Good arguments and straw men

We seem to have quite a number of posters here who are happy to defend  ID, as well as a number (myself included) who are happy to defend evolutionary theory.

I’m posting this as a kind of straw poll for people to state what they think the major claim of their own position is, and why they find it persuasive; and also what they think the major claim of the opposite position is, and why (if they do) they find it flawed.

It might be interesting to count the straw men standing by the end 🙂  More to the point, it might stop us talking past each other quite so much, and perhaps understand the other side’s position a little more.

Full disclosure: I don’t think myself that the two positions are symmetrical.  But I am constantly brought upn short by the realisation that ID proponents also perceive an assymmetry, but see it as the mirror image of mine.  So I wait enlightenment 🙂

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108 thoughts on “Good arguments and straw men

  1. For a start, it is perfectly possible to hold a theistic, Christian philosophical stance and accept the evidence for evolution

    Gil, you might be surprised to learn who said this:

    […] science has opened up major dimensions of reason that previously had not been accessible and have thereby provided us with new knowledge. But in its joy over the greatness of its discoveries, it tends to confiscate dimensions of our reason that we still need. Its findings lead to questions that reach beyond its methodological principles and cannot be answered within science itself. Nevertheless these are questions that reason must ask itself and that must not simply be left to religious feeling. We must look at them as reasonable questions and also find reasonable ways of dealing with them. These are the great perennial questions of philosophy, which confront us in a new way: the question of where man and the world come from and where they are going. Apropos of this, I recently became aware of two things that the three following lectures also made clear: There is, in the first place, a rationality of matter itself. One can read it. It has mathematical properties; matter itself is rational, even though there is much that is irrational, chaotic, and destructive on the long path of evolution. But matter per se is legible. Secondly, it seems to me that the process, too, as a whole, has a rationality about it. Despite its false starts and meanderings through the narrow corridor, the process as such is something rational in its selection of the few positive mutations and in its exploitation of the minute probabilities. This twofold rationality, which in turn proves to correspond to our human reason, unavoidably leads to a question that goes beyond science yet is a reasonable question: Where does this rationality originate? Is there an originating rationality that is reflected in these two zones and dimensions of rationality? Science cannot and must not answer this question directly, but we should acknowledge that the question is a reasonable one and dare to believe in the creative Reason and to entrust ourselves to It.
    – Pope Benedict XVI, 2006

    You might enjoy this publication by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life (2008) ISBN 978-88-7761-097-3.

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  2. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: “One only knows what “optimal form” is in terms of ID if the full intent of the designer is known, as well as the necessary parameters and specifications to be met by the design. ”

    I agree with you on this point.

    ID supporters implicitly claim “optimal form” without exploring the intent of the designer.

    The claim is, “This specific function, because it is beyond the UPB, could not have happened randomly and therefore must have been intended.”

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  3. I’m inclined to agree with William on the substance of his post. I don’t understand the probabilities at work in Behe or Dembski in order to properly assess them. I do have an undergraduate degree in biology, but that’s of limited use.

    It’s funny, you know — growing up, it never even occurred to me that evolutionary theory could be wildly mistaken, or that accepting evolutionary theory was incompatible with believing in God.

    I’ve taken a keen interest in the evolution/creationism/intelligent design debate because I’m fascinated in how different background assumptions produce different judgments. If it was really clear to me that accepting evolution entailed a pessimistic world-view (i.e. that “hope, meaning, purpose, and value” are unreal or illusory), I’d have a much better understanding of where folks on “the other side” were coming from.

    As it is, I think that the inference from evolution to pessimism only works in light of various other assumptions and commitments, which are not themselves entailed by evolutionary theory. Though I’m familiar with the claims made by Dawkins and Provine about the implications of evolutionary theory, I simply don’t see how they could be right about what evolutionary theory, taken by itself, entails.

    Carl

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  4. William J. Murray:

    One only knows what “optimal form” is in terms of ID if the full intent of the designer is known, as well as the necessary parameters and specifications to be met by the design.

    True, but many ID supporters try to have it both ways. When evolutionists point to suboptimal structures, they say, as you do, that we can’t judge these without knowing the full intent of the designer. On the other hand, they claim to know that the designer would not put ‘junk DNA’ in his designs, and so they ‘predict’ on this basis that all DNA in the genome will eventually be shown to have function.

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  5. My fundamental reason for taking sides in the debate is that I have been following it since 1956 and simply haven’t seen any reason to doubt that evolution is historically correct and has identified many of the necessary mechanisms.

    Around 1956, Life Magazine published a series on the evolution of humans, entitled The Epic of Man. This coincided with confirmation classes I was taking (age 11), so I saw the conflict right away. I even concluded that fossils could have been planted by Satan. My family was not fundamentalist, so I got no support for this idea. I can’t remember how long I held it, but it couldn’t have been more than a few months.

