Naturalism & the Laws of Nature.

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies wrote:

But what are these ultimate laws and where do they come from? Such questions are often dismissed as being pointless or even unscientific. As the cosmologist Sean Carroll has written, “There is a chain of explanations concerning things that happen in the universe, which ultimately reaches to the fundamental laws of nature and stops… at the end of the day the laws are what they are… And that’s okay. I’m happy to take the universe just as we find it.”

Assuming that Davies is correct, I find it odd that there is little interest for understanding the laws of nature. There are some interesting questions to be answered, such as: Where do the laws come from? How do they cause things to happen? Continue reading

Where is the scientific evidence that arguments change minds?

There is considerable scientific evidence that arguing with people about their beliefs usually has an effect opposite of what you would hope (assuming, generously, that you care more about the effect your arguing has on others than the effect it has on you). I’m sure that most of you have seen reviews of the relevant literature. In any case, I have not the least interest in arguing about the evidence that arguing hardens, rather than changes, beliefs. Why? I insist that, as obviously negative as arguments are, the burden is on the arguer to provide strong evidence that arguing is, on balance, more beneficial than harmful.

It would be entertaining to observe the arguing of the most compulsive of arguers that they actually do not argue. But let’s make that a wee bit harder for them to do, and require that, whatever they regard their not-arguing to be, they present scientific evidence that it generally benefits the people with whom they not-argue. And, no, I have not overlooked the fantasy that the benefit is to the silent Onlookers, and that you are their Champion. Either provide us with evidence that there exists such an effect, or entertain us with your Kairosfocus imitation.

Did Stephen Gould accomplish anything in science. Yes!!

As someone aware of accomplishment in science I note always people are celebrated as having accomplished something but didn’t actually do so.

Its a modern list but therefore I pay attention when folks are celebrated.

I bump into the late Stephen Gould a lot because of evolution/creation conflict.They made a big deal about him and at first glance i thought it was another case of hyping somebody because of a establishment agenda. likewise someone who sold books etc

Yet after reading a major summery of his ion evolution and his punctuated equilibrium contribution I came to a sincere different point of view.

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The Arrival of the Fittest: a book review

Andreas Wagner’s book,The Arrival of the Fittest has been mentioned many times (just try a site search as I’ve just done) since it was published. Petrushka pointed it out in a comment

For anyone interested in whether RMNS can create stuff, I recommend a relatively new book, Arrival of the Fittest. I just bought the Kindle version an haven’t finished, but it has a lot to say about how goldilocks mutations occur.

Much later Mung writes:

Reminds me of petrushka, who is always plugging Andreas Wagner’s Arrival of the Fittest, but will never post an OP on it for discussion.

So I’ve taken the hint and bought the book at last. I can see why people have recommended it. Continue reading

William J. Murray’s alternative facts about Europe

ETA: Unlike “William J. Murray” of The Skeptical Zone, William J. Murray is not on record advocating torture.

There’s much more to the ecosystem of far-right “news” outlets than Breitbart and Infowars. Most of you are aware of that by now. But it seems that few of you are aware of how William J. Murray, the putatively reverend chairman of Religious Freedom Coalition, contributes to the affair. Here he is, in his natural element, showing his true colors (apart from his coif). I didn’t go digging for this video. It comes from the “About” page of Murray’s nonprofit. Here’s a sample:

Europe has been importing hundreds of thousands of Muslims because the women of Europe don’t want to have children. They want to play. They want to have fun. They want to go on long vacations. They want to have money. … They don’t believe that propagation of the species is the most important thing that they’re here for.

You cannot fully grasp the significance this performance without watching the commercial at 20:30.

Republican Senator John McCain chooses his words carefully…

… and yet speaks powerfully to the dangers that we face. This is something that the Europeans in the crowd should not miss (and I don’t know how often they see news of Sunday-morning television in the States). But there’s more than that to my decision to post the video. We presently have a Chrumptian propaganda piece, “Trump Hysteria,” on the front page of The Skeptical Zone. The author, William J. Murray, goes so far in his support of Trump as to endorse torture (see the comments section). John McCain in fact suffered torture as a prisoner in North Vietnam, and has opposed torture steadfastly in his political career. And, perhaps more to the point, he’s anything but hysterical. It is McCain’s caution and restraint that make his remarks chilling.

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Mind blowing presentation by George Church at the NIH

Last week, George Church talked at the school where I take part-time evening classes. I provide a link to that talk. He talked about re-engineered codons (something I’m grateful to Rumraket for introducing me to), stem cell research, human animal chimeras, aging therapies, human genome re-engineering, and just a little bit about ENCODE. Though I have ethical concerns about human/animal chimeras, and human genome re-engineering (like what happens if you mess up), Church goes into the technologies and raises questions as to what our world may look like in the not too distant future. Not that I’m trying to make a point about ID or God by linking this video, but it shows how rapidly we may be forced to deal with certain issues.

I personally don’t have too much problem with GMO foods. After all, my YEC friend John Sanford created the gene gun through which a large fraction of genetically engineered crops on the planet were made at one time. But one thing that bothers me is genetically engineered bacteria. Church discussed super bacteria created for research applications. I can imagine an accident where germs are created accidentally that become really hard to kill and we basically have an apocalypse. Maybe that will be the fulfillment of prophecy by Jesus, “there will be famines and pestilence”.

Here is the video (with Francis Collins speaking at the start):
https://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?Live=21803&bhcp=1

Here is a description of the talk:
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The Christian God and the Problem of Evil

Both Mung and KeithS have asked me to weigh in on the question of whether the existence of evil counts as a good argument against Christianity, as KeithS has maintained in a recent post, so I shall oblige.

