If God Created Humans From Dirt…

From God of Evolution. Is it safe to assume that everyone will understand that this question is a parody of the young-earth creationist question “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” and that it alludes to Genesis 2?

I previously made something similar and shared it here – “Why is there still dust?”

  • stuart32

    A good evolutionary analogy to this would be, “If land-living vertebrates evolved from fish, why are there still fish?”. The answer is that when vertebrates first conquered the land the ocean didn’t suddenly disappear. There was still a living to be made from being a fish. When one creature evolves into another it’s not a case of an inferior creature evolving into something better, so that original form can now disappear. Rather, it’s a case of finding a new way of making a living. Being a human is one way of making a living; being a monkey is another.

  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    James, I have observed your blog for some time now. I have noticed that “evolution versus creationism” is a frequent theme. I have also noticed that you typically ridicule and mock creationists, as in this post. Do you think this is productive? It seems as if your intention is to intellectually shame creationists into becoming evolutionists. Do you think this works?

    On those rare occasions when you do offer evidence for evolution, it is almost always scientific arguments and not biblical arguments that you make. Since most creationists hold to their position because of the Bible and not because of science, and since both you and the creationists are Christians, and since you are an expert in the BIble, wouldn’t it be more appropriate and productive to present biblical arguments to them in a winsome way?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Young-earth creationists should be ashamed. I am ashamed of having been one. They should be ashamed of saying things about evolution that show they do not even understand what they are criticizing – as their phrase which is poked fun at in the image provides one example of. As for the Biblical evidence, I have discussed it here often. How did you miss it?

      Here are some recent examples, and a link to a round-up of earlier posts related to this topic:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/11/another-way-young-earth-creationism-is-unbiblical.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/11/young-earth-creationists-make-god-out-to-be-a-liar.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/01/geocentrism-is-better-than-young-earth-creationism.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/12/review-of-john-walton-genesis-1-as-ancient-cosmology.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/11/ancient-hebrew-cosmology.html

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2010/02/blogging-creationism-and-intelligent-design-the-highlights-revisited.html

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        James,

        I appreciate the links. They serve, however, to undermine the point you want to make to me. In fact, they corroborate the point I was making to you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          How so?

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            If you have actually reviewed what you sent to me and the point I’m making is not obvious to you, then nothing further I can say will convince you otherwise.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              If you cannot see that your last comment is just you being difficult unnecessarily, then I wonder whether my pointing this out will be enough to convince you of the fact.

              But for future reference, in polite human interpersonal conversation, apart from riddles, someone who wants to be understood usually seeks to articulate their point rather than trying to make the other person allegedly culpable for not guessing it.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                James,

                It’s disappointing and unwarranted for you to accuse me of being difficult and impolite.

                I made a very clear point – that you generally mocked and ridiculed people who believe in the biblical account of creation rather than evolution. I also pointed out that you seldom make winsome biblical arguments. There is nothing unclear or riddle-like in that point.

                As for the links, they support what I’m saying. Read through the list of posts and you see titles like “Celtic Chimps and Silly Stories,” “The Unicorn Museum,” and “Benna the Stein.” Your sarcasm is apparent even from such titles. And there are posts that are sarcastic and mocking even when the titles aren’t.

                I should also say that it’s ironic that while you have no academic credentials in science so far as I know, you seem comfortable panning not just Ken Ham but also ID theorists who are academically credentialed to make the sort of claims that they make.

                You are an intelligent and educated man. There is no reason for you to be puzzled by anything I have said. If I chose not to pursue the point once it was clear that you were either unwilling or unable to recognize it (though from your standpoint there was nothing to recognize), you should have ascribed as my motive a desire to keep the two of us from descending into an intractable quarrel. I still hope to avoid that.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Saying “if you cannot guess, I won’t tell you” and then complaining when it is suggested that you are being difficult is rather amusing.

                  I direct people interested in the scientific matters to consult mainstream scientists and find out what the consensus is. They should never take my word for it, as a non-scientist. But since pseudoscience overlaps with pseudobiblicism in the realm of young-earth creationism and related phenomena, I find that it is useful to address both here. Though even so, apparently some allegedly regular readers still sometimes miss things, even when I address them on repeated occasions.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    I want to spend some time going through the links you sent in some detail. If I am able to do that, I may come back to you with some further comment.

                    In the meantime, I think it is important to note that your stance on the subject – based on your own admission just above – is a faith position. That is, you are trusting experts in a field in which you are not an expert. This is not to taint your position in any way, for there is nothing wrong with trusting experts. It is odd, however, that you would denigrate those who trust the prophets, who, after all, claimed a certain expertise in, or at least intimacywith, God. What you and Ken Ham have in common is that you are both trusting experts – they just happen to be different experts in different fields addressing a common topic..

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It is not a matter of faith in experts but trust based on substantial evidence that the methods by which the natural scientists study things provide the best knowledge we can obtain concerning the natural world. That, coupled with the clear evidence that the ancient prophets had the same assumptions about the natural world as ancient non-prophets and that they added no new scientific knowledge, makes perfectly clear how we should best approach things.

                • Keen Reader

                  Why do his arguments have to be “winsome”? Are unwinsome arguments any less valid? As for American YE Creationists, they are a cultic group that deserves all the criticism they get from ordinary orthodox Christians.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    You are right that being winsome will not make an argument valid. The argument must achieve validity on its own. I mentioned winsomeness because James self-identifies as a Christian. The same is true for Ken Ham. Since James wants his fellow Christians to reject Ken’s view and accept his, it will only help his cause if he reaches out in the spirit of brotherly love that Jesus encouraged all those who follow Him to practice.

                    • Keen Reader

                      Dr. McGrath IS reaching out in love, just as Jesus reached out in love to the Temple money-changers. Except that Hamster is a much viler lowlife than any Temple money-changer ever was.

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

                  you seem comfortable panning not just Ken Ham but also ID theorists who are academically credentialed to make the sort of claims that they make.

                  That, itself, is an interesting claim. The “ID theorists” who have any academic credentials (who are few and far between) regularly mock other “academically credentialed” people, such as Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins. Worse, they accuse them as being enablers of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and every other evil person they can think of.

                  Why should we science supporters be anymore respectful of creationists/IDers than they are of us?

                  On those rare occasions when you do offer evidence for evolution, it is almost always scientific arguments and not biblical arguments that you make.

                  Ummm … because evolution is science, not religion, much less biblical?

                  wouldn’t it be more appropriae and productive to present biblical arguments to them

                  We’re listening … give us the biblical arguments for evolution and and old Earth. I’m sure you’ll succeed where so many have failed to see those arguments before.

                  • David Allen South

                    http://cozmiqpylosopher.blogspot.com/2012/08/preface-illuminate-human-eliminate.html

                    hey precious one, I have listed both scientific and historical information with many references for any and all to use to confirm my assertions. including a list of the framers of the foundation of the scientific method itself.

                    Please be honest & read my preface in full and be my guest to make up your own mind, then please let me know what you think.

                    I was born & raised in a scientific community and of course to be an atheist.

                    I used the scientific method and put the theory of evolution to the method I was taught to honor…

                    which used to be paramount, but now is seldom ever considered by those who believe in evolution…

                    we are to attempt to disprove, a theory, and if we can not, then it remains a theory… and evidence that absolutely confirms the theory, elevates it to a verified paradigm, if we can disprove it, then it is to be relegated to a myth.

                    all the best to you & yours in the new year.

                    • Dorfl

                      I think you’re quote mining. The first quote you give is this

                      Charles Darwin made it clear; “to suppose that the Eye… could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, Absurd in the highest degree.”

                      which can be found on the wikiquote page of Darwin misquotes:

                      http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Notable_Charles_Darwin_misquotes

                      The full quote is given as

                      To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind
                      declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms, in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensibility.

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    I don’t know much about ID, nor am I familiar with all its proponents. I did watch this interview with Stephen Meyer (http://wp.me/p1eZz8-2mO) and he doesn’t seem disrespectful to those with whom he disagrees. I could say the same about other ID proponents I have heard.

                    I appealed to James to use biblical arguments instead of scientific ones because he self-identifies as a Christian and because his academic credentials are in biblical areas. It makes sense for him to argue with his Christian brethren on that basis. Whether that would make sense for you, I do not know enough about you to say.

                    I do not expect to ever tell scientists what they should believe about science. Neither am I comfortable with them telling me what I can and cannot believe from the Scriptures.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

                      he doesn’t seem disrespectful to those with whom he drisagrees. I could say the same about other ID proponents I have heard.

                      As you say, you don’t know much about ID. Go to their propaganda outlet, run by Meyer, to see how they treat their opponents in the scientific community:

                      http://www.evolutionnews.org/

                      I appealed to James to use biblical arguments instead of scientific ones because he self-identifies as a Christian and because his academic credentials are in biblical areas.

                      So, basically, you are saying that biblical arguments are the same as Christian arguments? I think James has made himself clear on pseudobiblicism and why the Bible doesn’t trump science. What more do you expect?

                      Neither am I comfortable with them telling me what I can and cannot believe from the Scriptures.

                      Few if any scientists are interested in parsing the Bible for you. They are interested in telling everyone what they have discovered about how the universe works. Not a few will argue that atheism is a better philosophical/theological belief than Christianity or other religions and that barbaric ideas, such as stoning gays or adulterers to death is unacceptable in any modern remotely rational society.

                      Believe what you damn well please, but don’t expect others not to point and laugh.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Have at it.

                    • Steve Greene

                      A significant difference between you, Mike, and so many other creationists that are interacted with, is that you are quite above board in regard to your religious concerns, and don’t try to pretend that your religious concerns (or religion-based concerns) are scientific concerns. There are an awful lot of creationists who are not open and honest like that (Meyer happens to be one of them).

                      In regard to the Bible, it’s a free country and you can certainly believe whatever you like. It just isn’t science. But you’re not trying to pretend it is, like so many other creationists do.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I find it hard to believe that practically all creationists are acting in bad faith. Even if we agreed for discussion’s sake that they were all wrong about science, I think it’s going too far so that they are insincere in their stated search for truth.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “I think it’s going too far so that they are insincere in their stated search for truth.”

                      Actions speak louder than words.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Non sequitur.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “Non sequitur.”

                      I’m confused by that response. If a person *states* that he is searching for truth, yet by his behavior shows that he just ignores and denies the facts when those facts contradict some particular belief(s) that he holds dearly, then indeed his actions are demonstrating that he is insincere in his stated search for truth. If a person *says* he is open-minded, yet *demonstrates* that he is closed-minded, his actions are speaking louder than his words.

                      Which part of this do you think I have got wrong?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Follow the argument you just stated substituting me for you and the truth of Jesus Christ for the truth of evolution. See if you still like the logical flow.,

                    • Steve Greene

                      Evolution is a scientific theory based on the results of scientific research into reality, so I don’t understand what point you are trying to make.

                  • Steve Greene

                    Indeed, IDists use the conspiracy theory rhetoric of the Darwinism “dogma” and the conspiracy of Darwinists in science, much as the young earth creationists use their conspiracy theory rhetoric. (Of course, in the case of the YECs, they apply the conspiracy rhetoric to geology and astronomy and aspects of other science fields as well.)

          • Guy

            Why couldn’t God have created evolution? You two should really take in all the possibilities and stop being so narrow-minded.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Who said God couldn’t have created evolution? Did you misunderstand something that someone here wrote? Or did you mean to reply to someone other than me?

    • Keen Reader

      Are you really not able to find the evidence, consider it, and come to the obvious conclusion yourself, as millions of others have done, including evangelical Christians? Instead you need to be led by the hand (“winsomely” of course!) by NT scholars, etc?

      • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

        Unlike James, I regard the Bible as a collection of documents written by men who claimed to speak for God…and were right to do so. Therefore, when I read it, I try to understand what God is saying. What I read there does not mesh easily with evolutionary theory. Whether Ken Ham or Hugh Ross or Stephen Meyer or someone else has the right implications for science, I don’t know enough science to say. I just know that I trust the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible…because I cannot find sufficient reason not to trust them.

        I am perfectl willing to trust scientific consensus…up until they tell me that I cannot trust the prophets and the apostles. That’s where I have to part company.

        • Gary

          Mike, you said “I just know that I trust the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible.” Except by doing that, you only use the database, if you will, that existed 2000 years ago. You are effectively ignoring all the knowledge mankind gained in the last 2000 years. I think you are mixing data (that science works with), with moral positions, that the bible seems to work with. Evolution works with scientific data, and therefore you cannot use the bible to argue for or against it. If you want to use the bible to argue for or against some moral position, perhaps that is valid. Such as abortion, women’s or slave’s rights, capital punishment, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, etc.. However, if you use the bible to argue a moral position, you must also recognize that the OT is perhaps 1000 years older than the NT. So what you think Moses said about a moral issue, might be trumped by what Jesus said 1000 years later (simple, non-controversial issue might be honoring the sabbath). But even the NT is 2000 years old, so using it to argue a moral issue has to be used in light of our current database. So, in summary, the bible is, I am sorry, irrelevant, in science arguments. I have no problem with you using it to argue moral points. However, as I think, I mentioned to you at one time, that I have a gay son. So using a 2000 year old document to condemn his life choice, I find, is irrelevant to me. I know you haven’t done that. But it seems many fundamentalists do.

