Theism vs Evolution II

Rather than answer all the objections put forward to my theism and evolution post let me state the argument in another way which should make it clear that I am (obviously) correct.

Suppose that God came down from the heavens tomorrow in all his glory, throwing thunderbolts, raising the dead, turning water into wine, whatever it takes to convince everyone of his existence.  If this were to occur I have no doubt that even Richard Dawkins, precisely because he is a rational scientist, would say ‘hmmm, perhaps I wasn’t quite right about all this evolution stuff.’  My point in the post is that many religious people don’t need the demonstration – they already believe and in so doing they logically question evolution just as Dawkins would if he came to believe as they do.

Comments

And your point is trivial in the extreme.
It is a fundamental fact of logic that false implies everything.
From false premises anything can be logically derived.
Think about it a bit.
Shirley Knott

No. No. No. No.

Look Alex, you don't get it. The existence of "God" in and of itself doesn't mean that the earth is flat or that 2+2=5. How could it? This whole argument makes you look embarrassingly ignorant. The whole exercise is bewildering and logically blinkered which is why so many confused onlookers think you are arguing in favor of Creationism (or are grotesquely apologizing for it). Just quit while your behind. You are inadvertently taking a position in the culture war that you don't support.

Dawkins, I am most certain, would not reject evolution just because a big scary God exists, anymore than he would reject the freezing point of water. Your math just doesn't add up.

You are obviously wrong.

If an eccentric and powerful god was proven to exist, that could certainly mean that all the evidence for evolution was an illusion that the god had created for whatever weird reason.

By the same reasoning, if such a god existed, it could mean that all the evidence for a spherical Earth that orbits the Sun was an illusion that the god had created for whatever weird reason.

If the existence of a god is a reason to doubt evolution, then it's a reason to doubt practically every single piece of human knowledge.

As they say in less erudite circles: Bump.

The argument that was levelled against your first post was that God or not, evolution is a mechanism that explains far too much...not just the origin of life, but little other mechanisms about disease control and such. Medical researchers rely on insights gleaned from pursuing experiments assuming evolution daily.

Now, I agree that you have a good point. Evolution was some amount of the lever that helped create Atheism in the first place. People needed a creation-story to take the place of the standing myths before they could take Atheism seriously. Post Darwin, non- philosophers could hold an Atheist view without too much trouble. However, that's only because it was psychologically difficult to disbelieve something that most of your compatriots believe, with no alternate explanation.

Darwin allowed us to have said alternate explanation, and a comfort zone. I would make a different claim than yours: if Evolution were proven false...many Atheists would lose part of their justification, and convert. However, God's existence doesn't impact theory of evolution, in those who have a reasonable understanding of what is actually said.

Part of your problem is that you're using the wrong terminology. What you are defending is a form of belief known as Deism. This is the God of Nature - Creator beloved of many Enligthnment intellectuals like Jefferson. There is a version of Deism quite compatible with modern sicence but it excludes biblical inerrancy and almost every other prop of modern religion. Darwin was well aware of this, as have been many theologians and philosophers. Even the minimal Deist position consistent with evolution, however, has major defects. These are primarily epistemic defects and are discussed well in Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

I think your missing a point of the counter-arguments. Evolution does not preclude the existance of God, but it does preclude the existance of a 10,000 year-old earth. If God appeared and said, "Hah! Fooled you! The world is 10,000 years old", then Richard Dawkins would probably scream, "Then why the **** did you make everything look so old?".

If God came back and said, "I leave my molecules alone for a measly 4 billion years and wound up with this mess?!!" Dawkins would have to recant his atheism, but not evolution.

I would say that even if god came back and said that he created the world 5 minutes ago billions of years worth of evolution had still occurred. It just would have occured in the mind of god rather than in the "physical" world. Now I suppose that if evolution is not ultimately chaotic in a strong sense it might be possible that god used algorhythmic tricks that skipped over the need to do some of the calculations explicitly, but the physical universe may do the same thing, using quantum mechanics.

Bah, why not think that 9.11 was wanted by God then. Or why he shouldn't directly manage the unemployment rate.

Arthur C. Clarke once pointed out that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

So, how would you "know" that you are in the presence of god? what miracles would be so contrary to the laws of physics/biology/chemistry as we know of them today that would prove to you that you are in the presence of god and not the wizard of oz?

and instead of giving up all scientific endeavor, wouldn't it be more interesting to ask him how he does it? why is it that physical laws don't apply to him? what does it mean to be outside the universe? do other gods run other universes? why Stalin? how can we travel faster than light?

Professor, i have to agree with the other commenters that you haven't really thought these posts all the way through.

But *which* god? Yahweh? Thor? Apollo? Quetzocoatl? Coyote? Morrigan? Cthulhu? Superman? Neo?

If god came hurling thunderbolts and raising the dead, I would probably question the principle that lightning is the result of charges building up on clouds. Is any rational theist therefore to believe in Zeus?

