Theism versus Evolution

I say that evolution is an improbable theory in light of Holmes’s dictum that "when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."  Excluding god as impossible leaves us with the improbable but true theory of evolution.  Fail to exclude god and evolution is nothing but an improbable theory.

Theism implies some form of creationism but not necessarily the ‘on the 7th day he rested’ version.   One could of course so weaken theism as to make it consistent with anything (e.g. deism) but in practice this is amounts to atheism or agnosticism.  Any theism worth its name, i.e. postulating a god that works his or her ways in the world today is bound to be inconsistent with evolution.  It makes no sense to assume a god that intervenes to answer prayer but who never has done any genetic engineering.

Comments

Or you could posit evolution as the mechanism which God put in place to accomplish creation.

Or you could say the heck with it all and recognize that creation is a theory of *how life got here*, and evolution is a theory of *what happened to it once it did*, so there's really no necessary contradiction.

Let's set aside the 'watch lying in the forest' argument for something much less esoteric. How about islands? Some islands have pretty typical assortments of continental terrestrial animals and no unique species whereas other islands are (or were) missing many, many continental animals and have (or did have) many, many unique species found only there.

The question is why? Even if you KNOW that God exists, it makes no sense--why would God have populated the world's islands in such a strange, haphazard way? All one can say is, "It's yet another mystery that man is not meant to understand, amen".

But if you also believe in evolution and and old world, then it's no mystery at all. Some islands are continental shelf islands. During the last ice age when much water was tied up in ice and water levels were lower, those islands were connected to continents, and animals wandered back and forth freely until they were cut off by rising waters. Since this happened only thousands of years ago, there has not been time for unique island species to evolve since then.

But other islands are deep sea islands formed in place by volcanic activity. They were never connected to continents, so the only species there are ones that made it by flying (birds, insects), or floating on rafts of branches (animals that can survive for long periods with little nutrition--tortoises, for example), or those that were later introduced by man. These 'founder populations' then underwent radiant evolution to produce unique species and fill all the empty niches. This takes considerable, time, of course, so older volcanic islands (like the Hawaiian islands) have more unique species than newer ones.

Now why wouldn't even somebody who believed in God still prefer such a straightforward, sensible explanation to "It's just a mystery?"

Evolution via natural selection is not a theory. It is a fact. We have solid evidence that it has occurred. While there are gaps in the fossil record here and there for various species, humans included, there is nonetheless plenty of evidence of evolution.

Andromeda: Evolution via natural selection provides for the creation of life as well as what happened once it "got here." As mentioned above, what happened after that is fact, not theory. We can't show for sure that life started up on its own, so that much is theory. Even so, the best evidence we have suggests it.

Creationist justification of beliefs in light of (or in spite of) scientific evidince strikes me as rationalization.

"and there are many people who claim to know that god(s) exists"

I could claim to know that a meteor will strike the earth ending all life in the year 3459. Like the people you mention, I really have no evidence, and have no way to prove or disprove it in a timeframe that matters to anyone now living. Thus, regardless of what they may think or claim to know, there is no place for a 'conclusion' that life was created by a divine maker. As Shirley said, if you can pick your premise you can effectively pick your conclusions. In reality, you can't always pick the premise. This is one of those cases.

"The night is caused by a giant dragon that eats the world and spits it out every morning
the morning. Do you want me to believe that the world is round? That it spins?
That there is an invisible thing called gravity ? That the suns burns?? That the universe expands???
Come on!! Sorry, Mr. Smart, it is much easier to believe in the the Dragon.
I believe in the Dragon!!!"

Is his position scientific??

Evolutionists don't like this argument because they know that if the public is forced to choose between evolution and god they will choose god every time.

This seems so true I often wonder how the rest of the world got so atheistic. I wonder what a worldwide survey would say on creation vs evolution? Do the Hindus care?

I'd add a caveat to the Mr. Tabarrok's original proposition to address some of the evolutionary arguments made here: In the absence of much knowledge of earth sciences (such as biology and geology), then belief in a god makes creationism a logical conclusion. However, as pointed out above, once you study it, the god hypothesis doesn't fit nearly as well to the available evidence.

