Unholy connection between BioLogos and the AAAS, NIH, and the Smithsonian: Science gives evidence for God

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest scientific organization and publisher of Science, one of the two premier science journals in the world (the other is Nature). Unfortunately, this important organization has gone the accommodationist route big time, sponsoring a “Dialogue on Science, Religion, and Ethics” (DoSER) program that is largely concerned with showing people that religion and science are completely compatible.  As I’ve posted before, DoSER is sponsored by not only the AAAS, but by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Smithsonian Institution. These are government organizations, so some of your tax dollars may be going to support a brand of theology. And, of course, the whole shebang is funded by the Templeton Foundation to the tune of 5.3 million dollars.

DoSER is headed by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Senior Project Scientist in charge of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, and, notably, the former head and now Executive Board member of the American Scientific Affiliation,  an association of evangelical Christian scientists.   The organization is pretty hard-line, for it takes some bizarre stands for an organization of scientists, especially one that includes Wiseman with her AAAS program meant to reconcile the truths of modern science with the beliefs of the faithful.  The problem is that the ASA doesn’t seem to accept those truths:

  • According to their website, “The ASA has no official position on evolution; its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity. “
  • The ASA publishes the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (download pdf at the link), which has some pretty weird articles.  Alert reader Sigmund, who called it to my attention, describes the latest issue thusly: “As you might expect from a Christian evangelical organization that refuses to take a stance on the scientific consensus for things like evolution, it’s all over the place. It has articles on the RNA world hypothesis (science), information from an Intelligent Design viewpoint (pseudoscientific creationism), and the use of chaos theory to explain demonology (complete lunacy —written by a physician called Janet Warren who describes herself as ‘a family physician in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, with a special interest in counseling and deliverance.’  A special interest in deliverance?”

As an organization, the ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue. We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation. Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth.

Our platform of faith has four important planks:
We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.
We confess the Triune God affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds, which we accept as brief, faithful statements of Christian doctrine based upon Scripture.
We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.
We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.
These four statements of faith spell out the distinctive character of the ASA, and we uphold them in every activity and publication of the Affiliation.
It is a disgrace that Wiseman is an officer of this organization and at the same time heads an important program for the AAAS, one also connected with the Smithsonian and the NIH.  She is an officer (and former president) of an organization that refuses to accept evolution, publishes articles on the “curing” of gays, and is involved in all sorts of other questionable religious activities.  Wiseman should either resign from the ASA, or the AAAS should find someone less embarrassing to head their accommodationist program. Actually, they should deep-six this execrable Templet0n-funded program, for its science “outreach” explicitly endorses a form of theology. Were I a member of the AAAS, I’d resign.
But it’s worse than that, for Wiseman has started publishing dire stuff on the BioLogos website (also funded by Templeton): articles that implicitly claim that science gives evidence for God. Her latest piece (the second) is called “Science as an instrument of worship, part 2.”  The piece is notable because its goal is to demonstrate how “studying the Creation can show us the nature of God.”:
And yet I believe it is important to rejuvenate our congregations with a sense of joy and unity in contemplating the magnificence of Creation, with forefront scientific knowledge. . .
While science itself cannot address or prove the existence or non-existence of God, there are other compelling reasons, looking at nature and experience as a whole, for many people to believe in God. And from that perspective of faith, the Creation itself will reflect the nature of God. So what could we learn about the character of the Creator God by what we have discovered in the universe? This is subjective, but I believe there are several characteristics of the Creator that one could glean (not scientifically) by considering the universe in which we live, so let me elaborate on these points.
I strongly suspect that the caveat “not scientifically,” was added to get Wiseman off the hook, for what she goes on to describe is, in fact, how one can use scientific observation to reach conclusions about the nature of God.  And here’s what she discerns about God from science:

Power is hard to describe, but when we consider that there are over 100 billion galaxies in the universe, most with hundreds of billions of stars, all the eventual result of an enormously energetic initial flash of energy over 13 billion years ago, great power is evident.

Of course, that power was entirely the result of the Big Bang, and says nothing about God.

Creativity is seen in the very processes themselves. Stars, for example, are not only shining balls of gas; they are also factories where heavier elements that we rely on for life are produced. What a brilliant mechanism!

Yes, but there are many more stars than needed to produce all the elements necessary for life on Earth.  And, of course, stars are also the result of the ineluctable physical processes initiated by the Big Bang.

Beauty can be seen in everything from spiral galaxies to snail shells to mathematical equations of motion. The fact that beauty exists and that we are able to recognize and appreciate it has interesting implications for the purposes of Creation.

“Interesting implications”? What, exactly, are they? Did God produce all those spiral galaxies simply so we could admire them from our small blue dot?

Patience is implied as we now can see, through careful astronomical study, the slow (to us) formation and maturation of galaxies and stars over billions of years, leading to our life-bearing planet, where fossils and formations tell a tale of a slowly changing Earth. Yet faith reminds us that God has been in charge this whole unimaginable time, knowing that each of us, and our Savior, would eventually appear.

This is making a virtue of necessity.  Why did God wait ten billion years after He created the universe to bring life into existence? Note as well the unscientific assertion that humans were programmed into the Universe from the very beginning, and the claim that the “Savior” appeared on only one planet in the billions in our universe. Why the excess? Was there no Intergalactic Jesus?

Faithfulness is implied by the very stability of the universe, and the fact that we can study it knowing that fundamental forces and principles like cause and effect are stable and reliable, making our lives possible and meaningful. In fact we live in what appears to be a very finely tuned universe.

The problem here is that our own planet isn’t faithful: it’s going to be incinerated in about five billion years, so Earth is hardly “stable and reliable.” And I don’t know any physicist who would describe “cause and effect” as a fundamental “force” or principle of the field.

Wiseman also endorses two other wonky religious conclusions that are supposed to come from science:

Within that framework of faithfulness, however, we see basic principles allowing freedom and its resulting good and bad consequences; quantum mechanics and chaos theory have revealed a world of uncertain or unpredictable outcomes at fundamental levels of the physical world.

The “freedom” of quantum mechanics has nothing to do with human “freedom” as conceived by Christianity, nor with the “free will” that is supposed to account for “bad consequences,” aka “evil.” She’s blaming the evils of the world on quantum indeterminacy?  And chaos theory, of course, is deterministic: it shows that certain processes, while unpredictable, are nevertheless ineluctably deterministic, and therefore can’t instantiate freedom.

And, like Francis Collins, head of the NIH, Wiseman sees fine-tuning as evidence for God:

The physical constants that describe how the forces of nature work with high quantitative accuracy are exactly right to allow life to exist and evolve and thrive for a meaningful length of time. Even tiny deviations from their measured values would have precluded life. One could (and many do) try to explain this away by imagining that there could be a very large number of other universes, each with different fundamental constants and forces, so that this one that enables life as we know it is a statistical accident. If that were true, it would still be incredible that this “multi-verse” would be of such special character that even one universe within it would be a birthplace for life.

Her conclusion from scientific observation of the universe?

This all points to a God who loves, who desires living beings to exist, to recognize beauty and wonder in the universe, and to eventually respond in personal relationship to their Creator.

It’s funny that other astronomers who have the same data aren’t on board with Wiseman’s conclusion.  The reason, of course, is that Wiseman, like all liberal theologians or believers, is simply using science as a post facto rationalization of what they already believe.  They aren’t drawing conclusions about God from the universe, but forcing the characteristics of the universe into the Procrustean bed of their faith.  There is in fact no observation about the universe that someone like Wiseman couldn’t comport with their faith. And that’s the difference between science and religion.

Despite Wiseman’s caveat, these kind of pronouncements do nothing less than use her authority of a scientist to endorse the existence of a creator, and imply that scientific observations give us a clue about the nature of a creator.

As a citizen, Wiseman of course has the right to believe what she wants, and to publish this unscientific tripe in the guise of science. But as a representative of NASA and the AAAS (her affiliations are noted in the BioLogos piece), she’s an embarrassment, for her activities show an unseemly infusion of religion into science. Science doesn’t need this kind of magical thinking! And, in fact, that’s what Wiseman’s DoSER program is all about.  If you’re a member of the AAAS and object to this program, you can write to Alan Leshner, CEO of the AAAS, at aleshner@aaas.org. Since Leshner seems to be an enthusiastic sponsor of DoSER, this may be useless. Or you could resign, but of course then you wouldn’t get your issue of Science.

h/t: Sigmund

147 Comments

  1. Mr Claw
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I’m from the UK – but I’m embarrassed nonetheless.

    • Mr Claw
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      By which I don’t mean I’m embarrassed about being from the UK!

