What does S. Joshua Swamidass mean by ‘secular scientist’?

Apparently, he means ‘non-confessional,’ since he actively pits ‘secular scientist’ over against ‘confessional scientist’ at ‘Peaceful Science.’  

Swamidass’ chosen dichotomy may seem stark to some people, almost as a kind of ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’. Notably, it has achieved some success so far, mainly among natural scientists. In other words, you’re either with ‘mainstream science’ or you’re against it. Swamidass upholds ‘mainstream science,’ while at the same time promoting non-mainstream evangelical protestantism as a ‘confessionalist’ approach to the topic. 

“The science we are putting forward here is solid. It does not require a religious point of view to accept. Even secular scientists endorse it.” – S. Joshua Swamidass

The devil is in the details when natural scientists write: “does not require.” This is the legacy Swamidass’ confused embrace of ‘methodological naturalism’ as if it were free from ideology.

So, for Swamidass, Michael Behe (who while both challenging and praising him, called his ‘hero,’ before removing it for supposedly ‘confusing people’, with a mere explanation of: “what can I say?”) must be labelled as a ‘confessional scientist,’ even though he’s not an evangelical like Swamidass. In other words, Swamidass is dividing people into 2 camps, those who ‘confess’ their religion on the internet in public and those who are ‘secular’ in doing science. This is why Swamidass is intent on asking people to ‘tell us about yourself’ and is actively now flirting with forcing people to reveal their IRL identity on PS in order to participate there. 

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Quick Question for the Judeo-Christian Believer Participants

I am curious to know if, based on your faith, you think it is possible for the human race to become utterly extinct. Does the free will we have been endowed with make even that awful fate possible, or do you think that, because of the particular interest God has in us (we being created in His image, for example) this is not something that would ever be allowed to happen? In a word, should we take steps to ensure that there will still be human life in 100 years, or (assuming–at least for the moment–that the apparent dangers to our continuance haven’t just been fabricated somehow) homo sapiens are safe in God’s hands. Continue reading

walto’s paper on prudential values

The journal Philosophia recently accepted a paper by TSZ commenter walto, entitled CHOICE: An Objective, Voluntaristic Theory of Prudential Value. Congratulations to walto.

Our discussion of walto’s previous paper was cut short due to censorship by the moderators. Let’s hope they have the sense to stay out of the way and allow open discussion to proceed this time.

Prudential values are a good topic for TSZ, and a nice change of pace from our usual discussions of objective moral values and whether they exist. Hence this thread.

You can download walto’s paper here.

I’ll save my remarks for the comment thread.

What do we know about Jesus’ burial?

In his final reply to my review of Michael Alter’s book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, Professor McGrew takes issue with my claim that the story of Jesus’ burial is improbable at multiple points, accusing me of doing a priori history, of relying on doubtful assertions by Biblical scholars, of making too much of the argument from silence” (which he rejects in toto), of finding contradictions between the Gospel burial accounts where none exist, and of arrogantly alleging that the Gospel authors, who were far closer to the facts than we are today, must have fabricated details in their accounts, simply because they clash with our contemporary interpretation of Jewish law at that time. Am I guilty as charged? Or is it Professor McGrew whose understanding of history is faulty?

While reading Professor McGrew’s reply, it immediately struck me that there was one thing that he didn’t do: namely, quote from contemporary Biblical scholars who support his position. That’s because there are very few Biblical scholars who would agree with McGrew’s claim that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial are internally consistent, free from contradictions, and free from historical inaccuracies. With the exception of Ehrman’s contentious claim (which I defended, but did not endorse) that Jesus’ body was probably left to hang on the Cross for several days before being dumped in a burial pit, all of the other assertions made in my review regarding Jesus’ burial fall squarely within the mainstream of Biblical scholarship. In setting himself in opposition to the conclusions reached in my review, Professor McGrew (who is a philosopher, not a historian) is arraying himself against an entire field of scholarship.

