Answering Questions about Empiricism as Foundational: Abiogenesis, Language and Incredulity

Goodness me. Here’s another comment from See that he demands is answered, dripping as it is with condescension, and full of naivety. This came in the middle of his points being soundly debunked. As ever, I write this not so much for him, but for all the other readers. Some of See’s comments are regular tripe trotted out by theists who attempt to make themselves sound clever.

Here are his rebuttals that apparently leave me wanting. Heh.

“I replied to question 1) in “Answering Questions about Empiricism as Foundational: Our Rational Nature“. See Noevo was found seriously wanting.”

Jonathan was found seriously wanting. Hey, that was easy!

No, I supplied reasonable philosophy to find you wanting, not just an assertion. Fallacy of false equivalence.

“I will now continue by looking at his next comment.”

Before going to the next, how about finishing with the first? You never responded to my post. I’ll repeat it here:
“… to argue against rationalism to say, “How can humans be rational because rationality can’t emerge from the non-rational”. Of course, the first thing to say here is, “Why not?” Any theory of emergence will argue that properties that are categorically different can emerge from other entities with different properties. Life emerges (albeit on a naturalistic thesis) from non-life.”

I think I get it. Except for one thing:
Where has science ever observed in nature, or ever coerced in a lab, life emerging from non-life?

Oh dear. He thinks this is a fabulous point, because it is in bold. Okay, so what he is doing here as an informal logical fallacy I’m sure must have a formal name. It is at least the Argument from ignorance or the Argument from incredulity or the Appeal to Tradition fallacy. Basically, he is saying that something has not been found out yet, therefore it is not true and never will be.

The ridiculousness of this claim means we should all give up, as humanity, the search for the cure for cancer. Actually, the search for anything, including when he loses his keys. “I do not know where they are now; therefore, I will never know.”

Insanely ridiculous. He has a cray bias for now.

Let’s  substitute:

Where has science ever observed in nature, or ever coerced in a lab, X?

Where X can mean, at any point in time where it has not yet been discovered: the cure for cancer, E=mc², Higgs-Boson, all the elements, fission, fusion, photosynthesis. Except we have discovered many of these things as time has advanced.

Fusion is an interesting one because researchers are getting desperately close and this is something that the world needs, if it can be safely harnessed, and yet was once thought impossible.

I suggest See actually reads up on the fascinating area of abiogenesis, because his simplistic approach is really grating. The Miller–Urey experiment, for example, is now turning up more compounds than were originally thought.

Of course, the work of Craig Venter in 2010 pushed on the quest, by producing a new life form in the lab:

Dr Craig Venter, a multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics, and his team have managed to make a completely new “synthetic” life form from a mix of chemicals.

They manufactured a new chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube, then transferred it into an empty cell and watched it multiply – the very definition of being alive.

Only this year we have been able to create synthetic DNA – that is synthetic fundamental building bricks for life:

Scientists have announced that they have created living organisms using an expanded genetic code. That could in turn lead to the creation of entirely new lifeforms, using combinations of DNA that couldn’t possible have existed before.

Two researchers created a bacterium that not only uses the four natural bases, but also uses a pair of synthetic ones known as X and Y. In doing so, the researchers say that they have been able to “lay the foundation for achieving the central goal of synthetic biology: the creation of new life forms and functions”….

In doing so, the scientists appear to have proven that the very fundamental processes of life can be altered.

“We can now get the light of life to stay on,” said Professor Romesberg in a statement. “That suggests that all of life’s processes can be subject to manipulation.”

Pont being that there is a huge amount of work going into this discipline, and abiogenesis as a whole. See would do well to read up on it rather than sitting in his chair at home banging the keyboard in false-prophesying nonsense.

“The final point on this is that it prompts the question about what rationality really is. A computer is rational and adheres strictly (much better than humans) to logic and rationality…”

How did this rationality emerge in the computer? What were the categorically different properties of the computer components from which this rationality emerged?

Exactly what you claimed couldn’t happen. The material cause of computers – the plastic, the metal, electricity and so on – causes something to emerge, namely rationality (if so defined). The name “computer” means this thing can compute, which is an abstract process, arguably. It harnesses logic to compute. The rational can come from the non-rational inanimate components.

