Open Thread: Contributions Invited!

And warmly encouraged…

This site is a little quiet these days. I know it is the middle of the Summer holiday season and the impact of Covid has been devastating to normal life. But I wonder why the site is still receiving around 100 unique visits a day when seemingly fewer of those visitors are adding opening posts or leaving comments.

If anyone has thoughts about what would encourage more participation, exchange of ideas, please let’s hear from you.

Le Tour 2021

Can Mark Cavendish win?

Tomorrow, 10th July, the 14th stage of the cycle race, Tour de France, sets off from the city of Carcassonne, exploring the foothills of the Pyrenees and circling back to the town of Quillan, making which would be at a more leisurely pace, an excellent way to experience the sights (and sites) of the Aude department, named for the Aude river which flows through Quillan and Carcassonne on its way from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean Sea.

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Design by Natural Selection: The LTEE

Lenski’s Long Term Evolutionary Experiment

Richard Lenski began the LTEE with 12 populations (six Ara^+ and six Ara^-) of the bacterium Escherichia coli on 24th February, 1988. The experiment is currently housed at Michigan State University and has run continuously apart from a short break while relocating to the present site and another during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Santa destroys Christianity?

Winding down for a very quiet Christmas allows me plenty of time to read and one of my favourite places to read for news and comment is the Guardian. I like it because it was founded in 1821 as a moderate pro-business paper and morphed into a more radical stance with the arrival in 1872 of C. P. Scott as editor and later owner. Later, ownership was transferred to the Scott Trust (now the Scott Trust Endowment Fund) to ensure editorial and financial independence. That the online version is fully-financed and free to all is a bonus, too. I should declare a personal interest as a fourth generation descendant of C. P. Scott is a family friend. Continue reading

Atheists, Agnostics & ‘Skeptics’ for and against the Pseudo-Science of ‘Evolutionary Psychology’

This topic has recently come up in another thread & deserves its own thread, rather than getting lost there.

It started with KN asking CharlieM: “Are there really such ‘Darwinian extremists’ or are you just making them up?”

I responded: “The list of Darwinian extremists in SSH is considerable, not that it’s likely anyone here is even aware of this, such that they could come up with a list themselves.” http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/what-mixture-of-design-and-evolution-is-possible-as-the-idm-collapses/comment-page-24/#comment-279711
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What mixture of “design” and “evolution” is possible as the IDM collapses?

This offers the simplest “neutral” colloquial mixture of “design” and “evolution” that I’ve seen in a long time. The site is no longer maintained, but the language persists.

“As a designer it is important to understand where design came from, how it developed, and who shaped its evolution. The more exposure you have to past, current and future design trends, styles and designers, the larger your problem-solving toolkit. The larger your toolkit, the more effective of a designer you can be.” http://www.designishistory.com/this-site/

Here, the term “evolution” as used just meant “history”. The author was not indicating “design theory evolution”, but rather instead the “history of designs” themselves, which have been already instantiated. Continue reading

Lockdown!

Share your experience, tips, advice, questions…

As it seems most communities world-wide are going into voluntary or enforced quarantine that involves staying at home and avoiding physical contact as much as possible, I thought we could have a thread where we could try a bit of mutual support by cheering each other up over the next few days, weeks, months… Who knows?

I don’t know: suggestions on films to watch, books to read, gardening tips, exercise ideas

Usual rules apply plus a guideline. Let’s be kind and supportive to each other.

Behe vs. Swamidass I, as “God and/or Evolution?” Time to yawn, politely applaud or cheer?

The biggest news of this week for the “conversation” this blog is in some small way a part of will likely be the discussion between Drs. Michael Behe and S. Joshua Swamidass in Texas. The answer for both men to the polemical question above is not “God w/out evolution”, but rather “God with evolution,” iow both God and evolution. So what else important is there left for them to disagree about? http://www.veritas.org/location/texas-a-m-university/

For Behe, “evolution” has a narrower meaning than it does for Swamidass. One key question, that likely won’t be asked, is: how wide is Swamidass’ meaning of “evolution” and where does it stop (i.e. what doesn’t ‘evolve’)? Is Swamidass, who somewhat incredulously claims to be neither a creationist nor an evolutionist, actually both? One of the biggest challenges unaddressed still by Swamidass regarding his evolutionism will be met when he starts describing or explaining the “limits of evolutionary theories”, rather than only “the great possibilities of evolutionary theories”, now as we live in a post-Darwinian, extended synthesis scenario.

