Accommodationism and the nature of our world

Earlier I posted about dancing birds and centenarian Nobelists, but accommodationism still dogs my heels.  It comes at me today in two forms: Francis’s Collins’s  execrable Biologos website, funded by our old friends the Templeton Foundation, and an article in the Guardian by Kenneth Miller about transitional fossils.   Both of these items offer a faith/science accommodationist viewpoint, either explicitly (Collins) or implicitly (Miller).  And both suffer from the big problem inherent in that viewpoint: when one makes pronouncements about faith that involve assertions about science, the science always suffers.  (As a working scientist and a naturalist, I’m not all that concerned with what it does to faith.)

The more I peruse Collins’s site, the more embarrassed I am for him and his cronies.  On the first page, with the “Mission Statement,” appears the following proclamation (see comments below):


Faith and science both lead us to truth about God and creation.

Oh, really?  In what ways does science lead us to truth about God and creation?  This sounds not like the statement of a scientist, but of a religious person with an a priori and unfalsifiable belief that learning about the universe will affirm the existence of God and tell us how He/She/It worked.  I’ve never heard a scientist assert this so blatantly.  It is, of course, a completely unscientific statement.

And, P. Z. Myers pointed out yesterday, BioLogos repeatedly and erroneously suggests that a sense of morality that can resolve ethical dilemmas can come only from religion:

Furthermore, religion has not only served to advance scientific discovery, but it also exerts a positive and significant influence on the practical application of scientific discoveries. With the constant advance of technology and medicine, new questions are continually raised as to what applications should be deemed ethically acceptable.6 (See Collins’s Appendix in The Language of God.) The scientific method alone does not provide a way of answering these ethical questions but can only help in mapping out the possible alternatives. Such ethical concerns are only resolved by standards of morality that find grounding and authority through faith in a higher being.

As anybody with two neurons to rub together knows, this statement is simply wrong.  Even the ancient Greeks realized that our morality is innate and not derivable from God.  I won’t belabor this elementary error, for all of us know about it.  Except, apparently, Collins and his collaborators.   But on to the naturalism.  I can mention only a few ways in which science is debased on this website.  First, it asserts that although God can and does affect the world in tangible ways (a scientific claim), this intervention is scientifically undetectable:

It is thus perfectly possible that God might influence the creation in subtle ways that are unrecognizable to scientific observation. In this way, modern science opens the door to divine action without the need for law breaking miracles. Given the impossibility of absolute prediction or explanation, the laws of nature no longer preclude God’s action in the world. Our perception of the world opens once again to the possibility of divine interaction. . . . Regardless of the irregularity of tiny,quantum mechanical, or complex, chaos theoretical, systems, the sun stills rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, and objects fall to the ground. Nature is reliable enough to reflect God’s faithfulness yet flexible enough to permit God’s involvement.

We’re not told what this “flexibility” is, except that it’s not detectable (perhaps through revelation?).  And then we come to teleology.  Evolution is not, we learn, a naturalistic process, but has been planned by God to cough up Homo sapiens with all its godly characteristics:

Question 18: At what point in the evolutionary process did humans attain the “Image of God?”

In order to answer this question, “image of God” must be defined.1 In the account of man’s creation, found in Genesis 1, God declares, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). The multifaceted debate over the meaning of the image of God has gone on for centuries in the Christian community. Most theologians argue that the image of God is not reflected upon humans as a physical image, related to the way we look. Rather, the fundamental qualities of the image of God are characteristics of the mind and soul, however we understand those: the ability to love selflessly; engage in meaningful relationships; exercise rationality; maintain dominion over the Earth; and embrace moral responsibility.

From the BioLogos perspective, God planned for humans to evolve to the point of attaining these characteristics. (See Question 30 about the Evolution of Religion.) For example, in order to reflect God’s Image by engaging in meaningful relationships, the human brain had to evolve to the point where an understanding of love and relationship could be grasped and lived out. God’s intention for humans to have relationships is illustrated in the opening chapters of Genesis, where many fundamental truths about God and humankind are communicated through the imagery of a creation story.

