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Turning Science Into NonScience February 1, 2010

Posted by Bill in atheism, Christianity, Evolution, Religion, Religious Right, Science.
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Currently a hot tactic for creationists to use is to attack the assumption of naturalism that scientists have to make.  In fact that is the basis of the whole Intelligent Design movement, especially as popularized by the lawyer Phillip Johnson. 

Their argument goes that science assumes that there must be a natural explanation for how the world works.  Because of that science is blinding itself to the possibility that God is working directly in the world. 

 However is this assumption of naturalism really a self-perpetuated blindness on the part of scientists or is it a clear-sighted necessity for science to work? 

 Naturalism is basically the idea that there is a non-supernatural explanation for natural phenomena.  In other words any questions we ask about the world has to have a natural explanation.  Saying God did it is forbidden in scientific research.

 Before going further let me just say that just because a scientist assumes naturalism in his work (known as methodological naturalism) as a scientist does not mean that he or she assumes it in their total lives (naturalism).  They can be religious and still be a scientist. 

In fact a group of thousands of clergy from various religions such as Lutherans, Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists and many others got together and did up a statement in support of evolution.   There are also thousands of scientists doing good research in evolution – paleontologists, archeologists, geologists, biologists – who are also Christian.  Two good books written about evolution from a Christian perspective are Paradigms on Pilgrimage by Stephen J. Godrey and Christopher R. Smith and Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth Miller.  Both are good books by Christian believers explaining why they support and do research into evolution and why they do not find it a conflict with their faith.

Going back to the main subject now, why is it that this naturalistic assumption is necessary for science to work?  The short answer as to why this is so is that “God did it” is a showstopper.  It stops us from looking further and deeper.

There is a Sydney Harris cartoon with two scientists watching a third writing a complicated mathematical formula on a blackboard. Between the two halves of the formula on the blackboard though are the words “And a Miracle Occurred”.    One on the watching scientist says to the other “I think he needs to be a little more explicit on that second step”

The Creationists(and this includes the Intelligent Design people since ID is nothing but a subset of creationism)  are like that scientist writing on the blackboard. 

When asked about how something occurs in the world there is a natural tendency to say that this is so complicated and we currently have no clue to how it occurred that therefore God must have done it.  However ignorance is proof of nothing but ignorance.  To be able to really make that argument work you would have to show how we can distinguish between these four possibilities when faced with a difficult question:

1)There is a natural explanation but we have not come up with the evidence needed to show us how to answer it or come up with the right way to look at the problem to solve it.  Some examples would be Plate Tectonics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

2) There is a natural explanation but we do not have the tools needed to solve it.  Examples are the Germ Theory of Disease (microscope) and most of Astronomy (telescope).

3)  There is a natural explanation but we will never be able to solve it because we just do not have the intelligence to do so.  For example imagine one of our early ancestors – possibly Homo Erectus – sitting on the shores of the ocean.  She notices the tides and wonders what causes them.  However her intelligence is too limited for her to ever understand how the gravitational effects of the moon and sun cause the tides.  Because of this she might conclude a god caused the tides when taking baths even though there is a natural explanation.

4)  God did it.

Until we come with a way to reliable way distinguish between these four possible hypotheses then assuming that God did it stops our questioning too soon.  If we had stopped with God causes disease to strike as punishment we would never have developed modern medicine.  If we had stopped with God causes the lightning we would never have learned about electricity and developed lightning rods among many other useful benefits.

 For people of faith, using an unknown as evidence that God did it not only stops us from looking for answers too soon but also puts the idea of God at risk.  What will the effect be on a person’s belief in God if part of that belief rested on ignorance and then we found a natural explanation?  Does it put his faith at risk then?  Ignorance is shaky ground to base a belief in God on.  Or any other belief for that matter. 

 I have gone on at probably too great a length because creationists love to use this naturalistic assumption as proof that scientists are atheists and that evolution is a theory driven by atheists.  Neither is correct. 

One of the interesting things about this is that the evidence for evolution and the stage was set for evolution by the creationist scientists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Their discoveries in biology and geology led to questions and answers that eventually resulted in evolution.  For a detailed look at that history Peter J. Bower’s Evolution The History of an Idea.  For a quicker but still good look at this try Edward J. Larson’s Evolution The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory.

Since these arguments are being used most often in the context of evolution I have continued with that emphasis.  However make no mistake, were creationists to be successful in eliminating naturalism from science not only would evolution be destroyed but so too would all of science – from physics through chemistry, from Plate Tectonics to Relativity.   This can be very clearly seen in the other scientific theories and findings that creationist attack – age of the earth, radio-metric dating, Big Bang theory, etc. 

To sum up then, scientists have to assume that there are natural explanations for whatever questions about the natural world they are studying.  To do otherwise leaves them at great risk of missing out on a new discovery that will change the world – such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  To do otherwise would destroy science.

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Comments»

1. creationbydesign - February 1, 2010

the problem here is that we get “Darwin of the gaps”. When faced with mysteries in biology which are unsolved, the conclusion is that “evolution did it” — even though the evidence is lacking.
What other options could be considered? If none other, then the claim is that naturalistic-empirical science can necessary solve every problem in the universe.
But that is unproven. It’s an assumption. It would be better to simply say “we don’t know”. But instead, science offers speculations which are not founded in facts but rather on imagination about how “it could have evolved”.

2. befuddled2 - February 1, 2010

I have said it is an assumption and given the reasons why it is necessary. Nothing you have said here changes that reasoning.

And scientists do say they do not know if they truly have no evidence pointing in a direction. But to begin any research you have to have some ideas on which way to look. That is the purpose of speculation – it provides some possible scenarios that scientists can then do research to see if there is any evidence to either support of show it wrong.

Also that is the role of a good theory in science – whether it be Relativity, Quantum, Plate Tectonics, or Evolutionary Theory – it provides a direction in which to look.

Theories can be wrong, but if so something will be found that cannot be worked into the theory. That is what happened with Newton – his theory could not account for some things seen in the universe (orbit of Mercury for example). Einstein came along with his Theories of Relativity which accounted for BOTH the unaccounted for and for all the things that Newton’s theory did account for so well.

That is a critical point too. Perhaps some day Intelligent Design theory will actually provide an explanation that may be better than evolutionary theory for explaining one or two items. But will it also explain all the other items that evolutionary theory does so well? If not then you have a net loss in explanatory power.

Let me end this rather long response by saying that you seem to imply that evolution has no evidence to support its assertions. This is totally and absolute false. It has strong evidence supporting it from genetics, biogeography, and the fossil record.

You would never know this reading the Creationist (including Intelligent Design) writings, but it does. Spend some time reading original sources, i.e. science articles and books. Look at the specidif fossils and read in detail the reasonings of scientists.

Even better spend a year (as I did) researching every statement that creationists put out from scientists that they said supported creationism and undermined evolution. If you do you will find that over 99% of them leave important information out, misrepresent what was said, or flat out lied.

Let me try ending this even longer response by saying that you still have not addressed the core of the reason why scientists must assume that there is a natural explanation.