It is important to understand that the problem of evil is not an argument against the existence of God or gods, but against what KeithS calls the Christian God (actually, the God of classical theism), Who is supposed to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. KeithS succinctly formulates the problem as follows:

Let’s say I claim that an omniGod named Frank exists — omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Suppose I also claim that Frank regards seahorses as the absolute height of evil. The world contains a lot of seahorses, and Frank, being omnipotent, has the power to wipe them off the face of the earth. Why doesn’t he? Why does he countenance a world full of seahorses?

KeithS emphasizes that it is not enough for the Christian to show that God is on balance benevolent. Rather, the Christian needs to defend the claim that God is omnibenevolent:

The Christian claim is that God is omnibenevolent — as benevolent as it is logically possible to be. Finding that the items on the “good” side of the ledger outweigh those on the “bad” side — if that were the case — would not establish God’s omnibenevolence at all.

Finally, KeithS provides his own take on the problem of evil:

The problem of evil remains as much of a problem as ever for Christians. Yet there are obvious solutions to the problem that fit the evidence and are perfectly reasonable: a) accept that God doesn’t exist, or b) accept that God isn’t omnipotent, or c) accept that God isn’t perfectly benevolent. Despite the availability of these obvious solutions, most Christians will choose to cling to a view of God that has long since been falsified.

He even suggests how he would resolve the problem if he were a theist (emphasis mine – VJT):

Suppose God hates evil and suffering but is too weak to defeat them, at least at the moment. Then any such instances can be explained by God’s weakness.

It addresses the problem of evil without sacrificing theism. I’m amazed that more theists don’t seize on this sort of resolution. They’re too greedy in their theology, too reluctant to give up the omnis.

I think KeithS is onto something here. In fact, I’d like to ditch the conventional Christian views of God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence. It’s time for an overhaul.

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What’s the point?

We are all too familiar with the schtick of certain posters. I’d like to know what they hope to achieve by pounding their limited collection of nails year in year out.

One could summarise the entire output of some in a dozen or so sentences. They KNOW that no-one will answer their challenges to their satisfaction. They KNOW (rather, they think they know) that this is because their challenges cut right to the heart of the matter, and evolutionary theory (“which evolutionary theory?”, a poster mutters for the thousandth time) is not an arena of explanation that will satisfy them. So, once you have satisfied yourself that this is the case, why keep buzzing against that glass like a trapped house-fly?

Testing Evolutionism (the alleged theory of evolution)

Testability is the main thing a concept needs in order to be considered science. If your claims cannot be tested then science doesn’t care about them. Enter evolutionism, also mistakenly called the theory of evolution, ie the concept that all biological diversity evolved via natural selection, drift and neutral construction starting from some much simpler biological replicator, which in turn evolved from much simpler molecular replicators.

None of that can be tested. Not only that the sub-claims are also untestable. Biology is full of biological systems, subsystems and structures. These too need to have testability, yet they do not. Evolutionists hide behind father time and think that excuses them from the testability criteria science requires. All that does is prove theirs is not a scientific position.

No one knows how ATP synthase arose and no one knows how to test the claim that natural selection, drift and neutral construction did it. Dembski tried to help by formulating a conditional probability but he was shrugged off. Evolutionists are fine failing on their own and don’t need no steenking help from Dembski!

So how can we test your claims, evolutionists? And why, in the absence of testability, do you think your position qualifies as science?

 

 

Eugene Koonin – Evolution Skeptic?

The edifice of the Modern Synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.

– Eugene Koonin (2009)

Does this make Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?

The summary of the state of affairs on the 150th anniversary of the Origin is somewhat shocking: in the post-genomic era, all major tenets of the Modern Synthesis are, if not outright overturned, replaced by a new and incomparably more complex vision of the key aspects of evolution. So, not to mince words, the Modern Synthesis is gone.

I’m still struggling to incorporate Alan Fox’s allegation that I am an evolution skeptic. I still don’t really know what it means to be an evolution skeptic. Eugene Koonin rather obviously rejects the view of evolution held by Alan Fox. Is Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?

Or is this just another example of Creationist quote mining. Maybe it’s both.

What say you, “skeptics”?

The Origin at 150: is a new evolutionary synthesis in sight?

Trump Hysteria

I’d say the often hysterical reaction to the election of Trump and his executive orders is baffling to me, but based on my view of politics, it isn’t baffling at all – it’s something I expected.  However, I don’t see much in the way of rational, principled justification for the kind of over-the-top anti-Trump behavior we find not only at the street level, but also in the implied (if not outright) consent and support such intimidating and violent tactics are often provided in public forums by many politicians and media figures. We’ve had people call for the removal of Trump by “any means necessary” and calling for impeachment, military coups and even assassination.

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Were You a Quembryo?

…given its implicit Aristotelianism, the computationalist approach provides Thomists and other Aristotelians and Scholastics with conceptual and terminological resources by which contemporary naturalists might be made to understand and see the power of Thomistic, Scholastic, and Aristotelian arguments in natural theology. It might help them to explain both how the conception of nature on which traditional Scholastic natural theology was built is no pre-modern relic but is still defensible today, and how radically it differs from the conception of Paley and “Intelligent Design” theorists, whose arguments naturalists understandably regard as weak.

…what Searle and the Aristotelian can agree on is that the computationalist conception of nature is far more metaphysically loaded than most of its defenders realize.

From Aristotle to John Searle and Back Again: Formal Causes, Teleology, and Computation in Nature

See also:

Information is the new Aristotelianism (and Dawkins is a hylomorphist)