      (although sometimes I am…)

      Anyway, this is pretty awful stuff. It would be like the British Geological Survey co-sponsoring a conference on Flood Geology…

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Might be ok as the title of some symposium. But if it was billed as “The Flood Geology” then I expect most would be looking for the nearest exit sign ….

        • Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          Very good point. “little-f” flood geology sounds like a rather interesting topic.

        • Mr Claw
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

          Well, quite – hence the big F…

          • Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            While it was just a bit of a jest, the point is, I think, that if one had a title of a symposium as “Flood Geology” then only the first letter of “flood” is going to be capitalized in any case. And which would then suggest reference to a great many floods, some of which have been more catastrophic than others.

            But the use of the definite article – “The” – is what is going to point to a particular one, most likely the Creationist version.

          • Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

            Although I will stand corrected as it seems that, from a search on the term “Flood Geology”, the words are in effect joined at the hip and refer only to the Creationist “concept” [aka "delusion"].

            Somewhat unfortunate as there are at least a few others out there, apart from myself, who think that “flood geology” means “geology of floods”.

            Part of the problem, I guess, with language in general, where common or idiosyncratic definitions of words or concepts or word groups mask or obscure other equally credible or useful ones.

      • agenoria
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        In the UK I think the British Science Association, formerly the British Association for the Advancement of Science, is the equivalent of the AAAS. So I looked at their website to try and find their position with regard to religion. Couldn’t see much, but there is a page listing affiliates:

        http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/web/_Benefactors/Affiliates.htm

        “Our Affiliates form an important part of the British Science Association and offer great support for our work. We would like to thank the following organisations for their support:”

        Most seem reasonable, though I have doubts about a Saudi Arabian oil company, but there is this:

        _Christians in Science_
        http://www.cis.org.uk/

        “Aims – Science and Faith – To develop and promote biblical Christian views on the nature, scope and limitations of science, and on the changing interactions between science and faith.” (http://www.cis.org.uk/about-cis/aims/)

        “CiS is a member of the Evangelical Alliance and has close links with UCCF.” (http://www.cis.org.uk/about-cis/)

        _Evangelical Alliance_
        http://www.eauk.org/

        which supports the Coalition for Marriage (http://c4m.org.uk/) which is campaigning against gay marriage in the UK.

        _UCCF – Christian Unions_
        http://www.uccf.org.uk/

        “Our MISSION – Making disciples of Jesus Christ in the student world.”

        There is a disclaimer (http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/web/_Benefactors/Sponsorship+Policy.htm)

        “Acceptance by the British Science Association of sponsorship cannot be taken to imply endorsement by the Association of the sponsoring organisation’s products, services, policies or activities.” which I suppose could apply to affliates. But I don’t like seeing Christians in Science in the affliates list.

        (First post on this website, though I’ve been reading it for some time. Sorry it’s a bit long, but I thought it important to cite my sources.)

  2. J
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Pronouncements along the lines of “The physical constants that describe how the forces of nature work with high quantitative accuracy are exactly right to allow life to exist and evolve and thrive” *really* wind me up >.<

    • Niklas
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, and how trees can be so beautiful to us, and that there is so much water on this planet, when it is so important for us, and that the light from the sun that reaches us here on earth are so perfect for our eyes…

      *shaking my head in disbelife and frustration*

  3. John K.
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    All the wondrous and beautiful stuff is evidence for god. All the cruel and terrible stuff? That is, uh, something else.

    • eric
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Yeah, when someone says “So what could we learn about the character of the Creator God by what we have discovered in the universe?” I think about the miniscule % of it that actually supports life. About predation. Extinction. And fondnesses for beetles. :)

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        “So what could we learn about the character of the Creator God by what we have discovered in the universe?”

        That God is inordinately fond of a vacuum.

        (With apologies to J.B.S. Haldane and Baruch Spinoza.)

        /@

  4. philosopher23
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    I find it astonishing that the readers of this website don’t notice that Coyne’s worldview is also “a brand of theology”. I might be inclined to call it “born-again positivism”.

    • J
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      Is bald a hair colour? Wanting scientific agencies to avoid promoting a religion (in this case Christianity – unless Wiseman will go on to point out how science clearly points to Vishnu or another deity) is not a “brand of theology”.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Nonsense. Theology is fundamentally doxological.

    • Steve
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Care to elaborate?

    • Disturbingthedead
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Huh? Phil, you might want to re-think your statement.

      From Wikipedia: Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.

      • Kevin
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        You missed the news from a couple of days ago, where the Catlick Church declared the bishops to be in charge of theology, and asked that all theologians limit their work to what amounts to doxology.

        In other words, you’re a non-kewl kid who isn’t in on the joke.

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      “Theology” — Latin for study of God, right?

      But Jerry doesn’t believe in God. So prima facie Jerry’s worldview can’t really be a “theology”.

      Oh, “born again positivism,” I see…you were just trying to look clever.

      It didn’t work.

      • Pleiades
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

        If theology is the study of God then I would think engaging in the subject, albeit by way of the opinion that there is no God, is in fact participating in theology.

        • DV
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          Sure, just like opining that demons don’t exist, is participating in demonology. Or that saying horoscopes are non-sense is actually a participation in astrology.

        • Dan L.
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

          That’s stupid. It’s like saying “I didn’t read Twilight” is an example of literary criticism.

          “Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.[1]“

          • chemicalscum
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

            The phrase “religious truths” is an oxymoron. It is epistemological nonsense. Faith is not an epistemological methodology and cannot establish truths, faith is a vice not a virtue.

            Since there is nothing to study – no religious truths then theology is vacuous. This is true even for an agnostic, Huxley certainly held the position that there are and connot be religious truths.

            Rejecting any value in the study of nonsense is not the study of nonsense.

    • DV
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      I don’t find it astonishing that theists try to make an equivalence of reason and faith. In fact, it’s predictable. I call it “rationality-envy”.

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      I love it when people diss reason by equating it with theology. “Oh yeah? Well you people are just as blinkered as we are!

      Uh, I mean…

      Damnit.”

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha!! I love it. Sort of like saying “You’re too distracted by having your eyes open. I get around much better with my eyes closed because I’m not distracted by all that visual input.”

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      philosopher23 said:

      I find it astonishing that the readers of this website don’t notice that Coyne’s worldview is also “a brand of theology”. I might be inclined to call it “born-again positivism”.

      Only if you insist on redefining the word – which tends to be frowned upon in most rationalist and civilized venues. Generally acceptable only in Alice in Wonderland – and if you pay the word extra. But I see the definition means only “the study of the nature of God” so there is no way you can get from “positivism” – if that is even an accurate description – to “theology”.

      And the somewhat related argument that atheism is a religion only works in a somewhat metaphorical sense if you specify that the definition you have in mind is this one:

      4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

      But, fortunately or not, not all principles are created equal and a core one at the center of atheism and science is the demand for tangible evidence, for some provable consequences if the hypothesis is true. Which is the complete antithesis of the equivalent one in religion and its codependent, theology, i.e., wishful thinking, the idea that believing in something makes it true. And, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the former that has delivered the goods, not the latter. Or, more colloquially, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride ….

      • Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        “a core [principle] at the center of atheism and science is the demand for tangible evidence”

        Um, no. Don’t conflate atheism with the reasons that you (and many of us) are atheists. There are many atheists who are atheists for other reasons.

        Atheism has only one “principle”, that there’s (probably) no god.

        Overloading the term just muddies the waters.

        /@

        • Posted March 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          Maybe there was a little bit of conflation there on my part because I was mostly interested in “killing two birds with one stone”. Or maybe tying the two stones together to make them more effective – like bolas.

          But it seems to me that your “there’s (probably) no god” is, in itself by the use of the word “probably”, predicated on the fact that there’s no credible evidence for the hypothesis “god”. Which would then seem to justify my linkage with that common element.

