IDers resurrect First Cause argument, claim that it’s convincing and that Dawkins and I are too stupid to understand it

LOL! Michael Egnor, as we saw yesterday, is a Christian neurosurgeon, while David Klinghoffer is an Orthodox Jew. Both are goddy Intelligent Design (ID) advocates who write for Evolution News, a site that has largely abandoned providing “scientific” evidence for ID to launching attacks on its opponents. I am quite proud that both of these men seem obsessed with me (that means they worry about my influence), and also that they and their colleagues spend oodles of column inches on the site attacking my views on evolution, my philosophy, and, once, even my looks. I’m also pleased that they chose me as 2014’s Censor of the Year, an honor I’d love to win again.

Today Klinghoffer leans on Egnor (the bland leading the blind) to resurrect the First Cause Argument, claiming that Dawkins and I don’t understand it, and that presumably, if we did, we’d be convinced that God exists. Click on screenshot below, which goes to an archived link (I’m not giving these people page clicks):

Today I get extra plaudits from Klinghoffer because he thinks that both Dawkins and I, in our weak and unconvincing attempt to defend evolution, have actually driven people to Intelligent Design:

. . . . in the context of the evolution debate. . .  opponents of intelligent design theory very often refuse to grapple with ID itself, limiting themselves to denouncing a cartoon parody. Plenty of thoughtful people have been persuaded in favor of ID in part by the “weak, vague, and dubious” responses from supposedly top critics (like Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins). In still another context, a political one, I was turned off leftism as a youthful leftist, a college freshman, by meeting other campus leftists and listening to what they had to say and how they said it.

I know of no people who I’ve turned to ID, but I am absolutely sure that Dawkins, at least, has made many more converts to evolution than away from evolution (see evidence here, and note that there are 132 pages of testimony). I also suspect that my book Why Evolution is True has also made converts to accepting evolution: I’ve gotten a ton of emails to that effect, but never one from somebody who said: “Dr. Coyne, your criticisms of intelligent design are so lame that they’ve made me embrace that form of creationism.” Given that I get a fair amount of nasty and critical emails, surely I should have gotten at least one like that!

But I digress: Klinghoffer, unable to give a satisfactory answer to his son’s question, “Who made God?”, importuned Egnor to give him an answer to this recurring argument for theism. And here is Egnor’s reply to Klinghoffer, an extra-ridiculous version of the First Cause Argument (also known as the “Cosmological Argument”). Once again, to my pleasure I get lumped in with Dawkins:

My youngest daughter asked “Who made God?” one day when we were driving to 7-Eleven. She was 4.

There are two groups of people for whom the question is excusable: kids and ordinary folks who make no pretense to philosophical insight.

Coyne and Dawkins fall into neither category. They claim insight — arrogantly claim it, in fact. They are highly educated men who have at their disposal books and colleagues who can provide the answer to that question anytime. They proclaim their ignorant atheism to millions of people who (foolishly) take their word for it.

The answer to the question is simple. God is not “made.” He is not a “thing” in the collection of things we call nature. If He were a thing, He wouldn’t be God.

God is the Unmoved Mover, the Uncaused Cause, the Necessary Existence. He is the necessary prerequisite for making, causing, and existing.

How so, one might ask? Succinctly, all change in nature consists of three steps: the existence of potentiality, the process of change, the final actuality. By the law of non-contradiction, a thing may not exist and not exist at the same moment in the same way. Applied to change, this means that a thing may not be potential and actual in the same respect at the same time. That is, a thing may not be the cause of its own change. Everything that is changed is changed by another.

If everything has potentiality (i.e., can be “made”), then the process of change — steps 1, 2, and 3 — could not get started, because if everything is potential, nothing is actual. If nothing is actual, nothing can change or be made or even exist.

To account for change or causation or even existence itself, there must be Someone Who is unchanged, uncaused, and Who necessarily exists. This is the cosmological argument, which is the framework for Aquinas’ first three ways.

This argument, and its consequences, fills books that fill libraries. There are millions of people — theologians, professors, interested laypeople — who can explain it in simple terms to Coyne and Attenborough. Heck, we’ve explained it in simple terms several times on Evolution News. Coyne and company have no excuse.

“Who caused God?” is, as I said, a fair question for a kid or a person who makes no claim to philosophical knowledge. It is culpable error of a very serious degree for people who have a public voice and who claim insight into such matters.

Remember that Egnor is a neurosurgeon, not a philosopher, so it’s bizarre for him to accuse Dawkins and me of lacking sufficient philosophical knowledge to apprehend this simple argument. In fact, I’ve read a ton about this argument and know all the refutations, some of which can be found here, here, and here. In fact, the argument is so threadbare that no philosophers—save religious ones—accept it as convincing. Physicist Sean Carroll has also smacked it down repeatedly (see here for one example), and Sean is not a dumb guy who’s ignorant of philosophy!

I don’t want to waste time repeating the rebuttals of others, but will just say two things. First, yes, something can be the cause of its own change: one example is an atom of radioactive element that decays into a different kind of atom. As far as we know, there are no external “causes” for this phenomenon.

Second, even if Egnor and his superstitious acolytes were right, and there had to be a “first cause” (something I deny is logically true), that doesn’t show that the “cause” was a god, much less the kind of God (or G*d, in Klinghoffer’s case), in which these men believe. As Hitchens used to say, “All their work is still ahead of them.” The rest of the arguments, including the claim that the universe had to have an external cause, or that there had to be a first cause or a beginning of everything, can be found in the links above.

Yes, of course people have Godsplained this argument to me, mostly in the many books and papers I’ve read about it. But I don’t accept that argument as even coming close to proving the existence of a divine being.

I will leave analysis of Egnor’s argument to readers of a philosophical bent.

96 Comments

  1. Mike Anderson
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    First cause arguments are grounded on nothing more than intuition. Period.

    • Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps incredulity?

      I can’t see how the universe came into existence without god, therefore god did it.

      Personally I too am incredulous. I can’t see how god could have done it. I am also wary of the assumption a god could have done it.

      Plus I am awaiting an answer an inquisitive four year old could accept.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps incredulity?

        I can’t see how the universe came into existence without god, therefore god did it.

        I’d say that specific incredulity is based on intuition. Or maybe “gut feeling” is a better term.

        And I must say I’m not opposed to valuing gut feelings: “human life is valuable” is a gut feeling that is a foundation of my own personal philosophy – I do not have a rational basis for this axiom, and everything is built upon it.

        I won’t argue why my gut feeling is more important than their gut feelings in this space, I’ll just present them for comparison.