I suspect that creationists fear that the converse is true: acceptance of the reality of evolution leads to the disbelief in a god as traditionally defined. While it is possible to believe in a god and evolution simultaneously, the kinds of gods described in Middle Eastern-derived religions are all-powerful and all-knowing, and hence the state of the world makes no sense from the perspective of someone trying to understand how an omnipotent and omniscient being would have let it become this way.

Uhm, I'm a theist that believes in evolution and creationism. Why couldn't a god of some sort have set into motion the rules by which our section of the universe formed and evolved such that our current state is a combination of those set rules and the chaos(randomness) that then ensued? This is the problem with hardcore evolutionists and fundamentalist religious views, they refuse to see a middle point because they fear that might weaken their personal view. It in fact is the perfect median. God creates the universe, sets up the super-intricate laws of the universe (hey, we still haven't figured out all the rules!), possibly even giving a little nudge to the formation of carbon based life forms, and then lets chaos take it from there. I mean, if god really did make us in his image, he's either not the great holy being we think he is or theres a deeper meaning to that, and by his image, what is really meant is his grand design. I guess thats the other fallacy, that we're the perfect animal, which we are most definitely not, there is much improvement that could be made.

Some commenters cite the fact that we are certain of the existance of DNA mutations and of natural selection. I don't think that this is where the disconnect between theists and atheists lies. Rather, those arguments presuppose the existance of an organism that already has DNA to mutate, and is already capable of reproduction. This is the weakest link in the theory, and Alex is right to say that if one believes in God/god/gods, it is only reasonable to believe that He/she/they created at least the first organism.

While the evidence for natural selection is solid, I would say that the evidence for the wider theory of naturalistic origins is only weakly plausible on its own. It is the presupposition that God does not exist that makes it attractive to those who believe in it.

As previously stated, it is entirely possible to believe in both evolution and God(s). This is great for many people: it is merely two sides of our personalities getting what they want. The logic and reason based half gets some needed theoretical (probably realistic) history of 'life'. While the insecure hope based side of our mind gets to keep believing that some all-knowing and all-seeing parental figure is in the sky watching over all of us.

Its win-win for those of us who refuse to believe that death is the end of our individual being.

I think the real problem with this post is that the definition of God is much to amorphous.
We need a real definition of "God", and then a classification of the differnet kinds -- what is the justification for our knowledge about "God", under the different definitions -- revealed, the bible, the Koran, intuition, logic? Then we can get somewhere.

As the religious scientist Miller details in his excellent "Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution"...

If you don't accept evolution then you have to believe that God (or maybe Satan?) went to a awful lot of work to create a world exactly like one evolution would have made.

Let's face, it "God" could have created the world yesterday, and us with all of our memories, and childhood pictures and films. But why would a loving god do that? I think a religious person takes the rings inside a tree as evidence that the tree has been living for the number of years evidenced by the rings. Otherwise God is lying to us.

I think a consistent position (though I'm an atheist) is to believe that God wrote the book of Earth, and humans wrote the bible. If you want to know God's word, cut into the trees and see what He says.

The problem here is that creationism is inherently self-contradictory: The main value in creationism, to the creationists, is that it supports a literal interpretation of the Bible, but to do so, we need to accept the idea that God would do deliberately deceptive things, like placing light from stars more than 6000 light years aways into the universe as if those stars were more than 6000 light years away.

The reason why I, as a Christian, accept evolution over Christianity is not because evolution denies God, but because creationism reduces Christianity to an absurdity.

"If we assueme that God exists then some form of creationism follows as a rational deduction."

As an economist (and decision-theorist), you should think again about this inference. For mere mortals who have constraints and preferences, it is easy to observe choice outcomes and say whether they can be explained as the rational will of the chooser. But God has no constraints. And therefore God can choose his own preferences. How does he decide?

On the contrary, when one assumes that God exists and therefore that everything else that exists was the result of God's rational will, explaining *anything* becomes infinitely more difficult.

'"It makes no sense to assume a god that intervenes to answer prayer but who never has done any genetic engineering." Why not? Maybe god doesn't bother with anything smaller than galaxies.'

Jeff's argument seems a little strange in context, but it's consistent, assuming that prayers are very large.

"...given the premise that god(s) exists creationism is scientific."