          However, that does seem to raise or speak to the interesting question about the use of probability in these circumstances which is, I find, somewhat problematic. As Dr. Seymour Lipschutz put it in his Schaum’s Outline Series “book” on Probability:

          This classical definition of probability is essentially circular since the idea of “equally likely” is the same as that of “with equal probability” which has not been defined. [pg 88]

          For one broad example, there is the recent tempest-in-a-teapot where Richard Dawkins admitted to a less than 100.000…000% certainty of belief in the non-existence of God – which some then parlayed into something tantamount to a road-to-Damascus conversion on his part to Christian fundamentalism.

          However, that use of probability seems highly questionable and is, to my view anyway, somewhat inconsistent with the attendant premises and axioms of the science. More specifically, it seems to me that probabilities are something that are assignable only after one has run a series of experiments a great many times: rolling a single fair die 120 times and seeing that each number occurs about 20 times means that one can then – and only then – say that the probability of one specific number occurring the next time is then equal to one-sixth. Really not at all cricket to say that the probability of God is x when it is not at all clear whether “God” is even in the cards – or dice – much less whether it has come up in this particular “run” of the universe, this cycling between “big bang” and “big crunch”.

          In addition there is the narrower example afforded by the historical “evidence” for various anthropomorphic gods which one might reasonably characterize as equivalent to a set of test runs. And in that case the (fairly) solid evidence is that all of the previous gods – Zeus and Baal and Hera and the literally tens of thousands of others which have “graced” the stage of humanity’s evolution over tens of millennia – have all “come a cropper” – been epic fails. In which case one might reasonably infer that Jehovah and Allah, in particular, are, on the basis of substantial and well documented similarities, likewise “null and void”: if it walks like a duck then it is highly probable that it is in fact a duck. Although I haven’t the foggiest idea how one might quantify such probabilities.

          Which then points to the fact that there is, of course, some difference between those two examples, i.e., the rolling of the dice and the historical records; the real and hypothetical ducks. In the first there’s direct and tangible evidence of the existence of the “members” of the “sample population”, whereas in the second all there is is an inferred non-existence of members of a different population and an inferred non-existence of another supposed member. While I personally don’t think that difference is enough to hang a hat on, much less an entire philosophy of life, it seems necessary to address it, if only for the sake of logical completeness.

          But even that last example is not the whole story as it addresses only a presumably narrow definition of god. What it does not address, for example and as per The God Delusion, is the question as to the utility of the “pantheistic [or panentheistic] and metaphorical god of the physicists”. But whether such concepts can do very much “heavy lifting”, the question is, I think, still entirely and justifiably debatable.

          • Posted March 15, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

            I don’t disagree but I doubt that a significant number of atheists think critically about their atheism. At least in the UK, my gut feeling is that the majority of those with “no religion” are apatheists. (It would have been interesting if RDF had sponsored a poll to probe deeper into this group as well as the “census Christians”!)

            Even those that might seem to be evidence based often aren’t that rational. I’m currently twittering with someone who’s an atheist, saying “I don’t believe in the religions I was raised with. I’m unsure why, I perhaps lack the faith. if I can’t see it then it’s not real”. That last statement sounded hopeful. But then he said, “I blieve in evolu’n but I think tech’y it is still a theory so Groups in the u.s. maybe able2 rationalize their creati’sm theory”.

            (And, yes, I know that data isn’t the plural of anecdote!)

            /@

            • Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

              Even those that might seem to be evidence based often aren’t that rational.

              There seems to be some justification for that argument – as your anecdote datum suggests. :-)

              Reminds me of a book by a fairly well known biologist, S. Jonathan Singer, titled The Splendid Feast of Reason – highly recommended, notably by E.O. Wilson. But he argues that “rationalists represent only a small fraction of the human population”, a fraction he estimates at about 10% partially based on the “9 percent of the American people [who] do not believe that God created man” and the “8 percent of Americans [who have] even minimal scientific literacy”. Although, of course, one expects atheists and skeptics are more likely to have higher percentages.

              But not a particularly good prognosis – particularly when Rick Santorum is, apparently according to Lawrence Kraus, arguing that “higher education [is] a danger” and proposing less of that and more of faith. But as Singer put it in his preface:

              For reasons that will be made clear in what follows, I do not entertain high hopes that rationality and scientific knowledge alone can overturn the self-deluding and self-destructive ways of a world that is fundamentally indifferent or even hostile to them.

  5. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    …, so some of your tax dollars may be going to support a brand of theology.

    We already knew that. As long as donations to religion are tax deductible, that will continue.

  6. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    This is the type of anthropomorphic yearning that borders on psychosis. Wait, it *is* psychosis (severe, recurrent, with rapid cycling).

  7. YourName's notBruce?
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    So god really loves vacuum and radiation.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      And hate the piss out of hydrogen.

      All those billions upon billions of stars in the billions upon billions of galaxies. Existing solely to change hydrogen into heavier elements.

      Yep. God hates hydrogen, that much is true.

      • Persto
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        God doesn’t really like any of the matter associated with life.

        • Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Good point. What he’s REALLY keen on is “Dark Energy” and then, a distant second, “Dark Matter.”

      • NyankoSensei
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        +1

    • Tulse
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      So god really loves vacuum and radiation.

      Actually, no to the radiation — He seems to be keen on the cold (2.7K to be precise).

      • dexitroboper
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        That 2.7K is radiation. It’s the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation.

        • Tulse
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          Yes it’s radiation, but it’s damned little, which was my point.

  8. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I just want to caution you against using one of your arguments: “And chaos theory, of course, is deterministic: it shows that certain processes, while unpredictable, are nevertheless ineluctably deterministic, and therefore can’t instantiate freedom.” I

    I’ve mentioned this before, but either you disagree with it or missed it. The definition of “chaotic system” is, loosely, that arbitrarily small changes in the initial conditions can cause large changes in later states. All systems obey quantum mechanics, so the initial conditions of any system cannot be specified exactly. Therefore, even though the dynamics of a chaotic system may be approximately deterministic, the initial conditions cannot be specified exactly, and these tiny indeterminate variations must lead to large variations in the final state (by the definition of “chaotic systems”). I think any chaotic system is macroscopically indeterminate in the same sense that a Geiger counter is indeterminate (its precise behavior cannot be predicted even in principle).

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Surely not all chaotic systems have their initial conditions affected by quantum indeterminacy. These must include weather and the so-called “chaotic” behavior of ecosystems: predators, prey, etc. Surely you’re not claiming that all of these are affected by quantum-mechanical considerations.

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        I was paraphrasing the physicist’s concept of chaos (or what I remember of it from my physics days). A system is chaotic when arbitrarily small changes in the initial conditions lead to large changes in later conditions. Quantum uncertainties are arbitrarily small, but not zero, so yes, any truly chaotic system should be subject to quantum uncertainties. I suspect the predator-prey relationships are, as you say, “so-called” chaotic systems rather than truly chaotic systems.

        But as Dan says, there is no universal definition of “chaotic”, and it would be boring anyway to argue about definitions. I guess the real argument should be whether the systems we are interested in are chaotic in the sense I just described.

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure that’s actually how chaotic systems are defined, Lou. That is a property many of them have but I’m not sure there even is one “correct” definition of a chaotic system.

      But you’re talking about physical systems, obviously. Chaotic systems don’t have to be physical — chaotic systems are usually studied as mathematical constructs and those certainly are deterministic. Furthermore, you can build chaotic systems like a triple pendulum in which quantum uncertainties are pretty much irrelevant to the chaotic behavior.

      Jerry is absolutely right that chaos theory itself is deterministic. You have to import indeterminism from outside chaos theory (say, by having a chaotic system subject to quantum uncertainties like your example) for it to fail to be deterministic.

      The original chaotic systems that were studied were computer models and hence perfectly deterministic.

    • Thanny
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      The term “chaos theory” is just a fancy way of saying that imprecision in current information reduces the accuracy of predictions, in proportion to the time span involved.

      It does not in any way mitigate determinism.

      It’s also not correct to say that behavior at the quantum level cannot be predicted in principle. We simply do not know whether there is an underlying determinism. All we currently know is that the only tractable models available are stochastic. The form of a working model does not determine the nature of reality itself.

      • Matt Penfold
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        It is a bit more than that.

        One key part of chaos theory is that very small changes in the initial conditions can make a large difference too outcome even then the starting conditions are known precisely. It is not simply a matter of imprecision but a key aspect of the theory.

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Thanny, as you probably know, that is a much deeper and more complicated issue than just mistaking a model for reality.

  9. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    What they’re saying is that if Christians don’t believe in something scientific, like evolution, as scientists their position is to bend over backward and capitulate? Really?