        My gut feeling:

        human life is valuable

        Their gut feeling:

        all change in nature consists of three steps: the existence of potentiality, the process of change, the final actuality

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        What I want to know, and what I’ve never once received a single direct answer to from any creationist, is how God made the universe from a _technical_ standpoint.

        -Did god use tools? If so, how did they work?
        -How did he make the animals? Did he sculpt them?
        -What about the little fiddly ones like amoebas? Did he use an even smaller tool for them, like those paintbrushes nerds use to paint their die-cast D&D models?
        -What happened to the rubbish ones that didn’t turn out properly? He can’t have put them _all_ in Australia
        -How did he set the laws of physics in place?

        Etc.

        I’m serious too. I want some answers. After all, on the evolution side we have the physical mechanisms laid out in exhaustive detail.
        The least the ‘opposition’ could do is tell us _how_ ‘god’s word’ created the mountains, or the deserts, or Adam and Eve.

        If that ends up with them having to just say ‘by magic’ then all the better. It’s about time that they admit that that’s the explanation for all of their bullshit.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Those who believe they can come to some fundamental understanding of the nature and beginning of the universe through reason alone are like a rat chasing its own reflection around the inside of a coffee can. They’re bound to come out of the exercise at least a little bit crazy.

  2. Bill Dillon
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I bet even Klinghoffer’s four-year-old called bulls*t on that answer!

  3. Liz
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    You’re not kids? I think we’re all kids asking similar questions. It seems like their questions are rooted in religion rather than philosophy or just anything in general.

    • Liz
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      I should mention so there is no confusion that I’m an atheist.

  4. Jenny Haniver
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I regard the First Cause argument response as a supreme example of begging the question.

    • Posted September 30, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      It does – for example in this formulation, it assumes that the universe (or “the everything”, if one insists that universe is now just a synonym for hubble volume) “started”.

      Conservation laws, people!

      Democritus was *right*.

  5. EdwardM
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Well jeez, perfesser, you and Dawkins have access to, like, books and colleagues and stuff and you still don’t accept their god? No wonder the guy is mad at you.

    whattta maroon.

    • ubernez
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      …what an ultra-maroon… (if i read your reference correctly!) 🙂

  6. Steve Gerrard
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    If, in your effort to defend your belief in a god, you have to resort to this sort of lucubration just to get to “some vague entity or entities in the right category,” you have already lost the battle, as far as I’m concerned.

    • eric
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Oh, they don’t stop at unmoved mover. They go right from there to it necessarily being Jesus. But they typically don’t mention that part in mixed (i.e. nonbeliever) company, because it’s even less rigorous than the causa causans part.

      You’ll also note that they cite Aquinas on it as if he’s the original author. But he wasn’t. The prime mover argument is from Aristotle. From the 300s B.C. So clearly it could not be an argument for the Christian God.

      • Posted September 30, 2019 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Moreover, Aristotle thought the universe was eternal, not the “started” craziness. So Egnor and co. are not even *that sophisticated*.

        BTW, this was a serious debate amongst both Christian and before them Muslim philosophers. They loved Aristotle’s argument but had trouble explaining why Aristotle got the bit about the eternity of the world wrong, etc.

  7. Jonathan Gallant
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Just as God is The Unmoved Mover and the Uncaused Cause, so our Flying Spaghetti Monster is the Paramount Pasta and the Undented al dente. This, of course, explains why the first written record of Pasta, according to Wiki, is in the Talmud.

    Speaking of which, Egnor’s delightful little sermon on potentiality and actuality reminds me of Talmud/Torah babble of many years ago, known as pilpul in Yiddish or word salad in English.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      “…or word salad in English.”

      I think ‘bollocks’ is more common. See also ‘shite’, ‘gibberish’ or ‘total Boris’.

    • Roger
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I raise my holey colander from which flows much abundant wine because of the holes.

  8. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I have a similarly vacuous argument for Klinghoffer in response:

    1. The sum total of reality is ‘everything’

    2. ‘Everything’ = every ‘thing’

    3. Klinghoffer claims that “God is not a ‘thing'”

    4. Therefore god is not real.

    Seriously, ‘god is not a ‘thing”…? Ugh.

    • Posted September 30, 2019 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I have encountered theists claiming exactly that – that god is not a thing and either claiming that god is in its (his??) own ontological category, which seems to be special pleading. Some claim by contrast tat god is not a thing, but a process – the so called process theology of Rescher and Whitehead. This view is of course heretical in most religions.

  9. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    An atheist, stupid or otherwise, is just a person who can identify bull shit when they see it. If they think more than 150 years of evolution science can be ignored with that pile of words, who is the stupid one here? The way learning works is that they, the believers, must put aside their fantasies and read something other than fiction.

  10. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    The religious(and creationists in particular) do this funny little routine when the ‘who made god’ question comes up; they go to great lengths to feign a kind of amused contempt for the very idea that anyone would so much as consider the question worth asking in the first place. They chuckle and shake their heads, as if they’re being indulgent with some simple-minded member of a congregation.

    They keep this up in the hope that the person asking will eventually back off sheepishly, in embarrassment for having asked such a silly question.

    All you have to do is keep asking though. Eventually they collapse in on themselves and proffer up something like the ridiculous argument made by Klinghoffer.

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      ID’ers and other creationists keep insisting, in their arrogant and obnoxious manner, that asking who created the creator, which absolutely must be a very complex being to do what it’s reputed to have done, is a silly question but they can only ever provide fallacious, idiotic answers because reality is not on their side and they refuse to acknowledge that inconvenient fact.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    At least evolution by natural selection was settled on through the process of elimination of less parsimonious alternative explanations – the uncaused mover story must be swallowed whole, no questions asked…

    … perhaps this explains the inclusion of driving to 7-eleven in the story? They were getting a Big Gulp?

  12. Jordan
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Can I be the first in the “Your inadequate defense of evolution led me to embrace ID?” category?

    Here are some critical qualifiers: It’s not Dr. Coyne’s defense of Darwinism—personally—that has not satisfied me; on the contrary, I gave Coyne’s book to my then-girlfriend to disabuse her of the risible biblical literalism she had been raised on. So my skepticism isn’t based on any particular distillation of the modern synthesis—of which Coyne’s book is the best I’ve read—but the modern synthesis itself.

    My question is this: What do we even mean by the term “Darwinism” anymore? There seem to be all sorts of internecine debates about how evolution “actually” works—gradual adaptationism, “punk eek,” the neutral theory, group selection, etc. What makes any two competing hypotheses about the nitty-gritty of the selection process still fall under the rubric of “Darwinism”? Just because they both accept common ancestry and descent-with-modification? Those things are just *tautologically* true?