Umm, no. Creationism may be an _explanatation_, but it is NOT scientific:

In science, a body of descriptions of knowledge is usually only called a theory once it has a firm empirical basis, i.e., it

1. is consistent with pre-existing theory to the extent that the pre-existing theory was experimentally verified, though it will often show pre-existing theory to be wrong in an exact sense,
2. is supported by many strands of evidence rather than a single foundation, ensuring that it probably is a good approximation if not totally correct,
3. has survived many critical real world tests that could have proven it false,
4. makes predictions that might someday be used to disprove the theory, and
5. is the best known explanation, in the sense of Occam's Razor, of the infinite variety of alternative explanations for the same data.

(from the wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory)

Given the existence of a God, Creationism still only passes test #1 and 5 (arguably).

Omnibus post, addressing lots of things:

1. Phrasing: Perhaps it is more careful and correct to say that God is not required by evolution that that the standard is to suggest his absence. There is nothing in evolution, at least as far as I've found, that prohibits us from saying: look at God's magnificent creation of Evolution...any more than: look at God's creation of the Market.

2. While it is perhaps true that the theist has little reason to go looking for natural selection as a mechanism for how life got here, as opposed to the atheist, that has much less impact on once-theorized visions of how we got here. Just as lighning from Zeus, and plagues as punishment give us less reason to pursue a why/how approach than does the theory that things are natural.

3. Once Evolution by natural selection is posited, then the evidence quickly becomes unreasonably weighted...and given three positions available: God did it without evolution. Evolution did it without God. God made evolution do it (by setting initial conditions just right)...all three of them are faith-based statements...but while #1 is untenable given evidence, 2 and 3 are equally believable.

4. The verb "to know" is unfortunately not used in the same way throughout discourse, and Alex's claim that Theists "know" that God exists is much much trickier to argue against than the above posters have given credit to. Knowledge is a claim about standards of evidence, and certainty and truth. Theists have (not monolithically, of course) such claims...and God rests near the root of their certainty-context...and they have constructed an evidence-standard around that. It is not your evidence-standard...but pushing your evidence standard as a universal claim about how others ought to use the word "know" is a but pushy.

5. The claim that God created the world is (given assumptions) a scientific hypothesis is not fair unless using scientific hypothesis very very loosely. Rather...it explains the observed phenomena, without possibility of real review, disproof, or further examination of the mechanism. Not quite science, but it is an explanation.

"Fail to exclude god and evolution is nothing but an improbable theory."

Accepting Alex's premises, it is a shallow understanding of the *process* of evolution by natural selection to call it an improbable theory. It is not an intuitive theory, for sure - but it is actually *highly probable*, for instance, that organisms on our planet (awash with all sorts of electromagnetic radiaition) would evolve eyes (sensors that detect an extremely useful range of light). Eyes of some sort have evolved independently multiple times on this planet, and it is *highly probable* that we'll find organsisms with eyes on any other life-bearing planet. They're just too darn useful. And besides some "forced moves in design space" (as Dennett puts it), if you ran evolution over and over again, there would be all sorts of features and creatures that would never appear again (improbable features and creatures) - but it's highly probable that evolution will produce some other equally improbable organisms.

The mechanism of evolution by natural selection has highly probable outcomes. So I ask for a more thorough answer - discarding Holmes' rhetorical device, in what sense is evolution improbable?

Evolution "improbable"? It's funny to hear an economist say that. Evolution and free markets have something in common that is otherwise rare: they are both processes based on the seemingly random interactions of numerous individuals that turn out to be vastly smarter than any of those individuals.

Does theism imply that commodity prices are actually set by God? Is capitalism "improbable"?

Paul Krugman writes about the similarities:
http://www.pkarchive.org/theory/evolute.html

'Scholars have noted that belief in the theory of evolution requires as much (if not more) faith as is required of religionists. Given the possible origin of the theory, the many false hoods and speculations used to prop it up one can understand why.'

I sincerely hope that you are not drawing a comparison to creationism with this comment. Evolution itself may not be 100% solid, but to suggest that it is less logically sound than major religions is absurd. When logically (and usually literally) analyzing religions, a great sea of "faith" is needed to fill up all of the holes. Creationism is a classic example of filling in what we do not know with "God". Its easier than thinking.

The only thing that can be concluded from this post is that Dr Tabarrok doesn't understand the concept of scientific proof.