    About this same time I bought a book in the supermarket called Religion Made Simple. It was the era’s “For Dummies” series and was a college outline for a comparative religion course. I read it and decided I was a pantheist. A monist. Existence is pretty strange and cool, but it isn’t separable into spiritual and material. Whatever is, is both at the same time. When I later heard about quantum weirdness, I was not at all surprised. It seems like home to me.

    Somewhat later I took a course in history of science. The casebook dealt with Darwin and Wallace. That would have been around 1969. A few years later I was a technical writer and found the Gould articles in Natural History. I believe I started reading them within a few months after he started writing them. I also ran into a fundamentalist magazine called The Plain Truth, which had a bashing of evolution.

    I was not terribly sophisticated in biology, but I could tell that the argument was based on a simple technical error. The whole argument against evolution depended on DNA being perfectly copied forever without error. The magazine is online on PDF format, so I went back to see if my memory was correct on this.

    So early on I became biased toward expecting creationist arguments to be full of technical errors. I haven’t seen anything to change this view. UncommonDescent embarrassed itself with its many threads on the Weasel program. That inspired me to writ my own, so I could be certain I understood how it worked. I find it interesting that of all the supposed programmers at UD, that only one took the trouble to write a Weasel program, and he no longer posts at UD.

    I am not a biologist, but I am not without training in science, and not without resources. I am able to fact check many of the claims made by ID advocates, and whenever I have done so, they have not held up. It just reinforces my bias.

    So there I am.

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  6. Though I’m familiar with the claims made by Dawkins and Provine about the implications of evolutionary theory, I simply don’t see how they could be right about what evolutionary theory, taken by itself, entails.

    I don’t think it really matters if it logically entails such consequences or not because most people are – IMO – uncaring about the logical philosophical consequences. Thy latch onto NDE or ID for, IMO, personal reasons and then, for some, spend a lot of time and after trying to justify their choice via various appeals and rhetoric intended to sound like logic and science.

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  7. keiths,

    William J. Murray: I don’t think it really matters if it logically entails such consequences or not because most people are – IMO – uncaring about the logical philosophical consequences. Thy latch onto NDE or ID for, IMO, personal reasons and then, for some, spend a lot of time and after trying to justify their choice via various appeals and rhetoric intended to sound like logic and science.

    I agree, but that just goes towards my point: for 90% of us, most of our “arguments” are just post hoc attempts to rationalize our choice. The real reason we adopted ID or NDE has nothing to do with science or logic.

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  8. True, but many ID supporters try to have it both ways. When evolutionists point to suboptimal structures, they say, as you do, that we can’t judge these without knowing the full intent of the designer. On the other hand, they claim to know that the designer would not put ‘junk DNA’ in his designs, and so they ‘predict’ on this basis that all DNA in the genome will eventually be shown to have function.

    I agree, but that just goes towards my point: for 90% of us, most of our “arguments” are just post hoc attempts to rationalize our choice. The real reason we adopted ID or NDE has nothing to do with science or logic.

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  9. I find that much of the time, the Creationism/ID side will appear to be arguing against evolution, but upon closer inspection, they’re just projecting their own positions onto their opponents.

    “darwinism” = religion, dogma, a priori commitment

    “macroevolutionary event” = special creation

    “spontaneous appearance of life” = Genesis account

    I’m convinced that for those with a scientific aptitude and rationalist outlook that is opposed by their religious commitments, they’ve managed to accomplish a switcheroo, and are simply substituting one set of labels for another.

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  10. William J. Murray: I agree,but that just goes towards my point: for 90% of us, most of our “arguments” are just post hoc attempts to rationalize our choice.The real reason we adopted ID or NDE has nothing to do with science or logic.

    I thought you made some very good points in your earlier post, but I don’t think this is true. Well, I don’t know about the percentage anyway.

    But before I go on, could you tell me exactly what (briefly!) what you mean by “ID” and “NDE”?

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  11. Re ID is creationism in a cheap tuxedo. I think this metaphor is just slightly wrong. ID is the latest cheap tuxedo creationists have put onto creationism to try to sneak it into where it doesn’t belong.
    ID should not be excluded from US public school science courses not because it is creationism, but because the only reason anybody wants it in the schools is to promote religion.

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  12. I think it’s another reason why so often ID/NDE arguments either begin with invective, name calling, character assassination, motive-mongering, etc. or quickly turns that way: that debate is really just the superficial dressing of a much deeper and profound division between people.

    If it was just about science, then people would debate the science, offer and criticize data, make and rebut logical arguments, and then have some coffee and bagels together while they talked about sports, the opposite sex or some mutual interests. Instead, ID/NDE is a difference that actually makes people enemies. Dry debates about data and logic should hardly stir up enough emotion to get people to say some of the things IDers & NDErs say to each other.