If you posit God did it then you stop looking for a natural cause. Why look any more if you know God did it? But how do you tell when God actually did it, what is the evidence, other than ignorance, that God did it? How do you distinguish between the four possible scenarios that I posted?

Until you can answer that question then scientists will have to continue to assume a naturalistic answer is out there. It is a practical necessity.

3. creationbydesign - February 2, 2010

Thanks for an extensive reply, befuddled and I apologize that I can’t respond to it all (or fully to your post). It’s a complex topic and a lot of voices are shaping the discussion. Some of what you say I agree with, other parts not. I’ll just offer a couple of comments …
First, I think your view that over 99% of “every statement” (I don’t think you’ve read every one of those statements published) are problematic. I have read many of those quotes myself and several I have read are accurate and valid in the context. We have to consider the intent of the creationist quote — it’s not to prove that such-and-such scientist rejects evolution, but merely to show that certain claims are not as absolutely certain as claimed. If you follow the arguments you will know that many evolutionists do not claim that there are weaknesses or flaws in evolutionary theory. Those evolutionists who do admit such things (as you do) have done so only after many years of criticism from creationists. One does not have to accept every creationist claim to recognize that some of what they say is true — some of the criticisms of evolutionary theory are valid. Now the landscape is changing and even the most hardened evolutionists are admitting that the theory has some weakness. Others accept that neo-Darwinism must be replaced. They won’t admit that there could be other, non-natural causes, even though Darwinian-processes are inadequate as a full explanation. This again is a benefit of ID research and critique of evolutionary theory.

As for you claiming that I said that evolution has “no evidence” — here again you’re exaggerating and making a false assertion. I did not say that. But you’re making a common argument that I’ve seen. When someone questions various evolutionary claims and speculations (and there are thousands such to choose from) evolutionary promoters will defend the theory by pointing to evidence that some kind of evolution has occurred as if the argument is against an absolute denial of microevolution. This underscores the weakness of the theory, in my view.

Finally, I’ll just jump forward to your comment here:

If you posit God did it then you stop looking for a natural cause. Why look any more if you know God did it? But how do you tell when God actually did it, what is the evidence, other than ignorance, that God did it?

That’s a complex question that shouldn’t be over-simplified. First, if one posits that God did it, then it’s false to assume that one should not seek to confirm that posited statement. Would you just posit something and then claim it is therefore true? Obviously, the way to falsify ID claims is to search for natural causes. This reveals the false claims from evolutionists that “ID is not testable”. They then go on to claim that ID has been scientifically refuted — thus contradicting themselves. Here again, if there is design from an Intelligent source in nature, then we refute this by showing a natural cause. So, no –one does not stop, but one goes forward. As for when God did it or how God did it — it’s the same with questions on the origin of life or even evolution. We can never fully know how things happened a million years ago. We were not there to witness it. It cannot be taken into a laboratory and tested because the initial conditions have to be recreated and we cannot know what those are.
So, the idea that there is Intelligent Design at work in nature,and that there is evidence of that Design is shown as a reasonable probability. Natural causes cannot produce the feature — as far as we know. What else could produce specified, complex, functional, coordinated, finely-tuned organic features,for example? It’s an inference, not absolute proof.
Again, thanks for your interesting comments.

befuddled2 - February 2, 2010

Let me deal with your last point first.

If finding out that God did it means that we should still search for natural causes then that means that science still looks for natural causes either way. In what way is this different from assuming that a natural cause exists? The result is the same.

Further this whole argument shows that your entire case for ID rests on ignorance – ignorance of a natural cause.

Your argument about the origin of life rests upon the probability that we may not ever know what the initial conditions of the earth are. Instead of admitting our ignorance you take this ignorance as proof that ID is true.

Ignorance, to me that seems a very flimsy basis for knoweldge.

And you have yet to provide any hint of an answer on how, when faced with an unknown, to distinguish between the four possible types of solutions I have outlined: 1) natural process that we do not have sufficient evidence to discover yet, 2) natural process that we do not have instruments to find 3) natural process that we are not capable of understanding, and 4) God did it.

Now, in regards to the quotes I checked out, 99% may be high, but not by that much. A couple of examples:

Using quotes Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould to show that there are no transitional fossils.

Citing a paper to support a claim that carbon 14 dating was totally inaccurate in every case. The paper (they cited the wrong journal and date which made it a bear to track down) was investigating why the dating of certain clams in the Antartic was wrong. It was investigating a specific circumstance and did not indicate that carbon 14 was inaccurate in all or even most cases.

In this case it was interesting that it was the process of science and not anything ID did that identified that area where Carbon 14 dating would not work. And it explained why it would not either.

In regards to scientists having different points of views about how evolution works – it has always been that way. Pick any year after the publication of the Origin of Species and I can find you disagreements and disputes about how evolution works. ID had nothing to do with it.

In fact that is how science works, period. Physics, chemistry, astonomy, all and every one of them disagree, argue, discuss different solutions, critique. In fact a fairly good definition of science is a long controlled argument.

It was disagreements and disputes and their resolutions that eventually resulted in the Synthetic Theory of Evolution. And I have no doubt that this will continue, especially as we discover more about our genome and how it is translated into us.

Were creationists to set their sights on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity they could mine the physics journals and papers in the same way that they are doing biology to make it seem as if Relativity Theory were in danger of being toppled.

ID has produced no useful research.

They are very good at public relations and organizing grass roots and political efforts but not very good at science.

Let me end this by saying that while I obviously strongly disagree with you I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. I do so enjoy a good polite disagreement.

4. rhampton - February 2, 2010

It occurred to me that the most glaring (lack of) evidence for Intelligent Design Theory is a relational map of life. Stephen Meyer, for example, often talks of different “body plans” that could not have naturally evolved and thus have no common ancestors. For want of a better term, ID theory implies a “corn field” model wherein rows of organisms stand unconnected to each other. Yet Meyer, Behe, et al. have never used ID to propose an intelligently designed map of life wherein irreducibly complex structures cleave branches off of the “Tree of Life”.

If ID is to have any scientific value (humor me for a moment) then it must be capable of predicting said organization with some meaningful specificity. Scientists should demand that ID theorists produce such a model. That is, make them put their balls on the table by either submitting an easily discredited model or admitting (in public) the incoherence of their theory.

5. befuddled2 - February 2, 2010

I had not heard that argument against ID stated quite that way before. From what I have read I believe most ID proponents would try to get around this by saying the God created everything based on a certain body plan. However I have always found that a very weak arguement, especially since it is the changes to that plan that also create physical problems – for example our back problems. You would think an intelligent designer would try to create a telescope from scratch instead of trying to turn a car into one.

6. creationbydesign - February 4, 2010

most ID proponents would try to get around this by saying the God created everything based on a certain body plan

I have never seen an ID proponent say this. Certainly, Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe or William Dembski – the most prominent ID researchers don’t say that ID proves that God created certain body plans.

