertext error… You can’t use the caret characters as caret characters! Lesson learned.

    That’s some way to do clear thinking about whatever you are thinking about at the moment—fill in the blank. Because its clearly not clear thinking about anything having to do with Christianity.

  • Rick Townsend

    Reference:

    Your favorite argument! Hey, it’s great you were able to work that in.

    Your favorite tactic! And I did explain it. You dispute the claim but offered no substantive reason for doing so other than it disagreed with what you claim to be the consensus position. You trot out Consensus, Consensus!! whenever it suits your world view, without demonstrating that it is indeed the consensus nor why the concept offered is false. Why bother with clear thinking when this tactic, which is indeed very much like ad hominem attack in another set of consensus clothing, trumps all? Kind of puts a stop to any real conversation, which may be your goal. Win at all costs! It’s the atheist way! Don’t need no steeeenkin’ evidence!

    As for genetic entropy, I don’t know that the scientific community has offered any consensus position, as it seems to be a pretty logical and well-thought-out description of the genetic processes work, not a controversial theory of the way genetics might behave. If you find there IS a consensus position opposed to genetic entropy, feel free to present that evidence.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Your favorite tactic!

      Falling back on the scientific consensus is a pretty powerful tactic. I do it whenever I can.

      You dispute the claim but offered no substantive reason for doing so other than it disagreed with what you claim to be the consensus position.

      Tell me how this is an ad hominem fallacy.

      without demonstrating that it is indeed the consensus

      Evolution is the consensus. I buried you in a blizzard of quotes from scientific and Creationist sources that makes this clear.

      Your move (assuming you want to question the consensus).

      nor why the concept offered is false.

      Correct. We avoid long boring arguments when I can simply say, “I follow the consensus; case closed.”

      I’m not trying to be evasive or avoid a well-reasoned argument. I am motivated, however, in avoiding pointless arguments. You and me debating evolution is like you and me debating heliocentrism–there’s nothing to discuss here, so let’s find something to argue about where we might actually make progress.

      Why bother with clear thinking when this tactic, which is indeed very much like ad hominem attack in another set of consensus clothing, trumps all?

      (1) it does indeed trump all and (2) accepting the scientific consensus sounds like pretty clear thinking to me. Show me a better approach if you have one.

      Kind of puts a stop to any real conversation, which may be your goal.

      You and me arguing about evolution isn’t real conversation. It’s a waste of time.

      If you find there IS a consensus position opposed to genetic entropy, feel free to present that evidence.

      I hold Creationist sites in very poor repute, not because that’s convenient, but because I’ve hung out there for hours and found them to be so. (More evidence-based thinking.) That doesn’t mean that they’re wrong here, but it does mean that I’m not motivated to spend much time digging into their arguments.


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