Are we on rails?

De gustibus non est disputandum

I’m not a philosopher but a couple of issues that have occupied philosophers over perhaps millenia remain unresolved. Let’s call the concepts free will and determinism. Of course a problem that arises immediately as there seem not to be consensus definitions of either concept. They also seem to be linked (in the opinion of many) in that agreeing or disagreeing with one of these concepts entails acceptance or rejection of the other. A frequently encountered strategy is to add an adjective. So we have libertarian free will, strict determinism and so on. Below is a diagram that attempts to summarize the various proposals.

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The genetic code and intelligent design

Joe G has been looking into the posts here at TSZ. Apparently this inspired him to get into a series of outbursts of rage. Well, maybe not. Looking at his blog rage seems to be his normal state. Back in his blog he’s stated fuming about what he thinks are facts that prove intelligent design, I mean Intelligent Design, with capitals because, let’s not forget, ID is about “God.” So I’ve been trying to explain to him why that’s profoundly and irremediably wrong. Here I’ll expand a bit on that, and thus willl try and avoid contaminating other threads with Joe G’s angry prose.

To get this started, I’m going to check Joe G’s latest attempt, Joe G starts thusly:

The genetic code is evidence for Intelligent Design based on the following facts:

Facts!? Wow, this is starting so well, I’m sure I’m going to be convinced! Good-bye sinful atheistic life!

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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

Miracles, Exorcisms, ID and the spread of the Gospel (thinking of VJ Torley)

Astronaut Charles Duke became a Christian after he returned to Earth after being the youngest man to ever walk on the moon and after finding himself in a troubled marriage and problems with alcoholism. The Christian faith restored his marriage and brought sobriety into his life, and sometime thereafter he led a prayer meeting where a blind girl recovered her sight. Somewhere in all his life’s saga, he also became a Creationist.

One of the people who posted at TheSkepticalZone, Richard B. Hoppe (RBH), knew of Duke, perhaps even personally since RBH worked on the Apollo program intimately. When I confronted RBH about Duke’s Christianity and Creationism, RBH (normally quick to criticize Christian Creationists) became strangely silent. No one to my knowledge has questioned Charles Duke’s credibility or integrity as far a making up stories to draw attention to himself or make Christian converts. After all, he was a national hero, an air force general, an astronaut, and a successful businessman. Unlike a televangelist, there is little reason for him to make up stories of miracles.

I had the privilege of meeting Charle Duke when he spoke at a College Christian event…

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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.”
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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,

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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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.

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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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 ( 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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On Ideology. Between Secular & Secularism – what’s the similarity, difference or overlap?

Adding to that a 2nd question: If a person seeks ‘secularization’ (cf. laïcisation), i.e. ‘more secularity’ in their life and in the lives of those around them, in their hometown and in the nation in which they live, and even globally, does that qualify for the operational term ‘secularist’? In this sense, is ‘secularism’ the proper term for the ideology that such a person is promoting?

One might think it a polite necessity for certain voices to avoid all contact, and any proper and timely discussion of ideology, when addressing these two terms – secular & secularism – semantically, philosophically & especially ‘skeptically’. Some people of course just don’t make a priority focus on ideology, as Paul Nelson recently revealed here (re: ideological MNism, while avoiding ideological IDism), saying “‘Ideology’ is fine with me as a descriptive noun,” but is “[n]ot one of my lexical habits”. Even though Nelson is certainly not representative of TSZ voices, it might make a person wonder if there is a healthy skepticism at TSZ about conflating the terms ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, since it has also proven difficult here to differentiate them, just as it has at Peaceful Science. For others, the notion that ‘secular’ is now broadly considered as a condition, while ‘secularism’ counts as an ideology, isn’t all that difficult to acknowledge and accept.

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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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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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Echo Chambers & Epistemic Bubbles

This article might help some people make better sense of what goes on around here.

Unarguably, young earth creationism (YECism) was & still is an echo chamber. It’s a shock to YECists when then get out of their common circles to hear statistically higher educated Christians than they are speaking about how compatible accepting limited biological evolutionary theories with their religious faith actually is. So when they get out of their echo chamber and realize that learning and research hasn’t stopped but rather continues, even among their fellow religious, that they didn’t know existed, it can have a chilling or liberating effect.

The Intelligent Design movement with its Intelligent Design theory/ideology (IDism) was & still is an echo chamber, based, governed & funded in Seattle, USA. I’d welcome an open conversation with Stephen C. Meyer & John G. West about this. Indoctrination going one way is all they’ve focused on, while indoctrination going the other way is an elephant in the room that IDists will eventually need to come around to address.

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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 (, “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.


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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Darwin’s God-The Omnipotent Natural Selection?

Darwinists are not much different than their God-fearing counterparts when it comes to their belief system. Theists believe in the omnipotent God, or Creator and yet Darwinists believe in the omnipotent, creative powers of natural selection.. In short, the belief systems are fundamentally the same, except that Darwinists supplanted the omnipotent God for another god-the omnipotent natural selection
Therefore, due to this widespread belief in the omnipotence of natural selection among great number of evolutionary biologists everything and anything in evolution can be explained by inserting the omnipotence of natural selection when scientific evidence is lacking… 

I call it the 1+1=3 (or any number you wish it to equal ) the first commandment of evolutionary theory, which includes that irreducible complexity coined by Behe, the chicken and egg paradoxes in the origins of life and life systems-the indispensable components need to be present for the life system to function, the miraculous appearance of genes in the supposedly evolved organisms and many, many more…
The most interesting, and hilarious at the same time, is that this believe is not consistent among all the Darwinists as it should, because there are so called errors (Lents) or imperfections, that at least seem to contradict the omnipotence of natural selection…However, what is consistent about it is that the omnipotence of natural selection is often applied when it is called upon… or what I call the natural selection of the gaps… 
One of the rebels, or misinformed Darwinists about the omnipotence of natural selection, is professor Losos… He seems to strongly believe that natural selection, while powerful in its creative works, is not really omnipotent, but works with the materials it has available…which implies what?

Here is his assay:


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“I want to know God’s thoughts”- Albert Einstein

Or “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.”
Recently a personal letter written apparently by Albert Einstein has been sold for close to 3 million dollars here. In it, Einstein supposedly claims that belief in God is a representation of human weakness… If that is true, why so many other statements by Einstein seem to support his belief in at least a god?

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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.

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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