ID in its most basic form gives evidence for intelligent design existing in nature. So, it predicts first that certain features in nature conform to what we know about design by intelligent agents. Secondly, it predicts that natural, unintelligent processes will not be able to explain the feature in question.

So, ID can be falsified by showing the evolutionary path for irreducibly complex features in nature (and there are very many of those).

It’s not an argument from ignorance, but it is based on our knowledge of what intelligence produces. We see, for example, finely-tuned features in nature or the cosmos. Randomness cannot explain the origin or development of those features. We know that human intelligence produces functional, cooperative systems with symmetry and coordination of parts which fulfill precise functions and purposes. We find the same kinds of things in nature (molecular machines).

The most reasonable explanation for the origin and existence of these features is that some intelligent agent was involved in their development.

As for how an intelligent designer would create things, first — that’s a judgement about the designer. We can see the difference in human designs of various things — various works of art, for example. Is there one right way to create a painting? We know it was created through intelligence but each artist can use a different style. As for the designer front-loading various organisms with the inbuilt potential to develop into other things — it depends on why the designer wanted to design anything at all. Did the designer want to communicate some kind of message through the design?
That’s where we have to take the discussion beyond the narrow limits of science. We have to be able to recognize the work of intelligence and interpret what it means.

7. befuddled2 - February 4, 2010

Several points.

First, I did not say that ID says “that ID proves that God created certain body plans”. Instead I said that they use this as an explanation for why we see a certain basic body plan being modified for several very different environments and uses.

You also mention irriducible complexity. Nothing has ever been shown to be irriducibly complex. The most famous example was the flagellum of bacteria and that has been shown that it could have arisen through a natural process.

Which emphasises my point about ignorance being incapable of proving anything.

You talk as if the only alternative to randomness is Intelligent Design. However that is a gross oversimplification. There are several processes in nature that produce the appearance of design. The main one for us would be natural selection, which while it has a component of randomness, is not a random process.

Now I also get the impression that when you are talking about the fine tuning you are talking about the physical properties of the universe itself. Let me first point out that whether evolution is true or not does not depend on whether a God created the universe or not.

Further you are acting as if the only possible explanation for this is an Intelligent Designer. However it is not the only possibility. Both Quantum Theory and Relativity Theory indicate that multiple universes may exist. In fact there are more than several ways this could occur, none of which is precluded in these theories. In this case you would expect to find some that would be right for life.

Admittedly this is speculative with no evidence for it beyond it seemingly being a valid consequence of the above mentioned theories. But then so is an Intelligent Designer a speculative idea without any evidence for it. What is your evidence that an Intelligent Designer created the universe rather than our universe being the chance result of an infinity of universes?

Again ignorance is not capable of proving anything.

In support of this idea of fine tuning I have quite often heard it said that our universe is so fine tuned that if you change just one variable life is not possible. It seems that those who said that may have spoken too quickly.

In a recent issue of Scientific American (sorry, I don’t know which one but if interested ask and I’ll find out; it was either this month or last month’s I believe) an article discussed the fact that if you change more than one of the constants of the universe you might still get life, which means that our universe is not so fine tuned as once thought.

Another problem with your Intelligent Designer theory is who designed the Intelligent Designer? Surely anything that designed our complex universe is complex enough to also need explaining by another even more Intelligent Designer?

Intelligent Design explains nothing.

Why do all mammels seem to be variations of a basic body plan? The Intelligent Designer wanted to keep to the same style.

Why do jellyfish and mammels have such a radically different body plan? Because the Intelligent Designer wanted to do something different.

Is there more than one Intelligent Designer? You used the example of how different artists have different styles. That would imply that you are open to the idea of there being several Intelligent Designers. Perhaps one Intelligent Designer created mammels and another jellyfish?

Then there are the other questions that Intelligent Design has problems with.

Why does the human eye have a blind spot that could have been avoided by an intelligent designer? Perhaps he was not feeling so intelligent that day?

Why are humans so prone to back pain?

Why do humans have the remnants of a tail bone?

And then there are the questions that Intelligent Design “scientists” really should be investigating if they were really serious about Intelligent Design being science.

When did the Intelligent Designer design this feature?

How did He/She/It do so- what mechanism did He/She/It use? A natural one or was it spoken into existence?

You mention recognizing the work of intelligence. That is not always easy to do.

In archeology it can be very difficult to tell when some stone age implement is an implement and when it is the result of a natural process.

There are the giant stones in Ireland whose appearance caused many to believe that they were the result of man instead of nature.

In summary Intelligent Design is based on ignorance – ignorance of a natural cause. You yourself said it can be falsified by finding natural causes.

In many cases we have done just that. And what is your surity that it will not continue to happen?

You need more than just ignorance to support your claim here. You need to have evidence that there will never be a natural explanation. Otherwise science will still have to keep plugging away with their assumption of naturalism.

8. creationbydesign - February 5, 2010

Again, you offer good points and I agree in parts but disagree elsewhere. Unfortunately I can’t answer it all (if I get more time I can come back). So, I’ll just take this one point …

You claim that ID is built on ignorance, and that is not correct since it is built on an understanding of how intelligence creates designed artifacts and then research into evidence of an intelligent agent in nature. You mention how the flagellum (one of many IC systems) “could have” evolved — which is merely a statement of ignorance since it’s an imaginary scenario lacking a detailed evolutionary path.

But beyond that, you complain about how ID proposes intelligence due to ignorance and then you state:

Admittedly this is speculative with no evidence for it beyond it seemingly being a valid consequence of the above mentioned theories.

Ok, that’s fine. But you’re willing to propose a potential solution that has no evidence to support it. This is the “mutiverse of the gaps” idea. Where you find a mystery, you propose a solution that is supported by zero evidence.

What is your evidence that an Intelligent Designer created the universe rather than our universe being the chance result of an infinity of universes?

First, there is zero evidence that an infinity of universes exist. So, all we need is “some” evidence that an Intelligent Designer exists and that would be the far better and more reasonable conclusion. Right?

An infinity of unverses does not explain its own existence, first of all. Where did it come from? It has to receive its being/existence from some source. If you posit this infinity as “just being there”, this is not different than just asserting that “God exists and always has”. But this assertion about God is supported by documentary, eyewitness evidence and the claims of millions (perhaps more) of believers who claim that they communicate with, have seen, have been directed by and have been affected (healed, taught, protected, consoled) by an Intelligent Designer who created the world.

So, this is a major problem when it comes time to refute all of those testimonials. Probably millions of people today believe that God exists and that they’ve been convinced about that through communication with God and validation of the same. All it takes is one of them to be correct.

That’s evidence. Let’s say a hundred people saw someone robbing a bank. That is evidence that the bank was robbed. They might be wrong, but the evidence still says something. How do we explain that a hundred people saw the same thing and reported it?

befuddled2 - February 6, 2010

Let me take just one section of your response at a time. First section:

You claim that ID is built on ignorance, and that is not correct since it is built on an understanding of how intelligence creates designed artifacts and then research into evidence of an intelligent agent in nature. You mention how the flagellum (one of many IC systems) “could have” evolved — which is merely a statement of ignorance since it’s an imaginary scenario lacking a detailed evolutionary path.”