    What about:

    Muslims, they’re a cool billion, or Hindus, they’re almost a billion of them, or Chinese Ancestor Worshipers, there’s another 500 million, or various folk religions, another 500 million there too… And that’s leaving a lot of religions off the list…

    Why are they so intollerent to other faiths? Only Christians get a special place at their table?

    Sounds more like a Christian faith-based intitive being used to confuse people than an honest organization that respects religious world views and science.

  10. Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    It’s hard to pick the dumbest thing they said, but this one has got to be in the running…

    Creativity is seen in the very processes themselves. Stars, for example, are not only shining balls of gas; they are also factories where heavier elements that we rely on for life are produced. What a brilliant mechanism!

    lol. What they’re saying is God is a shitty engineer? Because his results (one small planet of which on a fraction is habitable) are pretty weak for all that energy invested…

    • Heintje
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      If god is so creative, why didn’t it also create factories of heavier elements that aren’t shining balls of gas?

  11. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    It just shows that theistic people will go to any length and twist anything to fit their narrow view. It would be hilarious if the results were not so devastating.

  12. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Imagine, if you can: “The XYZ has no official position on gravity; its members hold a diversity of views with varying degrees of intensity.”

    • Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Such levity!

      /@

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        A weighty subject, Dr. Kidd.

        Although I note that Wikipedia indicates that the gravitational constant is accurate to about 1 part in 8300. So that would seem to provide some limits on the “diversity of views” if not the “degrees of intensity” with which they’re held ….

        Would that there was at least one tenth as much solidity and agreement on the Trinity …

  13. MAUCH
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    I absolutly want to scream when people say that god exists because they do not understand something. How in the hell does ignorance prove anything other than the fact that they are ignorant!

    • YourName's notBruce?
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      But their ignorance and misunderstanding LOVES them, and they in turn love their ignorance and misunderstanding. How dare we try to take that away from them?

  14. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The piece is notable because its goal is to demonstrate how “studying the Creation can show us the nature of God.”

    “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.” – Charlie D.

    • YourName's notBruce?
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Those nasty bits are all the fault of humans because of the Fall, dontcha know. Predators would all be herbivorous if it were not for that. Which means that god must have had it in for plants all along.

    • Heintje
      Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      Silly you, it’s just god’s way for showing love. And, need I remind you again that god works in mysterious way?

  15. J James
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I cannot resist.
    Disclaimer: I am not a Christian.
    Questions:

    (1) Is Wiseman performing her duties at NASA in a satisfactory and secular fashion?

    (2) Do her religious beliefs literally interfere (not presumed, suspected or anticipated)with those duties?

    If “yes” and “no”, where is the “disgrace” and why the prurient interest in her personal beliefs, writings and activities? Should Kennedy’s Cathoicism have disqualified him from being President? Indeed, Georges Lemaître’s Catholicism likewise led skeptics to question his theories of an expanding universe and the singularity we know as “the Big Bang”. Typical thinking of the day poo-pooed his theories because some suggested they were “presented in a spirit of concordism with the religious concept of creation, and even received its inspiration from that religious concept.” Turek, J. Georges Lemaître and the Pontifical Academy of Science, 171.

    Ironic withe respect to this post that it took Edwin Hubble’s math, tolerance and objectivity to finally persuade Albert Einstein that Lemaître was spot on.

    Relplied Lemaître to his critics: “Should a priest reject relativity because it contains no authoritative exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity? The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics . . . As a matter of fact neither Saint Paul nor Moses had the slightest idea of relativity.” Hubert Vecchierello, Einstein and Relativity; Lemaître and the Expanding Universe (Paterson: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1934), 24.

    Tolerance *and* logic please.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Who said anything about her work at NASA.
      Jerry said:
      “Wiseman should either resign from the ASA, or the AAAS should find someone less embarrassing to head their accommodationist program.”
      What is the matter with that statement?
      The DoSER program, Wisemans connection with the AAAS, is supposed to promote good science within the religious communities. If it cannot do that – and by refusing to take a position on whether evolution is true or whether homosexuality is a normal sexual orientation for many people rather than something akin to a disease that can be ‘cured’ – it is certainly not doing that, then what on earth is the AAAS doing hiring her as its connection to the religious community. Is it really impossible to find someone who is religious and who doesn’t hold views that are wildly at odds with the scientific consensus on evolution and homosexuality?
      Nobody is calling for her to be fired from her job with NASA.

      • J James
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        “But as a representative of NASA and the AAAS (her affiliations are noted in the BioLogos piece), she’s an embarrassment, for her activities show an unseemly infusion of religion into science.”

        To reiterate, I am concerned with whether she performs her duties, regardless of her beliefs. If her personal views manifest themselves through intolerance of others, I am her foe. Is there evidence of this? If so, I am on your side. If not, this is nothing but a bandwagon of the type I care for not (regardless of the driver).

        If beliefs disqualify us from service, let’s get rid of all the “fruitcakes” who believe in immaculate conception, eh? Or are those fruitcakes OK.

        • J James
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

          BTW, “fuitcakes” is enquoted because it a frequent rhetorical device used when common sense and logic fail us, used here only for demostrative effect.

        • Dan L.
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          If not, this is nothing but a bandwagon of the type I care for not (regardless of the driver).

          Again, screw you. I’m so sick of this condescending “you’re-too-dumb-to-form-your-own-opinions” bullshit.

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

            Hey! Let’s lay off the invective here! I’m with you in your sentiments, but “screw you” is invective that I don’t want appearing here. I don’t like readers insulting each other, no matter how odious their positions.

            • Dan L.
              Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

              Sorry, J James, for being rude.

              Sorry, Jerry, for lowering the tone.

              • J James
                Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

                Apology gratefully accepted.

              • Dan L.
                Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

                You know, you could also apologize for using smarmy underhanded tactics like the “bandwagon” or “open-minded” canard. Basically, you’re using the “when did you stop beating your wife” tactic: you accuse anyone who disagrees with your opinion of being closed-minded or of being mindless ditto-heads.

                This implies, of course, that the only way to be a proper free thinker is to have all the same exact opinions you have. That’s not open-mindedness, that’s actually a cynical, bullying rhetorical ploy.

                You’re not doing your position any favors the way you’re arguing for it. Generally, telling people “you’re closed-minded idiots if you don’t believe exactly as I do” isn’t a good way to win them over to your position. It’s exactly what I’d expect from a religious person, though.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

          How many times do you need to reiterate your point here? I am concerned with the fact that the AAAS sponsors a program that takes a theological position, and that they’re hired somebody to run that program who is an important part of an organization that refuses to take a stand on evolution. I didn’t call for Wiseman to be fired from either NASA or the AAAS; I called for her to resign from the ASA, or for the AAAS to have chosen someone who is less of an embarrassment. And I’d like the AAAS to get rid of the DoSER program. Finally, I’m concerned that my tax dollars may be being used to push particular religious positions rather than science.

          As you may recall, I didn’t call for Francis Collins to be fired from the NIH, either: I just said that it’s embarrassing that he goes around saying that science proves God, and that I wish he’d stop.

          And I decry, and have every right to, Wiseman’s public pronouncements about how science gives evidence for God.

          So we don’t need you to say the same thing over and over again, particularly when my concerns are not the same as your concerns, and that I haven’t asked for anybody to be fired from their job.

          • J James
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            Alas, the point apparently is neither made nor reiterated. With really no time to give, I actually read through the AAAS-DoSER and ASA stuff at their websites (as I assume most here have done?) in order to form my own opinion. (I do *appreciate* all opinions.) With all respect due, although I find much to disagree with at the ASA site, what I read here is not what I gleaned from the AAAS-DoSER site. For example, the theme of evolution is addressed there as:

            “The Program seeks to assist the general public, especially the religious communities, to understand the scientific robustness of the contemporary theory of biological evolution, as well as to address the historical and philosophical dimensions of the cultural debate that surrounds evolutionary biology.”

            Sounds like a pretty good mission.

            Suffice to say I distinguish between disagreeable thought and disagreeable behavior. I wholeheartedly agree that one’s personal beliefs may disqualify one as unsuitable for a task, but would argue this ought to be a rarity so long as the mission can be faithfully accomplished. Persistent radicalism on both sides of the fence simply doesn’t allow room for reasonable dialogue. I think dialogue (not capitulation) is the point of the DoSER program.