    There are two much deeper tribalisms at stake, IMO, that just disagreements about data, probability, interpretation of evidence and epistemological & ontological premises. Those are the weapons and ammo being used in a battle, but they are not the reason for the battle.

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  13. Also, I think it’s why creationists, theists, IDers, the religious, the supernatural, and other categories of beliefs are often lumped together by the NDErs, and why the IDers so often lump together atheism, NDEists, materialists, nihilists, scientism, etc. The two tribes who are fighting for something they deeply identify with, and the labels they put on “the other” are symbolic representations of what they are fighting against.

    IMO, it’s a classic perspective of good vs evil, which accounts for why emotions run so deeply in the debate.

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  14. William J. Murray: If it was just about science, then people would debate the science

    Honestly, for most of of us who defend evolutionary theory, it IS just about the science. I accept evolution as true based on the evidence. If and when the evidence suggests that it is not true, then I’m fine with that.

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  15. Toronto: ID supporters implicitly claim “optimal form” without exploring the intent of the designer.

    This is a problem both camps dabble with, be it fitness on purpose or fitness on accident. I’d sorely like to see some clarity on all sides.

    Carl Sachs: As it is, I think that the inference from evolution to pessimism only works in light of various other assumptions and commitments, which are not themselves entailed by evolutionary theory.

    Spot on. If it’s taken as no more than a hypothesis then nothing follows. If it is taken a as a JTB that informs about your place in the world then it can, but need not, satisfy that inference.

    petrushka: I am able to fact check many of the claims made by ID advocates, and whenever I have done so, they have not held up. It just reinforces my bias.

    So you take it as a a Raven’s Paradox issue then?

    Sholom Sandalow: “darwinism” = religion, dogma, a priori commitment

    “macroevolutionary event” = special creation

    “spontaneous appearance of life” = Genesis account

    Out of curiosity how is this not you projecting onto your opponents as well? We would all be best served if we stopped assuming the other guy was Satan, whether the Christian or Secular one.

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  16. I’ll take on board llanitedave’s comments on deep time and the inevitability of complexity and diversity once replicating organisms arise. To to that I add:

    This thought arises as I walk: “I inhabit bipedal walking.” Bipedalism is certainly not my invention, nor a cultural invention; it is an evolutionary invention, and when I walk I inhabit that invention, without having originated it. Vertebrate walking is very, very ancient – having emerged probably on the order of 350 to 400 million years ago. That extended history across deep time is recorded in each of us.

    In addition to obvious structural homologies evident between my limbs and the limbs of other vertebrate species, more subtle heritages are expressed each time I walk. For example, there are cellular “rhythm generators” in the spinal column of vertebrate animals that spontaneously produce needed motor rhythms that, in conjunction with myriad interacting reflexes, coordination in the cerebellum, vestibular feedback, etc., drive the regular action of the limbs of all walking vertebrates – including this one. I like to imagine that I can observe in my own walking the original “walk-plan” that is written in my physiology. This is a process of letting go and simply permitting walking to occur. This yields a smooth rhythm, the expression of the innate vertebrate and ultimately hominid walking plan which happened to unfold successfully in my early developmental history. At these moments, walking is something that I observe rather than something I “do.”

    Of course, this universal walk-plan is silent on where to walk, or why, or what learned, communicative and culturally grounded modifications of stance, posture and style to display. Those originate within my personal history and within the history of the cultures within I am enclosed, not within evolutionary history. This evolutionarily-based walk-plan is recruited by human beings for uncountable activities not anticipated by evolution, ranging from kick-boxing to interminable repetitions of the River Dance on public television to the jackboot march of Nazis at Nuremberg. The plan offers no clue to the meaning of these activities for the actors; that is something that occurs at other levels of human inventiveness and memory. The ability to culturally and individually originate such unique behaviors atop the evolutionary heritage that has conferred this flexibility is what makes us so powerfully unique.

    I conclude that any person, at any given moment, expresses three tiers of history: one’s personal history, the history of the culture in which one is embedded, and evolutionary history. These are progressively more general, yet expressed simultaneously; many human psychological states and behaviors carry “the ancient alongside the new” (quoting Daniel Povinelli.) This is as true of human cognition as human walking.

    From where do social feelings and constraints originate? Are they individual, cultural, evolutionary, or something else? It is my opinion that, as with other human capacities, the bedrock layers of cooperative human conduct have evolutionary origins, and hence are likely to be nearly universally employed, while the content of one’s ethics are largely cultural inventions, graced by contingent variations in individual endowment and history. It follows that the dichotomy between “God given” and “evolutionary” origins for moral/ethical feelings and standards does not exhaust the possibilities.

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  17. John: ID should not be excluded from US public school science courses not because it is creationism, but because the only reason anybody wants it in the schools is to promote religion.

    While it need not be Creationism in a lab coat I do agree with this completely. I go further than this however and make the same statement, for the same reasons, regarding Darwinism.