You talk about identifying products of intelligence as if it were easy. And in some cases it is. However natural causes can mimic the results of intelligence too. I mentioned a couple of natural examples (Irish Causeway and stone tools) in which a natural process mimicked intelligence.

Have you ever thought about why we can determine that a house is the result of intelligence at work and not nature? Because we experience these things. We can tell the difference between a square boulder and a log cabin and know that one is the result of natural forces and one is the result of intelligence. The reason – because of our experience. However if a natural force can mimic what we do closely enough people can make mistakes.

Would someone who had limited experience with how natural processes can shape the world mistake the cause of structures such as the Irish Causeway? If you listen to the Irish legends it seems that they did. And this is just with non- living things. With living things the problem is even worse.

Living things are tougher to determine since we have no experience whatsoever with the intelligent design of living things in order to distinguish the difference between a natural process and a designed one. Further living things have one great difference (actually several but I will mention only one here) – they reproduce and pass on their characteristics (OK, so I mentioned two). That means that there are natural processes possible here that are not possible for non-living matter.

In regards to us not being able to provide a detailed evolutionary path for the flagellum, I think you greatly understate our knowledge here.

http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html

I would like to point out that we may not always be able to list every step along the way. We may have steps 1 through 20, then steps 24 through 26, then step 28, step 30 and finish with steps 34 through 40. If we have shown that all of these steps are the result of a natural process then does it not make sense that the missing steps are too? Why should we assume differently? Where is your evidence that the causes of steps 21 through 23 were different than the ones before and after?

A good case in point is whale evolution. For the longest time creationists pointed out the gaps in the fossil record for the evolution of whales. Starting in the mid 1990’s and continuing into now we have unearthed a whole treasure trove of fossils of these missing steps. Stephen Jay Gould wrote about this called Hooking Leviathan

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_leviathan.html

I would also like to point out that a severe problem with considering Intelligent Design as science is that in each of these “imaginary scenarios” as you call them there is an area for scientists to research and to test these scenarios to see if they were accurate or not. In other words they are looking for actual evidence to confirm them.

The research of Intelligent Design though is dependent on scientists NOT finding a natural cause. It is not a search for any corroborating evidence at all. It is passive, which is a natural result of a system that relies on ignorance instead of evidence.

Now we seem to go back and forth between the universe being designed and evolution. Or at least I am perceive it as so since I did write the original blog as part of a response to creationists. I do want to make the point again that in regards to evolution it does not matter whether the universe came about as a result of intelligent design or not. No matter the origin of the natural laws of the universe the process of natural selection would work just as well.

Which brings me to the next section of your response.

“But beyond that, you complain about how ID proposes intelligence due to ignorance and then you state:

Admittedly this is speculative with no evidence for it beyond it seemingly being a valid consequence of the above mentioned theories.

Ok, that’s fine. But you’re willing to propose a potential solution that has no evidence to support it. This is the “mutiverse of the gaps” idea. Where you find a mystery, you propose a solution that is supported by zero evidence.

First, there is zero evidence that an infinity of universes exist. So, all we need is “some” evidence that an Intelligent Designer exists and that would be the far better and more reasonable conclusion. Right?

An infinity of unverses does not explain its own existence, first of all. Where did it come from? It has to receive its being/existence from some source. If you posit this infinity as “just being there”, this is not different than just asserting that “God exists and always has”. But this assertion about God is supported by documentary, eyewitness evidence and the claims of millions (perhaps more) of believers who claim that they communicate with, have seen, have been directed by and have been affected (healed, taught, protected, consoled) by an Intelligent Designer who created the world.”

You are not seeing my point here. You are using the argument that since we cannot conceive of a natural process that could have created the universe then God must have. I am merely pointing out that there is indeed a possible natural process. Which means that your argument for Intelligent Design is wrong.

Now I am not using the possible natural process to say there is no God. I am just using this to point out that we do have possibilities, that we do not know the answer, and that for you to use this as evidence of God is greatly premature. I would also point out that scientists have come up with different possible ways to test and see if there are multiple universes. And just as in the flagellum, I do not see anyone on the Intelligent Design side trying to come up with corroborating evidence for their idea. They are passive again, hoping that ignorance will continue.

I would also point out, in regards to evidence for multiple universes, that at one time black holes were thought to be an interesting theoretical result that could be derived from Einstein’s Relativity theory. Even Einstein did not believe they really existed. Now though we know they do.

Further there is more backing to the mutliverse theory than you seem to think. For one thing it could provide some nice answers to some issues and problems physicists are working on. Not evidence that they exist, but definitely means they are a possibility.

Again, you seem to be missing the underlying issue here. You posit that an Intelligent Designer must have designed the universe because it seems so fine tuned to life. That there could be NO possible natural explanation for it.

I provided one, one in not only in accord with the leading theories in physics but seemingly a natural result of them, – just as with black holes. The fact that there is a possible natural explanation means that you still have to provide some way of distinguishing between a unknown natural process and God did it.

As for explaining its own existence I agree, we are in the same situation with this as with the idea that God exists. However you were using God to explain the existence of the universe, but without explaining where God came from. If we have to accept the existence of one as a brute fact I would have to say that the universe around us has quite of a bit of evidence that most people would agree on whereas God is not nearly are certain and obvious.

Now for the last part of your post:

“But this assertion about God is supported by documentary, eyewitness evidence and the claims of millions (perhaps more) of believers who claim that they communicate with, have seen, have been directed by and have been affected (healed, taught, protected, consoled) by an Intelligent Designer who created the world.

So, this is a major problem when it comes time to refute all of those testimonials. Probably millions of people today believe that God exists and that they’ve been convinced about that through communication with God and validation of the same. All it takes is one of them to be correct.

That’s evidence. Let’s say a hundred people saw someone robbing a bank. That is evidence that the bank was robbed. They might be wrong, but the evidence still says something. How do we explain that a hundred people saw the same thing and reported it?”

I would actually say billions of people assert that he exists. However at one time almost the whole population of the earth believed that the sun circled the earth too.

In regards to “documentary, eyewitness evidence” do you mean there is an actual eyewitness to God? Which one? Zeus? Allah? Odin? Osiris?

As for the healings, again these Gods and many others have been credited with healing. Which one is it? Or is it something that has been mistakenly attributed to a God

As for experience, millions experience God. However their description differs, often greatly. For example Buddhism which has no personal God but does rely on religious experience to validate their beliefs. But even between those with a personal God there are significant differences, otherwise we would not have Islam, Judaism, and so forth and the wars and the conflicts that go with them.

You use witnesses reporting that someone robbed a bank robbery as an example of why we should believe Intelligent Design and God. In that example I would put some credibility that they were actually reporting what happened, especially if there were physical evidence that the bank had been robbed. . However that is NOT what we have with religious experience and God. Instead we have many varied and contradictory testimonies.
Imagine that 100 people saw a car. But they described it differently. Some said a black Lexus. Others said a red VW van. Others said it was only a cardboard cutout of a car with something or nothing else behind it.