And, predictably, the “fine-tuning of physical constants” argument appears, with the more-than-strong suggestion that this is a “pointer to God”:

Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants and the beginning state of the universe. Both of these features come together as potential pointers to God. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature — like the strength of gravity — and the beginning state of the Universe — like its density — have extremely precise values. The slightest variation from their actual values results in a lifeless universe. For this reason, the universe seems finely-tuned for life. This observation is referred to as the anthropic principle, a term whose definition has taken many variations over the years.3 Dr. Francis Collins has addressed both aspects of fine-tuning in the third chapter of his book, The Language of God.

This is creationism, pure and simple:  it is a “God of the gaps” argument.  Because physicists haven’t yet told us why these laws are as they are, they must reflect God’s miraculous handiwork.  Here Collins, as did Kenneth Miller in his book Only a Theory, approaches creationism, or what A. C. Grayling prefers to call “supernaturalism.”

I  wrote yesterday about Collins’s unscientific assertion that humans were an inevitable outcome of evolution.  I’ve taken this argument apart in an article in The New Republic, and won’t repeat it here.  The reason why people like Collins (and Miller) see the appearance of humans as inevitable is, of course, that their theology requires it.  Any honest scientist, faced with the question, “Was the appearance of humans or humanlike creatures inevitable?”, would have to answer “I don’t know.” (And I would add: “Considering how evolution works, it does seem somewhat unlikely”.)

I won’t go on: the BioLogos website provides hours of fun (and frustration!) for the bored naturalist.  But Collins should consider the effect of giving his scientific imprimatur to this kind of nonsense.  It confuses people about what science really knows, using creationist God-of-the-Gaps arguments (“I guess God must have made the laws of the universe, since physicists don’t have an explanation for them”). And it employs a nonscientific teleology by stating that physical and biological evolution are not contingent processes, but were designed by God to achieve a completely predictable end: that one species of mammal would arise on one of the gazillion existing planets 14 billion years after He set His plan in motion.

**************

On the “comment is free” section of The Guardian, biologist Kenneth Miller has a piece on the implications of the “missing link to seals,” Puijila darwini, that I discussed in an earlier post.  It’s all pretty good, but then the accommodationism begins to emerge when he talks about why evolution is anathema to many people in the US and UK:

What bugs them is that evolution carries with it a message they just don’t want to hear. That message is that we not only live in a natural world, but we are part of it, we emerged from it. Or more accurately, we emerged with it.

To them, that means we are just animals. Our lives are an accident, and our existence is without purpose, meaning or value.

My concern for those who hold that view isn’t just that they are wrong on science, wrong about the nature of the evidence, and mistaken on a fundamental point of biology. It’s that they are missing something grand and beautiful and personally enriching.

Evolution isn’t just a take-it-or-leave-it story about where we came from. It’s an epic at the centre of life itself. It tells us we are part of nature in every respect. Far from robbing our lives of meaning, it instils an appreciation for the beautiful, enduring, and ultimately triumphant phenomenon of life.

Seen in this light, the human presence is not a mistake of nature or a random accident, but a direct consequence of the characteristics of the universe. What evolution tells us is that we are part of a grand, dynamic, and ever-changing fabric of life that covers our planet. Even to a person of faith, in fact especially to a person of faith, an understanding of the evolutionary process should only deepen their appreciation of the scope and wisdom of the creator’s work.