    Which brings me to my second question: How could “Darwinism”—whatever that is— ever be falsified? The standard response to this always seems to be “a fossil specimen found in the wrong geological stratum.” But that seems to miss the point—common ancestry and descent-with modification could both be true—indeed, they *are* true—without natural selection being the sole engine of change.

    Basically, I agree with Thomas Nagel that natural selection isn’t a fully-formed theory supported by evidence; it’s just a “schema for explanation supported by some examples.” In the spirit of genuine inquiry, can anyone explain why Nagel, I, and others (the list of skeptics of the standard neo-Darwinist account seems to grow larger by the day) are simply *wrong* to be skeptical of “Darwinism’s” ostensibly untouchable status as a scientific fact?

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Others will address various problems with your post; I hope you are wearing asbestos undies.

      I’ve time to make one observation; you are implying that biologists think that Natural Selection is the sole cause of descent with modification (your words). This is untrue. Your question is based on a false premise so ends there.

      • cicely berglund
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Sub

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Which brings me to my second question: How could “Darwinism”—whatever that is— ever be falsified? The standard response to this always seems to be “a fossil specimen found in the wrong geological stratum.” But that seems to miss the point—common ancestry and descent-with modification could both be true—indeed, they *are* true—without natural selection being the sole engine of change.

      A falsification of “natural selection being the sole engine of change” would be the discovery of another engine of change. Something like Lamarcism for which we’ve yet to find any evidence.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        “Lamarckism”

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I am not the qualified one to explain it to you but if not understanding it or accepting areas of evolution, is reason to jump on the ID wagon, your problems are more than any one person can cure. I may not understand some higher math but it does not make me turn to ID.

    • Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      It is first important to draw back a bit and consider that evolution is not all about natural selection. There is also genetic drift and neutral evolution, which you do mention, and these and other factors have very powerful effects. They are not things that most evolutionary biologists are troubled about. There are some qualified nay-sayers, and they are worth watching, but the onus is on them to show us a better theory. I don’t think they have done so.

      I would not pay much attention to Thomas Nagel as he is making extraordinary claims without commensurate extraordinary evidence. His ideas that emerging complexity is an intrinsic thing in all of nature seems too much like Larmarck’s “compexifying force”, which was debunked centuries ago. We need evidence.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Jordan, your quote is from the atheist Thomas Nagel’s 2012 book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel believes in some sort of teleology that he doesn’t articulate & admits that his arguments are from the POV of a layman. He thinks that the probabilities involved in evolution through a purely Darwinian, unguided process defy common sense. An argument from common sense flowing out of the pen of a philosopher is frankly laughable!

      Nagel fails to mention any experiments in the field of evolutionary theory – e.g. his book was published twenty four years AFTER the start of the, still ongoing today, E. coli Long-Term Evolution Experiment [LTEE] by Richard Lenski & his team. I can find no reference where Nagel mentions any of these kinds of things & yet he chose Stephen Meyer’s ID book Signature in the Cell as his “book of the year” in the TLS. This is rank bias where Nagel searches out the poor scholarship that leans in the direction of hand wavey teleology while being blind to the humdrum [to him] facts of science.

      The critics of Nagel’s book go to town on him as he spouts his ignorant conception of Darwinism & the modern synthesis, and if Jordan you’ve read Nagel’s book I suggest you also read the painful criticisms. Just like Nagel you find uninformed holes in Darwinism & yet you offer no alternative construction.

      Here’s part of Leiter & Weisberg’s criticism of Mind & Cosmos:

      We conclude with a comment about truth in advertising. Nagel’s arguments against reductionism are quixotic, and his arguments against naturalism are unconvincing. He aspires to develop “rival alternative conceptions” to what he calls the materialist neo-Darwinian worldview, yet he never clearly articulates this rival conception, nor does he give us any reason to think that “the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two”

      In a moment I’ll post links to JAC’s two WEIT posts on Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        WEIT, October 2012:
        Philosopher Thomas Nagel goes the way of Alvin Plantinga disses evolution

        WEIT, January 2013:
        Tom Nagels antievolution book gets thrice pummelled

        Stupid internet means some of the links to the sources in the above two pieces are broken or changed to subscriber only, which is annoying, but you’ll get the idea Jordan.

        What say you? Do you have an alternative model to offer? Having [you claim] read the WEIT book why does the messy truth of Biology give you pause? Just about every mechanism in biological systems serves multiple purposes in a way no engineer would devise [both incredibly clever & incredibly stupid – depending on the example], this is massive evidence for the Blind Watchmaker. Wot choo got that knocks Dawkins over? Nowt I bet.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 28, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          Do you have an alternative model to offer? I think I’d settle for an explanation of why Neo-Darwinian ideas don’t already account for our observations. Is natural selection not fast enough, diverse enough, complex enough? What is the actual insufficiency you are worried about? Then if you have time you can give us your new hypothesis that better explains the data.

        • Jordan
          Posted September 28, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I am aware the quote came from Nagel’s book. I have read it several times.

          Part of my argument is semantic, having to do with the nomenclature of “Darwinism” vs. “Intelligent Design,” and part of it has to do with the (perceived) inadequacy of evolution, so I’ll address those separately. And, I’ll elaborate more on this later, but why even question in the first place whether or not my questions are in good faith?

          First, what counts as “Darwinism” anymore? There are tons of internecine fights even among evolutionary biologists. For instance, E.O Wilson and Richard Dawkins have had a relatively high-profile (by scientist standards) spat over group vs. kin selection. Since they disagree about the nitty-gritty of the selection process, in what sense are they (or are they not) both “Darwinists,” and what makes them so or not so? It can’t be *just* because they both incorporate common ancestry and descent with modification, because even theories that posit that evolution is “directed” in some way, such as Nagel’s (rather dubious, to my view) “natural teleology” incorporates that as well. What are the specific features about “Darwinism” *that are uncontroversial even among evolutionary biologists* that distinguish it from rival theories? That is, what makes any given theory unequivocally non-Darwinian? Again, I am not asking this in a “gotcha!” sense, I am genuinely confused about the nomenclature.