While I would agree that all 100 saw something I would not be very sure that it was a car.

The same holds true with religious experience. I do not doubt the experience and the fact that it is important to that person, but I do doubt the interpretation of that experience

To use your bank example, there may be 100 witnesses but they are not all telling the same story. Even worse there is no clear cut physical evidence that there was even a robbery. They witnessed something but it was probably not a bank robbery.

9. creationbydesign - February 8, 2010

You talk about identifying products of intelligence as if it were easy. And in some cases it is. However natural causes can mimic the results of intelligence too.

True – it is difficult but that’s the challenge. We call something “intelligence” we call something “design produced by intelligence”. We struggle to define what those things mean. But they’re part of our reference points. So, the task of definining them is a good one, not bad. It’s also important for science.

Living things are tougher to determine since we have no experience whatsoever with the intelligent design of living things in order to distinguish the difference between a natural process and a designed one.

We do have some experience. Michael Behe’s “Edge of Evolution” is a good look at what evolution cannot do. It’s essential to create that limit or boundary. Otherwise, we’d have to claim that “evolution can do anything and everything imaginable”.

In regards to us not being able to provide a detailed evolutionary path for the flagellum, I think you greatly understate our knowledge here.

http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html

It’s important to read Michael Behe’s refutation of Miller’s claims also. We’re very far from having a full evolutionary pathway. One of Miller’s most important claims about the TT secretionary system was already refuted since the TTSS actually appeared after the Flagellum. And this is only one small part of this amazingly complex molecular machine.

If we have shown that all of these steps are the result of a natural process then does it not make sense that the missing steps are too?

If that was the case, then it would be a “reasonable inference”. There could be other ideas also. But the fact is, we have not shown that all steps are part of natural process. The evidence given thus far is that it “could have evolved” this way. That’s imaginary evidence.

A good case in point is whale evolution. For the longest time creationists pointed out the gaps in the fossil record for the evolution of whales.

The fossils don’t line up with the DNA evidence though. That’s another major problem.

“Most genes don’t change very much at all, even the body-plan genes seem to be very similar in the mouse and blue whale.”

More scientists are giving up on Darwinism. See this (as quoted above):
http://creationbydesign.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/evolution-no-certainties-there-can-be-no-unifying-theory/

The research of Intelligent Design though is dependent on scientists NOT finding a natural cause. It is not a search for any corroborating evidence at all. It is passive, which is a natural result of a system that relies on ignorance instead of evidence.

No, it’s not limited to that. As you pointed out above — we can work on defining what “design” really is and see if there is evidence that matches the definition to be found in nature. If design conforms to certain mathematical specifications — then Intelligent Design is a reasonable inference.

Now we seem to go back and forth between the universe being designed and evolution.

In both cases, it’s an observation of evidence and conclusion of Intelligence at work. So, it’s the same thing.

You are not seeing my point here. You are using the argument that since we cannot conceive of a natural process that could have created the universe then God must have.

No, you’re mistating my point. It is this:

There is zero direct evidence of an infinity of universes.
If you propose that they exist, you do so based on no evidence.
You say it’s “possible” that an infinity of universes exist.

I don’t think you’re saying that it is “impossible” that God exists – right? Or that it is “impossible” that an intelligent agent was involved in nature? That would be a major problem because you can’t prove that — its an absolute denial of the possiblity that God exists.

I am just using this to point out that we do have possibilities, that we do not know the answer,

That is true and a reasonable conclusion. But you can’t rule out God either.

And just as in the flagellum, I do not see anyone on the Intelligent Design side trying to come up with corroborating evidence for their idea. They are passive again, hoping that ignorance will continue.

The effort spent in refuting a false idea is not merely “passive”. It’s a positive work for the truth. If someone makes a false claim, then the truth is to show that the claim is refuted. That’s important.

Again, you seem to be missing the underlying issue here. You posit that an Intelligent Designer must have designed the universe because it seems so fine tuned to life. That there could be NO possible natural explanation for it.

Befuddled — you’re exaggerating and pushing me into a corner where I don’t belong. I never made those absolute statements using the word “must” or that there could be “no possible” explanations. There is zero evidence of a multiverse – that we know is true. But is it “possible”? Sure. But it’s possible in an imaginary sense. Again, I’m saying — look at the evidence and we have to judge the most reasonable inference, not proof.

The fact that there is a possible natural explanation means that you still have to provide some way of distinguishing between a unknown natural process and God did it.

If you’re saying that God is impossible, then that’s a different argument to pursue. That’s where you need to be clearer in your own view.

However you were using God to explain the existence of the universe, but without explaining where God came from.

Ok — we have to define what I mean by God (or the most general view of Theism means by the term).

If we have to accept the existence of one as a brute fact I would have to say that the universe around us has quite of a bit of evidence that most people would agree on whereas God is not nearly are certain and obvious.

True, but you may have to accept the existence of many brute facts — or reasonable conclusions that cannot be scientifically proven.

I would actually say billions of people assert that he exists. However at one time almost the whole population of the earth believed that the sun circled the earth too.

With this analogy, the billions who assert that God exists will be proven wrong by a new explanation about what they perceive and experience? What could that be and who is going to prove it?

In regards to “documentary, eyewitness evidence” do you mean there is an actual eyewitness to God?

What evidence to you find in the New Testament?

Which one? Zeus? Allah? Odin? Osiris?

How do you weigh the evidence regarding the claims about each of those? If someone has claimed to see and experience Odin — who is the person, what support does the weight of that person’s testimony have? How do you explain that person’s claim?

As for the healings, again these Gods and many others have been credited with healing. Which one is it? Or is it something that has been mistakenly attributed to a God

You appear to be claiming that it is none. Not one. What explanation do you give for the claims which you have not investigated?

As for experience, millions experience God. However their description differs, often greatly.

It also often does not differ. How do you explain that?

For example Buddhism which has no personal God but does rely on religious experience to validate their beliefs.

Buddhism posits a spiritual reality — how do you explain that?

But even between those with a personal God there are significant differences, otherwise we would not have Islam, Judaism, and so forth and the wars and the conflicts that go with them.

Since scientists differ on what they observe in nature, and hnow they interpret data — especially with supposed evolutionary evidence – does that mean that science is necessarily false?

Instead we have many varied and contradictory testimonies.

How do you explain all of those testimonies? You are claiming that every one is wrong. How do you know? What is one of them is correct?

Imagine that 100 people saw a car. But they described it differently. Some said a black Lexus. Others said a red VW van. Others said it was only a cardboard cutout of a car with something or nothing else behind it.
While I would agree that all 100 saw something I would not be very sure that it was a car.

This is very good. You accept that 100 saw something. In other words, they are not lying. They are not hallucinating all together. They saw something. What was it? Were all 100 wrong? What if one of them was correct?