Let me get this straight: a biologist, speaking ex cathedra on an issue of biology, says that the idea we are “just animals” and “our lives are an accident” is “wrong on science, wrong about the nature of the evidence, and mistaken on a fundamental point of biology.”  Yes, anti-evolutionists are missing the beauty and wonder of evolution, but the last time I looked we were still primates, descended from apelike ancestors.  And to say that our lives are anything other than an accident (including, of course, the accidents of meiosis and of which sperm makes it to the egg), buys into the idea — one that Miller has promulgated –that the appearance of humans or something like us was inevitable.   Indeed, he explicitly stresses this inevitability when he says our lives are “a direct consequence of the characteristics of the universe.”  Well, yes, and so are the lives of squirrels and redwoods.  But what Miller really means here –and we can have no doubt about this given the content of his talks and writings –is that the laws of the universe are fine-tuned for the appearance of humans, and that, given the nature of evolution and Earth, the appearance of higher intellectual capabilities (ones that could apprehend and worship their Creator) is inevitable.

What bothers me is that Miller can’t resist slipping in, under the guise of his expertise as a biologist, the idea that it is scientific to assert that the laws of physics are fine-tuned for our appearance, as is the nature of the evolutionary process itself.  But those are NOT scientific statements; they are philosophy born of religion.  That’s why I don’t think people who represent the public face of evolution should mix their magisteria.   It gives the authority of science to statements for which we have either no evidence, or counterevidence.

Of these two items, Collins’s website is by far the most injurious to science.  After all, most of Miller’s post is on the mark, interesting, and scientific.  But somehow he simply can’t keep himself from sliding into theology, either in this article or in the talk I heard him give on Darwin Day in Philadelphia.  This may reflect his view, which is also that of the NCSE, AAAS, and NAS, that you can’t effectively sell evolution without bringing in God.

* * * * * * * * * *

Miller and Collins have raised a question in my mind.  Both of them assert that the world — indeed, the Universe –clearly reflects God’s handiwork.  And both affirm that accepting the truth of evolution only deepens our understanding and appreciation of the divine.  Isn’t it curious that every scientific finding that at first appears injurious to faith (a heliocentric solar system, evolution, the 14-billion-year age of the universe) always manages, after the theologians put it through their sausage grinder, ending up as supportive of faith?  But what else can they do?  Indeed, one could define the task of theology as making virtues of necessities. It is a superfluous field, if, indeed, it’s a field at all.  The same goes for the problem of evil, such as the Holocaust, and of natural catastrophes, such as the tsunamis that killed thousands in southeast Asia.  No problem for theology — they have many answers. (BioLogos has a whole page of possible explanations.)  But any rational person looking at the world would conclude, as did Darwin, that it was not designed by a beneficent God.

It will repay us to consider the words of Epicurus written 2300 years ago:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

I have never seen a satisfactory theological answer to this question, despite centuries of theodicy.  Any proposed answer always smacks of rationalization.  (I know somebody’s going to tell me that I’m neglecting some “sophisticated” theological lucubrations here.)

As Richard Dawkins has noted, the world and universe look precisely as if they reflect not a caring designer, but “blind, pitiless, indifference.”  So I pose these questions to those who find signs of a celestial designer in our universe:

If our universe simply reflected the action of pure naturalistic laws rather than the intentions of God, how would it differ from the universe we have today?

In other words, what conceivable observation about the universe could convince you that God does not exist?

I can think of plenty of observations that would convince me that God does exist. (I mention several of them in my New Republic piece. For example, only bad people might get cancer.  Or prayers might be answered in a scientifically verifiable way.)  But I’ve never heard a religious person –at least not one on the verge of defecting to apostasy — tell me what evidence would make him/her give up their belief.  This asymmetry tells us something about the difference between scientific truth and religious “truth.”

22 Comments

  1. Posted April 30, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Collins says: “It is thus perfectly possible that God might influence the creation in subtle ways that are unrecognizable to scientific observation.”

    Of course it’s possible! And it’s possible that a unicorn is what’s been nibbling on my veggie garden.

    But how probable is it? That’s the important question.

  2. Stuart Ritchie
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant post! More power to your elbow, sir!

  3. Posted April 30, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    I love your two penultimate questions. Creationists can’t answer the first one and won’t answer the second one.

  4. MelM
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Handiwork?
    To arbitrarily stick God into every available gap–because God can do anything–then turn around and use this fantasy to show “God’s miraculous handiwork” is truly bizarre.