            I expect unyielding fundamentalism from faith-based programs; not so much from scientists. That being said, consider the possibility that, if she is true to the afore-stated mission, Wiseman may have been a *brilliant* choice for the work. (Not my opinion . . . just an angle that comes with an open mind.) ;-)

            • Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

              You really are snarky, aren’t you? You could easily have made your point without insulting everyone else here for being close-minded. Your posts reek of self-styled superiority. Make your points without painting yourself as a saint, please; it’s annoying. And the smiley faces don’t disarm the snark.

    • eric
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      If “yes” and “no”, where is the “disgrace” and why the prurient interest in her personal beliefs, writings and activities?

      She’s using tax dollars to do those pro-faith writings and activities, so it’s not a ‘prurient interest in her personal beliefs,’ its a legitimate interest in how she spends my money.

      Second, scientists should take a position on evolution, for the same reason they should take a position on gravity (h/t to Reginald Selkirk): because not taking a position given the overwhelming evidence we have is operationally equivalent to allowing miseducation to flourish. When a student asks you “did the holocaust happen” a responsible teacher answers “yes.” They don’t answer “well, many people disagree on that, so I’m going to remain neutral on it.” In exactly the same way, when a student asks “does evolution occur,” a responsible teacher answers “yes.”

      • Pleiades
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        It is worth pointing out that Wiseman’s post on BioLogos was clearly not written as a representative of NASA or the AAAS (or ASA, for that matter). It was a personal reflection *not* funded by tax dollars.

        Also, the DoSER program very clearly takes a stand on evolution (in the affirmative, of course), so conflating the policies of a faith-based organization with those of the AAAS, despite the overlap in personnel, is unfair.

        I agree with James J that if she is performing her duties well and appropriately given the organization/context, then she has every right to her personal beliefs.

        • Sigmund
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

          I don’t think you can dismiss the overlapping personnel question as easily as you seem to think. Wiseman was head of a ‘scientific’ organization that refused to accept evolution as the settled consensus view. At the same time she is running an organization that seeks to promote the scientific consensus to religious people.
          As they say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other.
          As for DoSER itself it is clearly promoting one particular theological viewpoint.
          If you look at the various events involving DoSER it is clear that it’s simply another Templeton gravy train. All the usual suspects are featured: Ecklund, Ian Hutchinson, Ken Miller etc, are all involved in its events.

        • eric
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          It is worth pointing out that Wiseman’s post on BioLogos was clearly not written as a representative of NASA or the AAAS (or ASA, for that matter).

          So what? I expect a responsible educator to answer “yes” to my above questions both in and out of the lab. On the clock, and off it. At NASA, and at AAAS, and at ASA, and everywhere else.

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Tolerance *and* logic please.

      You know what would be logical? Reading the OP for comprehension. No one is trying to get the woman fired from NASA.

      As far as tolerance goes: screw you. I’d usually use stronger language but this isn’t that kind of bl…website.

  16. hazur
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Great post as usual, but I think this complain is misplaced: “And I don’t know any physicist who would describe “cause and effect” as a fundamental “force” or principle of the field.” Here is Bob Park (Voodoo Science author) on his ‘webpage’ (http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN10/wn031910.html): “We treat pretend science much too lightly. It ignores the most basic principle of science: cause and effect. Causality should be stressed in the education of every child…”
    (by the way, I’m also a physicist)

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      That’s unfortunate. Hume debunked the notion quite a while ago. Since he did that we’ve discovered that the fundamental laws of nature appear to be time invariant — there’s no way to distinguish “cause” from “effect” wrt the fundamental laws of nature.

      I think of causality as something that has to be unlearned before someone can actually learn modern physics (or modern philosophy).

      • hazur
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Well, I’m clearly out of my league here, but it seems to me that the first Newton law is no more than a rewording of that principle, isn’t it? But just just in case I went to wikipedia (sorry) and check what Hume has to say on causality and what I have is that he provided better criteria to determine what is cause of what effect, not that is impossible to distinguish one from the other.

        • Kevin
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          I agree: you’re probably out of your league here.

          Newtonian physics is as useful in discussing cause and effect as Newtonian alchemy is in turning base metals into gold.

          We live in a quantum universe, where uncaused virtual particles pop in and out of existence all the time — even in the deep vacuum of space. The universe itself may be uncaused — it popped into existence literally out of nothing. (Defining “nothing” very specifically).

          I’m not even a physicist, and I’ve learned that much.

          • Egbert
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            Brownian motion shows that even obeying newton’s laws causes randomness.

            • Dan L.
              Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

              Classical brownian motion is actually an example of chaos, not randomness. It describes a perfectly deterministic system.

          • hazur
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Kevin, I have the feeling that you are in my league.:) I find your claim absurd, Newton laws (or even relativity) are valid on a large enough scale, and at this level there’s no problem discussing cause and effect. I agree C&E does not strictly apply at quantum level, however is easy to find limits within which it does. By the way, I see C&E as a reformulation for Jerry’s reason to decree free-will dead (if state A then state B; or random quantum-state X), that’s why I made my initial comment.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          Hume wrote several centuries after Newton.

        • Dan L.
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          I’m not sure you’re out of your depth, I’m not actually a scholar or anything. But from what I understand:
          1) Newton’s laws are also time invariant. If you watch a film of a Newtonian system you can’t tell whether the film is going forwards or backwards. Hence you cannot determine cause from effect under Newton’s laws. What looks like a “cause” in the film (say, the cue ball looks like it caused the 8 ball to move) could actually be an “effect” in reality (if the film is played forward instead of backwards the 8 ball causes the cue ball to move).
          2) Since you don’t quote any particular passage from the wikipedia article on Hume you’ve given me nothing to rebut. So all I can say is that I know for a fact that Hume criticized the foundations of causality arguing that it’s impossible in principle to tell the difference between the following two scenarios:
          a) An event A is caused by a preceding event B.
          b) Two events, A and B, occur such that B slightly precedes A. However, B does not cause A; both A and B are caused by an even earlier event C.
          There’s no way out of this, either — at least not that anyone has found. You can always posit an earlier and harder-to-detect event that might simultaneously be the cause for both events you are studying: the alleged “cause” and “effect.”

          This is the purpose of Occam’s Razor — if scientists weren’t looking for the simplest explanations they could simply posit millions of hidden causes for everything.

          • hazur
            Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

            I thought it was enough with what I mentioned, it seems it wasn’t. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_and_effect_theory: “He [Hume] denied that we can ever perceive cause and effect, except by developing a habit or custom of mind where we come to associate two types of object or event, always contiguous and occurring one after the other.[6] In Part III, section XV, Hume expanded this to a list of eight ways of judging whether two things might be cause and effect.” It continues with a discussion of some of the criteria Hume proposed.

            • Dan L.
              Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

              The key phrases are “denied that we can ever perceive cause and effect” and “might be cause and effect.” Hume believed in cause and effect but demonstrated that we can never know for sure whether a particular pair of events are cause and effect. So there is no certain knowledge of cause and effect.

              But Hume was writing in the 19th century. Since then scientific discoveries have only eroded support for the traditional concept of causality. Now it’s not so clear that Hume’s faith in the principle of causality (the only thing he wasn’t skeptical about) is actually true.

            • Dan L.
              Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

              And you didn’t comment on the bit about Newton’s laws yet you use it to rebut Kevin above. You need to deal with this criticism to maintain your argument:

              Under Newtonian dynamics (relativistic or not, doesn’t matter), you cannot tell whether a system is evolving forward in time or backward in time so you cannot distinguish cause from effect.

              • hazur
                Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                Dan, I’m on and off so I have to concentrate on the points I think are relevant. In your previous reply I think is “scientific discoveries have only eroded support for the traditional concept of causality”, I find that akin to “relativity eroded support for the traditional concept of time”, which is absolutely true, but we still have time, don’t we? And unless you are correcting for neutrino flight-time it is likely to be irrelevant.

              • Dan L.
                Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                No.

                I will try to break the argument down because this is somehow getting confused.