The same holds true with religious experience. I do not doubt the experience and the fact that it is important to that person, but I do doubt the interpretation of that experience

Ok, that is fine as I see it. You can doubt it, but you can’t deny that many “experienced something”. In many cases, the experience is similar in basic ways. You can doubt, but that is not an explanation. Again, the conclusion “they’re all wrong” would be based on your ignorance, not evidence.

10. befuddled2 - February 13, 2010

Creationbydesign
You talk about identifying products of intelligence as if it were easy. And in some cases it is. However natural causes can mimic the results of intelligence too.

True – it is difficult but that’s the challenge. We call something “intelligence” we call something “design produced by intelligence”. We struggle to define what those things mean. But they’re part of our reference points. So, the task of definining them is a good one, not bad. It’s also important for science.

Befuddled Response
I have yet to see any sort of effective standards for determining what is intelligently designed and what is not. In fact that is what my whole post is about – the impossibility of ruling out a natural cause. You yourself just stated that you are struggling to define what those standards mean. Given that it seems rather presumptuous to me that you use this ill defined standard to say something is intelligently designed.

Perhaps we might approach the issue this way, provide some standards or criteria for determining whether something is intelligently designed. And then apply that standard to a living creature, say the Antarctic icefish.

Creationbydesign

Living things are tougher to determine since we have no experience whatsoever with the intelligent design of living things in order to distinguish the difference between a natural process and a designed one.

We do have some experience. Michael Behe’s “Edge of Evolution” is a good look at what evolution cannot do. It’s essential to create that limit or boundary. Otherwise, we’d have to claim that “evolution can do anything and everything imaginable”.

Befuddled Response

Micheal’s Behe’s credibility with me was shot during the first few pages of his “Darwin’s Black Box” when in his preface he states, “There has been virtually no attempt to account for the origin of specific, complex biomolecular systems, much less any progress.”

Reading that I immediately started to review the science journals. Imagine my surprise when I found numerous papers exploring the evolutionary history and origin of complex biomolecular systems. And from what I read, while they did not have all the answers yet (what field of science does) considerable progress had been and is still being made.

I will note that this inconvenient fact came around to bite him badly during the Dover trial.

Now I did look on the web to see what Michael Behe was claiming was the outer limit or boundry of evolution. Before I get into that though I wish to point out that even IF Behe were right and that there are limits to what evolution can explain that still is not evidence of Intelligent Design.

My question in that case is how do you know that there is not another natural method that does not have the same limits as evolution through natural selection and that could explain what evolution cannot without reference to an Intelligent Designer? Which is, again, the point of my original blog.

My understanding of what Behe is saying in his latest book (I have not read the book only about it from several sources both pro and against) is that there are limits to what “Darwinian evolution” can do. That it can explain changes between species but not between orders.

The problem, as he sees it, is that random mutations cannot provide enough of the raw material necessary to travel from one genetic state to another.

His proposed solution is that an Intelligent Designer provided non-random mutations.

Several issues:

First, I believe that he is simply wrong in regards to the amount of mutations not being enough to provide the material for natural selection to work on. From what I have read the mutation rate has been measured and also measured is how quickly new beneficial mutations can spread through a population.

Second, related to what I have stated above, there have been other natural mechanisms proposed for to work in conjunction with natural selection: sexual selection, genetic drift, etc.

In summary then this is still just an argument from ignorance. We do not know of a natural cause so it must be intelligently designed. Or God did it in other words. The same sort of argument that was once used for what causes disease, earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning, and so forth.

As for evolution being able to do anything and everything, no one is claiming that it can. There are limits to what evolution can and cannot do. A modern whale cannot evolve from a hoofed animal in 6,000 years for example.

However what Behe’s limits on evolution are not the true limits.

Creationbydesign

In regards to us not being able to provide a detailed evolutionary path for the flagellum, I think you greatly understate our knowledge here.
http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html

It’s important to read Michael Behe’s refutation of Miller’s claims also. We’re very far from having a full evolutionary pathway. One of Miller’s most important claims about the TT secretionary system was already refuted since the TTSS actually appeared after the Flagellum. And this is only one small part of this amazingly complex molecular machine.

Befuddled Response

Research this — from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Behe#Dover_testimony
Also while under oath, Behe admitted that his simulation modeling of evolution with Snoke had, in fact, shown that complex biochemical systems requiring multiple interacting parts for the system to function and requiring multiple, consecutive and unpreserved mutations to be fixed in a population could evolve within 20,000 years. This would happen even if the parameters of the simulation were rigged to make that outcome as unlikely as possible.

Creationbydesign

If we have shown that all of these steps are the result of a natural process then does it not make sense that the missing steps are too?

If that was the case, then it would be a “reasonable inference”. There could be other ideas also. But the fact is, we have not shown that all steps are part of natural process. The evidence given thus far is that it “could have evolved” this way. That’s imaginary evidence.

Befuddled Response

Your statement is interesting. You say “If that was the case, then it would be a reasonable inference”. It is the case that many of these steps have been proven to be the result of natural processes. Some much more so than others. Given that this is true it is indeed a reasonable inference.

Further some transitions have been well documented step by step even at a genetic level. You might try reading “The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution” by Sean B. Carroll in this regards.

And I did not say evidence. I said inference. These inferences allow scientists to focus their research to find out if they are correct or not. It is how science works. Judging from past results the evidence will come.

And again you are missing out on a key part of YOUR argument. You are arguing that there is no possible natural cause therefore God did it. Or to put it in slightly its slightly more disguised version, an Intelligent Designer did it. My showing that there is a possible and quite plausible and likely natural cause, even if there is currently no evidence for it in a particular case, shows that your whole argument is without foundation.

Creationbydesign

A good case in point is whale evolution. For the longest time creationists pointed out the gaps in the fossil record for the evolution of whales.

The fossils don’t line up with the DNA evidence though. That’s another major problem.

“Most genes don’t change very much at all, even the body-plan genes seem to be very similar in the mouse and blue whale.”

Befuddled Response

I assume that the disconnect between the whale fossil record and the genetic evidence deals with what land animal the whale evolved from. This from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_evolution

“The traditional theory of cetacean evolution was that whales were related to the mesonychids, an extinct order of carnivorous ungulates (hoofed animals), which looked rather like wolves with hooves and were a sister group of artiodactyls. These animals possessed unusual triangular teeth that are similar to those of whales. For this reason, scientists had long believed that whales evolved from a form of mesonychid; however more recent molecular phylogeny data suggest that whales are more closely related to the artiodactyls, specifically the hippopotamus.[1] The strong evidence for a clade combining cetaceans and artiodactyls is further discussed under the entry Cetartiodactyla. However, hippos’ anthracothere ancestors do not appear in the fossil record until millions of years after Pakicetus, the first known whale ancestor.

The recent discovery of Pakicetus, the earliest proto-whale (see below) supports the molecular data. The skeletons of Pakicetus demonstrate that whales did not derive directly from mesonychids. Instead, they are a form of artiodactyl (another type of ungulate) that began to take to the water after the artiodactyl family split from the mesonychids. In other words, the proto-whales were early artiodactyls that retained aspects of their mesonychid ancestry (such as the triangular teeth) which modern artiodactyls have since lost.”
Science is a process of discovery.