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Pegging an IDist trope

I‘ve always been a helix-turn-helix kinda guy. That’s the way I roll.

My thesis research involved a couple of repressors – homeodomain proteins—that bound to DNA via helix-turn-helix DNA-binding domains. They controlled cell-type fates. Combinatorially.

(I also worked on HDAC-mediated transcriptional silencing, although at the time I was totally unaware that that was what I was working on. Awwwkward. That’s a story for another time.) For my post-doc , I was surrounded by people studying the co-operative binding and sequence-specificity of various helix-turn-helix proteins, and how they achieve transcriptional activation. There was some pretty seminal work done, to which I contributed precisely nothing. Not a productive post-doc, you could say.

Anyhoo, I never really paid much attention to Zinc fingers. Which was rather remiss of me, since the sort of modular DNA-binding activity that they have is pretty much ideal for building networks that regulate gene expression. But hey, grad students can be rather parochial.

Then our dearest Sal posted an OP here on Zinc fingers, playfully entitled “Giving Evolutionary Biologists the Finger!”

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Giving Evolutionary Biologists the Finger!

Evolution of KRAB Zinc Finger Proteins vs. the Law of Large Numbers

There are patterns in biology that violate the law of large numbers, and thus suggests Intelligent Design or at the very least statistical miracles. The pattern involves KRAB-ZnF proteins that have multiple zinc finger domains side by side that are inexact copies of each other and would require a scenario of co-evolution of their DNA binding partners with every additional zinc-finger insertion — a scenario indistinguishable from a miracle.

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What influences our biases?

Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder has a PhD in physics from the University of Frankfurt. Since 2006 she has written the popular weblog Backreaction as well a the book “Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray”. She has a very interesting OP on cognitive biases that apparently explains what influences our the decision making…

The OP is also linked to a presentation on How to Reduce Biases in Decision-Making.
I found Dr. Hossenfelder blog and the OP really intriguing because I could never understand why so many people would support ideologies that were pure nonsense or against scientific facts or logic…

Now I find it easier to understand those biases, although I still have a very hard time understanding why someone would deceive himself into believing something because of his or her preconceived ideas…

But, that’s a theme for another OP… 😉

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:

2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?

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The elephant in front of the cross

In a recent post over at What’s Wrong With the World, Professor Timothy McGrew asks, Did Jesus’ Mother and the Beloved Disciple Stand at the Foot of the Cross? Professor McGrew’s answer is a decisive yes. Readers will recall that last year, in a lengthy review of Michael Alter’s book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, I summarized the reasons for rejecting the historicity of this episode in John’s Gospel (see here for the arguments I presented). My arguments were taken directly from Alter’s book – a book which Professor McGrew has not deigned to read. Relying instead on the brief summary contained in my post, he roundly declares that he finds these arguments unconvincing and unsubstantiated. Had he consulted Alter’s book, however, he would have found scholarly citations in abundance, as well as the answers to some of the questions he poses in his post.

In this post, I intend to address and rebut Professor McGrew’s objections, and to supply further documentation to back up the claims I made previously. But before I continue, let me begin with the candid admission that I may be wrong, in casting doubt on the historicity of John’s account of Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple standing near the foot of the cross. I have done a lot of digging and delving on the subject during the past couple of weeks, and I acknowledge that the issue is not as cut-and-dried as I had previously believed. Nevertheless, if I were a betting man, I’d still bet against the episode’s ever having happened, for reasons I’ll explain below. As I pointed out in my previous reply to McGrew, my chief concern is with those claims which a fair-minded historian would consider probable, when judging matters on purely historical grounds. Hence the title of my last post: Why there probably wasn’t a guard at Jesus’ tomb.

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God-made Bird Magnetic Perception Leverages QM/Spin Chemistry

This paper describes in lay terms the amazing ability of birds to “see” magnetic fields:



This is the BRAVURA paper that goes into QM/Spin Chemsitry details of the Bird Magnetic Perception:
https://tinyurl.com/yyrd4y3x

A lot of it was over my head, although I supposedly have the physic background to understand it if I devote 2 months full time to learning the details. UGH! To see the formulas which may not render in your browser, you can download the PDF for free. It’s what I consider a REAL scientific paper vs. a story-telling paper pretending to be science.