We may nevertheless hope for some reconciliation, or even a moment or two of peace amidst an artificial storm in the USA involving “Intelligent Design”, evolution, and creationism. Those moments will likely constitute a rare pause in their otherwise contrary apologetics approaches, both taking a “public understanding of science” attitude of pedagogical communication to the stage. We may thus, purely on the communications front, simply get either a parody of abstract intellectualism driven by “religious” or “quasi-religious” agendas, or more positively, a few simple concessions of common ground that shouldn’t be too difficult for either of them to find, or to make towards each other.

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Does Swamidass’ new “genealogical adams and eves” hypothesis unknowingly serve to “make God a monster”?

As 2020 both cools down in temperature and heats up in rhetoric, here is a response to S. Joshua Swamidass’ recent book that deserves more air time given how a few evangelical Protestant theologians and apologists are expressing surprised praise at it, calling it a ‘game changer’ because of ‘genealogy’ vs. ‘genetics’. I would consider it a ‘game changer’ only in a borrowed or catch-up sense of that term, given Swamidass’ YECist+ audience. Any thoughts here on this critical review of the book by a fellow evangelical active at BioLogos?

From what I’ve read so far, I do not see that Swamidass “makes God a monster” in the book. That rather appears to be what comes from Johnson’s hermeneutics, rather than Swamidass’ intentions or expressions. BioLogos was similarly confused, and hadn’t read Kemp, much like Swamidass (that is, until he finally did). Swamidass has previously written about dungeons & suffering, which perhaps by some people may be mistaken as ‘monstrous’. It would be more appropriate and charitable to say, ‘he knows not what he does’ by opening this rift. Thus, he speaks about “what it means to be human?” as a distant (methodological) naturalist, with an important background personal concern involving local fellow YECists and activistic sociology behind the book’s publication (e.g. choice of publishing house).

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Behe and Co. in Canada

This past Friday, I bumped into Dr. Michael Behe, and again on Saturday, along with Drs. Brian Miller (DI), Research Coordinator CSC, and Robert Larmer (UNB), currently President of the Canadian Society of (Evangelical) Christian Philosophers. Venue: local apologetics conference (https://www.diganddelve.ca/). The topic of the event “Science vs. Atheism: Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?” makes it relevant here at TSZ, where there are more atheists & agnostics among ‘skeptics’ than average.

On the positive side, I would encourage folks who visit this site to go to such events for learning/teaching purposes. Whether for the ID speakers or not; good conversations are available among people honestly wrestling with and questioning the relationship between science, philosophy and theology/worldview, including on issues related to evolution, creation, and intelligence in the universe or on Earth. Don’t go to such events expecting miracles for your personal worldview in conversation with others, credibility in scientific publications or in the classroom, if you are using ‘science’ as a worldview weapon against ‘religion’ or ‘theology’. That argument just won’t fly anymore and the Discovery Institute, to their credit, has played a role, of whatever size may still be difficult to tell, in making this shift happen.

A question arises: what would be the first question you would ask or thing you would say to Michael Behe if you bumped into him on the street?

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Does Paul Nelson really teach both ‘design theory’ & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory?

He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.

Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.

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S. Joshua Swamidass and Social Darwinism – a match made on Earth, not in Heaven

Over at Peaceful Science, Joshua Swamidass has made another strange and unsubstantiated claim. He has attempted to speak again on behalf of (all) ‘scientists,’ as is his linguistic tendency, yet in this case about ‘social Darwinism’:

Social Darwinism was a thing that is legitimately connected to the holocaust [sic]. However, scientists today reject Social Darwinism. Even atheists should thank God for this.” https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/darwinism-and-social-darwinism/6873/2

It’s a bit saucy, perhaps all well & good to suggest that atheists should thank God for something, anything. Yet one of the most active living and agitating ideological evolutionists and one of his co-authors are actually trying to get people to accept ‘Social Darwinism’. https://evolution-institute.org/truth-and-reconciliation-for-social-darwinism/ How does Joshua deal with this apparent blindspot in his approach?

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Origins Debates

Given the ideological opposition by the site’s founder to having ‘debates’ as a way of making progress or solving disagreements over at Peaceful Science (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/, “In my view, science is not up for public debate.”) on topics related to human and life origins, I wonder what the attitudes of people towards ‘origins debates’ are here at TSZ. Do you call it ‘the Creation Wars’ as S. Joshua Swamidass does?