          Second, I fail to see the relevance of Nagel, or anybody else, not having a fully-worked out theory to replace Darwinism is relevant to his arguments. Did not Einstein have to posit the existence of space-time to even formulate testable predictions of General Relativity? At some point in the process, he must have just had a series of inchoate intuitions about the inadequacy of Newtonian physics. Would “Okay, maybe you’ve made some points, but you got anything to replace Newton, huh?” been an adequate retort? I suppose a retort here could be Einstein had made observations that proved Newtonian physics were flawed, but this is precisely where Nagel’s book shines, in my opinion. I am especially fond of this sentence: “Creatures such as us do not just *happen* to be conscious. No theory that fails to explain consciousness as something to be expected can even aspire to the outline of completeness.” His treatment of the deficiencies of the Darwinian model to the existence of consciousness, cognition, and value are all compelling to me, even if what he surmises as a replacement (“natural teleology”) is pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. But, again, I don’t see how this in any way obviates the force of the *negative* part of his argument against Darwinism.

          Third, what about Coyne’s posts about Nagel’s book am I supposed to find compelling? That within one sentence he sneers at as “Sophisticated Theology” even though Nagel states within the first few pages that he is “not just unreceptive to but strongly averse to” theism? Coyne knows that, but at the end nevertheless wonders, “Does Thomas Nagel secretly want to go to church?” It rather reminds me of an anecdote from Dan Barker’s excellent memoir “Godless,” where, when one of his former colleagues heard that he had left Christianity, spontaneously asked “But isn’t Dan afraid of hell?” Barker had discarded his colleagues’ former categories of analysis; Nagel and others have done the same with respect to evolutionary biology. Of course they might turn out to be completely wrong on the merits, in the end, but implicit in Coyne’s remark is the idea that it’s, in principle, *impossible* to not believe in Darwinism.

          • rickflick
            Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

            What are the (perceived) inadequacy of evolution? Is there an equivalent (perceived) inadequacy of cattle breeding? Or development of disease resistant strains of rice? Is there an alternative theory of agriculture – such as the Soviet Union’s attempts to incorporate Lysenko’s ideas. I don’t consider group selection an alternative theory to natural selection.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Others here have of course answered your questions, but if you are genuinely operating in good faith I’d like to ask YOU a question:

      what are you proposing as an alternative to evolution by natural selection?

      We have a ludicrously deep and complex explanation for how life evolved. It is supported in thousands of different ways by thousands of little(and not so little) pieces that fit together. We understand the processes underlying it on a variety of different levels of granularity.

      …What is your alternative to this framework?

      NB: If you’re operating in good faith then it will be a genuine alternative, not hand-waving. It won’t do to pull the ‘I’m just asking questions’ duck-and-cover routine.

    • Murali
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      ‘Which brings me to my second question: How could “Darwinism”—whatever that is— ever be falsified?’

      Would you consider fossils of human remains from 350 million years ago a falsification?

    • Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I have a long list of observations that would falsify aspects of Darwinism in my office, and I’ll post it here tomorrow, but I have very little hope that it will change your mind. If you’re making an honest criticism, then you have to offer an honest alternatie, and you’ve notably failed to do that.

      What do you want falsified? Natural selection as the engine of “designoid” features? Stay tuned till tomorrow.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      Jordan 01:

      what counts as “Darwinism” any more? There are tons of internecine fights even among evolutionary biologists. For instance, E.O Wilson and Richard Dawkins have had a relatively high-profile (by scientist standards) spat over group vs. kin selection. Since they disagree about the nitty-gritty of the selection process, in what sense are they (or are they not) both “Darwinists,” and what makes them so or not so?

      They are both Darwinists! All these disputes still operate within the framework of…

      [1] Undirected genetic variation [by whatever natural means] being sieved by

      [2] Natural selection – selection can be rather absurd chance, such as a tiny part of the population by accident being cut off on an island & surviving a catastrophe while the main population dies – by any measure this is a step back as the smaller population will exaggerate the proportion & success of alleles that otherwise would have been drowned in the main pop.

      What you are really asking is “at what LEVEL does selection take place?” The gene? The organism? The tribe? – all three options [& others] are STILL Darwinism & IF you’d read a couple of pop. books you would know this already.

      Jordan 02:

      It can’t be *just* because they both incorporate common ancestry and descent with modification, because even theories that posit that evolution is “directed” in some way, such as Nagel’s (rather dubious, to my view) “natural teleology” incorporates that as well. What are the specific features about “Darwinism” *that are uncontroversial even among evolutionary biologists* that distinguish it from rival theories? That is, what makes any given theory unequivocally non-Darwinian?

      This is ALREADY covered above in my initial reply to you where I reference Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker. It is ONLY Darwinism that can explain the sub par aspects in the ‘design’ of organisms.

      As to what makes a rival theory non-Darwinian? This is a strange question suggestion you haven’t got the two principle mechanisms of the Darwinian process in your head – if both processes aren’t in action & evolution occurs then you have non-Darwinian evolution. It is covered in Nagel’s book which you have read more than once you say, it is in JAC’s two books on Evolution, it is in every book by Dawkins.

      Jordan 03:

      I fail to see the relevance of Nagel, or anybody else, not having a fully-worked out theory to replace Darwinism is relevant to his arguments

      This “Nagle […] not having a fully-worked out theory” is bullshit Jordan. Nagle doesn’t have even the beginnings of a theory that replaces Darwinism that’s the size of the problem facing critics of Darwinism, there is absolutely no other replacement theory anywhere in the scientific literature. None.

      For example Richard Dawkins said years ago that there may be other planets where Darwinism has taken a different path – where organisms can consciously design their offspring naturally, or life experience is passed on as per Lamarckian inheritance such that the sons/daughters of blacksmiths are born with greater upper body strength [yes I know], BUT not on Earth is this true today except for it being kind of true in the horizontal transfer of genes in various microbes.

      You don’t get respect here by your bit of spin where you suggest Nagel doesn’t have a “fully worked out theory” – that is a form of mealy mouthed lie because it suggests Nagel might have the outlines of a theory – when he actually has squat.

      Furthermore Nagel’s argument is a form of God Of The Gaps – he perceives holes in Darwinism, but those holes are his ignorance rather than valid scholarship. To put it simply Nagel doesn’t grok Darwinian [or neo-Darwinian] evolutionary theory.

      Jordan 04:

      Did not Einstein have to posit the existence of space-time to even formulate testable predictions of General Relativity? At some point in the process, he must have just had a series of inchoate intuitions about the inadequacy of Newtonian physics. Would “Okay, maybe you’ve made some points, but you got anything to replace Newton, huh?” been an adequate retort?

      Now you misrepresent Einstein in various ways!

      [1] You mean Einstein’s Special Relativity of 1905 not his General Relativity of 1907 onwards – it was in his 1905 paper that space-time was first implied.

      [2] And he didn’t have to have “inchoate intuitions about the inadequacy of Newtonian physics” because he was standing on the shoulders of dozens of physicists who had already figured out that Newton’s formulation was inadequate. The Michelson–Morley experiment two decades before had shown there was no absolute space & time reference frame [aether] & it was already generally accepted that light had an invariable speed in a vacuum – before Einstein.