    Nature’s constants
    Note the wording used: “…potential pointers to God” and “…seems finely-tuned for life”. This is essentially the same argument as “if it looks designed, it is designed” but without actually making a firm claim–just strongly suggesting. Anyway,I don’t see anything even clever in this argument. Even if the future deep understanding of these constants reveals that some form of probability is involved, it makes no difference. No matter how improbable, the fact is that the constants have the values they have and that we are here. (Considering all the possible sexual matings in the history of life, it’s highly improbable that I exist; but I do. Is that God’s handiwork too?) Just saying that science doesn’t have a deep understanding of these constants yet is ok by me. If the pious want to latch on to the “gap” and fill it with God, they have only hurt themselves because they will not be the ones who will get a Nobel Prize for a profound discovery.

    I note also that Timothy Keller in his book “The Reason For God” goes over the “Fine Tuning Argumment” in the chapter “The Clues of God” and concludes: “Although organic life could have just happened without a Creator, does it make sense to live as if this infinitely remote chance is true?” (Cash in time!!!) BTW, in his intro to the “clues”, he says that most readers will find some compelling and others not. Keller just prsents ‘em, if readers get caught in them, it’s the reader’s problem–he doesn’t claim truth for them.

    …ways that are unrecognizable to scientific observation.
    A variation on: “God works in mysterious ways.”
    To discover the “ways” a thing can act, we study the thing and the thing’s “ways” via some form of observation; we don’t just hack up some baseless prattle which, BTW, views some aspects of nature as unknowable by science because of God. Here’s some incompatibility of science and religion I think.

  5. CharlesInCharge
    Posted April 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Surefire Christian responses to your conditions for admitting that God exists:

    1) Only bad people DO get cancer. In the Bible we have: Adam & Eve. Snake. Fruit. Sin. Wages of sin are death. Etc.

    2) Prayers ARE answered in a scientifically verifiable way. But quite often the answer is “no”.

    I guess I just earned my Master of Divinity.

  6. Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    If anything, the fine-tuning argument is an argument for polytheism.

    This is a marvellous universe in many ways, but not the sort of universe that you’d expect a superlative deity to create. Given the way the designer has gone about things, with it taking 14-billion-odd years for us to come into existence, all this mess and flawed design along the way, all the suffering, only such a tiny amount of the universe being favourable to life, etc., it’s obvious that the solutions used were the work of a committee.

    • MelM
      Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      6. Russell Blackford

      If anything, the fine-tuning argument is an argument for polytheism.

      Oh no! Damn!

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the work of a committee. In the beginning, the anaerobic cabal held sway.

  7. Jonathan
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    “But I’ve never heard a religious person –at least not one on the verge of defecting to apostasy — tell me what evidence would make him/her give up their belief.”

    This is exactly my problem with “natural theologians”. I recently went to a series of lectures given by Alasdair McGrath, the self-styled Richard Dawkins nemesis. In one lecture he stated that the scientific view of the physics of the universe was consonant with a Christian theism. I asked him in a question afterwards what would a universe look like that was dissonant with his theism. He said that was an important and interesting question, and then completely failed to answer it. He was clearly not interested in pursuing the implications of the question.

  8. Yair
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    OK, three points:

    ** A Little Less Rhetoric, Please **

    I really admire Coyne’s writing, but I think in this post he let his emotions get the better of him, leading to the inaccuracy that the fine-tuning argument “is creationism, pure and simple: it is a “God of the gaps” argument”. The fine-tuned argument certainly has elements of a gods-of-the-gaps and a taste of creationism in it, but it is more than that – it is principally an argument from design, not from a gap (hence its relateness to creationism). The opponent’s arguments are bad enough without us needing to make them look worse, and this kind of inaccuracy only makes us look worse.