I'm just adding my voice to the chorus that you have this completely wrong. Calling your own point "obvious" doesn't help the matter, and it just makes it clear that you're not taking the other side seriously.

this is arguably true:
no evolution --> god

this is the contrapositve:
no god --> evolution

but this does not follow from the above:
god --> no evolution

Tabarroks argument makes sense to me (an atheist). Shirley Knott sort of had a point. Given that an omniponent, all-powerful God exists (not necessarily that statement is true), then you can conclude whatever you want.

Alex,

If your hypothetical Dawkins were rational, he would start with "I guess I wasn't quite right about all this atheism stuff". From there, the rational next step is to ask "Is evolution wrong, or is the argument that evolution disproves the existence of god wrong?" Your argument assumes there is no science of evolution independent of the naturalism frequently associated with it; while this is a common assumption of the loudest voices on both sides of the "theism vs. evolution" mock debate, it is not undisputed.

Evolution as science properly succeeds or fails entirely by its ability to provide testable predictive explanations of the observed phenomena, criteria which are entirely independent of the existence or not of any deities. By conflating evolution with naturalism, you (and many, many others) implicitly deny the existence of any science of evolution. This shows in part I, where you argue that "evolution is almost certainly false [...] in the grand claims of a undesigned nature"--"grand claim" itself should be a clue that "undesigned nature" is a philosophical claim, not scientific.

What you are arguing is theism vs. naturalism. You were correct in your first part that "it doesn't follow that creationism is irrational in the way that many evolutionists assume", but from there on you make the same mistakes you criticize "many evolutionists" for. By failing to distinguish between evolution (science) and naturalism (philosophy), you are contributing to the muddle rather than clarifying it.

Atheism predates theories of evolution.

I don't get this argument, especially as amplified by vince_card. So we're comparing a scientific theory - which *does* have holes, like every other thing in science, because it's part of a process of making observations and trying to figure out what they mean, with no guarantee that we have the right answer, but nevertheless appears to be the best explanation so far - with religious belief?
This isn't apples and oranges, this is apples and geodes. Or apples (not Macs) and PCs. Huh? If you assume creationism is as likely a possibility as an other, you have to dump out a great deal of science, on the grounds of an assumption.
Science. Religion. Different things. Work by different rules.

God showing up would make evolution iffy to the exact same degree it would make any other non-theistic enterprise iffy. Engineering, medicine, physics, etc. All bets would be off. Either God could say, well, of course, good Dawkins! You helped figure out how I made you - now let's have a talk about that other stuff . . . or He might cause all texts discussing evolution to spontaneously combust, or he might answer any and all questions with a reiteration of the Job monologue.
I don't get it.
[rereading original post]
Look - today, evolution is our scientific best explanation of how life got to look like the way it does today. It does a better job than any present alternative of explaning and predicting evidence. One could believe in God and feel that evolution is the best current scientific explanation of how God did his stuff (or at least, the explanation He apparently wants us to believe?), whatever the interface between God and stuff was - however exactly he did it (subtly pushing a cosmic ray? willing it? presetting the parameters of reality?).

If you see a watch *and* believe in a watchmaker, **and** have a body of scientific evidence that seems to deal with (a)lots of old, different looking watches, and (b)some of the details of how watches are made (and of course, to match up, watches would have to be able to begat new watches), and details of watch evolution based on (a) (fossils, of course) generally (if not perfectly) match up with (b) (genetics) - well, why is : The Watchmaker built all watches by Hand in His heavenly Workshop (or came down to earth and built watches the same way) - the most obvious inference?

"Consider instead belief in a God, belief that creationism is possible. Step from there to belief that creationism is as likely as any other explanation. Then compare the competing 'theories' to the evidence."

This makes no sense to me, Vince. Because I believe creationism is possible, it is therefore just as likely as any other theory...and then I proceed to compare the theories and...?

What are these holes in evolution of which you speak? Unless you've got something Nobel-worthy waiting to be published, there really is no reasonable doubt that evolution happens. The questions now are how it occurs and what specifically has occurred in the past.

I'm not sure what you mean by "evolutionary big bang." Are you referring to abiogenesis? It's an interesting scientific question, and there are some good theories on it, but its ultimately irrelevant to evolution anyway. Evolution isn't about how life got here, it's about how life got to look the way it does today.

Your analogy about a potential creator is also rather confused and misleading. You seem to be appealing to a mix of probability and what seems likely to you. Those are very tricky concepts in an evolutionary context, and I don't advise using them. As I said, I really don't like the analogy, but if I had to work with it, I'd modify it to say that over the years the head monkey of your simian legion has handed us several drafts, which are progressively more Hamlet-like. NOW what do we ask when Shakespeare shows up?

Aren't scientists supposed to logically question everything? Isn't this why theories are tested with experiments? I don't see why the existence of God would change this at all.

...Dawkins key question to the suddenly-arriving... omniscient, omnipotent, all-perfect, original "Watchmaker" is:

WHY did you make the 'watch' ?