"I find your rational to be very well thought out except for the comment regarding the idea that "The scientific evidence for evolution is solid" when in reality there is more than a so-called missing link to make one concerned about absolute belief in evolution."

You know, I'll bet you don't even know what the whole controversy over the missing link is even about. Here's a hint though: it isn't a serious challenge or issue for evolutionary theory in the least.

"It might be noted that Darwinism in its raw form has been dismissed or gone through more metamorphoses that butterflies."

Not really. The only major thing Darwin got wrong was the nature of direct heredity, and he said as much himself. The basic idea was then later enhanced by the addition of population genetics, but nothing changed about the basic idea or mechanism. Even movements like punc eek didn't in the end change much about the mechanism or broad framework. So where are these massive changes on the order of catepillars to butterflies exactly?

"Scholars"

Which "scholars"?

"have noted that belief in the theory of evolution requires as much (if not more) faith as is required of religionists."

If evolution wasn't based on solid evidence of things like common descent, rates of morphological change, and so forth, it wouldn't be science. Faith has nothing to do with it. "Faith" is not the same thing as "the hard work required to become informed about the subject and the evidence."

"given the premise that god(s) exists creationism is scientific". Actually, logical. We can argue about this, but there should be some evidentiary claim in order for it to be called science.
The theist argument used to be in fact the inverse of this... The evidence for the existence of God was the enduring mystery of life. This is ever less mysterious... The locus of science in this Dr.Tabarrok's scheme (I know God, therefore I assume creationism) should therefore be the knowledge of God. I agree with the Prof. that most people would choose God over evolution, but I doubt that this in itself is evidence of anything scientific. People would choose God over a round earth that orbits the sun as well.
Lastly, I don't see how Prof. Tabarrok draws his final conclusion that believing in God means you should not believe in evolution. "If god(s) exists then evolution is almost certainly false, if not in every particular then surely in the grand claims of a undesigned nature". Should be rather "If god exists then evolution is improbable, but given that the explanatory power of evolution, god must not be given to tinkering substantially with the world set in motion." If you define a "real theist" to be one who believes in a god who plays with DNA, then this theism is indeed incompatible with evolution. But it is incompatible with science too.

You say "Evolutionists don't like this argument because they know that if the public is forced to choose between evolution and god they will choose god every time."
But, I think that is precisely the root of this artificially created problem, which should not be one about likes or dislikes.
My question to anyone: Why should the public be forced to choose between God and evolution in the first place?
Couldn't the theory of evolution, as the theory of Big Ban, or any other theory in science at large, be considered neutral regarding questions of Theism and faith?

4) Religious belief and science are not equilivalent. They are not equal. They are NOT compatible.

Both science and religion can be split into two sections.

The first is a collection of statements: doctrines and dogmas on the part of religion; theories, hypotheses, and bare facts on the part of science. Science's collection of statements doesn't necessarily contradict the collected statements of any particular religion -- it might, or it might not, depending on the religion in question. There's no fundamental incompatibility here.

The second is a method, an approach to the statements and the rest of the world. Science concerns itself with explaining the world we observe and interact with. It places observation and experiment over faith belief: no hypothesis or theory is sacred, conclusions are drawn from the data and must be reinterpreted in the light of new information, and the only true authority on the world is the world itself. It's characterized by logical, rational thought. Religion concerns itself with what people accept. It places faith and belief over observation and experiment: what is "correct" is predetermined, self-consistency (much less objective correctness) is held to be less important than tradition and accepted "truths", dogma (and its various personalizations) are the true authority, and so on. It's characterized by faith and "magical" thinking.

They don't describe different domains. They are not separate but equal methodologies. They're fundamentally conflicting.

I can't say as much about most religions, but Christianity contains a bit of wisdom relevant to the subject: you cannot serve two masters. Either you will love the one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other. It can be done as long as their commands are compatible, but as soon as they're not, you must choose who you really serve.

Despite the claims of certain well-intentioned scientists who are either trying to reconcile their own faith with the rigors of the scientific method or attempting not to turn away the pious with inconvenient truths, and despite the assertions of theologians and preachers who want to elevate their doctrines to the same level of respect that science and rationality were placed at, the two approaches are the two masters that must be chosen between.

Accept that, and choose.