    William J. Murray: Dry debates about data and logic should hardly stir up enough emotion to get people to say some of the things IDers & NDErs say to each other.

    Engineers will murder each other over 2 threads per inch. But they still go home friends. There’s a common problem in this in that the ‘contentious’ sciences are those that are light on empirical validation or replication. Not just this topic but CAGW, various soft-sciences, and Cosmology.

    You don’t need to convince others to believe what you believe when anyone and everyone can do it simply themselves.

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  18. Dear Liz,

    I would be more than happy to defend my conclusions at your blog, and I welcome challenges and rational discussion. However, being assaulted with comments like “put your tail between your legs and run off to your prayer group” (or whatever the hell that comment was) does not inspire the desire to waste precious time chasing a rainbow.

    I am fully aware that, at times, I have been seduced by emotion and not reason, and have made inappropriate comments concerning my detractors. I made an effort to avoid that pitfall at your blog, but I noticed increasingly vehement opposition to my posts based not on reason or rational argumentation, but on personal attacks and disparagement of my character and motives.

    Concerning probabilities: The probability that I will change your mind or that you will change mine is zero, but the discussion is worth having, since it ultimately concerns all that matters.

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  19. William J. Murray:
    Also, I think it’s why creationists, theists, IDers, the religious, the supernatural, and other categories of beliefs are often lumped together by the NDErs, and why the IDers so often lump together atheism, NDEists, materialists, nihilists, scientism, etc.The two tribes who are fighting for something they deeply identify with, and the labels they put on “the other” are symbolic representations of what they are fighting against.

    IMO, it’s a classic perspective of good vs evil, which accounts for why emotions run so deeply in the debate.

    There’s something to that, but I don’t think it applies to every case. I tend to start each discussion with someone new as if it’s merely a technical issue, a simple matter of information exchange. Not always, but all too often, the conversation evolves elsewhere when I see that the creationist/ID person has no interest whatsoever in facts or science, and merely uses them selectively as props for his/her ideological crusade. I try never to be the one who turns it metaphysical, ideological, or “good vs evil”. But it’s hard not to reach that conclusion when the other party reveals that they aren’t really being honest about their handling of factual information.

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  20. I noticed increasingly vehement opposition to my posts based not on reason or rational argumentation, but on personal attacks and disparagement of my character and motives.

    Not quite. You saw increasingly vehement opposition because you promised to provide calculations, but didn’t. You promised to present evidence, but didn’t. You promised to explain what it was that caused you to reject the enormous complexity of biology in favor of the seductive simplicity of magic, but you didn’t.

    And now here you are saying that those armed with evidence can go right ahead and waste their time, but not even knowing the evidence, you nonetheless already know that it’s irrelevant and there is zero chance of you actually learning enough to change your mind.

    And for this, you want respect. And by amazing coincidence, over at UD all you have to do is recite evidence-free catechisms, and your support group applauds you, and commiserates at the terrible treatment you suffered over there where people NOTICE that you broke all your promises while providing nothing rational in your support. The very idea! Shame on those people!

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  21. Gil:

    I would be more than happy to defend my conclusions at your blog, and I welcome challenges and rational discussion. However, being assaulted with comments like “put your tail between your legs and run off to your prayer group” (or whatever the hell that comment was) does not inspire the desire to waste precious time chasing a rainbow.

    Gil,

    Whoever wrote that was probably annoyed (as I am) that you so often make sweeping claims about the absurdity of “Darwinism” while so rarely providing evidence or argument to back your claims up. I guarantee that if you make a good faith effort to present your arguments here, then you will get the “challenges and rational discussion” that you are seeking.

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  22. GilDodgen: However, being assaulted with comments like “put your tail between your legs and run off to your prayer group” (or whatever the hell that comment was) does not inspire the desire to waste precious time chasing a rainbow.

    That response to you was inappropriate, and I hope most recognize that. I’m pretty sure that was moved to the guano pile.

    Concerning probabilities: The probability that I will change your mind or that you will change mine is zero, but the discussion is worth having, since it ultimately concerns all that matters.

    I think most of us realize that few of the debaters will change their minds. But the thread is there for others to read, and some of those others are still evaluating the issues.

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  23. Liz,

    I respectfully request that my account at this forum be permanently deleted. The probability that I will return is zero.

    Participating here is a colossally pointless waste of time, but thanks for the initial invite.

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  24. GilDodgen: Concerning probabilities: The probability that I will change your mind or that you will change mine is zero, but the discussion is worth having, since it ultimately concerns all that matters.

    “The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Ultimately this topic will involve a great deal of invective. But if it is worth having then I would suggest that you trust Elizabeth to round up the worst offenders and have it regardless.

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  25. GilDodgen,

    Flint: Not quite. You saw increasingly vehement opposition because you promised to provide calculations, but didn’t. You promised to present evidence, but didn’t. You promised to explain what it was that caused you to reject the enormous complexity of biology in favor of the seductive simplicity of magic, but you didn’t.