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            Gary, thanks for the thoughtful question.

            By way of explanation, I am not trying to use the Bible to settle a scientific issue. Rather, I’m resisting the opposite of that. That is, I’m resisting the encroachment of scientific theory about origins into the biblical realm – thus negating the clarity and authority of the Bible.

            The resolution of any discrepancy in view between Moses and Jesus is, of course, that Jesus trumps Moses. Moses himself prophesied that this would one day be the case.

            That culture is different in many ways today from what it was in Jesus’ time is undeniable. Nevertheless, all the essential matters of life remain the same. In that sense, there is truly nothing new under the sun.

            Though James labels his blog as “Progressive Christian” and though he calls himself a “Progressive Christian,” he seems to attract many intentionally non-Christian people as readers. I am not trying to convert any of them.

            I simply appeal to James’ profession of Christianity on these issues for when he speaks so disparaging of fellow Christians, I’m sure it must confuse non-Christians about what Jesus actually stands for. It’s become clear to me that James feel much more affinity with a Progressive, even one opposed to Christianity, than with a Conservative Christian.

            Ultimately, what I care most about in all these discussions is the honor of Christ. If that does not matter to you, then I would not expect you to be moved positively by anything I say.

            • Gary

              Mike, you said “I care most about in all these discussions is the honor of Christ”. Good. I think the turn off to me, is that it appears the fundamentalists are easy to judge other people. Based upon the bible. Yet I personally think Jesus would judge the “judgers” harder than the “judged”, i.e. the Pharisees.

            • stuart32

              Mike, you say that you are not trying to convert non-Christians, but is that the right attitude? Creationism is something that deters many people who might become Christians. If creationists are wrong and their false views have taken away the chance of salvation from those who might have become Christians but didn’t, that would be a serious matter, would it not?

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                I presume by “creationists” you mean “young earth creationists” (YEC’s) – that is, those who believe that the earth is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Since there are plenty of Christians who are not young earth creationists, I don’t see how YEC’s are preventing anyone from following Christ.

                • stuart32

                  Can I assume that you are not a young earth creationist? Do you accept what science says about the age of the earth? If so, is it just the theory of evolution with which you have difficulties?

                  • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                    My issue is not the age of the earth, or even the theory of evolution per se. I’m not knowledgeable about science and am in no position to speak to scientists about what they think about science

                    Rather, my issue is evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe. My problem is twofold: 1) it violates reason that something could come from nothing, and 2) it is very difficult to reconcile evolution with the biblical view of origins (and there is much more to this incompatibility than just Gen 1-2).

                    This is why I say that I am not trying to tell scientists what to believe about science, but neither will I let their views deter me from believing what God has said. This is not an issue for James because he believes the Bible is the word of men about God while I believe those men spoke on behalf of God, and therefore the Bible is the word of God..

                    • stuart32

                      Apart from some very dubious speculation, there is no scientific attempt to explain why the Universe exists. You can rest assured about that. Virtually everything in science is about what happens after the Universe has begun to exist.

                      Is your concern specifically the fact that according to the evolutionary perspective our existence as a species is an accident? I imagine that you are not troubled by the claim that the earth and the rest of the solar sytem condensed from a cloud of gas and dust, and are, therefore, the result of unguided natural processes.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I would like to know who exactly Mike has in mind when he writes “evolution as an explanation of the origin of the universe.” It clearly isn’t scientists. It sounds like language I have only heard from those who are not even familiar enough with the natural sciences to use terminology correctly, but who nonetheless object to what they think these scientific fields are saying.

                    • stuart32

                      Indeed. I think we need to know exactly what it is in the scientific view of things that is supposed to be objectionable.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      The problem isn’t science, at least not good science; the problem is that all too often what’s peddled isn’t good science, but dogmatism instead. Too many scientists today have forgotten that scientific theories should be held tentatively.

                      Philip Skell discusses some of the exaggerated rhetoric used by Darwinists, here:

                      http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/16649/title/Why-Do-We-Invoke-Darwin-/

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Do you hold the roughly spherical shape of the Earth tentatively? Is NIH director, former head of the Human Genome Project, and Evangelical Christian Francis Collins less able to tell what “good science” is than you are?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Most scientists can recognize good science, but they often seem equally inclined to miss the shortcomings of one particular bad science. They also let themselves by swayed by the over-the-top rhetoric that is used to support it, which perhaps reveals the non-scientific character of their fidelity to it.

                      Think of your favorite quote by Dobzhansky, then read what Philip Skell has to say (see the link in my previous post).

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Thanks, but I am already aware that there are minority viewpoints in every field – and have talked about this outsider, a chemist, in the past. Unless the overwhelming consensus of biologists, geneticists, and paleontologists has changed in the past few hours, then there isn’t really anything to discuss. You have no more business picking and choosing scientists who say what you want to hear about biology than about whether smoking is bad for you.

                      But we’ve been through this all before, haven’t we, even if you were using a pseudonym back then?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I don’t think that truth is determined by the number heads you can count on your side. Larry Hurtado has a wide following today vis a vis his view of the significance of early Christian devotional practices, but I still favor certain contrary arguments that were offered by Thom Stark in his series “Oh My Godman”, by Ken Schenck in several places, by James Dunn in several places, and by you in JAC and in your book on monotheism. A good theory is determined by both the evidence and the thoughtful manner in which said evidence is analyzed, not the number of nods it receives in its favor. As for evidence, Skell actually offered some to show that the importance of Darwinism is exaggerated, as opposed to others I’ve seen who merely like to parrot Dobzhansky.

                      I previously posted here under “Kaz” or “Alethinon61″, I forget which, and yes, we’ve talked about these things before. I don’t recall you dismissing the scientific expertise of Skell previously just because he offers evidence that reveals the extent of the rhetoric used by your side, but I’m not a kid anymore and my memory could be failing me.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It is not a matter of counting heads. It is a matter of scholarship working through a two-pronged process of building and challenging consensus. Laypeople should not simply ignore a scholarly consensus, if there is one. Scholars are constantly working to find new possibilities and explore new ideas, but the onus is on those doing so to persuade our peers. Ignoring consensus is merely another example of picking and choosing in one’s own self interest, since it is always possible to find a scholar who says what you wish to believe.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      The problem for you is that what Skell said is spot on, i.e. I’m not just choosing a scholar who says what I wish to believe; I’m choosing a scholar who offers a compelling argument.

                      That aside, I literally *can’t* — in good conscience — side with the majority in this case, because they take a presuppositional approach to the question by which God is excluded as a governing precondition. They rule out supernatural causation as part of science and then they equate intelligent causation with supernatural causation so that they can rule intelligence out as well. As a Christian, I can’t rule out the hand of God as a precondition. Can’t do it; won’t do it; have no reason to try.

                      All around me I see life forms that exhibit a patently purposeful arrangement of exquisitely coordinated parts, and that just doesn’t happen sans intelligence.

                    • arcseconds

                      Well, someone is mistaking ‘agrees with my metaphysical prejudices’ with ‘offers a compelling argument’, that’s for sure.

                      And it’s either you, or the entire scientific community (sans a tiny and unimportant fringe group).

                      And you’ve already admitted your metaphysical commitments means you can’t side with the majority….

                      (so much for tentativeness)

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      About your first sentence, I compared the assertion made by folks who parrot Dobzhansky to actual arguments and observations made by a world-class scientist. You can characterize that as you have if you’d like, but you’re merely demonstrating the rhetoric of evolutionary apologetics.

                      So scientists who take a minority position are unimportant, hey? It appears that there’s nothing you apologists for Darwin won’t say in defense of his higgledy-piggledy theory.

                      Who said that religious convictions must be tentative? The life of Paul the Christian was not a life lived according to tentative beliefs, but according to deeply held, life-altering convictions. Such convictions gave the early Christians the strength to endure persecutions, stoning, death as pawns for Roman entertainment in the Colosseum, etc.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You are comparing the view of a renowned biologist to the view of a chemist. That is like comparing what a theologian says about theology to what Richard Dawkins has to say about it.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I’ll take a compelling argument from a well-informed chemist over a rhetorical assertion from a biologist who’s been dead for nearly 40 years any day. But, for those who need to hear from a biologist, there’s this:

                      “All I’ve studied and researched over the past 30 years has only strengthened my belief that nothing makes sense in biology apart from belief in an intelligent being who has created us. Those who do not believe in an intelligent being must go to great extents to rationalize that what they see as design is not the product of intelligence.” (Dr. Donald L. Ewert,
                      Microbiologist, researcher at the Wistar Institute for almost 20
                      years)

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      To repeat myself yet again, (1) this poses a false antithesis, since plenty of scientists see evidence of yod in nature and yet do not feel the need to insist that science be unable to explain things in order for them to have that conviction, and (2) matters of science are not settled by whether you can find a scientist who says things that you agree with.

                    • arcseconds

                      If it were a matter of two scientifically-respectable options, one happening to have a minority view, then sure, it would be silly to say ‘the minority must be wrong because they’re the minority’.

                      But that’s not what we’re dealing with here. We’re dealing with two options, one of which is embraced by practically the entire scientific community, and the other which is derided by practically the entire scientific community as being completely unscientific and having no remotely compelling evidence for it.

                      This includes most scientists who are also Christians! Even most scientists who have some kind of a commitment to the supernatural don’t agree with you.

                      On the other hand, the tiny number of people with relevant qualifications and expertise say more or less the reverse: the entire scientific community have embraced a piece of silliness, and only the proud few have seen through the charade.

                      And those people almost always have deeply-held religious convictions, as you yourself are demonstrating.

                      Deeply-held convictions of any kind quite often lead people astray when it comes to assessing evidence. There are plenty of examples: Holocaust denial, climate-change denial, we even had a few geocentrists in here the other day.

                      What is the more likely story in this case?

                      The entire scientific community is completely incompetent when it comes to assessing the scientific merits of a theory?

                      Or a tiny group of people (tiny even in comparison to their own co-religionists with relevant expertise) are playing out unscientific convictions on this single issue?

                      If it’s the first, then it seems a bit strange that science generally seems to work quite well, isn’t it?

                    • arcseconds

                      as far as tentativeness goes, it sounds awfully like you’re making a scientific claim to me. You’re telling me there’s plenty of evidence for intelligent design, and so forth.

                      How tentative are you about this claim?

                      EDIT: or is it, in fact, not a scientific claim?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      My concern isn’t whether ID is or isn’t “science”; my concern is whether it’s true. As I said, all around me I see life forms that exhibit a patently purposeful arrangement of exquisitely coordinated parts, and that just doesn’t happen without intelligence. I’ll let you worry about whether that’s a scientific claim.

                      I will say this: I could no more accept a consensus that claimed that this observation isn’t true than I could a consensus that claimed that I don’t exist.

                    • arcseconds

                      You have an intuition about the cause of the arrangement of life you see around you.

                      Expressing an intuition isn’t in itself a scientific claim. Claiming that it must be true might not even be a scientific claim, if, for example, you are claiming some special insight into the nature of being that hasn’t got anything to do with empirical evidence.

                      However, that doesn’t appear to be what you’re claiming. You’re not ignoring empricial data, or admitting that it supports Darwinian evolution but your intutions say otherwise.

                      You are saying, at least as far as I can make out, that the empricial data also supports intelligent design, and the scientists who say otherwise are just obviously wrong.

                      (Unfortunately, easily impressed fools that they are – sometimes, yes, they are swayed by empriical evidence, but other occasions they are buffetted about by rhetoric, and they can’t tell the difference, poor dears. )

                      A claim as to which theory the empirical data supports is a scientific claim. So are you making this claim tentatively? Or are you exempt from your earlier statement about science having to be tentative?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I think you’re confused. When I said that scientific claims are supposed to be held tentatively, I was relaying what scientists themselves have stated. In other words, the notion that scientific claims should be held tentatively is part of the philosophy of science.

                      You seem to have a real problem with that scientific criterion, and so I would suggest that, rather than complaining about it to me, you take it up with the scientific community. I have no control over the various criteria they adopt. If I did, ID would be accepted as the legit science that I think it is.

                    • arcseconds

                      I’m not confused about science, the philosophy of science, or what the scientific community says about those things, or what they do (and none of those things are the same as each other). I understand those things better than most, and I’m not asking you for clarification on those matters.

                      I am confused about what you are claiming, though, which is why I’m asking these questions!

                      What you said was:

                      The problem isn’t science, at least not good science; the problem is
                      that all too often what’s peddled isn’t good science, but dogmatism
                      instead. Too many scientists today have forgotten that scientific
                      theories should be held tentatively.