"My question to anyone: Why should the public be forced to choose between God and evolution in the first place?
Couldn't the theory of evolution, as the theory of Big Ban, or any other theory in science at large, be considered neutral regarding questions of Theism and faith?"

It's not a question of choosing between God and evolution -- it's a question of choosing between faith and reason, religion and science.

As for why anyone should be forced to choose -- well, it's all the fault of this "reality" idea, isn't it? Who says there's an objective truth? People can believe whatever they like and still be right, and that's just a fact, and nothing anyone says can change it. }cD

Those bold in daring, will die:
Those bold in not daring will survive.
Of those two, either may benefit or harm.

Nature decides which is evil.
But who can know why?
Even the enlightened find this difficult.

The Tao in nature
Does not contend,
Yet skillfully triumphs.
Does not speak,
Yet skilfully responds,
Does not summon,
and yet attracts,
Does not hasten,
yet skilfully designs.

Nature's network is vast, so vast.
Its mesh is coarse, yet nothing slips through ...

One thing which stands out to me
is how coy any watchmaker evidently is.
It's easy to imagine how a totally
artificial world and its inhabitants could
look: for a modern take on it, see
science fiction like _Orphans in the Sky_,
while for older ideas see crystal-sphere-based
astronomy, or Dante; or try to work through
the implications of what kind of teeth or
sex organ or brain man might have if
he were a literal copy of a single
omniscient omnipotent God. Why leave the
world and its inhabitants
looking so spontaneous and undesigned
compared to those visions?

Also, in a designed world
there seems to be no reason for Darwin's
worldview to've leaped the high hurdles
it did, like Lord Kelvin's pre-radioactivity
argument that running out of fuel limited
the Earth and Sun to be much younger than
evolution requires. (Or the no-tuning
worldview in general, not just Darwin's
worldview: Newton quite sensibly thought
that the Solar System wanted tweaking
from the Creator in order to keep from
flying out of control, and it wasn't 'til
the twentieth century that mathematicians
like Kolmogorov finally worked out the
extremely arcane reasons that systems
of that sort can tend to be far more stable
than you -- or Newton -- would think.)
When designing a world where you're going
to do clever watchmaking and write a
Bible about it, why not let killer
arguments like that stand, instead of
arranging the Solar system to look basically
naturally stable, and setting up radioisotopes
and fusion reactors and so forth to run
the system long enough that it looks as
though it could've run Darwin's natural
selection?

So it seems to me that the faithful who have
faith in a watchmaker who could machine a
perfect atomic clock out of titanium are
matching that faith to a grove of trees
which seems to be a better sundial than
they would expect to arise by mere
chance. Logically that seems far iffier than
matching a pocketwatch to one's faith in
the existence of a watch-exporting village
two valleys over. I
don't mind much, except
when the faithful reproach
me for being blind to
the evidence of creation or guidance/tweaking
using language which suggests that I am
overlooking problems of the scale and clarity
of Newton's and Kelvin's, while often they
(as, e.g., Paul Johnson writing recently
against natural selection in _Forbes_) seem
sufficiently ignorant of the science and its
history that they are the ones ignoring
problems of such scale and clarity. IMHO
no problems of that clarity exist at this
time, although that could change as
science progresses. (Could life begin
randomly? How did nitrogenase evolve? Ask
me again when I understand better how to
synthesize a single cell, or design a working
enzyme.) Meanwhile, the huge problems from
past should not be forgotten, but
remembered by anyone who cares about how
science came to be so unbiblical
in its worldview).

I didn't know there was no formatting here. The first line is Alex's quote.

I think Dr. Tabarrok gets this one seriously wrong. He says, "Any theism worth its name, i.e. postulating a god that works his or her ways in the world today is bound to be inconsistent with evolution." By saying this, Dr. Tabarrok is slyly limiting the class of acceptable theisms. "It makes no sense to assume a god that intervenes to answer prayer but who never has done any genetic engineering." Here we see the crux of the matter: Dr. Tabarrok claims that any theism which does not include genetic engineering by a deity is unserious! This clearly begs the question.

