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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The Third Way?

Over at the “IDM collapse” thread I rather churlishly rejected CharlieM’s invitation to read an extensive piece by Stephen L. Talbott. Discovering he is a fan of Velikovsky did little to encourage me (that is, I fully realise, an argument from authority, but life is short and authors many. One needs a filter). What did catch my eye, however, is the fact that he is a contributor to Third Way of Evolution. This, on their front page, is what one might term their ‘manifesto’. Continue reading

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Covid-19 vs. Intelligent Design “Theorists” and their Ideology

Lehigh University biochemist and IDT spokesperson Dr. Michael Behe was recently asked by the Discovery Institute (DI) to write about covid-19. The following is to be found among what he wrote:

do I think viruses were designed? Yes, I most certainly do! The viruses of which we are aware — including the coronaviruses, Ebola, and HIV — are exquisitely, purposively arranged, which is the clear signature of intelligent design [sic, properly “Intelligent Design”, since this “signature” is not being attributed to “strictly natural causes”]. Well, then does that mean the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] is evil and wants people to suffer? No, not necessarily. I’m a biochemist, not a philosopher. Nonetheless, I see no reason why a designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] even of such things as viruses should be classified as bad on that basis alone.” – Michael Behe (10-03-2020, https://evolutionnews.org/2020/03/evolution-design-and-covid-19/

Behe concluded the article stating that he has “no reason to think either that viruses weren’t designed [meaning, by a Divine Designer] or that the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] of viruses isn’t good”.

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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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Thinking about Thinking

Metacognition as a ladder to enlightenment?

We humans are sentient beings. By some means or other, our species has ended up with, at least in our own opinion, with cognitive abilities that separate sharply from our closest living relatives, chimps and bonobos, with whom we share 99% of our genes. We have made huge advances in knowledge which we can store, share and use in scientific research, cultural development, building infrastructure, exploration, travel, transport. This huge explosion in cultural evolution needed and may be driven by that exceptional intelligence. Is there any limit to what we can achieve? I say there is.

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Is Behe’s acceptance of common descent confusing?

In his recent video Michael Behe explains the reasons for his acceptance of common descent.

Do you find it confusing?

Most members of the Discovery Institute find the idea of common descent lacking. Behe, ‘for the sake of the argument’ , is willing to accept it and, instead, focus on the mechanism of Darwinian evolution, natural selection and random mutations, as insufficient to explain evolution.

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Definitions involving “Intelligent Design”: DI Fellows’ language vs. Everyone Else’s

Not long ago in a comment here, I posted a short version of definitions involving the Discovery Institute’s “Intelligent Design” (ID) paradigm, hypothesis, movement, theory, inference, policy, heuristic, or whatever one wants to call it, depending on which person they’re speaking with. This was done because the person in the conversation I was responding to appeared to be, to me at least, quite obviously conflating two meanings into one term (thing & theory). And he didn’t seem to realize that he was doing it. (Aside: there appear to be multiple reasons why people tempted by ideological Intelligent Designism [IDism] or repelled by it, may feel they need to intentionally conflate definitions of ID.) I wondered what might be the issue with what was merely an attempt to lay out simple definitions, for mutual benefit towards clearer communications, or ‘operations’ as some people here like to call it.

Within days, to my surprise, I discovered the exact same thing in a long exchange with a Discovery Institute () Fellow on a social media platform. This person too conflated two meanings into one. Why also is that? And this person wanted to equivocate over whether or not there even is a “movement” at play, before finally conceding that yes, indeed, there is = the IDM based at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, USA. The conversation reminded me of previous ones at Uncommon Descent & BioLogos with Eddie, now of Peaceful Science and Potiphar, who only begrudgingly, after listing off a number of ways that this “Movement” could only properly or ‘officially’ be spoken about, according to his somewhat “philosophistic” definition of “Intelligent Design theory” (IDT), conceded the point of there being a “Movement”, with all of DI-CSC’s Fellows admitted as members.

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Evolution (“accident & luck”) vs. Careful Advanced Planning, according to whom?

A psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada, in defense of swamidass’ fellow secular methodological naturalist and atheist partner in provocation over at PS, Nathan Lents (Human Errors), just said something I find quite curious, in case he is serious in his claim. It had appeared to me that this person who said it promotes ideological evolutionism. Yet this claim establishes at least some kind of important knowledge ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’ that ‘evolutionary’ thinking does not and cannot cross by definition. Perhaps he will come here to try to explain his terms in an effort to help clarify this difficulty.

Dr. Faizal Ali says,

“The truth is that evolution largely proceeds by accident and luck, both good and bad, and rarely if ever arrives at a solution of the sort that would be found by careful advanced planning.” https://betterrightthanhappy.com/nathan-lents-on-our-imperfect-body/

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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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Swamidass vs. Nelson – trying to find a “Common Narrative with ID on MN”?