                1. If you watch system operating under only Newton’s laws or only under quantum mechanics there is no way to determine the arrow of time. The laws work the same way backwards in time as they do forwards. Because of this, you cannot determine cause from effect.
                2. You cannot determine cause from effect ANYWAY. As argued by Hume, all you can ever do is note that event A is always preceded by event B. You cannot conclude simply from that fact of precedence that B causes A. (Perhaps A and B are both caused by C, or perhaps B and A always happening together in the same order is just a coincidence.)
                3. The word “cause” is inherently ambiguous. When a stone hits your windshield and cracks it, you want to say, “the stone caused my windshield to crack.” But you’re ignoring the last 100 stones that hit your windshield causing microscopic fractures that weakened the windshield and without which the 101st stone wouldn’t have cracked the windshield. And you’re ignoring the truck that kicked the stone up in the first place. And you’re ignoring the glazier that made the windshield (they could have made it a little stronger or a little weaker; in either case that 101st stone wouldn’t have caused a crack). Each “effect” has billions or more “causes”.
                4. Quantum mechanics suggests that events without causes can and do happen all the time.

                Please don’t put words in my mouth the way you did in your last post. If you don’t understand what I mean by something please ask instead of jumping to conclusions. And please rebut the arguments already made against causality before changing the subject again.

              • hazur
                Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

                Dan, I apologize for using your words against your arguments, I’ll try better tomorrow. (really, I have to go)

              • Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

                Dan L. said,

                2. You cannot determine cause from effect ANYWAY.

                So, maybe you turn on the kitchen water tap when you want the dining room light on, just on the off chance that one is as likely as the other to produce the desired effect?

              • Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

                [oops-a-daisy ...]

                Dan L. said,

                2. You cannot determine cause from effect ANYWAY.

                So, maybe you turn on the kitchen water tap when you want the dining room light on [instead of the dining room light switch], just on the off chance that one is as likely as the other to produce the desired effect?

            • Posted March 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

              I really DO wish people would stop name-dropping “Hume” the way people name-drop “Jesus.” Hume was a very smart man, but he did not know nor understand everything. If you have a point to make, make the actual point and explain it.
              And incidentally, although simple Newtonian mechanics do not give an arrow to time, Thermodynamics, in its second law, certainly seems to give such an arrow, at least from our point of view. Of course, Einstein (oops, now I’m name dropping also) also said that to the convinced physicist, time is an illusion, albeit a persistent one. Still, even Einstein didn’t know everything, though I think he knew more than Hume did, at least about the way the Universe works on large scales.
              As for the whole “B-following-A-could-just-be-that-they’re-both-caused-by-C” argument: While in principle true, inductive reasoning still applies, and we can say that if B always follows A, it’s either caused by it or else always associated with it. Either way, we understand something more than if we say, “We cannot ever know that they weren’t caused by some as-yet-undiscovered third cause, so let’s not draw conclusions.”

              • Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

                What would Hume do? [WHHD]

                Although that presumably entails some commitment to the principle of causality as otherwise it would be a somewhat academic question ….

              • Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

                [sheesh] … WWHD …

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Responding to the OP because the column was getting so narrow…

      hazur, it’s not so much that you’re “using my words against my arguments.” This is getting to be frustrating because I’ve already made several arguments against the concept of causality and each of these arguments stands on their own but rather than addressing them you seemed to be to be deflecting.

      That is, I made two solid arguments and then said something to the effect: “and if that’s not enough I have more…” You took that statement that was not actually an argument, interpreted it uncharitably, and then seemed to ask me to defend what you imagined I meant (rather than the arguments I had already explicitly made).

      I have still more arguments against causality than the four listed above but I don’t want to get any deeper into it until I get some sense that you’ve actually understood the arguments I’ve already made.

      Maybe I should clear what I think causality actually is (but please don’t argue against this, please argue against the arguments I’ve already made): I think causality is a cognitive heuristic, a sort of built-in function of the brain that helps human beings understand a world whose fundamental mechanisms are hidden from view. So I don’t think it’s a fundamental physical principle that should be studied as part of physical science — I think it’s a mental function that should be studied by psychologists and neurologists. And I think it’s fine to use words like “cause” and “effect” in everyday language, but I think it only creates problems when you try to define it in a scientificall rigorous way.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        Oops, I didn’t see your comment here. Well, causality is well defined and used in physics. “Cause” and “effect” is an old philosophical pastime, seems like.

        Einstein and other early relativists had to dig through a lot of that stuff to formulate a sensible theory.

        You are correct on the C/E stuff, but you may have gone a bit overboard on terminology.

      • hazur
        Posted March 14, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        Dan, I really don’t have anything useful to add to what’s been said, furthermore I mostly agree with your last words “it’s fine to use words like “cause” and “effect” in everyday language, but I think it only creates problems when you try to define it in a scientifically rigorous way.” You seem to imply that is not possible or useful to rigorously talk about cause and effect in any way and context, me and other people here seem to disagree (and I’m not trying to put words in your or others mouth, that’s just my honest interpretation of all that’s been said). So, I give you that my words weren’t rigorous, I take from Torbjorn that you went overboard.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      You can’t mix philosophical “cause” and “effect” with relativistic causality. Depending on your frame of reference what looks like “cause” and “effect” for a local observer can look like “effect” and “cause” for another observer, and so on.

      Further problems come when you start to ask what time is, within relativity (which is an effective theory in its large writ of general relativity) and without.

      When you have to add on quantum mechanics with its decoherence effects that spread relativistically but means whether observables (“causes” and “effects”) are dependent on locality.

      Somewhere here you need to consider time arrows, of decoherence and energy dispersal observed as entropy, and how it connects to cosmological expansion that makes it possible. (And connects back to general relativity.)

      I wonder if someone one day will be able to tell “cause and effect” among “cause and effect” (causality)? =D

  17. Tulse
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    your tax dollars may be going to support a brand of theology

    I don’t think it can be emphasized enough that the positions of the AAAS, NIH, Smithsonian, and even the NCSE are theological, and not scientific. They are advocating a particular version of theology, one that is strongly disputed by other religious organizations. It is absurd that science organizations should be taking any sort of stand on matters of theology.

  18. Matt G
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    No position on evolution? That’s all I need to know about their commitment to science.

  19. Posted March 13, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I always find it astonishing that, when it comes to discussing religion and science, the religious only ever contemplate one religion as being compatible, i.e. christians just refer to christianity, muslims refer to islam. It’s as if they know that, should they try to reconcile science with all the different religions, they would expose the fact that they are all bullshit.

    • Bonzodog
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      They won’t and can’t. In their arrogance, they all (at least the monotheistic ones) insist that they are the only true way to light and salvation ….

  20. Arnie
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne said:

    “The problem here is that our own planet isn’t faithful: it’s going to be incinerated in about five billion years”

    Actually, Earth is going to be a completely uninhabitable dead planet in 900 million years due to solar activity. It is going to be scorched rock like Mercury in 5 billion years.

  21. Jim Jones
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible …”

    So … basically “We’re batshit crazy – we believe that sheep herders over 2,000 years ago got everything we don’t know about right, even though they got everything we DO know about wrong.”

    • Kevin
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      What an insult. They were not sheep herders!!!

      They were goat herders.

      • Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        They were nothing of the kind.

        • Dan L.
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

          That post is about the folks who compiled the Torah, and we already know that this was an intellectual elite. That is not news. The question that this intrepid blogger you link to does not bother to broach is: “where did that intellectual elite get their source material.”

          The answer is a few hundred years worth of mythology and folklore, mostly oral traditions. But these traditions weren’t created by bronze age goat herders. They were iron age cow herders. (The laws in Exodus and Deuteronomy are a good hint on this one.)

        • Steve
          Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:07 am | Permalink

          Tim,

          I don’t think the reference is to the writers of the bible per se, but instead to the authors of the theology. You target too fine a distinction there.

  22. Persto
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “A special interest in deliverance?”

    She must really like Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds!

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Maybe she just loves dueling banjos!

  23. Posted March 13, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Simply put, a person cannot believe in science and a traditional God at the same time. They can however believe in a god of origins. The god of origins is a conglomerate impersonal god composed of the laws of physics, biochemistry, and nature all wrapped up into an ambiguous package. I know this is a “cop out god”, but it provides those scientists, in the process of becoming declared atheists, a midway point so they still claim to believe in God in order to placate their families and friends. Some would call them hypocrites, but I call them percentage atheists who, after exposure to continued reasonable argument, will gradually slip into 100% atheism. Atheism does not occur in a flash of lightning from God but it does occur as a result of gradual persuasion.