      Your comparison of Einstein’s stunning insight that extended & replaced the Newtonian world view with some unspecified replacement [or extension of] Darwinism is facile because it isn’t historically true! It wasn’t Einstein who put Newtonian physics into doubt – that had happened already before Einstein was a twinkle in his daddies eye. Why posit fake history in support of your poor argument Jordan?

      Jordan 05:

      I suppose a retort here could be Einstein had made observations that proved Newtonian physics were flawed

      No. Einstein didn’t do any observations at all. Where do you read your science history?

      Jordan 06:

      but this is precisely where Nagel’s book shines, in my opinion. I am especially fond of this sentence: “Creatures such as us do not just *happen* to be conscious. No theory that fails to explain consciousness as something to be expected can even aspire to the outline of completeness.” His treatment of the deficiencies of the Darwinian model to the existence of consciousness, cognition, and value are all compelling to me, even if what he surmises as a replacement (“natural teleology”) is pretty ridiculous, in my opinion. But, again, I don’t see how this in any way obviates the force of the *negative* part of his argument against Darwinism.

      This is a poor argument by Nagel & by you – it is poor because it is based on a false assumption. You both see reductionist Darwinism talking of organisms being merely the vehicles for genes [which they are BTW] & you take from this that Darwinists have not addressed consciousness & “it from bit” & values. This is ignorance pure & simple from both of you – you could both start with Dennett.

      Jordan 07:

      what about Coyne’s posts about Nagel’s book am I supposed to find compelling? That within one sentence he sneers at as “Sophisticated Theology” even though Nagel states within the first few pages that he is “not just unreceptive to but strongly averse to” theism?

      You’ve just misrepresented JAC’s commentary in the 2012 post that I linked. Jerry writes: “I am eager to read [Cosmos & Mind], but haven’t yet had a chance because I’m travelling and reading Sophisticated Theology™ (this book may qualify in that genre).

      Jerry doesn’t claim there that Nagel’s book is theology sophisticated or otherwise. In 2012 Jerry was reading & taking notes from a LOT of theology books in preparation for writing his Faith versus Fact [2015] book.

      Jordan 08:

      Coyne knows that, but at the end nevertheless wonders, “Does Thomas Nagel secretly want to go to church?”

      It rather reminds me of an anecdote from Dan Barker’s excellent memoir “Godless,” where, when one of his former colleagues heard that he had left Christianity, spontaneously asked “But isn’t Dan afraid of hell?” Barker had discarded his colleagues’ former categories of analysis; Nagel and others have done the same with respect to evolutionary biology. Of course they might turn out to be completely wrong on the merits, in the end, but implicit in Coyne’s remark is the idea that it’s, in principle, *impossible* to not believe in Darwinism.

      You’ve just misrepresented JAC again. The remark you quote by JAC was in the first third of his post & were not nearly his full summation of his views on Nagel, but you claim effectively that JAC wonders “Does Thomas Nagle secretly want to go to church?” is the heart of his argument. JAC wrote this remark as an opening skirmish in a much longer exposition which you do not engage with here – that is telling – in the game of back-and-forth it is those with a weak or non-existent argument who go the tone trolling route – looking for offence in the words of those you’re countering so you can excuse yourself from the supply of facts & evidence. THAT is what you’ve done here! Here is what JAC wrote: “Nagel not only attacks evolution and materialism, but, after touting Stephen Meyer, now gives encomiums to the unctuous Alvin Plantinga! One wonders if Nagel is losing his critical abilities, or simply is plagued by a nagging desire to go to church”

      THEN the main body of what JAC has to say begins & you ignore it. Tone trolling 101.

      You are a dishonest, tricky interlocutor Jordan wearing the clothes of reasonableness & faux balance.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s one impressive rebuttal. I dare say, you’ve run the table.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted September 28, 2019 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

          Indeed! Thanks for the observation of fact – something unknown to Troll Jordan

          I’ve pocketed all of his balls. 🙂

          It is very hard work, but I’m enjoyed it this time – the brandy I’m sipping right now eases the pain I experience when I’m dealing with dishonesty.

          • rickflick
            Posted September 28, 2019 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

            It’s we honest folks that suffer…

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted September 29, 2019 at 6:04 am | Permalink

            Sometimes I’d swear you’re two or three people Michael. Don’t know how you do it.

            • rickflick
              Posted September 29, 2019 at 8:38 am | Permalink

              I believe Michael to be software running on a bank of supercomputers at hundred quadrillion FLOPS (floating-point operations per second). The brandy helps lubricate the gizmos inside and, since it is fully conscious, calms it’s nerves.

    • Roger
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      You just want Jesus to have created everything.

    • Roger
      Posted September 29, 2019 at 5:04 am | Permalink

      But that seems to miss the point—common ancestry and descent-with modification could both be true—indeed, they *are* true—without natural selection being the sole engine of change.

      You could say that about anything. Take any theory and ask how it could be falsified. And then when someone answers, say the answer misses the point because how do we know faeries aren’t doing stuff.

    • Posted September 29, 2019 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Here’s a list of observations that could falsify various aspects of “darwinism”, which I’ll construe as non-saltational evolutionary change, common ancestry, splitting of lineages, and natural selection as the cause of apparent design. List copyright ME:

      Things that would disprove evolution

      Adaptations in one species that would favor only members of another species

      Fossils out of place

      Altruism in nonsocial groups without memory (species selection)

      Pervasive lack of genetic variation

      Adaptations that would favor one species at expense of other

      Fossils in the wrong place (e.g. mammals in the Devonian)

      Adaptations that could not have evolved by a step-by-step
      process of ever-increasing fitness

      Attempts to reconstruct phylogenetic trees would meet with abject failure, especially when using DNA sequences and noncoding DNA

      • Murali
        Posted September 29, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        What is meant by ‘Fossils out of place’? I ask because you also have ‘Fossils in the wrong place’.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted September 29, 2019 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

          I think that would be, per Haldane, “rabbits in the Precambrian”…?

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted September 29, 2019 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          Oops

          Hubris got the better of me

  13. Posted September 28, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    On an adjacent note, given their fundamentalist nature I was wondering if these folks also believed that the sun and earth was only 1000’s of years old. If so, then this mornings’ Hili Dialogues included a post reminding us that it takes about 100,000 years for light produced from the core of the sun to reach its surface. I wonder what contortions they would use to explain that away!