    And now here you are saying that those armed with evidence can go right ahead and waste their time, but not even knowing the evidence, you nonetheless already know that it’s irrelevant and there is zero chance of you actually learning enough to change your mind.

    And for this, you want respect. And by amazing coincidence, over at UD all you have to do is recite evidence-free catechisms, and your support group applauds you, and commiserates at the terrible treatment you suffered over there where people NOTICE that you broke all your promises while providing nothing rational in your support. The very idea! Shame on those people!

    You are the primary reason I’m leaving this forum. Check out your comments in the bird-poop archives.

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  26. Toronto: You just lost that time.

    Ha! Yes I did, well played. “impossible that it did happen” obviously.

    Toronto: Who are you?

    I’m me. Says so right on the tin.

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  27. William J. Murray:
    I think it’s another reason why so often ID/NDE arguments either begin with invective, name calling, character assassination, motive-mongering, etc. or quickly turns that way: that debate is really just the superficial dressing of a much deeper and profound division between people.

    If it was just about science, then people would debate the science, offer and criticize data, make and rebut logical arguments, and then have some coffee and bagels together while they talked about sports, the opposite sex or some mutual interests.Instead, ID/NDE is a difference that actually makes people enemies.Dry debates about data and logic should hardly stir up enough emotion to get people to say some of the things IDers & NDErs say to each other.

    There are two much deeper tribalisms at stake, IMO, that just disagreements about data, probability, interpretation of evidence and epistemological & ontological premises. Those are the weapons and ammo being used in a battle, but they are not the reason for the battle.

    Yes, I agree, William, and it is exactly why I started this site: to try to get under the skin of the tribalism, and find out what remains of the arguments underneath.

    I’m very sad that Gil has gone, for this reason. However, I think if we are going to make progress in understanding each other, then people are inevitably going to get frustrated. The policy at this site is not to delete such posts, or ban such posters, but to move the posts out of the way.

    But everyone will have to have a bit of tolerance for other people’s frustrations, just as well as a bit of tolerance for those who frustrate them!

    Gil has said the gulf is unbridgable. I don’t agree, but I understand that if that is how he sees it, there is no further point in hanging around. I do hope others will.

    Thanks to all

    Lizzie

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  28. I was going to move some posts out of this thread, but have thought better of it. Maus now accepts that the people he thought were other people aren’t, and, sadly, Gil has decided not to come back.

    Please everyone, give everyone a clean slate here, whether you know them, or think you know them, from other forums or not.

    Thanks.

    Lizzie

    On third thoughts I’ve moved some stuff.

    Please let’s stick to the OP in this thread. If you want an argy bargy, that’s fine, but now we have a forum for that 🙂

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  29. William J. Murray:
    Also, I think it’s why creationists, theists, IDers, the religious, the supernatural, and other categories of beliefs are often lumped together by the NDErs, and why the IDers so often lump together atheism, NDEists, materialists, nihilists, scientism, etc.The two tribes who are fighting for something they deeply identify with, and the labels they put on “the other” are symbolic representations of what they are fighting against.

    IMO, it’s a classic perspective of good vs evil, which accounts for why emotions run so deeply in the debate.

    Well, I hope you weren’t casting your opponents in the ‘evil’ camp … sadly, I think you might be. I don’t perceive that I am adopting a ‘tribal’ stance, and if people (following Psalm 14:1, perhaps), consider me evil simply because I disbelieve, or have a decent science education, I think they have a problem.

    I consider religion and evolution to be two completely separate issues, but of course in fora such as these (and with undeniably juicy quotes from the likes of Dawkins) they clash. But for me personally, they don’t.

    I was an atheist from about 11, and even before that, only ‘believed’ in God in a vague sense. It has always seemed implausible to me. I did not choose my disbelief, any more than I could now say “Yes, I Believe!”. I don’t know how one does that, as an active decision to believe something other people are telling you. Either you do or you don’t. I’ve always been independent-minded, and religion has always struck me as a man-made construct. The reasons people might insist I believe as they do are many and varied – to better advance their own claim to immortality, to control my behaviour for whatever reasons they may have; to get money out of me… but in many respects, religion is a force for good, and I do not hate it or shy away from it. I just don’t believe in it.

    My 11-year-old mind was not cast adrift in shadows, desperate for a reason to support my “turning away from God”, my “willfull disobedience to recognise Undeniable Truths”, as tgpeeler had it over on UD. How can I disobey something that does not exist? But of course I am familiar with Psalm 14:1. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”. Oh really? I could insert some spicy invective at this point, but this would get me in Guano! But people think that – and you have weighed in with approval, so I guess you do too. I am a bad bad person, because I happen to find religion unbelievable. OK then.