This disconnect is now being resolved by new fossil evidence and the fossil evidence for whale evolution after this point is well documented, and fairly detailed.

That is a problem with relying on what we do not know rather than what we do to support God did it. Scientists keep finding new information that helps explain problems and seeming discrepancies.

I am not sure why you mention the similarity in body plan. I will agree that the body plan genes are similar but thiss is part of the evidence for common ancestry and evolution and against an Intelligent Designer. Why would an intelligent designer use the same body plan for such different creatures living in such different environments and with such different lifesyles? Further this shows that it does not take a great deal of genetic change to evolve very different creatures.

Creationbydesign

More scientists are giving up on Darwinism. See this (as quoted above):
http://creationbydesign.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/evolution-no-certainties-there-can-be-no-unifying-theory/

The research of Intelligent Design though is dependent on scientists NOT finding a natural cause. It is not a search for any corroborating evidence at all. It is passive, which is a natural result of a system that relies on ignorance instead of evidence.

No, it’s not limited to that. As you pointed out above — we can work on defining what “design” really is and see if there is evidence that matches the definition to be found in nature. If design conforms to certain mathematical specifications — then Intelligent Design is a reasonable inference.

Now we seem to go back and forth between the universe being designed and evolution.

In both cases, it’s an observation of evidence and conclusion of Intelligence at work. So, it’s the same thing.

Befuddled Response

On the basis of one book written by two authors who are not biologists you are saying that scientists are turning against Darwinism.

Also how do you define Darwinism, because I will and most scientists will freely admit that he got many things wrong; most notably how genetics works.

However his central idea that evolution occurred has been amply proven. His prime method of evolution, natural selection, is still considered by the great majority of scientists, to be an important method or even primary method of evolutionary change.

The thing about science is that it grows and expands. When scientists learned about Mendelian Genetics they saw that this actually helped explained how evolution and natural selection works, hence the modern sysnthesis.

Someday – perhaps sooner, perhaps later – there will have to be another revision of the theory. When Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity it supplanted Newtonian theory. However it did not negate it, only showed it to be incomplete.

Notice that Einstein’s theory is still one without a God did it. So one natural theory was supplanted by another natural theory. The same may some day hold true with evolutionary theory and the Modern Synthesis. Just as the Modern Synthesis supplanted Darwin’s original theory another natural theory may supplant the Modern Sythesis.

So whether or not scientists support the current evolutionary theory (and the vast majority of them do) has no bearing on whether God did it.

You are again arguing based on ignorance. You have presented nothing positive as evidence that God did actually do it.

In regards to the origin of the universe and evolution being the same thing, actually it is not. Even if an Intelligent Designer designed the natural laws of the universe then why could not evolution and natural selection be part of those laws? In which case life in all its variety would still be the result of a natural process.

Creationbydesign

You are not seeing my point here. You are using the argument that since we cannot conceive of a natural process that could have created the universe then God must have.

No, you’re mistating my point. It is this:

There is zero direct evidence of an infinity of universes.
If you propose that they exist, you do so based on no evidence.
You say it’s “possible” that an infinity of universes exist.

Befuddled Response

You are claiming that since there is no possible natural cause for the creation of the universe then God must have done it. I am pointing out that your statement is not true, that there is a possible natural cause for the universe. Therefore you cannot logically or rationally claim that this provides evidence of God.

Further while we do not have any direct evidence of an infinity of universes the fact that they flow naturally from some of our most basic and well tested theories – relativity and quantum theory – then they are most definitely not impossible.

And the fact that such universes could help explain features of our universe – an example being such as why gravity is so much weaker than the other three basic forces (weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, and electromagnetism) provides indirect support.

I will also mention that the concept of black holes was at first just a theoretical possibility of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. No one thought they really existed, not even Einstein. However we now know they do.

And again this is just another example of how you are using ignorance of a natural cause as evidence of God did it.

Creationbydesign

I don’t think you’re saying that it is “impossible” that God exists – right? Or that it is “impossible” that an intelligent agent was involved in nature? That would be a major problem because you can’t prove that — its an absolute denial of the possiblity that God exists.

I am just using this to point out that we do have possibilities, that we do not know the answer,

That is true and a reasonable conclusion. But you can’t rule out God either.

Befuddled Response

Philosophically that is true. However scientifically until you can come up with a way to distinguish between the four possible sources for answers to an unknown then you have to do so as a practical necessity. To automatically assume that ignorance is proof of God is to stop research into natural causes.

Had scientists done that in the past we would not know what caused disease. Lightning rods would never have been invented. And so forth. It is only by accepting ignorance as evidence of ignorance only and not of God that science truly came into its own.

Since we have covered so much territory here let me again remind you of the four possible scenarios when faced with an unknown.

1) There is a natural explanation but we have not come up with the evidence needed to show us how to answer it or with the right way to look at the problem to solve it. Some examples would be Plate Tectonics and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

2) There is a natural explanation but we do not have the tools needed to solve it. Examples are the Germ Theory of Disease (microscope) and most of Astronomy (telescope).

3) There is a natural explanation but we will never be able to solve it because we just do not have the intelligence to do so. For example imagine on of or early ancestors – possibly Homo Erectus – sitting on the shores of the ocean. She notices the tides and wonders what causes them. However her intelligence is too limited for her to ever understand how the gravitational effects of the moon and sun causes the tides. Because of this she might conclude that a god caused the tides when taking the baths even though there is a natural explanation.

4) God did it.

Let me say that what scientists do as a practical necessity is not something they have to do with their whole view of the world. That is why so many scientists are also still Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, etc.

Creationbydesign

And just as in the flagellum, I do not see anyone on the Intelligent Design side trying to come up with corroborating evidence for their idea. They are passive again, hoping that ignorance will continue.

The effort spent in refuting a false idea is not merely “passive”. It’s a positive work for the truth. If someone makes a false claim, then the truth is to show that the claim is refuted. That’s important.

Befuddled Response

So far I have seen no effective refutation of false ideas. Further I do not know of any other scientists of scientific field where there would not have been some sort of research into the how”s. Which again shows what a show stopper the assumption of Intelligent Design is.

Creationbydesign

Again, you seem to be missing the underlying issue here. You posit that an Intelligent Designer must have designed the universe because it seems so fine tuned to life. That there could be NO possible natural explanation for it.

Befuddled — you’re exaggerating and pushing me into a corner where I don’t belong. I never made those absolute statements using the word “must” or that there could be “no possible” explanations. There is zero evidence of a multiverse – that we know is true. But is it “possible”? Sure. But it’s possible in an imaginary sense. Again, I’m saying — look at the evidence and we have to judge the most reasonable inference, not proof.

Befuddled Response

Let me ask, are you using our ignorance of natural cause of the universe as evidence for God? Is so then you must of necessity say that there can be no possibility of a natural cause. If not then this is just unknown and not evidence of anything other than ignorance.