    • Posted September 30, 2019 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      The beauty of contemporary science is that it finally fits together in outline – unlike Aristotle’s which doesn’t exactly – and the slight 17th century regress (where biology was hard to fit in, for example).

  14. James
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Seems like there’s more than one neurosurgeon, i.e. Ben Carson, and , of course, Egnor, who make assertive comments about religion and profess some kind of creationism concept.

  15. Vaal
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    “To account for change or causation or even existence itself, there must be Someone Who is unchanged, uncaused, and Who necessarily exists.”

    ^^^^
    Talk about a whopper of a non-sequitur!
    The “argument” as presented goes about talking of causes, then out of nowhere inserts Personhood in to the first cause.
    That the first cause must be a “Someone.”

    Which doesn’t appear in any of the previous premises, and for which no argument is provided.

    And this guy wants to talk about bad argumentation?

    But then Aquinas also makes a move like that too, arguing to a first cause and then saying ““to which everyone gives the name God.”

    Uh, not me. That’s a gratuitous assertion.

    (Aquinas does go on to try to infer god-like characteristics from the first cause, but he still starts with a non-sequitur).

    Egnor is following Aquinas to the claim God is Pure Act (not potential). But God is also claimed to be a creator God, not only in the monotheisms, but ID proposes a creator as well.

    But how could God move from “God” to “Creator Of This World” without having had the POTENTIAL (as yet actualized) to do so?
    And how was God “perfect” at the point He had unrealized potential?

    The whole “God is unchanging” and yet causes change thing has always been a conceptual mess – the theological/philosophical version of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too.
    (You just can not fit together this unmoved, unchanged First Cause with the God of the Bible who is constantly depicted as changing states through time – from satisfied to angry, from non-material to material, and constantly producing miraculous changes in time).

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Aquinas is one of the most overrated thinkers in human history.

      It’s a testament to the intellectual poverty of modern theology that it still holds him up as a great mind.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        +1000

      • Roger
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Wait he logically proved angels. That should count for something.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted September 29, 2019 at 1:39 am | Permalink

        Aquinas was a shitty used-car salesman. Sure, I kicked the tires, but I ain’t buying.

        Specifically, the 8th step of Aquinas’s second proof (“…therefore efficient causes do not extend ad infinitum into the past”) is nothing more nor less than a simple contradiction of the 4th: (“If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results [the effect]”).

        if we can have one “Uncaused Cause,” somebody explain to me again why we can’t have a million of them.

      • Posted September 30, 2019 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        I personally regard Aquinas as a great example of what happens to a genius who gets stuck with horribly wrong premisses.

        (Leibniz, one of my intellectual heroes, is the same way, but he at least had the courage to reinvent a lot of them!)

  16. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    “supposedly top critics (like Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins)” and “Coyne and Dawkins fall into neither category”
    Twice, you get listed before Dawkins! Keep up the good work Jerry! Clearly, you’ve done a great job irritating and upsetting idiots!

  17. Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s a classic example of them setting up a theory that logically can’t be true, like cell theory, and then setting god up as the only possible exception.

    Then again, it seems like they think atheists think god can’t exist, since who created him? When in reality that objection is only there to refute first cause arguments (god could exist, but it doesn’t solve any questions).

  18. Posted September 28, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I can’t understand why you, Jerry, waste time arguing with these dumbos. You can’t argue with faith – belief without evidence, so why even try, thereby according them, by implication, with some intellectual standing? You wouldn’t waste time arguing with a brick wall, would you?

    • eric
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      I can’t understand why you, Jerry, waste time arguing with these dumbos.

      Egnor’s claims seem to me to be the reverse. He’s intentionally name dropping in his posts and arguments, probably for the purposes of getting the free advertising that comes with a response.

    • Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      I argue because it’s fun and because I might sway a few open-minded people. Would you prefer that I watch mindless television shows.

      Please afford me the luxury of doing what I want rather than what you want me to do.

  19. yazikus
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Unrelated to the post- but I just returned from helping a friend file a few years of back taxes. After perusing their books, I happily noticed none other than our host’s WEiT on the shelf.

  20. Roger
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Won’t look up the refutations. One could call that willfully egnorant.

  21. Posted September 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I just want to know the technique, the process, that the supposed super being used in ‘creating’ (manufacturing?) the cosmos. How would one go about that? A method that doesn’t involve invoking magic. And tragic, endlessly recursive, unsupported ad hoc arguments.

    That’d be a start.

    rz

    • Vita206
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Re: Method of Creation

      As a Christian, Egnor believes in a Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). So, it’s obvious that the causal mechanism was by COMMITTEE. As we know, anything done by ‘committee’ is rather chaotic. Maybe this where ‘chaos theory’ comes into play. 🙂

  22. Roo
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I am one of the people made uneasy by the ‘uncaused caused’ argument, because it seems to me that any rebuttal to this argument is also a rebuttal to determinism in general (and I do believe in determinism.)

    That said, I think the most logical explanation for this is Buddhism’s “emptiness” which, so far as I can tell, has its closest correlate for the layperson in the concept of “math”. To my mind this satisfies all the needed conditions relatively well (math doesn’t come into existence or end at any particular point, it always just ‘is’; at the most basic level we are, according to quantum physics, made up more of potentialities than actual ‘stuff’; math is not contradictory to determinism in that once an equation has begun, other elements of said equation logically have to follow, etc.), albeit with some mystical undertones (time and space would likely be somewhat illusory if this were the case – not, perhaps, for someone “living in a particular equation” where, again, certain relationships would be locked in once said equation began, but from a more ultimate perspective).

    That gets you so far as vague mystical leanings or the weirder aspects of things like physics, however. If that is what people like Egnor mean by “God”, then to my mind his disagreement with many atheists is simply a semantic dispute. I have a feeling this is not precisely what he means, however. At the very least, people of a spiritual persuasion tend to think (as I do) that the universe is not simply made of something ethereal such as ’emptiness’, but that it is possible for individual sentient minds to learn how to interface with this foundational aspect of the universe to experience more peace, insight, wellbeing, etc. I think this proposition is important, as people don’t tend to say you can find inner peace by contemplating atoms, or calculus, or quarks, for example, making this particular topic unique. And I think that people who use the term “God” likely have something a step beyond even that in mind (because Egnor supports intelligent design, I assume it involves agency rather than something like ‘pure being’,) and how they make that leap is unclear to me. (I made my leap into a vaguely mystic interpretation, and still do, based on subjective experience – I realize that’s not accepted as evidence by most here, just adding it for the sake of explanation.)

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      That gets you so far as vague mystical leanings or the weirder aspects of things like physics, however. If that is what people like Egnor mean by “God”, then to my mind his disagreement with many atheists is simply a semantic dispute.