    As to evolution: I was always a keen birdwatcher. I was familiar with the Linnaean classification system. I persuaded my mum to get me a weekly ‘partwork’, Animal Life (“builds week by week into an encyclopedia to treasure”), and free with the first issue was an evolutionary wallchart. I stuck it on my wall. And had a ‘eureka’ moment. Of course! That is why my birds grouped into groups, and groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups. Common Descent. Simple, elegant, obvious. It explained something about the world. At NO point did I experience any connection with religion (“phew! I am now an intellectually fulfilled atheist!”). It was purely a matter of biology. I chose to do science for ‘A’ level, then went to university to study biochemistry. I learnt about DNA, and about molecular phylogenies, but the naturalist in me wanted to link it into the populations of ‘wildlife’ that had been a passion from an early age. I taught myself a bit of population genetics, and about speciation, and about mutation and selection and drift …

    So, as I say, these are two separate matters. My mind was perhaps more receptive to evolution than it might have been had I been raised in Utah, but nobody forced me to accept it, to study it. And I have never considered it a reason to ‘reject’ God. Yet the good folks of Utah consider me (because of atheist inclinations coupled with an understanding of the way nature works) to be morally corrupt, foaming-at-the-mouth, ideologically motivated … I am doomed; when all are called to account (in their view), I will be cast into Hell for failure to recognise the Hand of God in Nature, while their failure to be persuaded by evolutionary science gains them eternal reward. Which is a curious representation of this Deity and his interpreted wishes, I must say.

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  30. ID has to explain HOW irreducibly complex traits come into existence. To assert IC traits exist is not sufficient. I’ve never seen any attempt by ID about the origin of the flagellum, for instance. ID does not aim to find mechanisms to further explain the origin of biological features. This total lack of mechanism in ID is a major weakness. It empties ID of empirical content.

    Evolution has to occur as natural selection cannot be circumvented. If the understanding of the origin of biological features is in evolutionary biology is incomplete – and it might well be incomplete, even if I do not care for Shapiro and Morris – still it remains evolutionary biology aims to find mechanisms to further explain the origin of biological features.

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  31. GilDodgen: I respectfully request that my account at this forum be permanently deleted. The probability that I will return is zero.

    Spare us the drama, Gil. If you are not coming back anyway, what’s the point of deleting your account?

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  32. testing testing (sorry – just tried posting twice and both evaporated). Please delete!

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  33. William J. Murray:
    Also, I think it’s why creationists, theists, IDers, the religious, the supernatural, and other categories of beliefs are often lumped together by the NDErs, and why the IDers so often lump together atheism, NDEists, materialists, nihilists, scientism, etc.The two tribes who are fighting for something they deeply identify with, and the labels they put on “the other” are symbolic representations of what they are fighting against.

    IMO, it’s a classic perspective of good vs evil, which accounts for why emotions run so deeply in the debate.

    I hope you are not lumping your opponents into the “evil” camp .. sadly, I think you might be. I certainly don’t perceive that I am following a ‘tribal’ position, although obviously I cannot deny that there is a group of people of similar opinion to myself. And as for evil … well, by their fruits and all that. If people (perhaps following Psalm 14:1) consider me evil because I happen not to believe in their religion, or because I have a decent science education, I think they have a problem.

    I consider atheism and evolution to be two completely separate issues, but of course in fora such as these (and with undeniable support from the likes of Dawkins) they clash.

    I was an atheist from about 11, and even before that, only ‘believed’ in God in a vague sense. It has always seemed implausible to me. I did not choose my disbelief, any more than I could now say “Yes, I Believe!”. I don’t know how one does that, as an active decision to believe something other people are telling you. Either you do or you don’t. I’ve always been independent-minded, and religion has always struck me as a man-made construct. The reasons people might insist I believe as they do are many and varied – to better advance their own claim to immortality, to control my behaviour for whatever reasons they may have; to get money out of me… but in many respects, religion is a force for good, and I do not hate it or shy away from it. I just don’t believe in it.

    My 11-year-old mind was not cast adrift in shadows, desperate for a reason to support my “turning away from God”, my “willfull disobedience to recognise Undeniable Truths”, as tgpeeler had it over on UD. How can I disobey something that does not exist? But of course I am familiar with Psalm 14:1. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”. Oh really? I could insert some spicy invective at this point, but this would get me in Guano! But people think that – and you have weighed in with approval, so I guess you do too. I am a bad bad person, because I happen to find religion unbelievable. OK then.
    As to evolution: I was always a keen birdwatcher. I was familiar with the Linnaean classification system. I persuaded my mum to get me a weekly ‘partwork’, Animal Life (“builds week by week into an encyclopedia to treasure”), and free with the first issue was an evolutionary wallchart. I stuck it on my wall. And had a ‘eureka’ moment. Of course! That is why my birds grouped into groups, and groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups. Common Descent. Simple, elegant, obvious. It explained something about the world. At NO point did I experience any connection with religion (“phew! I am now an intellectually fulfilled atheist!”). It was purely a matter of biology. I chose to do science for ‘A’ level, then went to university to study biochemistry. I learnt about DNA, and about molecular phylogenies, but the naturalist in me wanted to link it into the populations of ‘wildlife’ that had been a passion from an early age. I taught myself a bit of population genetics, and about speciation, and about mutation and selection and drift … all perfectly reasonable, consistent, empirically verifiable – despite complaint at what it CANNOT do, which is to reconstruct history where no traces remain.