Furthermore, Dr. Tabarrok does not confront any of the evidence supporting evolution. Instead, he asserts that it is "improbable", and, to support this, he quotes a fictional character by Arthur Conan Doyle. The primary evidence for evolution is the similarities between different species that would be far better explained by descent from a common ancestor and divergence through tiny changes. A common example is giraffes, who have seven bones in their neck where surely more bones would allow them to be more flexible.

Instead of rehashing the arguments for evolution, I ask that Dr. Tabarrok clarify what I think are the two gaping flaws in this post: he redefines "theism" so that only creationist theisms are allowable, and he brushes aside evidence in favor of evolution by simply asserting that the theory is "improbable". (What does "improbable" even mean, here?) I remain open to being convinced that theism should naturally imply evolution, but I hope Dr. Tabarrok will reciprocate by considering that his argument may simply be wrong.

So what's it tell me if I find a watch on my wrist?

It is certainly logically possible to say that God created the Universe and all its peculiarities 13 or so billion years ago and then let it unfold. Said, "I made it and its laws and I will now leave it alone." That would certainly be compatible with any scientific theory of evolution.

However, Christianity says that God has not done this. As reported in the Bible, he has interfered in human history numerous times. Even if one finds most of those reports non-credible, all Christians must believe that about 2,000 years ago, He sent his only begotten son so that we may have eternal life. Moreover, most Christianities promise that believers can have a personal relationship with God. God listens and answers (though he can be hard to hear). He cares. This is not a God who signed out 13 billion years ago.

Now, it is cetainly possible that God let the universe evolve for 12,999,996,000 years and then decided to become a God of history, guiding Abraham and Moses, sending Jesus, blinding Paul, and being available to all believers today. But that's not an idea that seems terribly consistent. That is how I interpret Tabarrok's statement, "It makes no sense to assume a god that intervenes to answer prayer but who never has done any genetic engineering."

And perhaps it is why Tabarrok makes what I think is his most controversial assertion, that believing in an absentee (or near-absentee) God "in practice ... amounts to atheism or agnosticism."

Josh and some others,

Creationists do not deny that some evolution occurs. What they do do is make a distinction between "micorevolution" and "macroevolution." The bacteria changes you saw in your AP Bio demonstration they would say are "microevolution." So would be resistence to antibiotics.

"Micoroevolution" is change within the kind. "Macroevolution" is change from one kind to another. As the creationist saying goes, "You can turn a dog into hundreds of different breeds. You can turn a cat into hundreds of breeds. But you can't turn a dog into a cat. Only God can do that."

(And, yes, I know, evolutionists don't say cats came from dogs. Cats came from pre-cats, dogs came from pre-dogs, and somewhere tens of millions of years ago, both pre-cats and pre-dogs had the same ancestor. Creationists would say that that not-a-cat-not-a-dog couldn't have been turned into either a cat or a dog without divine intervention.)

The concept of "kind" has no scientific meaning. For that matter, neither does the distinction between "macroevolution" and "microevolution". The differences between species are just accumulated genetic changes.

In short, that position is absolute lunacy.

In response to the middle-of-the-roaders:

ID or any other theory which fuse both evolution and theism seems to come to an impasse when we consider Occam's Razor. Simply put, why should we assume that God designed the natural selection that we observe in nature when we can simply assume that it occured naturally? Stick with the least number of assumptions and you'll get the best theory.

Barry P: "It's kind of sad to discover that people whose writings you previously respected turn out to be creationists."

Joe Viola: "Furthermore, Dr. Tabarrok does not confront any of the evidence supporting evolution. Instead, he asserts that it is "improbable""

Will the emotionally fragile and reading impaired stop accusing Alex of Creationism for Christsakes. He is obviously an atheist and evolution supporter. His argument was that **given the premise** God is a fact (learn to interpret a hypothetical folks), Creationism is true. This argument is completely wrong (for the definitive reasons I listed above), but given his own stated opinions that:

a) if a meaningful god existed evolution would be false

and

b) the scientific case for evolution is strong

The only conclusion we can take from these given premises is that Alex is both an atheist and an "evolutionist". So your accusations are annoying.

Simple question for all those supporting theory of evolution: What evidence which if found, would disprove the theory of evolution?

Barry P. "The first sentence of this article sets out defending creationism as rational, and describes evolution as "improbable"."

Um, nooo, the first sentence of this article does the opposite:

"The scientific evidence for evolution is solid but it doesn't follow that creationism is irrational in the way that many evolutionists assume."