'Any' action by a perfect, omnipotent being implies an 'imperfect' state-of-being... such that 'action' is takenby that being -- to correct the imperfection/problem.
{..An 'itch' that needs 'scratching' !}

WHY would a 'perfect' being act at all ?

Why would a perfect-being have any itches ?

Action = Imperfection.

A perfect-being that 'acts' is an impossible contradiction in logic.

Forgive my incredulity, but um... I was wondering how nobody in this thread understands your logic, Alex.
It's not terribly mysterious. For example, take the fork. Imagine if some people believed it was made by Man while others believed it was made by nature. I know, I know, but if we could just step out of our literal minds for just one moment. Would the study of the forks evolution be invalid which camp you belonged to? You can see how it came from, how shall we say, more primitive forms. 2 prongs evolved into 4 prongs. Maybe wooden handles to metal. You could still use scientific methods to study each stage of the fork's existence no matter if you believed it was created by man or not. Does that make sense? Please fork-give me if it doesn't.

Cheerio!

"This isn't apples and oranges, this is apples and geodes. Or apples (not Macs) and PCs. Huh? If you assume creationism is as likely a possibility as an other, you have to dump out a great deal of science, on the grounds of an assumption.
Science. Religion. Different things. Work by different rules.

God showing up would make evolution iffy to the exact same degree it would make any other non-theistic enterprise iffy. Engineering, medicine, physics, etc. All bets would be off."

Yes. Science in the largest sense assumes that there is a set of rules which governs everything. God follows no rules that's what makes Him God. Accepting the premise of the God which would support creationism would make it necessary to caveat every theory.

The difference from the Creationist point of view could be that there is nothing in the doctrine about the speed of light, molecular structure, subatomic particles . Whereas as they see it there is an explanation of the origins of life and why it appears in all it's varieties.

"WHY would a 'perfect' being act at all ?"

I never like this argument. If you think of time as a demention of space/time no different from space, God doesn't need to have say, "gee, I wish I had a universe." There could simply exist a universe that God created with finite dimensions of space and time. I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone but I'm not going to put any effort into making it clear;).

"For example, take the fork. Imagine if some people believed it was made by Man while others believed it was made by nature. "

I think everybody understands the "logic" behind the argument. It simply isn't correct. First, too many people here are talking about evolution as an explanation for something that "happened." In reality, it is a continuing process that is happening constantly. Just go get yourself some auger gel, a few bacteria and a petri dish!

It isn't a matter of looking at a fork and guessing where it come from. A better analogy would be looking at a fork that is sitting right next to an automatic cutlery-producing machine (with mechanical hands with white gloves). We've seen the machine in action, we've even seen it make knives in laboratory experiments (Damn,did I just mix metaphors?). Now unless we're talking about who designed the machine, you might still assume the machine made the fork, even if a man shows up who is capable of making forks.

"assumption" should be "conclusion."

And the whole thing should be written better. I should learn to read before I post.

Normally I don't like to post when it might be construed as directed against a particular individual rather than a position. Now that the position has been repeated and taken up by a second party, I'll wade in. It is not the case that anything can be derived logically from a false premise. The correct statement is that anything can be derived from any set of mutually inconsistent premises. As a general rule premises are neither true nor false, they're simply assumed. Perhaps the example most commonly taught is Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries. If one parallel postulate is "true", then the the others are certainly "false". But it really doesn't cause any problem which parallel postulate one assumes; all of the commonly used ones are logically consistent the other premises. On the other hand, attempting to use more than one simultaneously wreaks havoc.

Assuming that there is no deity is no different logically from assuming that there is one. In either case it might be possible to derive some empirically testable hypotheses that follow from the chosen set of premises. Having done so, empirical evidence might be used to assess the validity of the set of premises that were assumed. If one were to assume the existence of a deity, then there would be no additional mechanism required to explain many features of the universe, including life. Such an assumption, however, would certainly not be logically inconsistent with assuming one or more such mechanisms. Without the assumption of a deity, additional assumptions would seem to be necessary.

The assumption of a deity might seem at first to make a concept such as evolution unnecessary. However, the idea of evolution can be a useful tool with or without that assumption. Just by assuming a deity, one is still left with a need to understand and predict observations of the universe, a role that evolution serves admirably. The alternative would seem to be something freightenly akin to solipsism, where everying is the way it is (and the future will unfold the way it will) for no other reason than "that's the way God wants it." I've never encountered anyone so fanatically "devout" that they go through life without any respect for empirical evidence. Maybe they exist, but simply manage to kill themselves off very quickly by ignoring empirically derived ideas of cause and effect, e.g. eating some things will kill you, as will dousing yourself in gasoline and lighting a match or attempting to fly from the tops of tall buildings by flapping your arms.

"The difference from the Creationist point of view could be that there is nothing in the doctrine about the speed of light, molecular structure, subatomic particles."

Which is why I picked the example of a flat, stationary Earth, which IS something that people have defended with reference to the Bible. And, frankly, if God were discovered to be the kind of large-scale deceiver that fakes mountains of evidence for evolution and the shape of the Earth, then I wouldn't bet on any other part of science being correct, no matter if it's not explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

What do you prove by saying that "creationism follows rationally from theism"?