Below are a few questions for those who do not wish to play by Swamidass’ rules and who indeed, don’t mind putting their ideas, knowledge and ability to answer challenges to their theories, dogmas and biases, to the test in debate. It’s not like Joshua can actually defend ‘methodological naturalism’ other than with multiple falsehoods and having to sell his ‘Me-Scientist’ piety badge at a discount. So, let us imagine a hypothetical and suppose a ‘friendly debate’ were possible to construct and see if anyone here can play along. These are survey questions about a ‘debate’ that many people seem willing to admit they are themselves already engaged in here and elsewhere.

Questions:

1. When considered as not only a discussion, but rather as a ‘debate,’ what is/are the key debate topic(s) over human & life origins really about?

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Hard or Impossible? Neil Rickert’s attempt to ‘explain consciousness.’

Neil Rickert was at it again attempting to ‘explain consciousness’ over at PS at the imperative-phrased invitation of Joshua Swamidass to: “Tell me how you think consciousness evolved.” https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/rickerts-ideas-on-consciousness/3684/

Neil had written this: “What it really boils down to, is that there is no such thing as metaphysical truth. There is only conventional truth. And different social groups will disagree over their social conventions.”

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Do software engineers find ‘Intelligent Design’ theory obvious, trivial or irrelevant? Eric Michael Holloway’s halfway-right, mostly-wrong, double-talking IDist ideology on display

Recently over at PS, IDist Eric Michael Holloway wrote the following to describe himself & why he accepts/believes in IDT: “we software engineers find ID so obvious.” (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/why-we-do-not-evolve-software/3760/2) I’d like to unpack this statement & challenge the (il)logic behind it & Eric’s views of IDT, given that he is closely linked with the Discovery Institute, Robert Marks & the new Bradley Centre. Personally I find it rather sad & troubling that ideological IDists like Eric are still actively attempting to deceive others with a semantic game, even their fellow religious, while ignoring the ‘game-ending’ points that Abrahamic monotheists who are scholars & scientists, along with not a small # of atheists & agnostics, have levelled at IDT/IDism. IDists have shown time & time again that they either cannot or will not respond to calm, careful, exact criticism, so let us see if Eric Michael Holloway will be any different.

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ID 3.0? The new Bradley Center at the DI – is Dembski returning from retirement?

Back in 2016, William Dembski officially ‘retired’ from ‘Intelligent Design’ theory & the IDM. He wrote that “the camaraderie I once experienced with colleagues and friends in the movement has largely dwindled.” https://billdembski.com/personal/official-retirement-from-intelligent-design/ This might have come rather late after Dembski’s star had already started to fade. Indeed, it was more than 10 years after the Dover trial debacle and already long after I personally heard another of the leaders of the IDM at the DI in 2003 say he no longer reads Dembski’s books. Yet no doubt Dr. Dembski was one of, if not the leading voice of the IDM for almost 2 decades. Here’s one UK IDist lamenting Dembski’s statement: https://designdisquisitions.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/william-dembski-moves-on-from-id-some-reflections/ Yet when a new paycheck from the Discovery Institute was offered in the Bradley Center, Dembski seems to have gotten right back on the ideological bandwagon in Seattle & reversed his dwindling of IDist camaraderie.

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Why be skeptical about Swamidass’ ‘Peaceful Science’ pitch?

This thread is meant to be a resource for people to express their hopefully sincere & proper skepticism about Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass’ so-called ‘Peaceful Science’ project on an on-going basis as issues & challenges arise. The purpose for starting this thread now is the announcement of a grant to Peaceful Science (PS) by the mutual fund wealth-based John Templeton Foundation. http://peacefulscience.org/new-voice/

I will express some of my skepticism about PS in a few words: Joshua is strangely aiming by ‘inviting all positions as equal’ to relativise the names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve,’ while at the same time trying himself to become a ‘genealogist’. The woman in the pair he apparently has some kind of a gender bias against, since he hasn’t laid out why he sometimes omits her & only sometimes brings Eve into the conversation. I predicted here a few months ago that Joshua would eventually change his almost exclusively ‘Genealogical Adam’ talk to finally start being more inclusive with ‘Genealogical Adam & Eve.’ Joshua hasn’t taken the hint by adapting his language & thinking yet, though he has been known to change his mind about things in the past.

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Peaceful Science: A noble idea but at what cost?

As most readers at TSZ already know Dr. Swamidass is, or at least attempts to appear, as a new-age prophet with a noble idea of the unifying evolutionary science with Intelligent Design. Not bad a idea…huh? Peaceful relations between two world views… So what could be wrong with that? Right?

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