                      This sounds awfully a lot like it’s your opinion that science should be tentative. Am I to now understand that you don’t actually have an opinion on the matter, and you were merely relaying someone elses’ opinion?

                      Let me try to get things a little clearer. Are you saying:

                      1) intelligent design already meets the currently accepted norms of a good theory in the scientific community, and the scientific community is inconsistent in their application of their own norms?

                      or

                      2) the scientific community is consistently applying their norms in the rejection of ID as a succesful piece of science, but those norms are wrong, and they had better adopt other ones which would allow them to embrace ID?

                      If you are claiming (1), then ID would also have to be tentative, wouldn’t it? As that’s a current norm in science, that theories should only be accepted tentatively? If so, that seems to conflict with this absolute certainty you’re reporting about your intuitions.

                      I’m not sure what it is that you want from the scientifc community any more…

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You’re confusion could have been avoided had you merely paid a little closer attention to what I said, namely:

                      “Too many scientists today have forgotten that scientific theories should be held tentatively.”

                      Notice the word “forgotten”, which suggests that the tentative nature of scientific assertions is something _they already knew and accepted_, not some burden that I was attempting to arbitrarily place upon them from the outside.

                    • arcseconds

                      Ah, but I wasn’t confused at that point.

                      I was confused when you later tried to distance yourself from this claim that tentativity is a requirement when doing science. I asked you whether your claims are tentative, and you said “they don’t need to be! they’re religious! religious claims are exempt!”

                      Then when I asked you whether you thought they were scientific claims, you said “I’ve no idea! That’s something scientists say, not me! don’t blame me!”

                      So I know that you think that scientists think that science ought to be tentative.

                      Do you also think science ought to be tentative?

                      And if so, doesn’t that make the fact that you’re quite certain about intelligent design problematic, from a scientific perspective?

                      (EDIT: note that these are paraphrases, not actual quotes. I would have thought this would be perfectly clear, but Sean doesn’t think so, see below. Also see above for his actual wording.)

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      It’s REALLY bad form to present words people didn’t say within quotation marks as though the words actually originated with the person you claim to be quoting.

                      It’s best to only paraphrase someone when you don’t have a quote handy, and you should always make it clear that you are paraphrasing. When you put your own words in quotation marks and assert that someone else said those words, you are essentially lying.

                    • arcseconds

                      I think it is perfectly clear that I’m paraphrasing, but if it makes you feel any better I’ll put in a disclaimer.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      You should also omit your own peevishness from the paraphrase, as your attitude actually gives a distorted impression of what’s been said.

                    • arcseconds

                      I think you’re the one that’s being peevish, with this string of grumps about my playful paraphrases!

                      Your concerns are entirely misplaced: it should be clear to anyone that I was giving an exaggerated caricature. It would be completely clear what was going on to anyone who had read your previous posts, and even someone who just read mine should be able to work it out.

                      And if they could not, there is now a very clear statement to that effect on the post. Your words are right there for anyone to read! If anyone cares… it’s not like I’m quoting you in a major news publication where you have no right of reply.

                      Anyway, this all just misdirection from the actual substantive discussion, isn’t it? You’re doing everything to keep from answering my questions.

                      So far, you’ve vacillated as to whether or not tentativeness is, in your view, a requirement for good science: it appears it is when it’s convenient to you, and not when it’s not. Instead of clarifying when asked, you requoted your original statement (which I had just quoted myself!) and told me my reading comprehesion was poor. Now you’re on your high horse, issuing dicta about my comportment!

                      It’s hilarious that you’re criticising my ettiquette when you decide to waste time insulting my reading comprehension rather than clarifying, but, y’know, I don’t really care: I’ve got a thick skin and I’m not interested in a conversation about who’s the least acceptable in polite company.

                      I would appreciate it, though, if we could return to the substantive topic. Do you yourself think that scientific theories should be held tentatively? If so, how does that bear on the fact that you are dead certain that there’s design everywhere?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “Do you yourself think that scientific theories should be held
                      tentatively?”

                      I myself think that those who practice science and who agree with the parameters that science has set for those engaged in it should work within those parameters consistently.

                      “If so, how does that bear on the fact that you are dead
                      certain that there’s design everywhere?”

                      You’re asking me how a criterion of science bears on a view that I hold without respect to whether someone might consider the means by which I arrived at that view “scientific”?

                    • arcseconds

                      Further regarding your intuition that living things are designed:

                      You have this strong intuition, and you claim you’re unable to let it go. Life frequently does impress people like this, even people entirely convinced by godless materialistic Darwinian evolution.

                      But what of it? Science frequently leads to results that are counter-intuitive. Why should we expect science to conform to our pre-theoretical intuitions, no matter how strong they are?

                      Plenty of people have baulked at the unintuitive results of relativity and quantum theory. Not a few have doubled-down on their intuition against the science. Not very many people, I suspect, have actually managed to think their way out of Euclidean geometry to the extent that they no longer have Euclidean intuitions.

                      Is there any good reason for thinking that our intuitions about biology are any better than our intuitions about geometry? People were very very certain that Euclidean geometry was The Truth and anything else was not just wrong but completely unintelligible.

                      Clearly scientists don’t feel these intutions as strongly as you do, and don’t take them as authoritative. Without an argument as to why we should take the fact that you can’t shed or ignore your intuitions as giving us any knowledge about the world, I’m afraid that all that’s left is a description of your psychology, nothing more. It explains why you can’t believe in Darwinian evolution, but is hardly binding on the rest of us, who are more flexible in our thinking.

                    • arcseconds

                      By the way, have you ever looked at some of the Artifical Life stuff?

                      I saw a great video (I think Dennett may have shown it in a public lecture) of simulated creatures. They were made out of articulated blocks with a simple nervous system or wriring. The proginator was a very crude two-block creature that wiggled a bit. They subjected this original block-creature to random mutation of the ‘genetic code’ that described the blocks and their wiring, and selected for better swimmers (in one simulation), and better ball-catches.

                      The results were impressive, particularly for the swimmers. They ended up with rowers (a bit like water boatmen insects) and things that looked somewhere between snakes and fish, moving with a sinusoidal motion.

                      If someone had shown these to me without saying how they were made, I would have said “oh, someone’s been building things for a computer game or as a bio-physics motion simulation or something”. They looked designed!

                      I have looked for this video, I’m sure it must be on the intertron somewhere, but I’ve been unable to find it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      When I see a phrase like “a tiny and unimportant fringe group,” I am reminded of two things:

                      1) Some people seem to think that truth is something determined by majority vote.

                      2) This phrase is just the kind of scorn applied to the earliest followers of Jesus.

                    • arcseconds

                      truth is determined by competent assessment of the evidence.

                      do you not think the scientific community competent at assessing evidence?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Sure. I just don’t think they’re the only ones competent at it, and I don’t think scientific evidence is the only kind of evidence. Moreover, there are truths that can be known without evidence of any kind. I assume, for example, that you don’t need anyone else’s opinion or results from scientific studies to tell you that rape is wrong.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Yes, rape is wrong. God thought it was so wrong, he made Israelite rapists marry their victims and pay their victim’s father 50 shekels of silver. Deuteronomy 22

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Are you a follower of Christ?

                    • beau_quilter

                      How do you define “follower of Christ”?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Someone who seeks to think, say, and do what he thinks Christ wants him to think, say, and do.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Then, no.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      May I ask then: For what reasons do you follow a “progressive Christian” blog written by a university professor of New Testament? (If I were not a follower of Christ, I would not be interested in anything Christian or biblical.)

                    • beau_quilter

                      We must have a different constitution. I don’t limit my reading interests in such an arbitrary fashion.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Why are you being opaque?

                      There are more blogs in the world than anyone could ever read. Most people read what interests them. I’m simply asking what about this blog interests you.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Opaque? It’s just never struck me that I shouldn’t be interested in biblical studies as a nonChristian.

                      I have a lot of interests that I guess one might call “big picture” interests: religions and religious texts (I suppose because they have such long history of influence in philosophy, science, and the arts); evolutionary science, cosmology, ethics and ethical thinking, archaeology. One of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read is Murray Gell-Mann’s “The Quark and the Jaguar”.

                      I also have to confess to sharing James’ interest in science fiction. That’s definitely a draw.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Thanks for opening up. I better understand now.

                    • arcseconds

                      They are, however, the relevant experts in this particular matter.

                      It doesn’t bother me especially if someone says “well, I believe what the Bible says. I know the scientists say differently. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it; I’m sure they have their reasons for saying what they do. But the Bible says differently, and that’s what I believe’.

                      There’s something to be said for humility and simple faith.

                      I’m sure there are some young earth creationists who have this kind of attitude. Maybe many, or even most do. Perhaps you are one of them.

                      But on the internet, the ones we normally end up interacting with are quick to accuse ‘evolutionists’ of being completely incompetent scientists.

                      There’s nothing nuanced about this claim as it’s usually uttered. It’s not that there’s some subtle mistake that scientists are making. It’s not that the same data can be seen in a different light by some kind of difficult yet enlightening change to one’s Weltanshauung, à la special relativity. The claim is usually that the data clearly supports a young earth and no major change to species, and therefore that virtually every scientist working in the relevant field is either incompetent, or a fraud.

                      Young earth creationists don’t usually think through the consequences of such an assertion, but the obvious implication of this is that the charge of incomptence (or malevolence) can’t be restricted to just evolutionary biologists. This isn’t some small, ultra-specialised field which no-one else knows anything about investigated by a tiny and intellectually inbred community. It’s a huge, high-profile area, of great historical importance, which flows into neighbouring fields.

                      If it was just clearly intellectually bankrupt, as YECists are often wont to claim, then where is the outcry? The fact there is none requires an explanation. Is the (vast majority of) the rest of the scientific community also completely incompetent at science? If so, it seems difficult to explain their evident successes in some fields. The other obvious option is some vast conspiracy, which suffers from even more problems than conspiracy theories usually do. What is keeping everyone, down to the last individual, in such a diverse, multi-national community in line?

                      (it needs to be down to the last individual, because such a theory needs the conspiracy to be protected, not just evolution. )

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Thanks for writing that. It makes a lot of sense, and I appreciate how you see the matter.

                      And, by the way, I no more think scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to mislead us about the findings of their reseach than I think the apostles were engaged in conspiracy to mislead us about the resurrection of Christ.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “And you’ve already admitted your metaphysical commitments means you can’t side with the majority….”

                      Just as the majority of scientists *can’t* allow an inference to intelligent causation due to *their* commitments.

                      The commitment of those who practice the currently popular version of science causes them to take three steps:

                      a) They rule out supernatural causation;

                      b) They equate intelligent causation with supernatural causation in biology;

                      c) They therefore rule out intelligent causation in biology, regardless how compelling the evidence for it might be (and it is compelling).

                      Once one realizes that intelligent causation is ruled out as a governing precondition for practicing science, despite the overwhelming evidence for it, one should also realize that the reason Darwinism is accepted by most scientists is because it’s the only game in town that fits the presuppositional criteria they’ve established.

                      For me, it would be a sin to arbitrarily rule out intelligent causation when attempting to infer how life emerged, just as for many scientists today it would be a sort of scientific “sin” to allow inference to intelligent causation.

                    • arcseconds

                      No, they don’t do these things.

                      There’s some truth to the idea that supernatural causation is ruled out. Scientists are, almost by definition, looking for regularities and explanations. Miracles, at any rate, are by definition not regular, and ‘God did it’ isn’t an explanation (as, on its own, it could be applied to anything.)

                      And science does have ‘research programmes’ (or ‘paradigms’, if you prefer). Currently supernatural causation is not something that’s on the table in any active research programme in mainstream science.

                      But it’s not enough to say ‘ahhh! scientists have it structured into their research programme! see! see!’.

                      You have to ask why the research programme is like that.

                      And if you look back in history, you see that ruling out supernatural explanation was not some arbitrary fiat by a bunch of snotty-nosed atheists, but rather something that happened gradually, over time, as the result of successful science which had no use for it. Plenty of people tried: Leibniz, one of the smartest people who ever lived, was quite convinced that everything had to be ultimately explained by reference to God. Prior to Darwin, it was evolutionists that were in a tiny minority: with no other way to explain the complexity and fit-for-purposeness of life, it was widely understood that it must be designed by God.

                      But theistic science ended up going nowhere, despite its champions. Darwin succeeded in biology even amongst Christians not because everyone wanted to eliminate the supernatural from science (more despite the fact that people wanted to keep the supernatural in!) , but because it structured the phenomena, offered explanations, and made predictions in a successful manner.

                      So theistic science has already had its chance. The reason why it’s ‘ruled out’ is not because scientists like being atheists, but because it didn’t work out.

                      And it’s not ruled out for all time, either. Scientists are quite fickle when it comes to metaphysics. They’ll happily abandon all sorts of metaphysics that were previously felt to be indispensible if some other metaphysics offers a better theory. They abandoned God (as a source of scientific explanation) because of this fickleness, they’ve also abandoned Euclidean geometry, absolute time, and causality. They’ll pick up God again just as soon as there’s a theory with God in it that structures the phenomena better than ones without.