    • eric
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      The issues here (IMO) are not individual belief in God, but:

      (1) the fact that Wiseman puts on one hat and says evolution happened. Then puts on another hat and says her organization won’t take a position on whether it happened or not. She should not be doing that. Or, at least, Jerry makes the argument that such a person is not someone he wants running tax-supported science programs.

      (2) The fact that science organizations are espousing specific interpretations of the bible that make christian theology consistent with science. Its not their role to do so. Its not what they should be spending money on. Its sectarian. And, to be perfectly honest, biblical interpretation is outside their field of expertise, so why should anyone believe them when they do it?

      • Steve
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        It would seem as if biblical interpretation is outside of everybody’s expertise, as is theistic interpretation.

        (Although many a person has stepped up on the proverbial pulpit and claimed the mantel of theistic expert. Bullshitters one and all.)

  24. J James
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    To summarize:

    1. OP, followed by,
    2. The gist of inlander comments:

    “this is pretty awful stuff; Bullshit; That’s stupid; screw you (2x); Oh, ‘born again positivism,’ I see…you were just trying to look clever. It didn’t work; theology is vacuous; In fact, it’s predictable. I call it ‘rationality-envy’; ‘Oh yeah? Well you people are just as blinkered as we are! Uh, I mean… Damnit’; This is the type of anthropomorphic yearning that borders on psychosis; So god really loves vacuum and radiation; Yep. God hates hydrogen, that much is true; God doesn’t really like any of the matter associated with life; It’s hard to pick the dumbest thing they said; It just shows that theistic people will go to any length and twist anything to fit their narrow view. It would be hilarious if the results were not so devastating; How in the hell does ignorance prove anything other than the fact that they are ignorant!; But their ignorance and misunderstanding LOVES them, and they in turn love their ignorance and misunderstanding. How dare we try to take that away from them?”

    (I may have missed a few.)

    3. The presumed “snarks” of the outlander:

    “Is there evidence of this [intolerance of others]? If so, I am on your side. If not, this is nothing but a bandwagon of the type I care for not (regardless of the driver).”
    ————-
    “That being said, consider the possibility that, if she is true to the afore-stated mission, Wiseman may have been a *brilliant* choice for the work. (Not my opinion . . . just an angle that comes with an open mind.)”

    4. JJ — recognizes kicking of mirrors; staunch (and real life) defender of free speech; unequivocal believer in separation of church and state; fan of Darwin; usually respectful of others (even the delusional . . . not pointing fingers here, so relax); knows real snark and how to wield it, but usually doesn’t; appreciates the ACLU even when it defends those with whom he disagrees; . . . oh, and he’s not a Christian, doesn’t believe in the “immaculate conception”, was baptized by his parents but doesn’t have a Personal Savior. (Come on guys, those credentials should count for something here!)

    • Dan L.
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      No. Simply agreeing with some of the same opinions as other commenters is meaningless.

      I said “screw you” (I didn’t say “that’s stupid” to you, I said it about an unrelated claim made by someone else entirely) because you were using dirty rhetorical tactics to try to browbeat other people into agreeing with you. Frankly I think it’s your attitude more than your opinions that led to the poor reception of your comments here.

      Again, you’re not going to win many people over to your point of view by screaming that everyone disagrees with you is a mindless sheep. Get over yourself, buddy.

      • Dan L.
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I see you included a bunch of stuff in your “gist” section that wasn’t addressed to you or related to your point at all. Even dirtier. You, friend, have been a total waste of time and attention.

      • J James
        Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Daniel, I don’t scream and I certainly did not call anyone a mindless sheep. I like you (I am sure) prefer the power of reason and effective use of language to drive home an opinion or point. Throughout this endeavor, I made pointed observations (scientists do this too) and voiced limited opinions. Paragraphs 1-3 of my last post enumerated observations of fact. You then, formed conclusions about those facts and, moreover, conclusions about the point I intended by stating them. In your case, the plain facts (which really should speak for themselves) failed (my failure really) in delivering the unstated point, to wit: my words (formal and stodgy as the rhetoric may have been) were labeled by both you and your mentor as “snarky”; numerous words of others (with exception of one “screw you”) were not. All of these words were presented for the thoughtful reader (no, I am not calling you thoughtless; I won’t mince words if I intend down that path) to consider and compare, each employing one’s own definition of “snarky.” I hope I need not go on about the desired point, except to say that my objection to intolerance was met with . . . well . . . resounding intolerance. Why did this happen? Was it because my words communicated a “holier than thou” (interesting metaphor) attitude? Maybe (although trust this: I am certainly far from holy . . . too many cigars; too much scotch). Consider (just for a moment) an alternative; that maybe you assumed, because I was a newcomer and because my approach was atypical, I was actually on the opposite team, and you felt a strong urge to defend your views and battle me down. Could this possibly have affected your judgment, reactions and conclusions about me and my purpose? Just a thought, and certainly off topic.

        As to opinions? Re-read my comments and see if you can concisely state those given. If you do this, all I ask is that you clearly state whether you accept or reject the opinion (either way is OK with me, and I believe that is what I did). Only from opinions clearly stated can two people engage in debate. Meaningful debate, importantly, requires both voice and ear. (I really do not intend condescension and apologize if my words come through that way.)

        Here is how I come out on this exercise: Dr. Coyne’s opinion I believe is fairly summarized with “It is a disgrace that Wiseman is an officer of this organization [ASA] and at the same time heads an important program for the AAAS, one also connected with the Smithsonian and the NIH”. The proposition is thus framed. I disagree. My contrary position is that, without information beyond the bulleted points in support of the proposition, Wiseman’s affiliation with a group whose views I don’t like does not alone disqualify her. Certainly, none of her words so profoundly offended me to alter this view. Maybe the do you and Dr. Coyne. In fact, just like only a staunch anti-communist could open the doors to China, I might argue she is perfect for the DoSER position. At this early point, we disagree. Recall, however, my opinion was rather quickly met with an oratory “screw you” in retort.

        Presentation of additional acts or activities, or additional and yet unstated reasoning, might alter my opinion of presumed fitness. Until then, we simply disagree. Again, my mind is open (which is not to say yours is not . . . that’s for you to consider).

        • Michael Fugate
          Posted March 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

          I see her activities and those of DoSER as apologetics – I am sure Dr Wiseman would sooner give up science than Christianity. The point of these programs is to retain children in the faith when they inevitably are confronted with science.

  25. Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Definitely justifies the use of the words “unholy” and “egregious” to characterize science – or at least those who should know better – being in bed with religion. But maybe not surprising given that Haught was given the use of a podium by them some time back ….

    I won’t be surprised if reputable scientists start cancelling their memberships in that organization; really hard to see how there’s much possibility for the advancement of science if they start accepting that evidence is no longer necessary …

  26. James Davies
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Just to clarify, Wiseman is not a “Senior Project Scientist in charge of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.” Hubble is run out of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. Wiseman works up the road at Goddard, which currently provides support services for Hubble. Perhaps a better description would be just that she is a “Senior Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.”

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      According to her description on BioLogos:
      “Jennifer Wiseman is an astronomer, speaker, and author, recently appointed as the senior project scientist for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center, where she previously headed the Laboratory for Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics.”

  27. Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    “We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.”

    It’s a pity then that the Good Lord did not inspire whoever it was to include a bit more about antibiotics, anaestheics and a few surgical procedures (amongst other matters) among the first few chapters of the Bible.

    It could have been called The Book of Recommendations.

    But I must take issue with you Jerry over the following:

    “Actually, they should deep-six this execrable Templet0n-funded program, for its science ‘outreach’ explicitly endorses a form of theology. Were I a member of the AAAS, I’d resign.”

    This is a political contest, and there is an old maxim governing such which says “never resign.” Resigning in protest carries far less political clout than does disagreeing publicly to the point where you force them to sack you. The latter generates controversy, while the former never does.

    • Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Ian’s comment on this brief passage from the ASA completely misses the point. Probably he is not aware of what is being said here. The Bible is not mentioned. The language about contingent order and intelligibility refers to ideas that are pretty well accepted by intellectual historians, without regard to any religious views they may hold personally.

      It refers to close historical links between what is often called a “voluntarist” theology (a theology that emphasizes divine freedom over divine reason) and the conception of scientific knowledge as what Reijer Hooykaas called “rational empiricism,” namely a combination of reason and experience. This is basically the heart of modern science. Such a conception came to the fore during the early modern period, and the context in which it arose was explicitly theological.