      Michael Egnor’s faulty reasoning indicates it’s much more than a semantic dispute.

    • Posted September 29, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      I am one of the people made uneasy by the ‘uncaused caused’ argument, because it seems to me that any rebuttal to this argument is also a rebuttal to determinism in general (and I do believe in determinism.)

      There are several different ways to understand “determinism” however, and the physicists’ understanding of causality and determinism is very different from most people’s intuitive understanding. That’s where Jerry’s arguments about free will go wrong, by the way – but that’s another topic.

      • Roo
        Posted September 29, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Sorry to be contrarian, but I think the issue with free will is that it is semantically incoherent, and there is no conceptual criteria to distinguish this proposed concept from randomness (other than the subjective sense of free will).

        Regarding a first cause for the universe – it seems to me that most proposed solutions to this conundrum call for a suspension of determinism in the specific case of ‘the universe’ or ‘all universes’ or ‘whatever preceded the universe’, or however you want to define it. Unless I am misunderstanding, however, there is not a clear explanation as to why those arguments should only apply to the formation of the universe, meaning – again, unless I’m misunderstanding – that they could just as easily be applied to miracles. You could, for example, describe a virgin birth in terms of a baby simply appearing in a womb in a non-deterministic way, using pretty much the same arguments.

        This is why I think the more compelling (to my mind) argument for “first cause” is that time is not ultimately linear, meaning we don’t have to worry about falling off the timeline of causation the way that people used to worry about falling off the end of the earth. It does bring in some mystic-y conclusions – all of time actually exists in this very moment, etc. – but as I am a mystic-y type myself, I have no issue with that, ha ha. (There may be more scientific explanations of time that also describe a nonlinear model, I’m not sure.)

        • Posted September 29, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

          Free will isn’t random, because it involves people doing what is from their perspective worth doing. Which is usually consistent and only occasionally if ever random. But a lot of people *think* it has to be random, because they listened to philosophers and thelogians who use intuitive “principles” about causality to “show” that causality precludes free will.

          On linear/nonlinear time: the general theory of relativity allows for “closed timelike curves” which would have circular time lines, but no known case, especially not our part of the universe, is like that. I think a better response is, just like on the free will topic, reject intuitive ideas about causality and substitute scientific ones instead. And the “problem” goes away.

          • Posted September 29, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

            Where do Jerry’s arguments about free will go wrong ? You seem to know a lot

          • Posted September 29, 2019 at 10:36 am | Permalink

            Sorry but I fear you don’t know my own arguments, much less making coherent ones of your own. What do you mean by saying most people think free will is “random”, and what is the evidence that they think it is?

            The scientific arguments of causality show that matter, including our brain, obeys the laws of physics, which means that it’s naturalistic and either deterministic or, if behavior is at all affected by quantum phenomena (I doubt that), partly indeterministic, but in NO WAY can humans override the laws of physics with their will.

            Read some Sean Carroll, who doesn’t accept libertarian free will. Because there’s no sign that, despite claiming that my own rejection of free will has “gone wrong”, you’ve read my position on the issue.

            As for your claim about what people believe, a survey of people from four countries has shown that between 65% and 85% of people accept libertarian free will; that people could have behaved otherwise in absolutely identical circumstances.

            • Posted September 29, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

              What I meant by “people think it has to be random” is that they think it has to be outside the scope of any deterministic laws of nature. Sorry, “random” was not the greatest word, but I was responding to roo’s use of “random” in “there is no way to distinguish this proposed concept from randomness (other than the subjective sense of free will)”.

              I think the way to get at people’s core definition of a concept is not merely to survey their beliefs, but also to ask *why* they believe what they do. If they can give a *further reason* to connect free will to absence of causality, it means absence of causality is not the most fundamental point.

              • Roo
                Posted September 29, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                To clarify, what I meant by indistinguishable from randomness is – even if you could do the perfect experiment and somehow ‘rewind the tape’, going back in time and repeating the exact same scenario twice, three times, four times, etc. – and even if you did in fact get different results each time for reasons that could not be explained by cause and effect (say every single variable was exactly the same) – then that still would not prove free will, to my mind, because you those differences could still be attributed to random fluctuations.

                The problem with the idea of free will, in my opinion, is that if such a thing existed, there would be no known way to measure it or test for it. There is no external measure that we could identify as showing ‘free will’ that would be distinguishable from randomness. Any evidence of this phenomenon is 100% subjective, based on one having the experience of free will.

                I may sound hypocritical in that I accept subjective evidence in the case of the ‘spiritual’. To my mind, however, this is different in that it is at least conceivable, under some circumstances (even if not yet possible,) that any proposition about spirituality could in theory be tested for. If consciousness survives death, for example – it is not hard to envision an experiment that could prove such a thing, even if we are lightyears away from it. I cannot, however, think of any experiment under any circumstances that would demonstrate free will. Even if you showed that individual agents can conjure up the will to do something with no prior causes, you would have no justification in saying this represents ‘free will’ vs. ‘a random thing that popped into their head without cause’. It is simply not observable from the outside in any way shape or form, that I can tell.

              • Posted September 29, 2019 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

                Yes, that’s what I thought you meant about randomness. But I’m glad you clarified it anyway. And when I said “people think free will has to be random” I was (mis)using “random” as shorthand for exactly this kind of thing, which (I agree) is indistinguishable from randomness.

  23. Jimbo
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    If there is one thing that annoys me most about the religious, it is how they resort to banal syllogisms or contradictions thinking they’re profound. Deepities indeed. “God is the Unmoved Mover, the Uncaused Cause, the Necessary Existence.”
    What is this shit? Let me give it a go.

    God is the Unmade Maker, the Non-Fictional Fiction, the Impotent Omnipotent without whom we would find ourselves exactly where we are now.

    • Murali
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

      The problem seems to be that humans, having facility in language, construct nonsensical statements and spend centuries arguing about them — or preaching them.

      To some people who did not grow up in the God culture, all this seems ridiculously vacuous. Some of them can’t even get to become atheists because it is unclear what the hell it is they are not supposed to believe in. I suppose I am an atheist in the absence-of-belief sense.

      Formulating sensible questions is important to scientific progress. However, it is not well appreciated in religious discourse.

      A theistic explanation is almost as bad as inventing a word and calling it an explanation.

      • rickflick
        Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        “A theistic explanation is almost as bad as inventing a word and calling it an explanation”

        I’ll keep that handy for reuse.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      without whom we would find ourselves exactly where we are now.

      That’s about it.