    So, as I say, these are two separate matters. My mind was perhaps more receptive to evolution than it might have been had I been raised in Utah, but nobody forced me to accept it, to study it. And I have never considered it a reason to ‘reject’ God. Yet the good folks of Utah consider me (because of atheist inclinations coupled with an understanding of the way Nature works) to be morally corrupt, foaming-at-the-mouth, ideologically motivated … I am doomed; when all are called to account (in their view), I will be cast into Hell for failure to recognise the Hand of God in Nature, while their failure to be persuaded by evolutionary science gains them eternal reward. Which is a curious representation of this Deity and his interpreted wishes, I must say.

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  34. Yes, I agree, William, and it is exactly why I started this site: to try to get under the skin of the tribalism, and find out what remains of the arguments underneath.

    There are no “arguments underneath”, IMO. There is simply a choice one either makes consciously or is made unconsciously, and that choice is fundamental to many aspects of how one sees the world and their part in it. No amount of evidence or argument, IMO, is going to ultimately make any real difference, because how one interprets evidence and how one reasons is largely informed by that choice.

    The real choice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism; everything else is just (essentially) post hoc justification, rationalizing, cheerleading and rhetoric that flows from that choice.

    I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    Also, I think that this is why many believers just prefer witnessing over argument, because they think that the real choice has nothing to do with “beating” someone else in a logical or scientific debate.

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  35. The real choice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism; everything else is just (essentially) post hoc justification, rationalizing, cheerleading and rhetoric that flows from that choice.

    This is how it seems to be framed from the creationist side, but where does it leave theistic evolutionists?

    (whixch is not to say that your characterisation of how the debate is carried out is wrong, though)

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  36. William J. Murray: I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    I consider atheism and evolution to be two completely separate issues, but of course in fora such as these (and with undeniable support from the likes of Dawkins) they clash. But I’m not here to argue for atheism or against theism.

    Still … I was an atheist from about 11, and even before that, only ‘believed’ in God in a vague sense. It has always seemed implausible to me. I did not choose my disbelief, any more than I could now say “Yes, I Believe!”. I don’t know how one does that: an active decision to believe something other people are telling you. Either you do or you don’t. I’ve always been independent-minded, and religion has always struck me as a man-made construct. The reasons people might insist I believe as they do are many and varied – to better advance their own claim to immortality, to control my behaviour for whatever reasons they may have; to get money out of me… but in many respects, religion is a force for good, and I do not hate it or shy away from it. I just don’t believe in it.

    My 11-year-old mind was not cast adrift in shadows, desperate for a reason to support my “turning away from God”, my “willfull disobedience to recognise Undeniable Truths”, as tgpeeler had it over on UD. How can I disobey something that does not exist? But of course I am familiar with Psalm 14:1. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”. Oh really? I could insert some spicy invective at this point, but this would get me in Guano! But people think that – and you have weighed in with approval, so I guess you do too. I am a bad bad person, because I happen to find religion unbelievable. OK then.
    As to evolution: I was always a keen birdwatcher. I was familiar with the Linnaean classification system. I persuaded my mum to get me a weekly ‘partwork’, Animal Life (“builds week by week into an encyclopedia to treasure”), and free with the first issue was an evolutionary wallchart. I stuck it on my wall. And had a ‘eureka’ moment. Of course! That is why my birds grouped into groups, and groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups. Common Descent. Simple, elegant, obvious. It explained something about the world. At NO point did I experience any connection with religion (“phew! I am now an intellectually fulfilled atheist!”). It was purely a matter of biology. I chose to do science for ‘A’ level, then went to university to study biochemistry. I learnt about DNA, and about molecular phylogenies, but the naturalist in me wanted to link it into the populations of ‘wildlife’ that had been a passion from an early age. I taught myself a bit of population genetics, and about speciation, and about mutation and selection and drift … it has great explanatory power, and substantial intellectual appeal. And that is it. It is not an ideology, though I give up trying to persuade any theistically-inclined correspondent of that fact.

    So, as I say, these are two separate matters. My mind was perhaps more receptive to evolution than it might have been had I been raised in Utah, but nobody forced me to accept it, to study it. And I have never considered it a reason to ‘reject’ God, or to form anything essential to my worldview. I just understand it, and get frustrated with people who don’t even WANT to, and yet cheerfully pontificate. Yet the good folks of Utah consider me (because of atheist inclinations coupled with an understanding of the way Nature works) to be morally corrupt, foaming-at-the-mouth, ideologically motivated … I am doomed; when all are called to account (in their view), I will be cast into Hell for failure to recognise the Hand of God in Nature, while their failure to be persuaded by evolutionary science gains them eternal reward. Which is a curious representation of this Deity and his interpreted wishes, I must say.