What if there were people who believed in a flat Earth, then wouldn't their belief that one sailing too far will fall off the Earth follow rationally from their belief in a flat Earth. Thus, falling-off-the-Earth-ism would follow rationally from flat-Earth-ism. Hence, the round-Earthists could not say that falling-off-the-Earth-ism is "irrational." Where does that get anyone? The conclusion may follow logically, but it is derived from an erroneous premise.

I hope that I'm just missing something...

Watson: "Sherlock, have you solved the murder of Dr. Jones, yet."

Sherlock: "No Watson but I have narrowed the field down to two suspects. Either Jones was murdered by a 7ft tall giant of man with shocking red hair or he was murdered by a 4ft tall dwarf who walked with a limp."

Watson: "Why that is remarkable Sherlock for just last night I saw a 7ft tall man with red hair leaving the vicinity of Jones's house around the time he was murdered."

Sherlock: "Excellent, Watson. That piece of information certainly raises the probability that the red haired giant is our murderer. Does it not."

Watson: "It's obvious Sherlock."

Sherlock: "Yes, it is obvious Watson but you would be surprised at how many people will deny the obvious when their personal beliefs are at stake."

In the case of evolution, the problem is that the 4ft tall dwarf who walked with a limp has left a lot of fingerprints on the crime scene.

Wait, is that Sherlock Holmes allegory supposed to have anything to do with the creationism/evolution question? Because I don't see how.

Which part of the allegory represents the HUGE amounts of evidence that exist for evolution? You know, the evidence that would have to be explained before an alternate theory was accepted? The evidence that makes the Encyclopaedia Britannica write:

"The evolutionary origin of organisms is today a scientific conclusion established
with the kind of certainty attributable to such scientific concepts as the roundness of the Earth, the motions of the planets, and the molecular composition of matter.
/.../
There is probably no other notion in any field of science that has been as extensively tested and as thoroughly corroborated as the evolutionary origin of living organisms"?

Hey, Alex,

I like the flat earth analogy, but I'll introduce yet another: Suppose God came down and said, "Copernicus was wrong," and proceeded to explain how Ptolemaic epicycles could be extended in some incredibly complex ways to demonstrate that the Sun revolves around the earth. (Or perhaps there's some completely arbitrary relationship between celestial bodies; after all, our observations are just sample points (or sequences), and there might be all sorts of crazy things happening when we're not looking.)

Would you believe God then, or would you think, "I wonder if there are any psychotherapists for deities?"

What a lovely, and I think brilliant, point you are making.

Here is another (longer and less eloquent)way to say essentially the same thing:

Many nonbelievers claim that people of "faith" believe in God without evidence. But people of "faith" often believe in God and also believe they have EVIDENCE of God interacting personally in their lives. Now the nonbeliever may say "but they are wrong, they believe in something without evidence"--but what they really mean is that they judge the same phenomenon that the believer judged, and come to a different conclusion than the believer did. The nonbeliever determined that this evidence went to one conclusion while the believer determined that this evidence went to another conclusion.

As long as the atheist judges the "faithful" to be people who make decisions without evidence, the atheist will never understand the faithful. Now, there remains the strange issue of "faith" being something where "evidence" is involved in its formation/reaffirmation but nonethless, nearly all believers have some experiences that they view as evidence.

Succinctly: whether you believe or not, it's important to accept that the believer in part believes their faith to be evidentiary.

"Succinctly: whether you believe or not, it's important to accept that the believer in part believes their faith to be evidentiary."

The problem is that the whole point of objective evidence, especially in science, is that it is not a matter of personal opinion. The whole POINT of real-world evidence is that it is verifiable to ANYONE'S satisfaction. It's not enough that you have a third eye in another dimension that can see a world the rest of us can not. Hey, good for you, and perhaps you really do have access to some foriegn reality, though we may never be able to establish that it is so. Instead, scientific evidence is such an important standard because ANYONE can measure and confirm and get the same answer no matter who they are or what they think or want. It speaks not to private realities, but rather to the collective reality that we ALL share.

And sorry, you don't get to cheat your way in with special treatment for your own personal beliefs just because you decide to call it evidence. It ain't, not the kind that counts for anything to other people.

So it doesn't matter how "evidentiary" believer thinks the existence of god is. If they cannot provide confirmable tests or evidence to establish their beliefs, it just ISN'T evidence, at least not what anyone normally means by evidence. I understand the faithful just fine. Wouldn't it be lovely if I could simply assert the things I believe to be true ARE true, without having to confirm the reality of my beliefs with anyone else? It WOULD be lovely. Unfortunately, me and my beliefs don't deserve that sort of special treatment, and neither does anyone else's.

I'm not a biologist, but I DID sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Alex:

If God shows up and says "I exist and, what's more, evolution is false!" then of course I start doubting evolution.

But if God shows up and just says "I exist!", I don't start doubting evolution. Why would I? After all, the existence of God doesn't tell me a damn thing about evolution.