    • Urn
      Posted September 29, 2019 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      Honestly Jimbo, can i steal that ENTIRE post?
      because that shit is GOLD!!

      • Jimbo
        Posted September 29, 2019 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        You bet!
        Thank you buddy. Just some word play to make fellow readers chuckle…a little levity to cut through the inanity.

  24. Posted September 28, 2019 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Coyne asserts with certainty that the apparent designs in nature (i.e. life)came about by an unintelligent designer – random mutations + natural selection + time. The evidence is claimed to be such as the fossil record.

    The ID advocate asserts with certainty that the actual design in nature (i.e. life( came about by an intelligent designer – the mechanisms remain undefined. The evidence is claimed to include the incredible complexity of life at all levels and the infinitesimally small probability that even the simplest cell could have occurred by naturalistic Darwinian methods.

    Coyne and other investigators, after decades of work, cannot explain how a fruit fly can into existence except by the “just so” stories of natural selection. Dawkins cannot explain the emergence of life except with the use of paper mache mountains, mirrors and light bulbs as well as well crafter words. As a life long software developer of very complex interconnected systems, I can explain how very complex systems came into existence: visionaries with the ideas + designers + hardware engineers + software engineers + much very hard work. The mutation and selection aspects of systems development comes about through debugging, failed experiments, new user requirements and more.

    Apparent design is actual design in life and should be investigated as such.

    • Posted September 29, 2019 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      And you, Mr. Creationist (I’ve checked your blog) have a “just so” story of Christian apologetics. What evidence do you have that there is a God, much less a Christian one? The God you tout is pretty lame, isn’t he, allowing gradual evolution of species, including Homo, but doing it not by creating them, but by causing just the right mutations at just the right times. What a lame-o he must be!

      What’s the evidence for your Christian Designer? You can’t just say that things look designed and you can’t imagine that evolution could do it. That’s not a convincing strategy. So do you have any evidence for a Christian Designer beyond your own incredulity?

      I didn’t think so.

      We have the fossils. We win.

      You got nothing except blind faith.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 29, 2019 at 6:11 am | Permalink

      You were good in The Hot Spot and Miami Vice, so it’s sad to see you turn to creationism.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted September 29, 2019 at 6:57 am | Permalink

      Your argument is William Paley’s watchmaker argument with software substituted for the watch. However, in this case, it is an argument from one’s own employment – wouldn’t the universe just have to work like the things one deals with in their own employment?

      “Apparent design is actual design in life and should be investigated as such.”

      I think that was already done and they came up with natural selection. They considered things like thermodynamics, self-assembly, and such.

    • Mike Anderson
      Posted September 29, 2019 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Coyne asserts with certainty that the apparent designs in nature (i.e. life)came about by an unintelligent designer – random mutations + natural selection + time. The evidence is claimed to be such as the fossil record.

      Evolution has been directly observed as well.

  25. A C Harper
    Posted September 29, 2019 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    Coming at it from a different angle, Engor and Klinghoffer argue that they are cleverer than Coyne and Dawkins and therefore possess true knowledge.

    How do they know that there are not cleverer people than themselves who therefore possess ‘truer knowledge’?

    Dunning Kruger effect cough?

  26. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 29, 2019 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The whole strategy of the uncaused cause appears to be an elaborate way to avoid criticism. A way to keep oneself in their own isolation chamber, to insulate the thinking process from challenge, from conflict, etc. Scientology posits a “suppressive person” that detracts from one’s own good feelings- I think this person also is most likely to criticize the religion itself, and, as such, is rationalized to be a “suppressive”.

  27. YF
    Posted September 29, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    A main problem with the Cosmological Argument is special pleading. God is made arbitrarily exempt from the argument’s assumptions.

    “a thing may not be the cause of its own change. Everything that is changed is changed by another.” Therefore, God must be changed by another. This leads to an infinite regress of ‘movers’. Did God change? Of course he did- he supposedly willed the universe into existence.

    And if God is arbitrarily considered not a ‘thing’, then he is nothing. Not exactly the conclusion that a theist would want!

    And even if there must be a ‘Prime Mover’, on what grounds should we conclude that it is a person, and one who listens to prayers, loves you, condemns you to hell. performs miracles, etc.?

  28. KD
    Posted September 29, 2019 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    What is frustrating about these discussions is that Aquinas’s arguments are logically valid, but they presuppose an Aristotelian philosophy of nature which was standard for all educated people in Western Christendom from the 12th century to the 14th century, but had long since gone out of fashion by the 16th century(coincident with the rise of the scientific method and perhaps perspective in painting).

    I don’t want to speak for Dr. Coyne, but I don’t think he is going to buy into an Aristotelian natural philosophy, and so he is never going to accept the premises of any of these arguments. [The theory of evolution’s success has a lot to do with why Deism mostly passed out of fashion, and most of the IDer’s are closer to 18th century Deists, rather than 13th century Thomists.]

    In other words, in terms of apologetics, you would have to persuade someone that your philosophy of nature was correct–independent of religion–before they are going to be persuaded by your argument. . . and you are swimming against four centuries of philosophy critical of Thomism. I suppose it is possible that fashions will change, but you are fighting an uphill battle.

    Further, Dr. Coyne is correct that accepting any of the Five Ways is not going to commit you to an Abrahamic Faith. The real work of Aquinas’s Summa Theologica was not to prove God (which was practically self-evident to an educated, e.g. Aristotelian, person of the day) but to establish a rational basis for the Catholic Christian faith of that time (presupposing Aristotle as all right-thinking people did). The “God” proofs are in the very beginning, but most of the content concerns the second issue. It’s actually a pretty amazing and ambitious intellectual endeavor in critical thinking, despite whatever reservations one may have about Aristotle or Catholicism.

  29. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted September 30, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    It shows that Egnor is a neurosurgeon. If Egnor was a neuroscientist he would know that cause-effect are models that are useful in simpler systems while physics labor under causality. And we have known that for over a century now!

    Which segues into this:

    the claim that the universe had to have an external cause, or that there had to be a first cause or a beginning of everything,

    The causal physics of general relativity has, if applicable, no external cause. A general relativistic universe is causally closed. Such a universe has its light cones propagate internally from the past as it describes all of spacetime.

    And Planck data release 2018 showed robustly that our universe is general relativistic.

    Superstitious people have no business declaring on the nature of nature. They know nothing about nature’s nature and their even apriori unlikely ideas are furthermore now known to be wrong.

  30. Posted October 2, 2019 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Good ol’ motte-and-bailey: Starring the uncaused cause as the easily defensible motte and the Divine Intelligent Mutagen as the economically productive bailey.

    -Ryan


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