So the first sentence of this article actually states that the evidence for evolution is, quote, "solid". Furthermore his wording indicates that he believes Creationism is irrational (if for a different reason than most people). Again you are omitting what he emphasized in italics: evolution is improbable (according to Alex), **given the premise** that god is a fact. You can debate that, but stop misrepresenting it.

"The conclusion that Alex is clearly an atheist and evolutionist is not as cut and dried as you claim."

Then bet me money to the amount of your choosing. My confidence rests in the syllogism listed above. If Alex isn't an atheist then he has tagged himself as an idiot by his own reckoning. I suppose that's possible, but its not bloody likely. Further he has previously praised Ayn Rand, which is a dead give-away by itself!

BTW, I'm on your side that Alex's argument was idiotic and wrong, but that doesn't make him a creationist. You are misinterpreting his argument.

Matt G.,

You said, "The concept of 'kind' has no scientific meaning. For that matter, neither does the distinction between 'macroevolution' and 'microevolution'. The differences between species are just accumulated genetic changes."

"In short, that position is absolute lunacy."

Thank you for your polite and respectful response. I'm sure you win a lot of arguments that way.

[sarcasm off]The problem is that even if you are right, you are going to alienate people and make them your enemy. To many people, the idea of "kind" seems to be a good description. To assert it "has no scientific meaning" and "is absolute lunacy" doesn't make you sound like an impartial seeker of truth. It makes you sound like a preacher for a rival religion, calling down anathemas on the faithless. Everyone can see that artificial breeding or great selection pressure will cause changes--but it seems like the changes stay within limits. Creationist leaders seize upon this and say it is a result of the biblical concept of "kind." Just as artificial selection is limited in what it can do, so is natural selection. Psychologically, this is a very powerful argument. You will not convince many other people just by asserting the distinctions are meaningless.

Roger,
I am well aware of the micro-macro evolution notion. I didn't think it was worth bringing up, basically for reason plunge and Matt G. described.

dk: Thanks for that link, that's a very good theory.

Sudha Shenoy: Being vaguely familiar with that cycle but believing it's not as important to Hindus as creation is to Christians, I was kind of wondering whether Hindus find themselves forced to choose between evolution and their religion and which way they usually choose.

"Thank you for your polite and respectful response. I'm sure you win a lot of arguments that way.

[sarcasm off]The problem is that even if you are right, you are going to alienate people and make them your enemy." -- Roger Sweeny

They're already my enemy, Roger. And as the saying goes, you can't reason someone out of a position they weren't reasoned into. There's no rational argument I can make that will cause those people to realize they're wrong, and I refuse to sink to psychological techniques to get people to irrationally change their beliefs.

Wrong; in the human realm, some things are created through an act of intelligent design and some things are evolved through selection and variation. It is quite possible to see both mechanisms indisputably in action (for example, people being taller on average than their parents, bacteria stronger vs. watchmakers building a watch), so there is nothing unreasonable about extrapolating this to the broader scale of overall creation. It's absurd to say that a belief in God requires you to believe that God would never use evolutionary or emergent mechanisms of creation.

In fact, the idea of free will is absolutely central to the Abraham religions, while the ultimate outcome is always posited to be unalterable. This idea that the world is out of God's control but will ultimately converge to God's design is very comfortable to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

I think your error was in assuming too much knowledge about "the watchmaker". Obviously if you know that there is a guy around who makes watches, then you know that he probably made the watch. Your argument becomes a tautology. Change it to say; you find a watch in the woods, and you know of the existence of a being who can create things; and you know that he uses both emergent indirect methods and intelligent design.

Matt G., plunge, and josh,

Ordinary people who sincerely want to understand the world and happen to be creationists are not my enemy. I think they are wrong about creationism. I think evolution by natural selection is one of the most fruitful theories ever; it is a profound truth. But I also think people who don't believe it deserve to be treated with respect. I owe it to them to understand why they don't believe.

So they tell me various things. They've never seen a dog turned into a cat, and they will not respond well to "That's just a matter of not enough time, dumbass." They reasonably ask, "Won't you run out of genetic variation after a while? Isn't that what's happened to racing horses? (millions of dollars go to the breeders of a faster horse but they seem to have reached a speed limit.)" And if you say, "Imperfect copying of the genes is constantly making new variation," they say, "But why will that make something useful?" They don't see how seeming leaps can be made. There are theoretical answers to their questions but if they are not in a receptive frame of mind, they will reject them.