Re: Sherlock, you've loaded the example by making the two alternatives mutually exclusive.

Let's stop answering this flawed argument and move the conversation on to something worthwhile before this two-dimensional battle of straw men attracts the legion of crazies out there who make a carrier of flaming this crap. People of Faith maintain there is a great deal to be gained in their belief.
People of Reason demonstrate the same. Broad swaths of our understanding of reality is based on belief (not actual Knowledge). This being the case, sometimes formal logic isn't as useful as what someone earlier referred to as "folk reasoning" (what I'd call a shorthand for actual understanding). Most of the passions that arise on the subject of the origin of life stem from a desire to "do the right thing". Whether that right thing be for our kids or humanity at large, it's a concern that all good citizens have. On one end of the scale we have religious extremists who genitally mutilate little girls and inspire public stonings. On the other end of the scale we have technophylic atheists designing a cyborg trans-human future. In attempting to do the right thing, neither dystopia need come to pass. My question is, given that no amount of "reasoning" on either side of the argument will sway any significant portion of the population; which group offers my kids a better future? (the creationist community, or the evolution community) As someone convinced the mechanism of evolution exists I still have a difficult time damning the sentiment behind creationism. I damn their methods for trying to get in Science's way, but I think they have the best intentions at heart. Science and religion don't meet at some smooth negotiated interface. They necessarily use language differently (because they have disparate motivations and goals). So whenever a science vs. religion argument is taken up, the power of logic ends up second best to the politics of debate. It will never be important or effective to debate whether science is better than religion. It will always be a waste of time. The valuable debates concentrate on what constitutes a better future? where are we headed? if we had total world peace, what would we do with it? More to the flavor of Marginal Revolution, how do we strike the economic balance on a global scale that'll make things better? Do the creationists or the evolutionists answer these questions? Yes, but very differently. I think an examination of those answers might provide some value.

"spontaneous generation of matter from nothing"

Evolutionary theory says what now?

'morality is no longer "situational" or "autonomous"; and there might actually be more to human life than being the "fittest."'

Evolutionary theory says what now?

At least it's nice to know you've got your facts straight.

I would like to go further with this idea that God's existence wouldn't dissuade most Atheists who've actually gone to the trouble of understanding evolution from believing in same.

Von Mises argues that there are portions of economics, perhaps most of economics that is logically necessary, rather than experimentally observed. We don't need to do much observation to determine that ceteris paribus, someone will prefer to buy an item for $1 rather than for $2. And some amount of economics can be done this way, though certainly not all of it, and observations give us inductive support for our deductive conclusions.

I will claim...as I think Dawkin & Dennet do...that much of Evolution falls into the same camp. While some previous poster way near the top gave an example: bacteria & soap; I would like to lay out the argument that Evolution is logically necessary. Maybe not sufficient to explain people, but at least logically necessary.

IF
entities vary
AND
entities reproduce
AND
some entities reproduce more than others based on their traits
AND
entities are in general more similar to their parent entities than to other entities
THEN
There will be more entities like the parents which succeeded in reproducing lots than like the ones that didn't.
AND
Over time a population of entities will change its observed phenotypes to be more like the successful reproducers.

With random-ish mutation, some tiny percentage of which is an improvement in "fitness", that gives us evolution

As far as I can tell, necessarily true.
By immediate observation, animals are entities of this type.
Therfore, evolution must happen.

Sure, observation will tell us something, and might demonstrate the steps taken to get from somewhere else to here. But evolution is necessarily true on the level that praxeology is necessarily true. Once you have necessarily true statements...it becomes mighty difficult to take seriously explanations that deny the necessary truths.

Hence, God coming down does nothing to the theory of evolution...though it might impact folks beliefs who see it as less than necessarily true, or who don't understand it well. God coming down and saying: evolution isn't true would likely have about as much impact as God saying 2+2!=4. Sorry God, no way, no how. Saying, OTOH, yeah evolution happens, but I made several significant nudges to get it to generate people is something that would be hard to object to, if it were God making the claim.

Gotta admit I was surprised by Alex's post...I guess he's not paying attention. As was suggested above, the analogy is way off. It locks evolution into a state that simply does not exist. We are not scratching our heads over the red haired man or the dwarf. The dwarf's fingerprints were all over the scene and the murder weapon, he had motive, witnesses place him leaving the building, and Holmes has Lestrad booking the dwarf now. It just so happens that witnesses also place the red-haired man in the same area at the time, and he has just knocked on the door at 221B and asked to see Holmes. THAT's where we stand with this.

In other words, you seem to be ignoring the weight of the evidence that drives scientists in this matter, or the fact that that IS what drives them. I agree with Plunge's response to Allison Coates' excellent point that creationists see themselves as having evidence as well. The problem is the means they use to analyze, interpret and evaluate that evidence are wrong, especially when the claims they make based upon the evidence are scientific claims. The core of the scientific method, the whole reason for science in the first place, IS the proper evaluation of evidence. Creationists don't generally understand that. A large part of the battle over evolution is over evaluating evidence and defining truth. Creationists often seem to be asking "why CAN'T X, Y and Z be evidence for creationism?" but refusing to accept the answers, and even trying to change the rules of science so X, Y and Z can be called evidence, at least in name.