      There is an irony in this, obviously. When someone like Dawkins asks, what has theology ever given science, one answer could be, the modern conception of scientific knowledge. The irony is that someone like Dawkins is prevented (perhaps a priori?) from seeing that.

  28. Diane G.
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    The “American Scientific Affiliation” sounds like a weasely-worded title chosen to sound more science-y and mask the woo. Someone who wasn’t aware of their intent might think being published in their organ actually meant something.

    • Posted March 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      No one involved with choosing that name (American Scientific Affiliation) is still living, Diane. Several times name changes have been considered–many ASA members think a better name would make direct reference to our Christian beliefs. However, changing an organizations name cannot be done by fiat, as you may know, and thus far it has not been high enough on the agenda to get it done.

      As for the journal, I would certainly agree that some articles are better than others. Many top scientists and scholars in other disciplines have published in our journal; recent issues (for example) have articles by historians John Brooke and Mark Noll, cosmologist Rob Mann, biologist Gareth Jones, and astronomer-historian Owen Gingerich.

      I’ve published dozens of articles in mainstream academic journals and books, but an article about modern Jonah stories in the ASA journal is probably better known than anything else I have published. It’s been the basis of two BBC radio programs (one of them, “Making History,” claims four million listeners) and is cited (implicitly or explicitly) in all the standard web sites devoted to urban legends. And, a 3-part article on Arthur Holly Compton that I published in the ASA journal is closely related to a project I wrote about in “American Scientist” a few years ago.

      Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.

  29. Diane G.
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    sub

  30. Posted March 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    As I’ve posted before, DoSER is sponsored by not only the AAAS, but by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Smithsonian Institution. These are government organizations, so some of your tax dollars may be going to support a brand of theology.

    As you suggested in the other post, it would certainly seem to be running afoul of the First Amendment. Maybe some member of the AAAS should threaten them with a lawsuit if they don’t cease and desist. For one thing, the explicitly Christian bias of AAAS spokespersons Haught and Wiseman should have all of the other religious groups up in arms – where are the outreach programs to madrassas and yeshivas? Seems to me that they’ve forgotten the adage about one person not being able to serve two masters – either that or they’re being remarkably hypocritical.

    I can sort of see some benefit in maintaining some dialog between religion and science, even if only to wean the former of their literalism. But when the latter has to renounce the principles that make it science then I would say that is very much beyond the pale.

  31. Posted March 14, 2012 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Wiseman is neither.

    /@

  32. Posted March 14, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    Man, I read the ASA article on studying demonology with chaos-complexity theory (never heard of the two as one) but I didn’t see a single differential equation. I think someone’s read a lot of Michael Crichton.

    It was all bullshit any way. It basically said the Bible doesn’t give much info on demons, and what it does is not consistent. So let’s make stuff up!

  33. Posted March 14, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Oh good, I’m throwing away all my science journals (I won’t even recycle them – God will take care of that). This explains everything. Horray!

  34. Posted March 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Someone ought to point out here that Wiseman wrote this originally a couple of years ago–prior (to the best of my knowledge) of her assuming a role with the AAAS.

    I also have to wonder, Jerry: if the U of C accepts any tax dollars, would that mean that faculty there should not use any science textbooks that state or imply that there are no ultimate purposes in the history of nature? (Earlier editions of the biology text by Miller and Levine might qualify, if anyone wants a specific example.)

    • Posted March 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      … would that mean that faculty there should not use any science textbooks that state or imply that there are no ultimate purposes in the history of nature?

      Just out of curiosity, as the statement doesn’t seem all that clear, are you arguing that there are such purposes? And your evidence is? Seems to me that the only purpose for which there is any evidence is that the universe runs down hill to its supposedly inevitable “heat death”.

      • Posted March 16, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        I think one can make such an argument (that an overall purpose can be a reasonable inference), Steersman, but (obviously) I did not make that argument here and I don’t intend to do it now. I’ve done it elsewhere, and any time Jerry or anyone else wants to talk about that face-to-face I’d be more than willing to lay that argument out. I pass on that here and now–I don’t have a week or two of free time to devote to it.

        What I am implying directly, however, is that the claim that there is no purpose (like the claim that there is no “right” and “wrong” or the claim that we have no free will) goes well beyond science, and that anyone who teaches that or proclaims that, allegedly on the basis of science, is doing something inherently religious or metaphysical in nature. That is the relevant point. One can claim that science means atheism; one can claim that science means spiritualism; one can claim that science means Christianity. But, science does not come with its own metaphysics attached at the hip; it is consistent with multiple metaphysical frameworks. I suspect we would agree, that some metaphysical frameworks make more sense than others of nature and the science of nature; I also suspect that we might differ on which ones to put into this category: that conversation cannot be had satisfactorily in a few paragraphs.

        • Steve
          Posted March 16, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

          Ted,

          I am curious, in your view is answering the question as to whether there are square circles within the scope of science?

          • Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:38 am | Permalink

            Steve,

            This sounds like you’re asking me whether mathematical propositions are “analytical truths” or “empirical truths.” And–perhaps–you are getting at the distinction between “truth” in science and “proof” in mathematics. Am I reading you correctly, or reading too much into your question?

            • Steve
              Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

              Ted,

              I don’t know, I mean squares and circles can be described mathematically, but they aren’t mathematical per se.

              I just wondered if according to your view if the conviction that there are no square circles is scientific or not.

              I am just trying to place where the concept of the impossibility of the simultaneous existence of mutually exclusive states. Is such a concept scientific or relied upon by science?

        • Posted March 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          What I am implying directly, however, is that the claim that there is no purpose …. goes well beyond science, and that anyone who teaches that or proclaims that … is doing something inherently religious or metaphysical in nature.

          Depends, I think, on how it is phrased. Relative to your original post I remember that the theory of orthogenesis and its rejection might qualify as “science textbooks that state or imply that there are no ultimate purposes in the history of nature.” So, if its rejection in those books was phrased in terms of there being no evidence for the theory then that would seem to be entirely within the scope of the science, or at least its philosophical underpinnings.

          Although I think that science has been a little hasty in rejecting the idea – largely, I think, because, as Richard Lewontin put it, of a somewhat debilitating if not reasonable apprehension about “letting the Divine Foot in the door”. However, it also seems that, in discussions on a projected extension of the Modern Synthesis, there is also some tendency or willingness to at least flirt with the idea if not cohabit with it. For instance in a paper in Evolution: The Extended Synthesis [editors, Massimo Pigliucci, Gerd Müller] reference is made to an early researcher in the field – James Mark Baldwin (1861-1934) whose “idea was that behaviour can affect the action of natural selection, in some cases facilitating it” [pg 366] – not a particularly unpalatable idea I think since one can quite reasonably argue that behaviour is simply another facet of the environment which is already recognized as the primary if not sole selectionist factor or filter.

          And, assuming that behaviour is accepted as such a factor, then one might also reasonably point out that an essential element of behaviour is consciousness which might then justify somewhat of a leap to the hypothesis or conjecture that consciousness itself and its development and manifestation is the purpose which undergirds all of, at least, biology if not the universe itself. In addition it seems to me that orthogenesis was rejected because, largely, there was at the time it was developed no analogous phenomena that could provide a basis for that departure and because it had some echoes, loud or faint depending on one’s sensitivities, of some conscious entity behind the process rather than being either “inanimate”, as in the analogous case of electrophoresis, or, as in the example of computer technology, distributed.

          Also, there is the fact that, at least according to Jerry Fodor, Darwin developed his theory of natural selection based on the analogy of artificial selection – consciousness writ large:

          [Darwin] seems to have been seduced by an analogy to selective breeding, with natural selection operating in place of the breeder. But this analogy is patently flawed; selective breeding is performed only by creatures with minds, and natural selection doesn’t have one of those.

          Seems to be a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees. While one might reasonably ask how much of a role consciousness – i.e., behaviour; the activities of “creatures with minds”, regardless of how circumscribed they might be – plays and has played during evolution, the fact that it is common to argue that “5% of an eye is better than 1%, but it is sufficient to bias [electrophoresis] its ongoing evolution” would seem to justify arguing that its role has been substantial if not profound – an underlying purpose.

    • Posted March 16, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Ted, would you please define “purpouse”? I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at.


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  1. [...] Coyne has an interesting post about Jennifer Wiseman, who heads the  “Dialogue on Science, Religion, and Ethics” (DoSER) program at the American [...]

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