                      (Yes, I know you can find quotes from scientists that say otherwise. They are wrong: scientists are often not the best when it comes to the history and philosophy of science.)

                      As for equating intelligent design with supernatural design, and ruling it out by fiat, that’s quite false. The fact is that living creatures in many respects don’t look as though they’re designed by a competent designer, and there are plenty of arguments made by scientists that demonstrate this.

                      One interesting one came up not too long ago here. Venter has designed a genome and put it in a Mycoplasma genitalium bacteria. Venter’s genome looks nothing like a natural one! It’s tidy and well-organised, as you’d expect from an intelligent designer.

                      Natural genomes are, well, higgledy-piggledy, which is why a science of higgledy-piggledy is apropos.

                    • plectrophenax

                      Good post. It’s also a question of constraints, isn’t it? Science imposes constraints on its research activities; but once you accept the supernatural, there are none. It seems to be arbitrary.

                      OK, you might argue that the Christian God is in charge, but someone else might argue that in fact, it’s all a question of astrally travelling Guides, who are in charge.

                      How would you set about making a distinction between these two? I don’t think that you can in empirical terms. So the supernatural seems to be capricious. It seems to boil down to ‘It’s true because I say so’. This criterion is not used in scientific work!

                    • arcseconds

                      That doesn’t need to be the case, though. It’s conceptually possible for a kind of theological science to exist, and indeed this is exactly what many prominent thinkers in the medieval and early modern periods were expecting.

                      Leibniz, for example, supposed that ultimately, everything could in principle be explained by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason and God’s perfection. If you knew enough about God, you could work out everything that goes on in the Universe. Of course, he admitted that all but the broadest brushstrokes would be beyond the comprehension of mortals, which is why we need empirical science.

                      One example of Leibniz’s reasoning along these lines is his concept that the world could be decomposed into smaller and smaller entities ad infinitum, and that each of these entities would be a kind of living thing. This had a (tiny) degree of inductive support due to recent discoveries using microscopes, but largely he argued it on the basis of that would be what you’d expect of a supreme Creator: to fill the Universe as much as possible (i.e. to an infinite extent) with creatures.

                      We could imagine this kind of approach working. Theoretical theo-scientists would have some kind of reasonably detailed idea of how God’s mind works and what principles They use to design things (including the Universe), and argue on the basis of that what we’d find in reality. Then empirical scientists would go and find they actually existed. Maybe deviations in what was expected and what was found would be used to update the ideas of how God’s mind works. That would be non-arbitrary, emprically fruitful, and by any reasonable standards, a successful science.

                      But that approach was tried, and no-one got very far with it. Leibniz’s idea of the infinitely complex universe is pretty cool for all sorts of reasons (I’ve got some way-out thoughts on how this ties into modern understanding of the continuum…) but (sadly?) it’s not really what has been discovered. Naturalistic, materialistic science, on the other hand, has been immensely fruitful.

                      Intelligent design, considering it extremely optimistically, is a nascent attempt to start a research programme like this, and so far it is not looking terribly good. I’ve yet to see young earth creationism come up with anything that remotely looks like a research programme — God can apparently do anything a YECist can dream of with a global flood, so that’s completely unconstrained.

                    • plectrophenax

                      Cheers. Yet at the same time, some medieval philosophers were developing the idea of secondary causes, which meant that you can study nature without God’s direct input. I would say this is a primitive form of methodological naturalism.

                      I still can’t get past the basic arbitrariness of supernatural explanations. I remember discussing with a creationist how speciation works, and I asked him how island species are formed, which are often rare and unusual. He said, ‘it pleased almighty God to create them’. Rather magnificent, but capricious! On the other hand, notions such as geographical isolation explain such species reasonably well. No astral travelling required.

                    • arcseconds

                      Oh, I would go further and say that the late mediæval philosophers had quite a well developed idea of the natural versus the supernatural. And they are following Aristotle in this regard, who of course himself had natural philosophical forebears.

                      I was just reading recently about a natural magician in the late mediæval period (or possibly renaissance) who was of the opinion that God is the only being that is capable of supernatural action. Satan can accomplish things that seem miraculous to us, but this is down to two things: (1) he is a disembodied spirit, and therefore has a (natural) ability to travel through walls and so forth, and (2), he is very old and very clever, and therefore knows a lot more about the secret properties of things than mortals do. So basically he’s a kind of alien technologist.

                      Anyway, yes, we have lots of examples of ‘magnificient, but capricious’ (nice phrase!) appeals to the supernatural and well-reasoned and non-arbitrary appeals to natural causation. But I don’t think it follows as a matter of logical necessity that it always has to be like this.

                      Theologians classically have tried to make their thoughts about God reasoned and non-arbitrary. It’s not logically impossible to imagine a project like this succeeding to such an extent that properties of the natural world could be deduced from knowledge of the mind of God.

                      And it’s not impossible to imagine appeals to natural laws and properties being unscientific and unconstrained. Imagine someone, instead of postulating arbitrary whims of God to explain species, instead postulated arbitrary laws of nature. “It’s a law of nature that finches develop nut-cracking beaks on the Galapagos! It’s a law of nature that parrots become flightless in New Zealand! It’s a law of nature that rats become huge in Sumatra!”

                      In fact, pre-modern natural philosophy sometimes seems a bit like this, and one can find amateur ‘scientists’ who don’t really know what they’re talking about who sound a bit like this even today.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “No, they don’t do these things.”

                      Actually, they do. I didn’t come up with that chain of thought out of the blue; I observed it in action while following the evolution/creation/ID debate for several decades, and listening carefully to the responses given by those who represented the scientific consensus.

                      There was a debate between Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg on the ID side, and Donald Prothero and Michael Shermer on the Darwin side. During that debate, Stephen Meyer responded to the assertion that he offered an argument from ignorance. He said:

                      Meyer: “I argue that there are no known naturalistic processes that have been demonstrated to produce the digital code necessary to produce the first life — not processes based on chance, not processes based on law, not processes based on the combination of the two. But then I note that we know of a type of cause that is known to be sufficient to produce digital information, specified digital information, and that cause is intelligence, and that is something that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which, following Darwin’s own method of reasoning, is the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. So, therefore, using his method of reasoning we can infer that intelligence is the best explanation based on what we know about the cause-and-effect structure of the world…”

                      Meyer continues, with this next part of the exchange separated for emphasis:

                      Meyer: “Not a supernatural explanation, not a supernatural cause, necessarily, but certainly an intelligent cause, based on our knowledge of cause and effect.”

                      At this point, in a tone that makes it clear that in the context of biological change an inteligent cause is assume to be a supernatural cause, Michael Shermer emphatically asks:

                      Shermer: “But what could that possibly mean other than a supernatural cause?”

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzwHqqMMSaU
                      (start at point 1:04:00, approximately)

                      This is just one example that comes immediately to mind because I listened to this debate fairly recently (sometime last year).

                      I could spend hours plodding through materials to find more examples for you, but (a) I don’t have the time, and (b) there’s a much quicker way to demonstrate the point. Advocates of ID make it clear that the science of ID does not attempt to identify the source of causal intelligence. There is no known scientific methodology that one could use to demonstrate the source. However, despite this fact, nearly everyone who rejects ID claims that it’s a “God-of-the-gaps argument”.

                      Scientists assume that a causal intelligence at work in biology could only be a supernatural intelligence, and the supernatural is out of the scope of science. If the only cause you can infer as a scientist is a natural one.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      So is it safe to assume that you object to secular astronomy and meteorology too?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Do the sciences of secular astronomy and meteorology include a theory that proponents could use to suggest that what I see around me and what I know from regular and repeated experience is a big fat lie?

                      Do the sciences of secular astronomy and meteorology have proponents who tell us that if an alternative theory is true, then God is a monster?

                      Do the sciences of secular astronomy and meteorology have proponents who embrace them because they believe that those theories make it possible for them to be intellectually fulfilled atheists?

                      Do the sciences of secular astronomy and meteorology have an advocate who corresponds to Darwin’s Bulldog, who was thrilled with Darwin’s theory because he felt it shattered a wall constructed by Moses?

                      Just curious.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Young-earth creationists say that what we see is a big fat lie. Biology doesn’t say that anything we see is a lie. From a young-earth creationist perspective, God does indeed end up seeming like a deceitful monster, whether because he deceives us about the age of the earth or because he invents all the diseases to curse humanity for the Fall, making sure that they survive the flood. An alternative to mainstream astronomy was championed by atheists who felt that the Big Bang sounded too much like Genesis, but the Big Bang won the day because the issue in the sciences is not whether atheists or Christians like an idea, but what the evidence supports.

                      How is any of that relevant? Just curious?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “Biology doesn’t say that anything we see is a lie.”

                      No one said that it did. Neo-Darwinism and biology aren’t the same thing.

                      BTW, I’m not a young-earth creationist.

                      I think you probably know why the observations I offered are relevant, at least why I would consider them relevant. If not, then I would suggest a little more reflection and a little less reaction.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I know you prefer that brand of pseudoscience that is a bit more selective in what it chooses to try to deny and undermine.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I said a little more reflection and a little less reaction, not a little more jejune reaction and a little less reflection.

                      You just can’t help some people.

                    • stuart32

                      “Do the sciences of secular astronomy and meteorology include a theory that proponents could use to suggest that what I see around me and what I know from regular and repeated experience is a big fat lie?”

                      In a word, yes. What you see from regular and repeated experience is the sun going round the Earth. Astronomy tells you that you are mistaken.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      I have never once seen the sun go round the earth. For those who think that the sun appears to circle the earth, science does in fact provide a scientific answer that is quite precise. The mathematical precision built into the universe is staggering, and allows us to send men to the moon and probes to Mars, etc.

                      Neo-Darwinism doesn’t provide an answer, much less a precise one, about how things like outboard motors get constructed without the involvement of intelligence. It doesn’t come close to answering how life forms that exhibit a patently purposeful arrengement of exquisitly coordinated parts came into existence sans intelligence.

                      This is the sort of thing that Dr. Philip Skell was talking about, i.e. the difference between rigorous, useful sciences and the law of higgledy-piggledy. Try conducting research in biology without refernce to Darwin? No problem, almost all biologists do it every day. Try sending a probe to Mars without the tools of astronomy and related mathematics? Lost in Space.

                    • stuart32

                      Of course you have seen the sun going round the earth, because that is exactly what it looks like. It requires sophisticated science to show you that your impression is wrong. That should tell you something about the dangers of using instinctive judgement. It is as obvious to you that life must have been designed as it was to most people through history that the sun goes round the earth.

                      I’ve already answered the point made by Dr Skell. Evolution permeates the thinking of biologists so deeply that they are not even aware of it.

                    • Anton

                      Neo-Darwinism doesn’t provide an answer, much less a precise one, about how things like outboard motors get constructed without the involvement of intelligence. It doesn’t come close to answering how life forms that exhibit a patently purposeful arrengement of exquisitly coordinated parts came into existence sans intelligence.

                      Well, it does, but the answer probably doesn’t appeal to you. The environment destroying all but the most fit organisms repeatedly is what creates the remarkable local fitness we witness in Nature, at the price of a staggering amount of suffering, waste, predation, death, and extinction. We only consider the process impressive because it takes place without planning or foresight.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      That’s not an answer to the question about how biological motors come into existence sans intelligence; it’s an answer to the question about why creatures go extinct.

                    • Anton

                      That’s not an answer to the question about how biological motors come into existence sans intelligence; it’s an answer to the question about
                      why creatures go extinct.

                      Not the answer you want, but the answer nonetheless. The designs that do the job are spared the slaughter with each round, and the environment hones the designs until they appear to our eyes as if they were literally created with purpose and foresight.

                      As I’ve explained, I’m a Christian and have no prejudice against intent and purpose. But in Nature we’re seeing the illusion of intentional design, because we don’t see the actual design work, the countless generations of organisms that didn’t succeed. We’re only seeing the end product.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Sorry Anton, but you’re contradicting what scientists themselves have already admitted. No one knows how Darwinian processes made the bacterial flagellum. It’s attributed to evolutionary processes because that’s the assumption going in, i.e. it’s the ruling paradigm within which data is interpreted, but beyond that, all they have are Just-so stories and wishful speculations.

                      Moreover, one of the just-so stories that I’ve seen (I’ll try to remember to look for the link, later), is so imprecise that it’s downright embarrassing, and the author himself ultimately admitted that we just don’t know how it happened. So even those who speculate about how it might have happened don’t know how it happened, by their own admission.

                      More than one scientist has now admitted that we have no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of *any* biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.