With due respect most people have not read the Sherlock example very closely. What Sherlock says is that the fact that we know the red haired giant exists "certainly raises the probability that the red haired giant is our murderer." Sherlock does not say that the red haired giant is the murderer. Notice that the fact there is or is not evidence for the dwarf is irrelevant to Sherlock's point.

Ok. So let me spell it out what this has to do with evolution and theism. There are two hypotheses.

1) God had something to do with life, man etc. Maybe not (as I said in my original post) the 'on the 7th day he rested' version but man is created in God's image, people are special, Mozart wasn't just an accident etc.

Hypothesis 2 is that random mutation and natural selection account for everything.

Assign any probabilities that you want to these two hypotheses.

Now we introduce an additional piece of information. God Exists.

Simple Bayesian updating now make hypotheses more likely. QED.

Best

Alex

Hostmaster Alex:
God Exists.

That, sir, is a fact not in evidence, and inded one without any evidentiary base.

Rich: first of all, you have to understand that there is rarely a hard and fast line where reproduction (that produces fertile offspring) becomes impossible. It tends to be gradual, and many species which have long separated in our taxonomy can still mate and produce offspring with varying likihood of being fertile (ligers, tigons, wolfins, mules, etc.) New species evolving from such hybridizations are very rare (happening most often in plants, not animals), but it is not impossible for species to arise like this. It just isn't generally what speciation is all about, and misleading to think of it as if it was.

That's because speciation is easiest to understand not as a story of waiting around for mutations, but rather as populations changing over time. Individuals, mutations or no, do not evolve. Only populations do. Mutations steadily increase and replenish the total pool of variation within a population, but this variation is rarely best thought of as some radical new feature that only a mutant has. Slightly longer legs, slightly bigger beaks, and so forth, are far more the norm. All these end results come about through variation in a population, and natural selection is what skews the gene pool one way or another out of this variation.

The simplest example of speciation, and by far the most common is allopatric: two groups become geographically or otherwise reproductively separated, and they drift apart genetically. It is the populations that drift apart and become different species, not individuals within the populations.

Suffice to say there is a lot more too it, and if you really want to ask these questions, you should look for answers in more extensive sources.

"In summary, if B's mutation is "significant," it renders B incapable of mating with A -- so no propagation of the mutation -- and if B's mutation is "less significant," A and B can produce fertile offspring -- but then we haven't escaped the original species."

Remember it probably isn't going to be a single mutation that leads to speciation. Think of a population of species that become sexually insolated into two populations. They each undergo a series of what you deem "less significant changes." Each of these change is incorperated into the gene pool of the particular population. After a long time and many divergent changes, the sum of the divergence will lead to what you deem "significant." The two populations will eventually be so genetically distinct that they can no longer interbreed to produce a viable line of descendants.

A false killer whale and a dolphin offspring. It may be spelled differently though.

Josh, read the original posts. Note that I said "I have no doubt that even Richard Dawkins, precisely because he is a rational scientist, would say 'hmmm, perhaps I wasn't quite right about all this evolution stuff.'"

I didn't say that Dawkins would abandon every element of evolution.

In my first post, I explicity said theism implies "some form of creationism...but not necessarily the 'on the 7th day he rested' version." i.e. I allowed for a version in which God helps things a long - which happens to be what a lot of creationists believe.

The logic of the argument has not changed at all. Don't blame me if some of the subtleties were lost on you in earlier readings.

Best

Alex Tabarrok

Professor Tabarrok:

you have committed the grossest kind of mind foul in asserting how a particular biologist would react to the existence of a living god.

you have no more idea than i do how Dawkins would respond.

but, i and many other posters here believe you are simply wrong about Dawkins's likely response; instead of saying "hmm, perhaps I wasn't quite right about all this evolution stuff," we believe his first response would be "hmmm, I have a whole bunch of hard questions to ask this guy."

why is that a more likely response? Because Dawkins is a consummate professional scientist, and scientists don't abandon well-established theories easily. It probably would be harder to get Dawkins (or me) to accept that this entity was god.

(Well, actually I would call him Dr. Cowen, so as not to annoy him by misspelling his name before I even set foot in the classroom...)

(Well, actually I would call him Dr. Cowen, so as not to annoy him by misspelling his name before I even set foot in the classroom...)

Very nicely put, Matt G !!

The Bayesian argument establishes that Pr(H1|G) > Pr(H1), but ONLY (I think) given the assumption that Pr(H1|G) > Pr(H2|G).

In other words, God's existence increases the likelihood of Hypothesis 1, but only if it is more likely that God would get involved with evolution than that God would leave evolution alone. But this assumption has been left unsubstantiated (I see no reason to believe it). Hence the argument, as it stands, fails.