“Language and ideas are coextensive…These ideas, or at least the understanding of these ideas, are built up upon language. the more complex the idea to understand, the greater the range, understanding and application of language needed to understand or know these things.”

Language! Now there is a confounding thing. I know there’s supposed to be a consensus that evolution is true. I also know that there is little if any consensus on the details of how organism X or organ Y or system Z came into being. This lack of consensus can extend even to non-biological things, like language.

What is the scientific consensus on how humans evolved language? I’m not aware there is one.


Goodness. Okay, go and read some more. This is essentially the same fallacious approach as before. And again, there are heaps of fascinating finds and theories, stretching from Chomsky across to Dennett (in fact, there was a short interview with Dennett on this very topic in a recent New Humanist magazine issue). There may not be consensus on exactly how, but there is consensus on it happening. And this is what See misses, and thus commits the fallacy known as the Argument from Incredulity: it is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone decides that something did not happen, because they cannot personally understand how it could happen. It is a form of argument from ignorance and is an informal fallacy.

I am not about to expound all of the work into the evolution of language, as this would be a massive waste of time and effort. I suggest people go and read into this, especially See. He should go and see monkeys interact, and birds. This is rudimentary language: intentional sounds that infer meaning.

What See needs to look at is what differentiates us anatomically from other animals, such as respiratory control.

When you are trying to study something that is based in soft tissue and is sound-based, then looking for direct historical (ie fossilised) evidence is exceptionally hard. But this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! I could go and shout in the woods at the top of my voice and if no one was about and if there was no evidence for it happening, then this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Unless you are See!

Continuing on:

“So I admit that I do not know anything at all (which is what that distills down to)? I don’t know how he got that from the quote he gave.”

Not exactly. What I said is “You see, Jonathan admits that he does NOT know that he CAN know anything at all.”
You go on with

Er, yes. I went through this. I CAN know that I exist. And that’s it, if you are defining “know” in the Cartesian sense of 100% indubitability. Learn to read.

“The thing is, this depends on how you define “know”. If it is the Cartesian “know” then See and I are in the same boat – cogito ergo sum – we only know (indubitably) that the thinking “I” exists, subjectively. Everything else is probability. And as he should know, probability kind of depends on empiricism.”

But you, Jonathan, have admitted, in effect, that you don’t know that ‘everything else is probability.’ To be consistent, you should say only that there’s a probability that ‘everything else is a probability’, and a probability of that probability, and a probability of that one, ad infinitum. Or ad absurdum. (“…I can, therefore, give something that approaches a preferable probability for a real existence outside of The Matrix.”)

Oh look, I did explain, and you included my words.

And the probability of a probability is still a probability. If you want ot ground that, you can refer to the Munchausen Trilemma.

More generally, what you fail to comprehend is that you and the other atheists have no reason for trusting in your empiricism and no reason for trusting in your reason. For you it comes down to, ‘Just because.’ (Or maybe, perhaps something more science-y: ‘The Big Bang’s helium and hydrogen naturally led to my ‘Just because.’’)

Are you serious? Seriously serious? Holy shit, this is amazing. Does Seee not use empiricism? Doe s he think it is not trustworthy? Go cross a busy road with your eyes closed. Or, work out the probability of being hit by a car using empirical data, and decide not to cross (using inductive reasoning that only makes sense in terms of, you know, the inductive data – which was kinda my point).

In the Christian worldview, the universe’s intelligibility “emerges” from Intelligence, THE Intelligence. In the atheist worldview, the universe’s intelligibility “emerges” from… Hey, that reminds me, Jonathan. Please remember to address
my “emergence” points at the beginning of this post.

So far, you’ve been found wanting.

Oh wow. So what is See using to base his belief in God? Since he seems to want to trash empiricism, let’s forget any evidence he has in this world. Let him ignore or forget the Bible (as inductive historical evidence). Let’s assume he was not allowed to take any empirical sense data in since birth.

Oh dear, he is a barely sentient entity with no grasp of the meaning or existence of  God.

Poor See.

All that brain development as he still can’t grasp these arguments.


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