    ** Fine-Tuning & Quantum Interference are Bonkers **

    As a physicist, I’m deeply offended by these atrocities. Most so by the Quantum Interference idea, i.e. the idea that God interferes in the quantum probabilties of things and thus remains undetectable. This is truly a god-of-the-gaps argument. What irks me the most is that people accept that this is reasonable just becasue the gaps are so small and mysterious – quantum, woo!! This is sheer nonsense. There is no room within quantum mechanics for God to intervene. Quantum mechanics not only does not include god, but also explicitly dictates that the quantum state is EVERYTHING there is to know about the quantum system; if there is one more piece of information to know (such as God’s will on an impending intervention) then QM is simply wrong (and will not only make the wrong predictions, but also, incidentally, classical rather than quantum patterns of correlation). It’s just as wrong as when God intervenes in a Newtonian mechanics. QM offers no new area where reality “is reliable enough to reflect God’s faithfulness yet flexible enough to permit God’s involvement”. You can insist God is like the pink unicorn that disappears when we try to look at it, but don’t pretend that QM gives this any credence.

    Equally, the fine-tuning is a very poor argument. Not only is it far from established that there is only one set of variables that allows life, or what the possible ranges or distributions for them are, but we just don’t have any idea whether a universe’s constants even CAN be set from the outside. It appears at least plausible that at least some are mostly due to spontanous symmtery breaking, which is a purely random event that cannot be controlled. The whole idea that you can talk about what possible values the constants can have without having any scientific understanding of the topic is rediculous. But what I find most absurd is that it the logic of the argument never actually touches on the actual scientific finding itself – the finding is that the universe is FINE-tuned, that is that a small deviation will not lead to a life-supporting universe, NOT that the universe is suited for life, which if you pay attention is what the argument actually uses.

    ** Necessity of Humans is NOT Bonkers **

    However, I’m left unconvinced that the “inevitablity” of human-like creatures isn’t a feature of evolution. This is a scientific, not theological, hypothesis, and should be treated accordingly. Of course, Coyne is absolutely right that to first order the answer must be “I don’t know.” But whereas he adds “Considering how evolution works, it does seem somewhat unlikely”, I think one could also reasonably add “Considering how evolution works, if you are willing to accept ‘likely’ instead of ‘necessary’ and ‘human-like-in-some-respects’ instead of ‘human’, then plausibly.”

    Of course, nothing PRECISELY like humans would evolve if we run-run human evolution, or have the good fortune of ever examining another planet’s. But I’m sure Coyne won’t be surprised to find out that life itself will arise again, or that it will be based on water and carbon, or so on. The only question is therefore in what sense is something human-like, and just how likely need the result be.

    I think we know why a lot of human-like properties arose, what evolutionary pressures gave birth to them. Some were things we’d expect to see again – like eyes, surely eyes would develop again if only animals would. Others would require strange circumstances, like bipedality, so would be less likely. But the core defining traits of a human are psychological, and are due to game-theory and social-interaction considerations that appear to be UNIVERSAL. They don’t depend on particular enviromental circumstances or so on. I therefore see as at least plausbile the position that these features would be universal, perhaps more so even than life based on carbon or so on. Of course, human-like intelligence developed only once on earth, but the path towards something much like it was taken multiple times (in at least birds, mammals, and cephalopods), and perhaps more times in the past (we have partial records). The level of intelligence reached by humans seems unprecedented, but is only actually a bit further along a trajectory that is well-travelled.

  9. Emily
    Posted May 1, 2009 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    I am deeply disturbed by some of the quotes on the BioLogos Foundation website. For example:

    1. “Faith and science both lead us to truth about God and creation”.

    2. “Science is not the only source of factual statements, and religion does reach beyond the realm of values and morals.”

    These statements make it sound as if faith can also lead to truth about our our biological existence, which it can’t (I can’t just pray and then know something about early tetrapods).
    It is evident that BioLogos discredits scientific facts by equating them with religious notions, and it is dangerous when acclaimed scientists promote the harmony of science and religion. I fear “information” from the BioLogos foundation will fuel creationists, school boards, and lawmakers nationwide with false arguments about the role for religion in science.