                      So, when I see life forms that exhibit a patently purposeful arrangement of exquisitely coordinated parts, I can be scientific and use the two-fold process of making my determination based on regular and repeated experience and inference to the best explanation, or I can trust a variety of wishful speculations.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      For the bacterial flagellum this is clearly not accurate. There has been a lot more work on this since Behe last published anything, and unlike him those who have tackled the topic take the subject seriously enough to pursue research actively.

                      But even if your characterization were correct, given how young a field molecular biology is, surely it would still be unwise to parrot in this way what people said a couple of centuries ago about the eye and other larger but comparably complex features of living organisms.

                      And it still puzzles me why some Christians are so eager to embrace the view that disease-causing bacteria are intelligently-designed killing machines. Given that the view does not persuade scientists, why would a small number of Christians want to champion it, given that it is also theologically problematic, and not just scientifically so?

                      But once again, you seem to be repeating claims you made here more than a year ago, with no evidence that you have informed yourself on the topic to a greater extent than then. :-(

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      McGrath: “…For the bacterial flagellum this is clearly not accurate. There has been a lot more work on this since Behe last published anything…”

                      Actually, I think the situation has probably gotten worse for evolutionists vis a vis the flagellum. This embarrassingly imprecise “just-so” story is from only a few years back:

                      http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13663-evolution-myths-the-bacterial-flagellum-is-irreducibly-complex.html#.Ut8JlLQo7IV

                      McGrath: “But even if your characterization were correct, given how young a field molecular biology is, surely it would still be unwise to parrot in this way what people said a couple of centuries ago about the eye and other larger but comparably complex features of living organisms.”

                      I wasn’t parroting people who spoke a century ago, I was referring to people who have spoken in recent times. For example, in 1996 James Shapiro said:

                      “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject — evolution — with so little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses work in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity” (National Review, 16 September 1996).

                      In 2001, Franklin Harold said almost exactly the same thing:

                      “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” (The Way of the Cell), p 205

                      McGrath: “And it still puzzles me why some Christians are so eager to embrace the view that disease-causing bacteria are intelligently-designed killing machines. Given that the view does not persuade scientists, why would a small number of Christians want to champion it, given that it is also theologically problematic, and not just scientifically so?”

                      Thank you for providing further corroborative evidence that the theory of evolution is embraced for religious reasons.

                      McGrath: “But once again, you seem to be repeating claims you made here more than a year ago, with no evidence that you have informed yourself on the topic to a greater extent than then. :-(”

                      Right back at ya.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      A century ago? Surely you are not that unaware of how long we have been studying molecular structures of this sort. That you find it necessary to not quote up-to-date materials is telling and typical of quote mining, where it is the attempt to spin that matters, not accurately depicting the state of our understanding.

                      But again, even if you were correct regarding the current situation, why adopt a stance so prematurely that fared so poorly in relation to the eye when it was attempted in that context?

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Ahem, 2001 is not “a century ago” James.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You wrote: “I wasn’t parroting people who spoke a century ago, I was referring to people who have spoken in recent times.” It sounded as though you thought this field existed a century ago. If it is impossible to parrot people who spoke a century ago on this subject because no one did, then I do not know what your words were supposed to mean.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      James, James, James, now I know why so many of our conversations proceed as they do: You not only don’t reflect seriously about what I say, you don’t even keep track of what YOU say.

                      James, YOU said:

                      “…surely it would still be unwise to parrot in this
                      way what people said a couple of centuries ago about the eye and other
                      larger but comparably complex features of living organisms.”

                      My reference to fact that I WASN’T parroting people from “a century ago” was a DIRECT RESPONSE to YOUR assertion that I was parroting what people said “a century ago”!!!

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Let me reword the last sentence:

                      “My reference to fact that I WASN’T parroting people from “a century ago”
                      was a DIRECT RESPONSE to YOUR assertion that I was parroting what
                      people said “a couple of centuries ago”!!!

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Sorry, where did I say that? If I did, I apologize, but I do not see the comment in question. I thought the first time I used the phrase was in response to your use of it.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Thank you, no problem, we all forget or conflate things that have been said.

                      Since the entries here aren’t numbered, I’m not sure how to point out the post, so I’ve reproduced the entire comment below, with the assertion that I was parroting people from two centuries ago in caps:

                      BEGIN QUOTE
                      For the bacterial flagellum this is clearly not accurate. There has been a lot more work on this since Behe last published anything, and unlike him those who have tackled the topic take the subject seriously enough to pursue research actively.

                      But even if your characterization were correct, given how young a field molecular biology is, SURELY IT WOULD BE UNWISE TO PARROT IN THIS WAY WHAT PEOPLE SAID A COUPLE OF CENTURIES AGO about the eye and other larger but comparably complex features of living organisms.

                      And it still puzzles me why some Christians are so eager to embrace the view that disease-causing bacteria are intelligently-designed killing machines. Given that the view does not persuade scientists, why would a small number of Christians want to champion it, given that it is also theologically problematic, and not just scientifically so?

                      But once again, you seem to be repeating claims you made here more than a year ago, with no evidence that you have informed yourself on the topic to a greater extent than then. :-(
                      END QUOTE

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Thanks. Again, I apologize. When you mentioned a century in the context of work on molecular biology, I didn’t pick up that you were in fact repeating my phrase, and so I mistook its significance.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Not a problem. When a blog gets 192 posts (as of this moment) on a topic in a few days, it’s no wonder we loose track here and there.

                    • stuart32

                      The article to which you link provides a very brief summary of the one to which I linked. I can see why you prefer this one.

                    • stuart32

                      Perhaps this is the link you were looking for:
                      http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/flagellum.html

                      As you say, this admittedly speculative, so you will have to forgive the lack of precision. What you have to remember, of course, is that your argument is about what can or can’t happen in principle. Therefore, in order to refute it all that we have to do is to offer a plausible scenario of how something could evolve.

                    • Anton

                      Sean, it seems a bit unfair to expect precision when we’re dealing with the evolution of a bacterial organ, something that occurred billions of years ago. But I’m sure that this demand for precision and hard evidence derives from your total objectivity in all scientific matters, not just any personal prejudice of yours.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      It’s not unfair at all, because the grander the claim the grander the supporting evidence that must be offered to support it.

                      Evolutionists would have us believe that every life form on this planet emerged via Darwinian processes sans intelligence. If they can’t even demonstrate how one biochemical or cellular system evolved, then they really aren’t in a position to assert that intelligence wasn’t necessary.

                    • arcseconds

                      There’s an interesting slide there from ‘evolution isn’t quite as central to biology as the atomic theory is to chemistry’ through ‘I’m not saying Darwinism is false’ to ‘quiet scepticism will grow’, don’t you think?

                    • stuart32

                      Sean, let me give you an example of how biology might be done if evolution wasn’t considered important. Suppose that a new species of monkey is discovered in the rain forest. In fact, what I should have said is: suppose that something which looks like a monkey is discovered. If living creatures are the product of intelligent design then we would have no reason to think that a newly discovered one would have any connection with the ones we already know.

                      The new “monkey” might turn out to be very different from other monkeys. It might have a different genetic code. It might not even use DNA. So establishing that it has the same biochemistry as other monkeys would be a priority. Of course, we wouldn’t do that because we would assume the new creature conforms to the existing pattern. The zoologists who discover the monkey probably don’t even realise that their response is guided by the assumption of evolution.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Perhaps scientists do shy away from claiming that evolution explains our origins as you say. However, if you were to stand on a street corner and ask regular folks if they think evolution is an answer to the question “Where did we come from?” most would say “of course” – even those who don’t think it’s the right answer.

                    • Ian

                      Perhaps scientists do shy away from claiming that evolution explains our origins as you say.

                      They don’t ‘shy away’ from it. Any more than a chef shies away from claiming that cooking explains nuclear physics. They don’t claim that, because it isn’t true. Anti-evolutionists love to claim it though.

                      That the average member of the public doesn’t understand what evolution even is, is partly because of the massive and well funded campaigns of misinformation conducted by Christians.

                      Ham, Hovind, the DI, all engage in very deliberate muddying of the waters, trying to conflate evolution with all kinds of other stuff, from cosmology, to the big bang, to Nazism. Its part of their general campaign of dishonesty.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “That the average member of the public doesn’t understand what evolution
                      even is, is partly because of the massive and well funded campaigns of
                      misinformation conducted by Christians.”

                      It’s also because scientists themselves misrepresent it. As one example, During the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, Kenneth Miller testified that the statement “evolution is random and undirected” is not a scientific statement, yet he was forced to acknowledge that those words appear in his own textbook, in bold print! Worse, Miller asserted that the words only appeared in the one edition, which proved to be false as they also appeared in first, second, third, and fourth editions.

                      Miller said that the appearance of those words in their textbook was a “mistake”, and that the “mistake” occurred because Joseph Levine supposedly misunderstood argumentation offered by Steve Gould in “Wonderful Life”.

                      You can hardly blame students for misunderstanding evolution when the very textbook they learned it from had a “mistake” that was made because one of the authors misunderstood another evolutionist and the other author failed to notice!

                      http://ncse.com/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/trial_transcripts/2005_0927_day2_am.pdf

                    • Ian

                      As the author of several textbooks, I can tell you that *every* textbook you’ve ever read has mistakes in them. Many, perhaps most, arising from a misunderstanding of one scholar for some detail of another’s work.

                      I’m getting handwaving in your response, but no indication why you think these mistakes are responsible for people thinking that a theory in biology explains the origin of the universe

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Handwaving?

                      I highly doubt that anyone thinks that biology explains the origin of the universe. I’ve been following the evolution/creation debate for decades, and Mike is the first person I’ve ever seen make that statement. Sounds to me like you’re taking an innocent mistake made by one man and using it as an excuse to springboard into an opportunity to offer false charges against creationists. Quite revealing, actually.

                    • Ian

                      When I use the word evolution, … I am referring to the general theory of evolution which believes these five major events took place without God:
                      1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves.
                      2. Planets and stars formed from space dust.
                      3. Matter created life by itself.

                      ….

                      – Kent Hovind

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Well, you’ve got me there! So ONE creationist, Dr. Dino, made some loose, ill-defined, ill-conceived connection between evolution and the origin of the universe.

                      I not questioning your voracity, because I don’t put much past Dr. Dino, but do you have a reference for that argument?

                    • Ian

                      We now have TWO :) Practically a watertight case.

                      The reference is his (in)famous $250,000 challenge.

                    • Ian

                      Handwaving was the wrong word, and unnecessarily pejorative. I apologize.

                      I meant something like a specific argument intended to refute a more general argument which wasn’t directly related. But a word that actually means the right thing eludes me. Sorry.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      Not a problem. I just wasn’t sure how that term applied to me in this context. Thanks for clarifying.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “I highly doubt that anyone thinks that biology explains the origin of the universe. I’ve been following the evolution/creation debate for decades, and Mike is the first person I’ve ever seen make that statement.”

                      Educate me, please. I am stunned by what you’re saying here. What am I missing? There must be semantic distinctions here of which I am not aware. Was not Darwin’s book titled “On the Origin of Species…”? Do the masses not think that he sought to explain origins?

                      I am not being argumentative and these questions are not rhetorical. I want to understand what’s at issue here.

                    • stuart32

                      Cosmology is the study of the origin and subsequent evolution of the Universe. In fact, cosmology is mainly concerned with how the Universe evolved a tiny fraction of a second after it began, so, strictly speaking, it isn’t really about the origin of the Universe. When cosmology goes beyond this it becomes very speculative. Cosmology only began in the twentieth century; it didn’t exist in Darwin’s time.

                      Although Darwin’s book is called “On the Origin of Species…” he didn’t actually devote much attention to what we now call speciation. He was more concerned with how a single species could change over time. If a species changes enough then at some point it will have changed into a new species. It isn’t necessarily the case that an entire species will change into a new species. It’s more likely that a particular population within a species will become isolated and evolve separately. While that happens the rest of the original species may remain unchanged. Therefore, a new species will have arisen in addition to the original species.

                      All of this is about the way life changes, so of course, there must be something to begin with before the change can occur. The origin of the very first life form is a separate issue and one that Darwin didn’t try to tackle.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      All that you say here is perfectly understandable, but it is, as you say, “strictly speaking.” I have to wonder how many people – on both sides of the discussion – keep this distinction in mind as it is discussed in our time.

                      Further, I have to say that it doesn’t speak well for evolution as a theory if it can confidently infer its way back to the beginning but can’t explain the beginning. The beginning of something is pretty important, isn’t it?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      This comment is telling. When people are misusing terms and misconstruing ideas, those who work in those fields should adapt to those misunderstandings rather than vice versa?! The whole point is that people are objecting to science and do not have even the very elementary understanding necessary to use terminology correctly. What does that suggest about whether they are likely to grasp the details of the evidence and their significance.

                      Evolution is about how organisms change over time. It is not a flaw in the scientific theory any more than the study of epidemiology in the present day is “flawed” if we do not have a full picture of the origin of the first disease. That is a different sort of question, and a different field of inquiry.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Given our non-scientific backgrounds, it’s hardly becoming for the two of us to debate proper scientific diction and practice. Moreover, even though neither of us is a credentialed professional scientist, I am perfectly happy to concede that you are my intellectual superior on any aspect of science we might discuss.