Of course, frauds and charlatans of the creationist movement try to put them in a non-receptive frame of mind. The frauds and charlatans exploit mistakes and tin ears among proponents of evolution. One of the great pieces of tin-earery is the increase in dark varieties of pepper moths when there was more soot--and the following decrease when pollution cleared up. Since evolution is defined as a change in gene frequency, this is certainly evolution. But it is not what ordinary creationists think of as evolution; it is not what they reject. When someone looks down his nose at them and tells them they are ignorant because they don't accept that peppered moths are evidence of evolution, they don't respond well. That's not what they're talking about. That's what I was trying to get at by my references to micro- and macro-evolution.

You simply cannot come up with modern examples of macroevolution so you can't say, "Look at the evidence of your senses." You have to make more subtle, indirect arguments. (and yes, the "kind" concept is vague. It is more of a genus or even family than a species thing. It is basically, "This seems really different than that." It's importance is psychological.)

I want creationists to listen when I try to make such arguments. It doesn't help if they have been insulted and made to feel like an enemy. Sometimes they return the favor, and I'm screwed.

"Ordinary people who sincerely want to understand the world and happen to be creationists are not my enemy."

That's a null set. Understanding the world and creationism (as we're using the term) are incompatible.

Matt G.,

That is simply not true. There are many creationists who want to understand the world. They come into a discussion with different priors than you and me.

It may be easy and fun to dismiss them, and it may give you a wonderful sense of superiority. But it also makes them more likely to vote against evolution in the schools, and to think of scientists as just another political group--one with a different (and wrong) faith.

I don't think that is a good thing.

Actually, the biological world givse overwhelming evidence that it was NOT designed by an intelligence, unless that intelligence was Rube Goldberg high on hallucinogens. Consider the human appendix, male nipples, mitochondria (which have their own genetic material and can be used to find points of divergence between classes of species,) and the fossil record. To be consistent with the evidence the Creator must be both incompetent and deceptive.

Lest anyone be misled by the second comment, it is definitely _not_ the case that, in logic, "from false premises anything can be derived".

Providing the set of premises is limited, the truth of its propositions is irrelevant to what may be derived from them. E.g., a valid argument may have entirely false premises, yet still be perfectly valid (though unsound).

Surely what the author meant was that in classical logic, _inconsistent_ premises entail the derivation of anything (i.e., the set of all possible propositions).

I apologise if this sounds pedantic, but in many cases, especially if you acknowledge that the premises of an argument are assumptions, consistency is what one should primarily be concerned with when making a reasoned argument.

Hi, I just tried to do a Bayesian analysis of the ID argument: "looks designed -implies- was designed". One could explain your argument "theism implies ID, atheism implies evolution" as the dominance of the prior probability: "the chance an organism was ID'd, regardless of how it looks."

Much better explanation here: http://soc-blog.blogspot.com/2005/07/bayesian-analysis-of-intelligent.html

One might, of course, find valid reasons to reject religious faith and more precisely creationism, but to do so in the age of Quantum Physics because it´s unreasonable is, itself unreasonable.You might as well reject special relativity because reason, logic and common sense make it plain that time isn´t elastic, it can´t be stretched or squeezed but always remains the same no matter how fast one is moving. This theory shows nature at a fundamental level (time and light) plummels logic, reason and common sense,- the tools upon which humans have built most of their modern epistemic sturctures, proof of just how bumbling these structures can be.
Befuddled by the "spooky acion" (to quote Einstein) of nonlocacity, and empirically challenged by the elasticity of time, for anyone to reject religious faith a priori on the premise that ti´s not rational is to practice a rather decreipr form on intellectual bigotry.
Years ago Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum physics, musing about the early days of his science, wrote: "I remember discussions with Niels Bohr which went through many hours very late at night and ended almost in despair; and when at the end of the discussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park I repeated to myself again and again the question: Can nature really be as absurd as it seems to us in these atomic experiments?"
Perhaps he should have studied something a little more logical, a little more rational...like faith!!

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