Perhaps an equivalent way of saying the same thing: The hypothesis that God has directed evolution and the hypothesis that God has left evolution alone are both equally confirmed by the discovery that God exists. Which is to say that if the original balance of probabilities was 10 to 1, the revised balance of probabilities will still be 10 to 1.

Or a parody: By your argument, the discovery that God exists should increase the likelihood that God has been pushing the planets around their orbits, giving us reason to doubt our original view -- that the planets orbit without divine assistance. But this looks like an absurd consequence.

Matt,

Yes, hypothesis two is very unlikely whether Matt G exists or not but you asked whether it is more likely if Matt G exists and it is, not much more likely but a little bit. That is the logic of conditional probability.

Cole,

you are thinking along the right lines and I will think more about the precise conditions required but the condition you put forward is not correct. H1 *requires* God to exist thus the probability of H1 *must* increase if God does exist. H2 does not require that God exists and so there is no natural reason to think that P(H2/G)>P(H2).

Also you have to bear in mind that my original post explained why theists could rationally beleive in some form of creationism given their other beliefs. Now those other beliefs are more than that God exists they also believe that man is special, created in God's image, endowed by the Creator with a soul etc. So when you take this background information into account - as seems the right thing to do when we are trying to explain why theists might be rational to believe in some form of cration given their other beliefs - then it certainly makes sense to assume not only that P(H1/G)>P(H1) but even that P(H1/G)>P(H2) - though the latter conclusion is clearly an empirical point not a logical one (Recall, for example, that I said I believed that Dawkins would ascribe to the first conditional not necessarily the second).

Best

Alex Tabarrok

Plunge:
The simplest example of speciation, and by far the most common is allopatric: two groups become geographically or otherwise reproductively separated, and they drift apart genetically. It is the populations that drift apart and become different species, not individuals within the populations.

ISTR that Barrish had mentioned a behavioral barrier as well. It was the nearness of two leks (bird mating/nesting areas) that, with horniness taking over, developed a mating routine that had elements of both groups dances. (Only in the nesting areas at the border.)

I can certainly see where sexual selection would take over and maybe even develop a new species in proximity of the original population.

Has anyone actually taken the time to see what folk are actually saying from the god side? It seems mostly Christian. And the likes of Jacob M above are certainly immune to actual facts. (Otherwise, his assertion he could deal with the details of biology would have actually included biology, and not tripe he got from AiG or his preatcher man. Maybe he'd have even evidenced that he'd read the destruction of the thermodynamic crap that evinced him as ignorant of the facts.)

First, there has been NO discussion of even where the god idea came from. Why is this? It seems to me that it would be central to any discussion along this line. Note, too, that there is some data which indicate it may be a trait that has been selected FOR in H. sapiens. If true we have evolved to have this very argument.

Second, let's look at just what we have regarding divinity. Lots of ideas. Hoards of religions. Many conflicting mores and morals. Interestingly, these seem to be geographicly isolated. In short, if you you grow up in Rome, it is very unlikely that you will be Shinto. I doubt that anyone speaking Swahili (sp?) from birth would have a religious experience considering where green ants dream. Great White Father just isn't found in Nirobi.

So, what does this diversity tell us? Humans are a smart animal. We do find things out, We do compare notes. And, strangely enough, we do converge on things we find in our world. We know things fall down. We agree on the perceived color of reflected light. We agree on what is crazy behavior (really, we do, psychiatric anthropoligists have actually looked at this). We know what will kill us, what will feed us, what will intoxicate us, what will warm and chill us. We know and agree on the cycles of day, season, even year. Most of us can actually agree on number (probably all, but the linguistics limit it). These things are real.

Gods? Religious behavior? Well, is there really any convergence? I'd say no. As such, god is an internal concept and does not exist outside of our imagination. If and when real convergence on god(s) occurs, then, perhaps, humans have found something in there environment.

We also know how religions are formed. We have historical examples. Mohammed, who had a 'revelation' that one should marry one's brother's wife on death - because he wanted to! Joseph Smith: Golde plates and polygamy (need I say more? OK - read 'Under the Banner of Heaven' - be amazed). L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Examining these leaves little doubt that religions are founded by mortals with more than a little political (self, group) interest. The bible is too old to see this explicitly in the old testament, and as for the new there are serious doubts as the the very existence of one messiah named Jesus amidst a group of messiahim (pl?).

But still, folk rest on Genesis. Argue it (wait, only the English, I am told the Hebrew is more than a little different being more spiritual) as fact, move that to science, and remain confused, ignorant, trapped in their beliefs. I do not see this as a good thing at all. Killing smartalek kids is immoral, though biblical.

What, then, is the basic argument of folk like Jacob M? I can sum it up in maybe two sentences.

The people of the bronze age of human kind, writing down, perhaps imperfectly, tales from their and others' civilizations from the neolithic age, knew more about biology, life, planetary geology and the arrangements of our sun's planets and moons than the scientists of the 21st century. They knew all this even though there is a distinct lack of any writings defining and explicating the water cycle - even though water was and is one of the most important resources then, now, and likely forever for this species.