                      All that said, we are not having this discussion because Christians have decided to invade the field of science and tell scientists how to practice it. Rather, it’s because Christians like you are telling the rest of us what we can and cannot believe from the Bible because of what science says about evolution.

                      Your audience is well aware that you were once a YEC and now reject that way of thinking, and that you have a very dim view of Ken Ham. What I would like you to do, as a Christian, is tell folks what they can believe from the Bible if they accept evolution – not over and over what they can’t believe.

                      Whatever Ken Ham’s faults, I can see that he argues for the Bible as the word of God. I can see, conversely, that you argue that the Bible is not the word of God but rather the word of men about God, and that these men do not even give forth a consistent message about God. (If I’ve characterized your view incorrectly, please tweak this; however, I know, sadly enough, that I cannot be off by far, which is why I use the word “tweak” rather than “correct.”)

                      What’s fundamentally at issue in these discussions is how to reconcile the Bible with evolution. Since you identify yourself as a “progressive Christian” it would seem to be in your interest to help with this task. For wouldn’t it indeed be progress to show – if indeed it’s the case – how evolution corroborates the word of God?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I will not mind so much if someone does not understand science, if they then defer to those who do. The problem is that there are people who do not know even the terminology, never mind the substance, and yet they claim to have the necessary insight to adjudicate scientific matters.

                      I talk regularly about my views. That you seem to mainly comment on those in which I criticize young-earth creationism doesn’t mean that the other posts are not there. Why not actually join in one of those conversations, rather than pretending they do not exist?

                      Also of relevance to this topic is this post from Rachel Held Evans:

                      http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/bible-clear

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I’ve participated in other discussions on your blog about other topics, and will continue to do so as the opportunity and inclination arises. I have recently been focused in this subject, however, and that may be why you seem to think it’s the only thing on which I want to comment.

                      Because you recommended it, I read Rachel’s post. I think it’s fair for her to admonish us about saying too glibly “The Bible is clear that…” I don’t think, however, that it’s wise to go to the other extreme of refraining from ever saying the Bible is clear.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Who could disagree with that. I’m not even a Christian, but I would agree that the Bible is sometimes clear, sometimes not. Sometimes correct, sometimes incorrect.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I can’t go so far as to say the Bible is “sometimes correct, sometimes incorrect,” but as for the fact it’s easier to understand on some points than others, I’m glad for this identifiable point of agreement between us.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Yes.

                    • Anton

                      All that said, we are not having this discussion because Christians have decided to invade the field of science and tell scientists how to practice it. Rather, it’s because Christians like you are telling the rest of us what we can and cannot believe from the Bible because of what science says about evolution.

                      One of the most difficult things about belief is knowing what’s valid and what’s not. In terms of the big questions of human existence, answers are never certain. However, in scientific inquiry we at least have a way to increase our confidence in the validity of a hypothesis. So scientific inquiry is never going to replace our religious beliefs, but it can shed light on the human context of the big questions.

                      The Bible was certainly the work of men whose understanding of the universe was constrained by the knowledge of their day. They didn’t understand things we take for granted about the solar system and the development of life on Earth. It’s not surprising that they conceptualized their world, time, and human endeavor differently than we.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “So scientific inquiry is never going to replace our religious beliefs”

                      In one sense, you are, of course, right. But in another, consider the Richard Dawkins quote which someone here has recently invoked: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.6 Anyone familiar with religious fervor can attest that Dawkins demonstrates it when he talks about evolution. So, in another sense, everyone worships – we just differ as to who or what.

                      The Bible was certainly the work of men whose understanding of the universe was constrained by the knowledge of their day.

                      I don’t see how they were constrained. They were not trying to teach science but rather spirituality. I don’t read the Bible to learn about science; I read it to learn about God.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      For someone who apparently disagrees with Ken Ham, you have a very odd way of showing it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I don’t know anyone who’s wrong about everything.

                    • Anton

                      consider the Richard Dawkins quote which someone here has recently invoked: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.6 Anyone familiar with religious fervor can attest that Dawkins demonstrates it when he talks about evolution

                      Okay. It was certainly a momentous moment for naturalistic science when humans realized the creative power of networks of natural algorithms. Order coming from Chaos without a pre-existing Mind is still the basis of all these creation-evolution debates. And in a sense, it did away with the need for an old-fashioned Creator God.

                      I don’t see how they were constrained. They were not trying to teach science but rather spirituality. I don’t read the Bible to learn about science; I read it to learn about God.

                      The point being that they only saw natural phenomena in Bronze Age terms, and they could only understand transcendent reality through the symbolism of the powerful chieftain god, or the loving father, or whatever human-centered metaphor resonated in their community.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      If anything, our wonder should be greater than theirs. You and I have come to learn that we are situated on the side of a ball spinning at 1,000 mph while it revolves around another body at 66,000 mph, together flying with a galaxy at 432,000 mph – all without falling off, flying off, or even getting chapped lips. Our Creator’s sense of irony is delicious.

                    • Anton

                      Our Creator’s sense of irony is delicious.

                      Not according to the dinosaurs.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      They could hardly be expected to appreciate the spinning ball and all that.

                    • Anton

                      Whereas Homo Sap can be very cavalier about mass extinctions when we’re feeling at home in the universe.

                      Maybe our sense of irony isn’t so tasteful.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      That we have a home beyond this material universe, that there is no extinction for us, that there is life after death – these are the essence of the good news (“gospel” means “good news”) of Jesus Christ.

                    • Sean Kasabuske

                      Mike: One of the problems that likely contributes to the confusion is that there are people out there who use Darwinism to support their atheism, and if one is an atheist, then the universe either has to be eternal, or must have popped into existence un-caused out of nothing. So discussions of evolution can be sloppily conflated with discussions of cosmology, etc.

                      Anti-religous motivations have caused many to embrace Darwinism, e.g. Dawkins, who said that “…Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled
                      atheist.” There are atheists who believe that Darwinism renders religion itself obsolete, though I recently heard that there’s a new atheist Church where they talk about how no one is going to tell them that the way they don’t believe in God is the wrong way not to believe in God! :-)

                      It’s interesting that Ian focused on the blameworthiness of certain creationists for spreading confusion, yet he failed to mention the blameworthiness of atheists who have also contributed to the confusion. Bias is revealed not just by what you report, but by what you omit, and everyone is subject to it, including scientists who make up the current consensus.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      What you are not addressing is (1) that, while all fields have human biases, the natural sciences have better mechanisms for compensating for these than most others, and (2) you always decide to assume that it is the bias of those you disagree with that is the problem, and not the bias of those you agree with.

                    • Sean Garrigan

                      “(2) you always decide to assume that it is the bias of those you
                      disagree with that is the problem, and not the bias of those you agree
                      with.”

                      Whereas you always decide to assume that the bias of those you disagree with is not a problem, and that the bias of those you agree with is the problem;-)

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Not at all. But when the vast majority of scientists in relevant fields agree, and a small handful of people who almost all have ideological motivations take exception, there is obvious reason to think that inappropriate bias lies in a particular place. And it is foolhardy in the extreme to think that issues of bias are going to be apparent to blog commenters who do not work in the sciences and effectively diagnosed and addressed by such people, and yet unnoticed and ignored by the vast majority of those who actually work in the sciences.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Yes, there are cross currents that can confuse discussions. And, yes, some folks apply double standards in their policing of said discussions.

                    • Anton

                      Anti-religous motivations have caused many to embrace Darwinism

                      As a Christian, I’m hardly anti-religious. But I don’t see any reason to expect science to pander to my religious beliefs.

                      However, I agree with you about the biases of scientists. It’s as if we’re supposed to accept the view that what humans do is just the “wigglings and jigglings of atoms” (that was Feynman), or that everything humanity thinks or believes is nothing more than neurochemistry. I object when either religion or science oversteps its bounds.

                    • Sean Kasabuske

                      It’s true that while anti-religious motivations have caused many to embrace Darwinism, it doesn’t follow that all who accept Darwinism are anti-religious. Sorry if I gave the impression that I thought it did.

                    • Steve Greene

                      Of course, if there was actually any good evidence that it is anything more than neurochemistry, the discoverer would win a Nobel Prize.

                      Nice argumentum ad ignorantiam there.

                    • Anton

                      Steve, I’m not denying that humans are biochemical, and that our brains use neurochemicals. I’m not arguing for some supernatural factor at all. I’m just questioning that we can understand human genius or vision by reducing humans to mere biochemical machines, or by reducing the human brain to a neurochemical computer.

                      If you feel that humanity is no more than that, well, that’s just swell. It shows how comfortable some people are using scientific terminology to trivialize human endeavor.

                    • Steve Greene

                      Wait a minute. We’re having a discussion about religious belief, in a context in which religious believers and the superstitions of religious belief are directly involved, and you’re using the typical religious-believer-used-bogus-rhetoric about “nothing more than neurochemistry” – just like religious believers arguing for supernatural mumbo-jumbo (i.e., superstitions) do – and then because I call you on it you (1) acknowledge that you are not in fact using it to argue for some supernatural factor, (2) imply (incorrectly) that I deny the existence of emergent properties at different scales, and (3) imply that some of the emergent properties of human neurochemistry do not involve people making up nonsense based on irrational superstitions and calling it religion when the beliefs become cultural traditions and gain human power structures in society, and do not involve people sometimes coming up with bad ideas in a fallacious manner more generally.

                      I certainly am trivializing human endeavor when and where that endeavor should be trivialized and criticized for the error that it is. Neurochemistry, so to speak, has its issues, and you seem to be implying that we should just willy-nilly ignore those issues, issues which we are aware of, and which we often have to do some work to overcome. I am hardly ignoring psychology, but in fact just the opposite, and recognizing psychology and such problem issues as we may be aware of both explicity, and implicitly. (I say implicitly, because, for example, belief in the obviously false idea of young earth creationism involves, among other things, psychological aspects, as well as considerations of a more literal kind.)

                      But as you have previously acknowledged to me (since before that I was unaware of it), your usage of “religion” in these discussions is quite different from how the vast majority of Christians use it, so, really, anything you have to say in trying to justify religious belief, used to actually misrepresent what the vast majority of Christians are saying when they are talking about their religious belief, is merely pointless, since you are not even having the same discussion. It is almost as if you are going out of your way to confuse the issues and confuse your readers. And all this from a guy who explicitly says we are supposed to recognize nuance and deal with it. Clearly, you should follow your own advice.

                    • Anton

                      your usage of “religion” in these discussions is quite different from how the vast majority of Christians use it, so, really, anything you have to say in trying to justify religious belief, used to actually misrepresent what the vast majority of Christians are saying when they are talking about their religious belief, is merely pointless

                      This just typifies your approach to this issue. You can only bring yourself to acknowledge the type of religious belief that is characterized by Biblical literalism and immature credulity, not because there is no other kind, but because it’s easier to use your online debate skills and science-words to demonstrate the weakness of such belief. And if someone like me doesn’t conform to your crude stereotype of the ignorant religious believer, you dismiss anything I say as pointless.

                      I’m sorry that your fundamentalist upbringing left you so ill-equipped to deal with such things as nuance or ambiguity. You’re now proclaiming the ideology of scientism, because it allows you to hector and harass people just like fundies do.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “You can only bring yourself to acknowledge the type of religious belief that is characterized by Biblical literalism and immature credulity”

                      As said by a guy who acknowledges the fact that he does not believe in the Bible God yet calls himself a Christian, and thereby is using rhetoric based on pretending that every Christian who actually does believe in the Bible God is a “fundamentalist”.

                      I.e., yet more pallets of red herring.

                    • Anton

                      As said by a guy who acknowledges the fact that he does not believe in the Bible God yet calls himself a Christian, and thereby is using rhetoric based on pretending that every Christian who actually does believe in the Bible God is a “fundamentalist”.

                      You’re no slouch when it comes to red herrings yourself, Steve my friend. I never said anyone who believes in the Bible God is a fundamentalist. I merely wondered what gave you the right not only to define Christianity in any way you like, but also to declare that whatever I say about Christianity is irrelevant because it doesn’t conform to the way you’ve already defined it.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “I never said anyone who believes in the Bible God is a fundamentalist.”

                      “I merely wondered what gave you the right not only to define Christianity in any way you like, but also to declare that whatever I say about Christianity is irrelevant because it doesn’t conform to the way you’ve already defined it.”

                      There you go again implying what you pretend to have not implied. Please try to backpeddle harder.

                    • stuart32

                      That’s a good point. Wait a minute; was it a point, or was it just the result of certain neurochemical events?