In that case the issue is not whether God exists or not but rather what is the best method to determine the cause of the universe. I am arguing that to assume anything other than a natural cause is to shut down science.

If you assume God did it then why research it further? As noted above that seems to be what is happening with those Intelligent Design “scientists”

You talk about evidence but all the evidence you have cited is ignorance of a natural cause. I am saying that this is not evidence of anything but ignorance. You are trying to use it to prove that God did it.

The assumption of a natural cause is a matter of practical necessity. And it always will be until you can come up with a way to distinguish between the four scenarios I outlined above.

Creationbydesign

The fact that there is a possible natural explanation means that you still have to provide some way of distinguishing between a unknown natural process and God did it.

If you’re saying that God is impossible, then that’s a different argument to pursue. That’s where you need to be clearer in your own view.

However you were using God to explain the existence of the universe, but without explaining where God came from.

Ok — we have to define what I mean by God (or the most general view of Theism means by the term).

If we have to accept the existence of one as a brute fact I would have to say that the universe around us has quite of a bit of evidence that most people would agree on whereas God is not nearly are certain and obvious.

True, but you may have to accept the existence of many brute facts — or reasonable conclusions that cannot be scientifically proven.

Befuddled Response

I am not saying that God is impossible. I am saying that for science to work it must assume that there is a natural cause. Nowhere in this post or these responses have I said that this proves that God is impossible. It may prove certain versions of God impossible but not all versions.

I will agree that we have to accept the existence of many brute facts. However it makes more sense to assume the brute existence of the universe about which we can provide a great deal of evidence and get a great amount of agreement between diverse people than a God whose evidence is very weak and about which we get much more disagreements.

Creationbydesign

I would actually say billions of people assert that he exists. However at one time almost the whole population of the earth believed that the sun circled the earth too.

With this analogy, the billions who assert that God exists will be proven wrong by a new explanation about what they perceive and experience? What could that be and who is going to prove it?

In regards to “documentary, eyewitness evidence” do you mean there is an actual eyewitness to God?

What evidence to you find in the New Testament?

Which one? Zeus? Allah? Odin? Osiris?

How do you weigh the evidence regarding the claims about each of those? If someone has claimed to see and experience Odin — who is the person, what support does the weight of that person’s testimony have? How do you explain that person’s claim?

As for the healings, again these Gods and many others have been credited with healing. Which one is it? Or is it something that has been mistakenly attributed to a God

You appear to be claiming that it is none. Not one. What explanation do you give for the claims which you have not investigated?

As for experience, millions experience God. However their description differs, often greatly.
It also often does not differ. How do you explain that?

For example Buddhism which has no personal God but does rely on religious experience to validate their beliefs.

Buddhism posits a spiritual reality — how do you explain that?

Befuddled Response

Now we are getting into philosophy and theology not science.

Remember my whole post was about why trying to use God did it as an explanation for the natural world destroys science.

Let me though address each very briefly:

1) In regards to religious experience I don’t know yet. I do know though that since the interpretations of this experience is so varied and conflicting that to use it to prove God, especially a specific version of God is useless. I would also like to point out that there is also much good research going on into how the brain works and also into possible evolutionary and sociological sources for this.

2) In regards to the eyewitness testimony in the New Testament. Do you find the eyewitness testimony of those who witnessed the works of Odin in the Skalds convincing? I would point out that these were written well after the death of Jesus and none of these testaments were written by those who had met and talked with Jesus. Further there is no corroborative evidence from other sources outside of Christian Bible or the miracles and resurrection. And in fact there is some conflict within the testaments and between what they say and what the secular sources document. In short this is not a sufficiently strong set of evidence for the rather spectacular claims made.

3) Similar culture and background helps explain most of the similarities. It is why Buddhist experiences are interpreted so similarly, the Hindu ones, the Muslim ones.

4) Buddhist spirititual reality – mistaken interpretation of an experience. Let me point out that at one time all humanity believed in tree spirits and mountain spirits and had direct experience with them. That is no longer believed and those experiences when happening now reinterpreted.

Creationbydesign

But even between those with a personal God there are significant differences, otherwise we would not have Islam, Judaism, and so forth and the wars and the conflicts that go with them.

Since scientists differ on what they observe in nature, and hnow they interpret data — especially with supposed evolutionary evidence – does that mean that science is necessarily false?

Instead we have many varied and contradictory testimonies.

How do you explain all of those testimonies? You are claiming that every one is wrong. How do you know? What is one of them is correct?

Befuddled Response

Science has a process and procedure to resolve these differences. It is in fact this method of resolving these differences that has made science so effective.

In a way all of science can be said to be an established process of resolving disagreements.

I do not see this with any religion.

As for which experience is correct – I don’t’ know. I know that some must be wrong since they do conflict. It could be all are wrong. I further know that with this much difference between them they make a very very weak foundation for claiming that God exists.

Creationbydesign

Imagine that 100 people saw a car. But they described it differently. Some said a black Lexus. Others said a red VW van. Others said it was only a cardboard cutout of a car with something or nothing else behind it.

While I would agree that all 100 saw something I would not be very sure that it was a car.

This is very good. You accept that 100 saw something. In other words, they are not lying. They are not hallucinating all together. They saw something. What was it? Were all 100 wrong? What if one of them was correct?

The same holds true with religious experience. I do not doubt the experience and the fact that it is important to that person, but I do doubt the interpretation of that experience

Ok, that is fine as I see it. You can doubt it, but you can’t deny that many “experienced something”. In many cases, the experience is similar in basic ways. You can doubt, but that is not an explanation. Again, the conclusion “they’re all wrong” would be based on your ignorance, not evidence.

Befuddled Response

You rather miss my point. I agree that they all experienced something. I am pointing out though that this experience is not reliable evidence of God being that something. Given that, these experiences provide no support for your argument for God. This is especially true since there are atheists, including myself, who would say that we have had a mystical experience.

Let me just finish this by saying that the whole God did it argument whether in the form of classical creationism or its more modern guise of Intelligent Design is still an argument from ignorance.

Ignorance is incapable of proving anything other than that we do not know. What is worse is that the creationists, including Intelligent Design, foster this ignorance by ignoring the scientific research and its results that show that many of their examples are capable of being explained by perfectly natural means without resort to a God did it.

Further their attempt to change one of the foundations of science, its reliance on natural explanations, constitutes are dangerous attack on science that if successful would destroy it.

It was not until people stopped using God did it for an explanation and started to look at natural processes that science really began.

It is popular for some Christians to claim that Christianity is what created science. However they are wrong.

In addition to science having its roots in many areas – Classical Greek thought, Muslim researches during the Middle Ages – I find it interesting that science did not really come together and start making its great advances until the Age Of Enlightenment. A time noted for its skeptical questioning of established answers – including religion and God did it.

Let me finish this by saying that science cannot prove that God does not exist. It does not. What I am saying is that science cannot rely on a God did it explanation as a crutch. To do so would destroy science’s effectiveness as a means to discover how our world works.


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