This is the assumption based solely on what we actually have in front of us, sans any discussed god(s). I find it highly unlikely that the knowledge base of neolithic and bronze aged folk exceeded ours. YMMV, but please, demonstrate where their factual information exceeded ours.

I'm just sending this up. It is a bit long. I'd rather another beer (and yes, they knew how to make that!) than edit it.

Matt,

Now you are being rude. This is doubly annoying since it is you who misread what I said. I have inserted brackets to help you understand. Note that I will no longer be responding to anything you write.

"Yes, hypothesis two is very unlikely whether Matt G exists or not but you asked whether it [i.e. hypothesis two] is more likely if Matt G exists and it [i.e. hypothesis two] is [more likely], not much more likely but a little bit."

Best

Alex Tabarrok

Martin,

You have to quote my full sentence. My position has always been:

"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."

Hence my agreement with Cole - see above.

In other words if God exists then there is no special reason to doubt that the earth is 4 billion years old but I think there would be good reason to doubt that Mozart, Einstein, Darwin and mankind in general were purely the products of random mutation and natural selection.

In other words, since theists believe that God exists one cannot logically begrudge them the conclusion that we are not the pure products of random mutuation and natural selection without attacking the premise.

Best

Alex Tabarrok

DrJohn,

Your comments on this thread while interesting have been beside the point since I have never once argued about evolution. I am fully conversant with the theory, however. By random mutation and natural selection I mean "the environment may be random, but that exerts an effect on the filter of the phenotypic expressions which will differentially allow selective reproductive fitness resulting in a change in allele frequency in the following generations." Rather standard usage.

Best

Alex Tabarrok

Hm. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Alex's comment:
"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."
is using a much broader definition of evolution and its implications than we typically use, and some stricter (more philosophical?) definitions of true and false.

If evolution included the origins of the universe, the formation of planets, and abiogenesis, and if this God stated that he created the universe through some means other than the prevailing big bang theory, then yes, evolution would technically be false in that not all of its many parts was 100% accurate. But evolution itself is the biological processes that have occurred after biogenesis (abio or not), not the rest of this stuff. Further, biologists don't claim current evolutionary theory to be 100% correct. If it ever were, there would be no more research to be done.

I think it's pointless to say that the proven existence of God would falsify the grandest claims of evolution about an undesigned Nature because: 1. It doesn't MAKE such grand claims, it is confined to biology, 2. If the God explains he has "nudged" evolution in undetectable ways I would consider that a far cry from falsifying it, and 3. I still don't see God's appearance changing anything about the nature of the universe. Regarding this last part, I think you may be saying that God, by necessity, would be the creator of the Universe, and that therefore by necessity the Universe is at least indirectly, partially designed. I don't feel qualified to debate that point.

But again, even so, to me you are saying "If God shows up and says: 'Hi everybody! Yup, I'm God, and I did make the universe!' Then Einstein was probably divinely planned." I'm saying that's not enough, not remotely. We need some specific evidence about how he created the universe, what influences he's exerted, before we can start drawing conclusions such as yours.

Maybe this is just arguing details...maybe you're making more assumptions about what God's presence confirms than I am. And I would think such quibbles would be pointless because he'd be answering those questions rapid-fire (presumably), so we'd know in short order. But if this is a more fundamental philosophical question about what the fact of God, and that fact alone, implies about evolution, I still think the answer is nothing. Additional, related facts, confirmed by him, are necessary.

Please forgive the smart-alecky sound of this, Lancelot, but...um. What's your point? That we can't actually prove the existence of God? That only the religiously minded can perceive such evidence? That it's self-evident the religious characterization of the world and morality is true but that atheists delude themselves into perceiving it as false?

Isn't it obvious? Lancelot's point is that we can only consider the possibility of God once we accept the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Which is rather odd, since

"What He did to prove that He was God was to deliver the most sublime teachings ever spoken, teachings that transformed the lives of his disciples, and then went on to transform whole civilizations; those teachings enabled mankind to transcend the dry cycles of rise-and-decline that characterized the ancient world".

is as compatible with the beliefs of Islam as Catholicism.

For that matter, when discussing the intrusion of Divine Providence into human history, why does everyone mention Mozart or Einstein or Archimedes? Why doesn't anyone mention Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot? To paraphrase Pratchett, everyone calls it a miracle when something unexpectedly good happens, but never when something unexpectedly bad happens. But isn't it just as miraculous?

DrJohn, we're dealing with a man who insists that the concept of 'God' can only be considered in light of the ecology of concepts that surrounds it, yet also insists that learning of the existence of a being with a particular name is significant enough to factor into Bayes' Theorem. (As if names weren't arbitrary, easily changed, and the specific name in question wasn't extremely common.) We're talking GIGO on a massive scale.

I get the last comment? Not very believable. Apparently everyone lost interest before me. Oh well.

evolution does exhist because the question is where did we evolve from. the apes are the closest to our dna.

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