I’ll intervene on this conversation started by S. Joshua Swamidass as my guess is he’s going to mangle terms & then claim mastery over them, as he has done in the past on the topic of ‘methodological naturalism’ (MN). Paul Nelson (of micro-/macro- distinction) has posted here in the past & has done a fine job of staying more neutral, scholarly and welcoming to discussion than most IDists at the DI. It would be welcome for Nelson to clarify, re-iterate or to add any points here that Swamidass might not wish to address at PS, or in case the naive scientism cum MN lobby grows too loud there.

This is one of those topics where in my view Swamidass scores quite low in credibility and coherency (much like I score in biology! = P). This makes sense because he has little training and doesn’t seem to have done much personal reading in philosophy, social sciences or humanities. Paul Nelson, on the other hand, did a PhD in the philosophy of biology. So if Swamidass starts to try to out-philosophize Nelson, things could get hilarious quickly, as they have in the past, e.g. with Jonathan Burke, who discovered predecessors to GA -> GAE that Swamidass missed & had to add at the last minute.

Let’s see if Swamidass is ready to learn if the term ‘methodological naturalism’ is really a sword he wants to fall on or not. So far, it has been. Nelson, as do I, rejects MNism, & not just as a misnomer.

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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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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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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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Why does the DI avoid ‘design’ by non-IDists (read: most normal people)? Yes, design is obvious, just not IDism.

TSZ Moderator Mung wrote over at PS about why he is a design proponent (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/why-i-am-an-id-proponent/2955):

“[I] believe that design is obvious.”

Let’s be clearer and more accurate with our words than are most IDists at the Discovery Institute (DI) based in Seattle. I as well as most, if not all ‘skeptics’ here believe ‘human design’ is obvious. More importantly, however, so do most actual ‘design theorists’ around the world. Do you agree with us about the obvious reality of ‘human design’, Mung, or not?

IDists based at the epicentre of IDism at the DI in Seattle, as well as those who associate themselves with ‘Intelligent Design’ pretty much everywhere else globally, generally refuse to identify & discuss those ‘design theories’ as legitimate scholarship. Why? Is it an unspoken rule their followers are required to obey? Is it just a more than significant oversight on their part which they are innocent for making? Why otherwise would the DI studiously avoid, except for little nibbles of exposure here or there, a rather significant & well-attended field of study already in existence, using the same exact term as theirs: ‘design’?

Is it fathomable that this is because the DI knows that if they were to expose legitimate ‘design theorists’ who reject IDism as voices in their media echo chambers, those scholars & scientists, philosophers & even sometimes theologians, might outshine their own reactionary politically-oriented ‘intelligent design theories’ (acknowledging it the way they always officially write it now, in lowercase form, according to DI hidden policy) and thus upset the Founders & Donors of the IDM?

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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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Peaceful Science has eclipsed Uncommon Descent. How will that impact TSZ’s reason to be?

The original mission of TSZ, as intended by the U.K.’s Dr. Elizabeth Liddle, who promoted the site to apostate peers & ‘skeptics,’ often at anti-religious online forums, lists & discussion boards, has passed its due date. She & they (many of the early people who joined) shared the experience in common of being ‘expelled’ (banned) from the IDist blog Uncommon Descent (UD) & to have their own sandbox to critique UD was the main mission of TSZ. There was no ‘inspirational’ core that Liddle offered upon departure from her own site, but returning to it in November to talk mainly about UD again could only be a fool’s errand.

My argument here is that UD is by now pretty much outdated. UD is generally seen as oddball &/or gutter-level IDist discussion, far adrift from serious conversation on the topic. It is shrinking in relevance now year on year. It thus isn’t really worth ‘reporting’ on or ‘opposing’ UD at TSZ anymore, though that IDist site was the early focus of TSZ & what brought many (most) of the early participants together. Is UD really worth time for ‘skeptics’ nowadays?

More importantly, the new blog Peaceful Science (PS) has recently surpassed BioLogos in terms of daily & hourly regular traffic & far outreaches the topics that UD used to breach. It has actual scientists, elderly or retired ‘science & religion/worldview’ people who contribute often a LOT, woolly protestants & ‘unitarian’ (or maybe just one who posts as much as 5 people), pedantic ‘natural theologians’, & S. Joshua Swamidass actually just called one person a ‘prophet’ as a welcome greeting. PS even ‘welcomes’ atheists (Swamidass has made it a point to defend Freedom From Religion Foundation proponent who is a self-described ‘militant atheist’ against multiple Christians) & agnostics & patiently fields all legitimate ‘scientific’ questions. Are you skeptical of ‘Peaceful Science’ and a ‘Science of Adam’ as proclaimed by quasi-creationists, ideology-starved geneticists & fence-sitting ‘reformers’?

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