                    • Steve Greene

                      False dichotomies are fun. Sometimes. But usually when they are not so blazingly obvious. ;-)

                    • stuart32

                      Steve, perhaps I was being too flippant. Let me put it like this: a series of physical events has occurred. Neurons have fired in brains, muscles have contracted, fingers have pressed buttons etc. The question is whether anything else has occurred. Have people been thinking thoughts, have ideas been expressed and so on? I hope your answer to that question is yes.

                      Of course, the something else doesn’t have to be supernatural; there needn’t be any soul intervening to make these things happen. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable fact about the physical world that when certain physical processes occur, thoughts can be experienced and ideas expressed.

                      As I’m sure you are aware, there are people whose answer to my question would be no. These are the eliminative materialists. They actually don’t think that people have thoughts. Of course, I just put that in the wrong way. I should have said that they say people don’t have thoughts.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “The question is whether anything else has occurred. Have people been thinking thoughts, have ideas been expressed and so on?”

                      Yes.

                      And irrelevant to the discussion, is my point.

                    • stuart32

                      It would be irrelevant to the discussion if eliminative materialism wasn’t a genuinely held philosophical position. Have you read Alex Rosenberg’s “An Atheist’s Guide to Reality”? What did you think of his endorsement of this position?

                    • Steve Greene

                      You wrote, “Of course, the something else doesn’t have to be supernatural; there needn’t be any soul intervening to make these things happen. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable fact about the physical world that when certain physical processes occur, thoughts can be experienced and ideas expressed.”

                      *That* is the point, in combination with the fact that any god-of-the-gaps argument is fallacious. The other stuff is navel-gazing.

                    • Steve Greene

                      There are in fact many different kinds of critiques of religious belief (including Christian belief) based on critical thinking. Science simply happens to be one of them. In science, before evolution it was the antiquity of the earth that was the touchstone (in the 19th century), but then Christians more-or-less accommodated themselves to that. Then biological evolution came along an a lot of Christians drew a line in the sand on that one. But the more fundamental point, in regard to atheism vis-a-vis Christian belief in particular, is that the scientific point is ‘You guys never have produced any good evidence backing up your beliefs in the Bible God”, and the philosophical point is ‘…and it’s not even possible because of the contradictory and nonsensical nature of the Bible God in the first place”. But we live today, and there’s no reason for atheists not to use evolution to critique Christian religious belief right along with the other kinds of critiques. It is entirely wrong to place any blame for the widespread Christian contention with evolution, since it is produced by… well, Mike Gantt is showing you.

                    • stuart32

                      Mike, you are right that scientists should be honest about the limits of scientific knowledge. It is worthwhile to bear in mind, however, that those limits are constantly being pushed back. It is always unwise to try to exploit those limits in order to defend a religious position.

                      There are numerous good books on evolution and cosmology. Why don’t you try to find out more about these subjects? If you decide to reject some of the ideas that you learn about, at least you will be doing so from a position of greater knowledge.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Isn’t it the Bible I need to understand better, and not science?

                    • stuart32

                      I imagine that you already have a very good understanding of the Bible. It would be nice if further study of the Bible led you to reconcile it with science. If that doesn’t happen and you decide to reject those aspects of science which you believe conflict with the Bible then it might still be worthwhile to find out more about what you are rejecting.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      It would be foolish for me to think that I could read a few books about science and become an expert, or even conversant about it with knowledgeable people. Therefore, I will continue to trust scientists about all that they tell me, except for those occasions where they tell me I can’t trust the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I am sorry to hear that you will continue to reject the scientific conclusion that there is no dome over the Earth and that the heart is not the locus of human cognition, but rather the brain is. I hope that you are not in a line of work in which using the Biblical value of pi will get you into trouble or potentially lead to loss of life.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus of Nazareth and said, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” I don’t have to believe that Jesus was woolly and walked on all fours in order to believe that He takes away the sin of the world.

                      The Bible is a tapestry of figurative and literal expressions, so one does not have to take it literally in order to take it seriously. In fact, it’s just as big a mistake to take it literally when it’s speaking figuratively as it is to take it figuratively when it’s speaking literally. Though it’s not always easy to tell the difference, it’s not always impossible either.

                      Since the ancients lived in a pre-scientific age, I am surprised when moderns insist that the ancients meant “dome” in any – primitive or otherwise – scientific sense. I am quite comfortable with scientific knowledge about cognition and the brain, but it’s unfair to expect science to understand the human spirit since it’s of a dimension inaccessible to observation and measurement. As for pi, I haven’t been asked about its value since high school, but if I were to be asked, and assuming 3.14 would be considered insufficiently precise, I can think of multiple places to find the answer…but the Bible wouldn’t be among them.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Great! I hope that you will one day soon adopt that stance consistently in relation to other areas of science where you have articulated a very different approach!

                    • Ian

                      Stuart said “strictly speaking” about *cosmology* explaining the origin of the universe.

                      You said evolution. There is no fine distinction or ‘strict’ interpretation at work there. Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of the universe.

                      > Further, I have to say that it doesn’t
                      > speak well for evolution as a theory
                      > if it can confidently infer its way back
                      > to the beginning but can’t explain the
                      > beginning.

                      Why, what makes you think the beginning of any process is explained by the process itself? Seems a very odd expectation.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      On the contrary, what seems odd is to think you’ve explained a process when you can’t explain how it begins. All you’ve explained is part of a process.

                      In the early stages of my business career I did some computer programming. To write a business program we had to perform systems analysis to indentify and map a given business process. If I didn’t know how the process began, I couldn’t program it.

                      I don’t say that the inability to explain the origin of the universe makes evolutionary theory useless to scientists. This lack, however, should make folks a little more humble about its explanatory power, especially regarding origins.of the universe and humanity.

                    • Ian

                      You really don’t listen to anything said to you, do you.

                      This lack, however, should make folks a little
                      more humble about its explanatory power,
                      especially regarding origins.of the universe

                      Once again. In very simple language. The theory of evolution has nothing to say about the origin of the universe.

                      Since the origin of humans occurred well after the origin of life, it can be analysed by the Theory of Evolution. And the theory makes detailed predictions which match observation very well. It is all very well to say ‘be humble’ but if ‘be humble’ means ‘accept some ideological hypothesis that contradicts the evidence’, then no. That’s not humility, that is dishonesty.

                      On the contrary…

                      Well you’ve expressed your incredulity again, but not answered the question:

                      “what makes you think the beginning of any process is explained by the process itself?”

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “Once again. In very simple language. The theory of evolution has nothing to say about the origin of the universe”

                      Good. I’m glad you’re willing to be emphatic about that limitation. Now what about the origin of humanity which I also mentioned (but which you omitted, and which is more relevant to this discussion. For the heart of the issue here is how to square the theory of evolution with the biblical account of human origins which tells us of God creating one man, and one woman from the man, from which pair the entire human race has descended.

                    • Ian

                      I added a bit about human origins a couple of seconds after posting the comment. I keep forgetting disqus sends the email immediately, so you didn’t get the extra. Sorry.

                      > For the heart of the issue here is how
                      > to square the theory of evolution with the
                      > biblical account

                      Why is squaring anything the heart of the issue? Surely the heart of the issue is, which is correct?

                      How do we determine whether anything is correct? We look for consequences of the two explanations, that would differ, and go check.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      If you do not care about Christ and His word, I can see why it would not matter to you.

                      It matters to me, however, because I deem science to be the study of God’s world and reading the Bible to be studying God’s word. In my worldview, the two ought to match up. Without knowing everything about the Bible and everything about science, my working assumption is that they do match up. A problem only arises when someone tells me that I can’t trust the Bible because of science.

                    • beau_quilter

                      That’s why nonbelievers like myself will continue to remain entirely unconvinced by versions of Christianity that insist on the unerring historicity of Bible stories. I can easily concede that the universe has unsolved mysteries (unsolvable remains to be seen); I can even concede the possibility of certain conceptions of God as an unseen “Ground of Being” ala Tillich.

                      But a religion that pits ancient supernatural stories against overwhelmingly evidenced scientific understandings of the universe lacks any degree of credibility. You might as well ask me to believe in a geocentric model of the universe, or a flat earth. The Adam and Eve model of human origins makes about as much sense.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I can understand your point of view. The central fact that secures my faith in the historicity of the biblical account is the faith Jesus had in it. That is, my faith in historical accounts of the Old Testament derives from his faith in it. In fact, He, not the Bible, is the centerpoint of my faith. But because He trusted the Old Testament to tell Him the truth, I do, too.

                    • beau_quilter

                      I understand your point of view. I just don’t have any more reason to trust the scientific understanding of 1st century rabbi, than I do to trust that of Hebrew scribes from centuries earlier. There’s just no reason for a nonbeliever to find it credible.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I was a nonbeliever (age 27 at the time) who found Him credible.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Yes, you’ve mentioned this before on other posts. I’ve heard a few of your arguments for belief in a supernatural Jesus. Perhaps I simply haven’t heard the convincing one yet.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I won’t try to convert you. I’m happy to believe in Him for both of us.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Don’t trouble yourself on my account.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      I don’t have to. Jesus troubled Himself on your account.

                      Everyone is going to heaven: http://wp.me/pKqSA-1

                    • beau_quilter

                      Dang! and I was so looking forward to annihilation!

                    • stuart32

                      Mike, may I have another go at trying to clarify things? There are lots of things in the world that evolve. The Universe as a whole evolves, stars evolve, life evolves etc. However, when we talk about the theory of evolution we are only referring to the evolution of life, not the other kinds of evolution. So the theory of evolution succeeds or fails according to whether or not it can explain the development of life. It is not to be judged on whether it can explain the origin of the Universe.
                      You seem to be using the word “evolution” to refer to science as a whole. That is a mistake. I assume that your point is that if science can explain the development of life and most of the development of the Universe but it can’t explain the origin of the Universe then science has failed. I think that that would be a naive way of looking at things.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      This is a very helpful comment.

                      “You seem to be using the word “evolution” to refer to science as a whole”

                      I recognize the difference. In discussions like this we don’t always speak as precisely as we could, and sometimes the context is necessary to determine what we mean.

                      “I assume that your point is that if science can explain the development of life and most of the development of the Universe but it can’t explain the origin of the Universe then science has failed.”

                      Not at all. Rather, my point is that if science can’t explain human origins then no one should say that science refutes the biblical account of creation.

                    • stuart32

                      Thanks, Mike. I don’t normally go in for pedantry but I thought it would be useful in this case to clarify the point since a number of people have drawn attention to it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Yes, I agree it was a helpful point, and it’s useful to clarify terms every so often in a discussion.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Are you a Christian?

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      Actually, “unguided” is a jarring word to someone who accepts the biblical account that the world exists because God spoke it into existence.

                      Beyond that, the Genesis account presents God speaking the world into existence in stages – not with one word, followed by an unattended process (or random mutation and natural selection) that would over time transform primordial soup into what we see today.

                      I don’t think that the word “day” has to mean a 24-hour day because that word is used in different senses in the Bible – including “the day of the Lord” which is obviously referring to a period of time longer than 24 hours. That said, I don’t see how someone who takes the Bible seriously can ignore the multi-step process of God speaking which evolutionary theory does not seem to allow – at least not as it’s been presented to me.

                    • stuart32

                      Mike, let’s assume for a moment that God used the process of evolution to create us. How would God have explained this to the authors of Genesis 3000 years ago? This is the issue that James raised in his recent post: Moses, Aaron and God in Conversation. It would have been impossible to convey complex scientific ideas to people at that time. God could only have told them what they were ready to hear.

                      My phrase “unguided natural processes” has obviously raised alarm bells for you, but, I think, unnecessarily. If God created the Universe and holds it in being from moment to moment then an unguided natural process isn’t one from which God is absent. Natural processes occur only because God wills them. If the solar system condensed from a cloud of gas and dust in a way that can be understood scientifically it doesn’t, as it were, do God out of a job.

                      It seems that your understanding of God is that He is only at work when He is doing something that can’t be done by nature. I suggest that this is the wrong way of looking at things.

                      Just to clarify, when I say that a process is “unguided” I mean that God allows something to follow its natural course without altering it.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “Mike, let’s assume for a moment that God used the process of evolution to create us. How would God have explained this to the authors of Genesis 3000 years ago? This is the issue that James raised in his recent post: Moses, Aaron and God in Conversation. It would have been impossible to convey complex scientific ideas to people at that time. God could only have told them what they were ready to hear.”

                      I do not suggest that God should have explained evolution to Moses. Rather, He could have explained creation in a way that was not inconsistent with evolution. This would not have been hard. The first two verses of Genesis could remain unchanged, and the third could say something like “Let there be life, and let it unfold.” The rest of the chapter could have been much shorter. Instead, we have a stage-by-stage account of creation, with God acting creatively at each stage – a narrative that does not easily mesh with a view of 14 billion uninterrupted years of an unguided process.

                      “It seems that your understanding of God is that He is only at work when He is doing something that can’t be done by nature.”

                      That is not my understanding at all. Rather I see God as superintending all processes – natural and supernatural – all the time.

                      “Just to clarify, when I say that a process is “unguided” I mean that God allows something to follow its natural course without altering it.”