Here are some wiki articles related to this, lots of it over my head:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin_chemistry
and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperfine_structure

The claim of “God-made” in the title is a statement of faith much like the claim that “nature-evolved” is a statement of faith.

Help Dr. Lenski to Design Real LTEE

[Admin edit: This thread is, with the agreement of the thread author, a rule-free thread.]

As most TSZ readers already know, Dr. Lenski has been growing bacteria for 31 years now… Unlike the 99.99% of evolutionary biologist, who spend most of their time speculating about evolution, he set out to test evolutionary capabilities, or that what most of us thought he had, by laboratory experiments……

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Swamidass Webinar-All about Behe

Dr. Swamidass, who apparently calls himself “a new voice in the origins of life”, was a part a webinar with Jonathan McLatchie, a well known apologetic among the supporters of ID.

I think that the 2 hour discussion was actually very interesting, despite my earlier scepticism about it…I was wrong about Swamidass in some ways (I was wrong about his beliefs mainly), so it turned out to be interesting… Initially, I wasn’t going to join the webinar, as I usually take time off from any activities on Saturday, but my kids challenged me… So, I did, but I did miss the great majority of Swamidass’ intro…

Please note that no matter what question asked, Swamidass, if possible, refers it back to Behe… I’m sure it is obvious why… “
My questions are at 1:24.00 aa

Link to McLatchie’s Facebook page

On the Evolution of a Novel Function

Published on 5 March 2019 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

Molecular mechanism and history of non-sense to sense evolution of antifreeze glycoprotein gene in northern gadids

Xuan Zhuang, Chun Yang, Katherine R. Murphy, and C.-H. Christina Cheng

You can read the article here: https://www.pnas.org/content/116/10/4400

The authors show how an apparently irreduciblly complex phenotypical element arose by a combination of mutation and natural selection.

Skepticism, Pragmatism, and “Postmodernism”

Over in Sandbox I started discussing some of my readings of Sellars, Rorty, and related philosophers, and a few folks said they’d be interested in an OP. So here we go.

Much of my training and scholarship over the past 12 years has been on what’s called (variously) “pragmatism” and/or “American philosophy.” What I want to do here is tell a brief story about the history of American pragmatism, without getting too technical or pedantic. In particular I want to focus on the distinct kind of philosophy that American pragmatism was and is, because it’s very different from the sort of Western philosophy that most people are taught in schools and colleges.

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The cholesterol paradox

As the reviews of professor Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves continue, many who participate in the discussions on many blogs or websites may have noticed the seeming paradox involving high fat, high cholesterol diet and heart disease issues… Dr. Behe devoted a good portion of his book to the issue of the devolution of the polar bear, which supposedly evolved, or rather devolved according to Behe, to tolerate the drastic switch from the dietary habits of its ancestors some 400 000 years ago…This particular issue I’m planning to cover in one the upcoming OPs…

This OP is more of an introduction to the fat/cholesterol/heart disease issue that while it seems complicated at the first glance, it really isn’t…

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Ethereal spaces

Look up at the dark clear moonless night-time sky. What do we see? Points of light arranged against a deep dark background. I propose that in the points of light we see physical substance, matter, and in the darkness we are looking into the encompassing ethereal realm.

There are certain fundamental processes in the universe, one of which is expansion and contraction. Goethe observed this in plants and in crystallisation out of solution we see a contraction of a substance into its solid state.

Likewise the points of light we see in the night sky are processes of matter condensing out of the surrounding ethereal space. The ethereal creates a void in which matter forms and cosmic space which is void of matter is actually filled with etheric activity.

The processes of expansion and contraction are taking place at all levels, as above, so below. Our physical eyes allow us to see the stars and other heavenly bodies but it takes more than physical senses to see the etheric.