    As a friend aptly put it, the mission and ideas from BioLogos seem to be a beta version of intelligent design.

    • Don Bredes
      Posted May 1, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Very nicely put, Emily.

  10. Posted May 1, 2009 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I can think of plenty of observations that would convince me that God does exist. (I mention several of them in my New Republic piece. For example, only bad people might get cancer. Or prayers might be answered in a scientifically verifiable way.) But I’ve never heard a religious person –at least not one on the verge of defecting to apostasy — tell me what evidence would make him/her give up their belief.

    Well, I can imagine something: Proof that the world is the way it is… because it cannot be any other way.

  11. Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    “It will repay us to consider the words of Epicurus written 2300 years ago:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    I have never seen a satisfactory theological answer to this question, despite centuries of theodicy. Any proposed answer always smacks of rationalization. (I know somebody’s going to tell me that I’m neglecting some “sophisticated” theological lucubrations here.)”
    Hello MR Coyne. I don’t mean to be offensive , however I suggest you read Alvin Plantinga and his stuff one evil.
    There are many categories of the problem of evil and pjhilosophers and theologians have divided them up.
    The 1st is the emotional probem of evil. This is the kind of “why did got let this happen” thing people have after an emotional event.
    C.S. Lewis dealt with that.
    Then there is the intellectual problem of evil, which can be subdivided into the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem.
    In order for the logical problem of evil to fly you have to demonstrate that there is a logical contradiction between the 2 statements
    1. an all good God exists
    2.Evil exists
    No atheist philosopher has ever been able to successfully do that.
    The logical problem of evil has long been abandoned by philosophers.
    Contemporary atheist philosophers like Theodore Drange and Michael Tooley instead opt to go for the evidential problem of evil i.e. Evil does not disprove God in the logical sense ,however it is still evidence against God we should consider.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 2, 2009 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      The 1st is the emotional probem of evil.

      So you are saying that “evil” isn’t evil for apologists? (It isn’t for naturalists, but that is because we have other moral basis.) That is such an immoral claim, and opposed to dogma to boot, that I’m surprised that even apologists wants to go there.

      And FWIW, Lewis seems to have been crazy by woo. I haven’t seen him “deal” with much of anything by way of a coherent argument.

      But even if the claim was true, it makes a creative agent impotent. Such an agent could apparently not prevent us from interpreting it wrong and agonizing in vain over the problem of evil (or “evil” for apologists).

    • oarobin
      Posted May 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Epicurus argument is against an all good and omipotent god. a single being cannot possess both characteristcs and evil still persists.

  12. Posted May 1, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    “Equally, the fine-tuning is a very poor argument. Not only is it far from established that there is only one set of variables that allows life,”
    No but we can reasonably infer what is required for intelligent life. For example if the strong nuclear force was not fine-tuned, atoms larger than hydrogen could not form. We can reasonably say life requires chemical complexity.
    “or what the possible ranges or distributions for them are, but we just don’t have any idea whether a universe’s constants even CAN be set from the outside. It appears at least plausible that at least some are mostly due to spontanous symmtery breaking, which is a purely random event that cannot be controlled. The whole idea that you can talk about what possible values the constants can have without having any scientific understanding of the topic is rediculous.”
    The values assigned are from an epistemic probability standpoint. Even if the laws of physics were just a brute fact we could still assign a kind of epistemic probability based on their likelihood.

    • Yair
      Posted May 1, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      “No but we can reasonably infer what is required for intelligent life. For example if the strong nuclear force was not fine-tuned, atoms larger than hydrogen could not form. We can reasonably say life requires chemical complexity.”

      This says too little. There is an entire set of variables, no just one, and entire ways of building up complexity. What if the strong nuclear force was weak, but the weak one was strong? There is substantial doubt that fine-tuning is even true, and bigger doubts when you are allowed to vary pairs of constants or more or when the deviations are not small. And what about all the “other” constants, the ones set to zero in our own universe?