                      The Bible reveals that while God does indeed allow many aspects of creation to “follow their natural course without altering it” (including the fact that you and I can make decisions that are wrong in His sight), it also reveals that there are occasions where He intervenes to alter the natural course of things. The most notable example of all in this regard is, of course, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

                    • stuart32

                      I don’t think that the analogy with the resurrection is a good one, because in that particular case God could not have achieved the same end through natural processes.

                      I don’t think there is much more I can say. Perhaps someone who is better qualified can take up the challenge of trying to reconcile evolution and Genesis in a way that you will find acceptable.

                    • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                      “I don’t think that the analogy with the resurrection is a good one, because in that particular case God could not have achieved the same end through natural processes.”

                      The resurrection of Christ is, in essence, the same process we see as when a seed is cast into the ground, dies to itself, and grows up as a plant. We call the former extraordinary and the latter ordinary, but both are wondrous and both are God’s work.

                      “I don’t think there is much more I can say. Perhaps someone who is better qualified can take up the challenge of trying to reconcile evolution and Genesis in a way that you will find acceptable.”

                      You certainly gave it a good effort and I appreciate the spirit in which you gave that effort.

                    • Steve Greene

                      The larger “meta-issue” being, in terms of the religious discussion, why anyone should even try to make them reconcile in the first place. I claim that the entire idea that they should be “reconciled” is a fundamental fallacy.

                    • stuart32

                      I don’t have any strong views on the God question. My point would be that if God does exist then he must have been content to allow evolutionary processes to create us. Creationism is completely untenable. Clearly, my attempt to reconcile science and Genesis to Mike’s satisfaction was a failure. Perhaps I was too diplomatic. On the other hand, I think the attempt was worth making because telling people simply to abandon religion just won’t work.

                    • Steve Greene

                      ” I think the attempt was worth making because telling people simply to abandon religion just won’t work.”

                      We disagree on this. I would say very much so. Not only does it work, but it is working, though it certainly does not work overnight. Social evolution takes a while. By the way, I happen to be a personal example of this, in regard to having been a Christian (and have been raised in the Christian faith, and not knowing anything else) and then learning about the errors of such belief (on my own particular pathway, of course) through education, reading, and discussions with others, including some atheists. But in general it is more of a generational evolution, where younger generations of people as they grow up come into an increasingly critical-of-religion-belief and critical-of-religious-privilege-assertion environment.

                      I have no doubt that dealing with individual people, such as Mike Gantt, it is best to “meet them where they are at” at some particular point. However, I have no qualms about being completely open about where I’m coming from and discussing very relevant philosophical points, such as the point that, regardless of how you choose to (re)interpret the Bible, (1) it is reality that determines what reality is and nothing else (and anything said in any purported holy book still must bow to this ultimate authority; otherwise it’s all just circular reasoning on religious presupposition), and all the religious rhetoric to the contrary about truth and truth-seeking is bogus by definition, and (2) the idea that it is actually pointless to try to make Genesis “reconcile” with science does happen to be one of the logical alternatives, and it should not be ignored.

                      I totally agree with you on a pragmatic level in regard to the fact that millions of Christian can and do content themselves with the idea that we were created by God “providentially” (i.e., not by miraculous fiat) through evolution. They typically treat the creation stories as the metaphors of religious mythology.

                    • Steve Greene

                      “It would have been impossible to convey complex scientific ideas to people at that time.”

                      Oh, well there goes the omnipotent, omniscient God argument. The Bible is messed up because God was too stupid to figure out how to communicate well with humans. That’s an interesting theological argument.

                    • Ian

                      It was an equal struggle to figure out how to tell them that disease was commonly caused by microorganisms and that they should wash their hands a lot. So, rather than convey that incredibly obscure and esoteric idea, he was content to tell them to ritually wash from time to time, just because.

        • Keen Reader

          The Bible “meshes” perfectly well with evolutionary theory, as millions of Christians agree. Only in your neck of the woods, the U.S., is evolution a major controversy and an excuse for equivocation by conservative evangelicals such as yourself, who prefers to lie with his fundie bedfellows.

          If you want the scientific argument, read Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian who has no such problem as you pretend to have.

          • Sean Garrigan

            The Apostle Paul would disagree with you. At the very heart of his salvation doctrine is the notion that sin and death came into the world via the first man, Adam. In modern evolutionary theory, there was no first man, and death always existed as a natural part of life as a physical creature.

            It’s amazing how nasty your tone is in response to Mike, who, based on my online reading, is one of the most irenic Christians one can find. Indeed, if you go back and read the thread from the beginning you’ll see that all he was attempting to do was recommend that McGrath adopt a more irenic approach himself. McGrath should take this recommendation seriously, IMO.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I must disagree. Paul does not emphasize that Jesus had to die because sin came into the world through the first man. He says that it was through one man that sin entered the world (even though according to the story in Genesis it was through two people) because he wants to make a contrast with Jesus, one man.

              The notion that salvation depends on a historical Adam is promoted by young-earth creationist charlatans so that they can use their supposed defense of this essential doctrine to bilk the gullible of money. It is sad and shameful, and does not deserve an irenic approach any more than any other deceitful false teaching does.

              • Sean Garrigan

                Your response exemplifies why I refer to you as “the pugnacious professor”! I wonder, if you hadn’t been granted intellectual gifts, perhaps you would have become a pugilist?

                The question isn’t whether salvation depends on a historical Adam; the question is whether Paul’s salvation doctrine was developed in light of the assumption that Adam was a historical person, and truly was responsible for introducing sin and death to mankind. Since this is so, either the modern scientific consensus is correct and Paul was mistaken, or Paul was correct and the modern consensus is mistaken.

                If you say that the error lies with Paul, then you ipso facto imply that his salvation doctrine was misconceived.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  Paul also wrongly thought that the heart rather than the head was the locus of human cognition, but we have coped with that OK. Luke thought that heaven was literally upwards but few Christians think that NASA ought to be keeping an eye out for Jesus’ return. Of course, with that kind of literalism, Jesus would not have yet left the Milky Way galaxy, unless he achieved warp speed.

                  Evolution is not in any sense a unique issue. It is just one of many areas in which further study of the natural world has led to conclusions different than the assumptions of ancient authors, including those who wrote the Bible.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    So then you grant that, for those who accept the modern theory of evolution, Paul’s salvation doctrine was misconceived.

                    • beau_quilter

                      Grant it to whom? James didn’t propose that “Paul’s salvation doctrine was misconceived.” Is that what you propose?

            • Keen Reader

              This is utter tripe, the sort of nonsense that Hamster peddles and makes a fine living from. You seem to have swallowed it wholesale. Paul thought like everybody else in his pre-scientific era and that has zero effect on “his salvation doctrine” which, contrary to Hamster propaganda, doesn’t depend on an historical Adam.

              As for “irenic tones”, well, the Hamster fraud is renowned for that, eh? Not. Maybe the fence-sitting pretender should complain to Hamster first before attacking Dr. McGrath.

          • Steve Greene

            Do note, just as one example, that whether or not one accepts Adam and Eve as historical people is a seriously contentious issue in evangelical Christian circles, so citing Francis Collins as an example of an evangelical Christian is merely beside the point. However, what would be interesting to see is if Collins has actually written specifically about how he deals with the Adam and Eve story, and about his “hermeneutics” of the Bible in this context in regard to Christian theology. (I don’t think Collins has done so – but I do not know this, I’ve simply noticed that on these kinds of things he speaks in generalities in things I have read.)

            • Keen Reader

              Collins isn’t a theologian — that’s why I cited him for the *scientific* argument. For Adam and Eve and Paul one needs to go to, for example, Dr. Peter Enns.

              • Steve Greene

                Peter Enns has written, “Their creation stories were more like a warm-up to get to the main event: them. Their stories were all about who they were, where they came from, what their gods thought of them and, therefore, what made them better than other peoples. Likewise, Israel’s story was written to say something about their place in the world and the God they worshiped. To think that the Israelites, alone among all other ancient peoples, were interested in (or capable of) giving some definitive, quasi-scientific, account of human origins is an absurd logic. And to read the story of Adam and Eve as if it were set up to so such a thing is simply wrongheaded. Reading the biblical story against its ancient backdrop is hardly a news flash, and most evangelical biblical scholars easily concede the point. But for some reason this piece of information has not filtered down to where it is needed most: into the mainstream evangelical consciousness.” (“Once More, With Feeling: Adam, Evolution and Evangelicals”, Huffington Post blog, 1/23/2012)

                The Bible does not “mesh” with the scientific theory of evolution, any more than the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish meshes with evolution. The Bible creation story, including the story of Adam and Eve are simply religious myth which are, in terms of reality and anything that actually happened, completely vacuous. In regard to Enns’ claim that “most evangelical biblical scholars easily concede the point”, let’s just say that I seriously doubt that.

                Looking into the future (my context is that of the United States) I have little doubt that in the next generation or two “evangelical Christianity” will have evolved into two camps (as has always happened in the past, in general, in various denominations): The large “liberal” camp, and the smaller “conservative” camp, simply due to the ever-increasing education about and awareness of science regarding aspects relevant to such Bible doctrines as we are talking about, as the die-hard believers in scientifically false religious doctrine die off and younger people come along who simply know better and grow up and displace the previous generations. We are of course in the very middle of this process right now, especially as these “conservative” denominations are seeing their younger people flee them in greater and greater numbers. I say this, because even while I see the population of atheists continuing to grow (a lot of these younger people are leaving religion altogether), I’m quite aware of how religious belief holds quite some appeal to certain general aspects of the human psyche, so I see most of these younger people returning to churches, but they will be somewhat older and less apt to tolerate the anti-science attitudes of the previous generations – i.e., they will be farther along the “progressive” curve, and the denominations involved will have evolved accordingly.

        • Steve Greene

          “I am perfect willing to trust scientific consensus…up until they tell me that I cannot trust the prophets and the apostles. That’s where I have to part company.”

          Why? You do see the circular reasoning inherent in what you stated, don’t you?

          • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

            No, I don’t. Please explain why you do.

            • Steve Greene

              The statement – “I am perfectly willing to trust scientific consensus…up until they tell me that I cannot trust the prophets and the apostles. That’s where I have to part company.” – presupposes its own truth without dealing with the requirements of producing any actual real world world evidence to back it up. Thus, it is entirely circular.

              Either “the prophets and the apostles” are right, or they are wrong. Merely assuming that they cannot be wrong without having good real world evidence to back it up and then making arguments like “I am perfectly willing to trust scientific consensus…up until they tell me that I cannot trust the prophets and the apostles” is a classic example of circular reasoning, which is circular, precisely because it deliberately ignores dealing with scientific evidence to the contrary.

              • http://blogforthelordjesus.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

                If you think that the only evidence is scientific evidence then it is you who are engaged in circular reasoning.

                I have historical evidence that Abraham LIncoln was assassinated; therefore, I don’t need scientific evidence. If my wife tells me she talked to the grocer today, I don’t need scientific evidence that she talked to the grocer. Scientific evidence is not the only kind of evidence.

                • Steve Greene

                  You are quite correct that “scientific evidence”, per se, is not the only evidence there is, in a broader epistemological context. I refer specifically to scientific evidence in the context of science topics, in the current context (the headline article above), in regard to reality claims about the antiquity of the world and about the scientific theory of evolution, in regard to creationism pseudoscience.

  • David Allen South

    http://cozmiqpylosopher.blogspot.com/2012/08/preface-illuminate-human-eliminate.html
    here is some information that you may not have had access to,
    the majority of it has been factually verified from scientists on all sides of the issue.
    I document and give many references for you to review at your leisure.
    I give you the right to make up your own mind.
    I also offer you the opportunity to prove me wrong if you can.
    but not even Steven Hawking has been able to refute any of my claims so far,
    so good luck.
    all the best to one & all

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

      Woo hoo! (Pun intended)

      Randomly capitalized words and underlining, garishly colored text and claims that “not even Steven Hawking has been able to refute” him! (as if Hawking is even aware of him or would bother if he was)! The Time Cube guy would be proud!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You are clearly confused. If you want stephen Hawking to interact with your work, don’t just blog about it and then leave poorly worded comments around the internet. Publish your scientific research in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • guest

    Nice one, got a laugh out of me at least.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I see Mike is back at his “I want to grapple with the questions but will be unbending in all I exhort” troll routine.

  • Tay Mor

    Hehe, in cheeky answer to the question posed on that picture – “Because there is so much of it [dirt]…”

  • TaylorAiken

    Who frickin cares how we got here? Will knowing make our lives any better, stop poverty, improve our education system, stop crime (yes, I know crime cannot be totally stopped. I’m making a point. Go with it.), or fix the U.S. deficit? I don’t think so.

  • Victor t

    Mike Gant I couldn’t agree with you more. All this creationist hater does is make creationists pissed and ticked off. He is just wasting his time, when he could do something productive.


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