      “The values assigned are from an epistemic probability standpoint. Even if the laws of physics were just a brute fact we could still assign a kind of epistemic probability based on their likelihood.”

      If the laws of physics are a brute fact, there is no sense in applying likelihood to them. Science assigns epistemic probability to facts (due to our ignorance of them), not to why the facts are what they are. That’s non-epistemic, intrinsic, probability. This is also a fine kind of probability, but even to apply it you need a (stochastic) model and probability distribution under it. If the laws are a brute fact, then there is no such model, so intrinsic probability too is not applicable.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 2, 2009 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Our lives are an accident, and our existence is without purpose, meaning or value.

    I believe Miller is mistaking the elements of a process (evolutionary populations) with the individual elements (individuals). I can create my own purpose, meaning and value, and it is eminently more tangible than dogma on the subjective nature of a supernatural other’s motivations.

    the quantum state is EVERYTHING there is to know about the quantum system; if there is one more piece of information to know (such as God’s will on an impending intervention) then QM is simply wrong (and will not only make the wrong predictions, but also, incidentally, classical rather than quantum patterns of correlation).

    Interesting idea. I thought the exclusion of local hidden variables was the strongest one could claim.

    But of course, non-local variables will mean superluminal communication and a breakdown of causality, energy and the natural universe. So I believe those are equivalent results.

    In any case, either of those arguments are interesting mirrors on religious claims, as it seems nature is telling us that it is all that exists; testably so.

  14. Posted May 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    It seems that each side has made an a priori assumption and uses that assumption as the basis for argument. One side assumes there is no God and the other side assumes there is. Neither assumption is provable and this nonsense continues.

  15. John R. White
    Posted May 13, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I am saddened by the sarcastic and dismissive statements made by atheists and anti-creationists in commenting about this blog. Reasoned statements should do the trick much better than abusive ones. In short, those comments only gaffawed to the choir, so to speak.

    But, to address the issues of this blog, it is very clear that those who want to have faith have it and those who do not want it simply do not have it. Both people take the literal facts of science and use them to prove or disprove their convictions. The BioLogos fellows (I would suggest you look up the word “cronies” in the dictionary before you decide to use that epithet on people again.) these fellows do use facts to bolster the convictions they already hold instead of using the facts to lead them to obvious conclusions. If these conclusions were so obvious, then naturalists would all agree with them without even being told to agree with them. The facts would lead them to these same conclusions.

    On the other hand, the fact that an atheist naturalist does not come to the same metaphysical conclusions about the existence of God as does a man of faith…this fact does not mean that the atheists convictions or conclusions are the only conclusions to be reached either.

    Science does not prove faith, and faith does not prove science.

    So, stop berating each other, Creationists and Evolutionists. Simply let people believe what they want to believe and share honestly and openly why you have decided to hold to the convictions you hold to. Do not belittle those who believe differently than you do. It does not make any of your arguments more cogent. It only serves to draw the line between you and other people, defining who is “with you” and who is “against you”.

    By the way, Epicurus’ argument is completely specious…as is the questions of how many angels dance on the head of a pin or whether or not God could make a rock bigger than he could lift. For some reasons The Bible does not share fully with us, evil has existed since before man ever came into being. God’s words are the means we use to confront the existence of evil in our lives. Those who think that Christianity is some kind of belief system that allows the cowardly to bury their heads in the sand and wait for heavenly perfection do not understand Christianity in the least. Christianity is the religion of the oppressed and of those who know hardship full well. It is the elite and intellectual sort who ponders why there is so much evil in the world and who ponders the oppression that others have to live with. It is usually the oppressed who look to God.

  16. BW
    Posted May 14, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    A theory proven is no longer a Theory it is a fact or is it. it takes faith to believe in the pursuit of proving a theory. What is the big deal. Faith is still faith. Theo! or Science! Why they cant both exsist! I beleave they do! it does not have to be an either or.


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