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  37. Theistic evolutionists, if I’m not mistaken, believe all the necessary information for life and evolution was front-loaded in the creation of the universe.

    I consider theistic evolution the same kind of concept as free will compatibalism – a means to avoid certain problems one’s ideological perspective runs into.

    Perhaps more to the point, there are deeply dividing, existential/psychological/emotional things that theism and atheism offer the believer that drives people to justify their basic theistic or atheistic view even it if means some form of compatibilism in certain areas, whether or not such compatibilisms are really rationally justifiable or not.

    But, like I said, IMO, it’s not really about the logic; the logic is just used to serve the more fundamental belief.

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  38. William J. Murray: … The real choice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism; everything else is just (essentially) post hoc justification, rationalizing, cheerleading and rhetoric that flows from that choice.

    I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    I strongly disagree. I am a theistic evolutionist (to smack a great big label on my forehead, which I dislike doing) that species of person hated, reviled and misunderstood by most IDists and New Atheists. I’d suspect that we’re more common than you would believe.

    Having said that, there is definitely an element of truth in your ideas that a large part of the vehemence in evolution/ID/creationism arguments is down to vastly different cultures and politics. Political power struggles between the different camps are what adds the heat to the fire. I’d suggest that if the ID/creationist movement didn’t actively try to insert itself into school curricula, that the arguments would be much less heated and more technical. Speaking for myself, I don’t understand the mindsets of people who dismiss or misconstrue scientific arguments based only on their beliefs. That absolute sense of confidence that they are right and everyone else is wrong and should be converted. That scares me, that such people can (and have done) get into power and wreak real harm.

    It’s also why I’m interested in the ID/evolution arguments. I grew up Catholic in the Bible belt. But we learned evolution in school and read Inherit the Wind. Then in university, a student group campaigned for highlighting courses in the syllabus that taught evolution so that the faithful could avoid them. I still can’t understand that perspective.

    I once asked how a very religious colleague of mine (another theistic evolutionist) dealt with the subject of evolution with his family and church. He said that he simply explained the nuts and bolts of evolutionary theory and pointed out that there was no footnote that read “Therefore, no God.” They were fine after that. For the vast majority of people who do not accept evolution, I suspect that they simply don’t understand it and believe that atheism is a requirement. I suspect that may be true of many pro-ID internet commenters.

    (Hope there’s something useful in this ramble.)

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  39. I just tried posting a response from a TE’s point of view. Seems to have vanished. Let’s see if it shows up?

    Here it is anyway (in edit):
    —————-

    William J. Murray: … The real choice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism; everything else is just (essentially) post hoc justification, rationalizing, cheerleading and rhetoric that flows from that choice.

    I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    I strongly disagree. I am a theistic evolutionist (to smack a great big label on my forehead, which I dislike doing) that species of person hated, reviled and misunderstood by most IDists and New Atheists. I’d suspect that we’re more common than you would believe.

    Having said that, there is definitely an element of truth in your ideas that a large part of the vehemence in evolution/ID/creationism arguments is down to vastly different cultures and politics. Political power struggles between the different camps are what adds the heat to the fire. I’d suggest that if the ID/creationist movement didn’t actively try to insert itself into school curricula, that the arguments would be much less heated and more technical. Speaking for myself, I don’t understand the mindsets of people who dismiss or misconstrue scientific arguments based only on their beliefs. That absolute sense of confidence that they are right and everyone else is wrong and should be converted. That scares me, that such people can (and have done) get into power and wreak real harm.

    It’s also why I’m interested in the ID/evolution arguments. I grew up Catholic in the Bible belt. But we learned evolution in school and read Inherit the Wind. Then in university, a student group campaigned for highlighting courses in the syllabus that taught evolution so that the faithful could avoid them. I still can’t understand that perspective.

    I once asked how a very religious colleague of mine (another theistic evolutionist) dealt with the subject of evolution with his family and church. He said that he simply explained the nuts and bolts of evolutionary theory and pointed out that there was no footnote that read “Therefore, no God.” They were fine after that. For the vast majority of people who do not accept evolution, I suspect that they simply don’t understand it and believe that atheism is a requirement. I suspect that may be true of many pro-ID internet commenters.

    (Hope there’s something useful in this ramble.)

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  40. Here’s the meat of it anyway:

    I strongly disagree with WJM’s “The real choice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism”. I am a theistic evolutionist (to smack a great big label on my forehead, which I dislike doing) that species of person hated, reviled and misunderstood by most IDists and New Atheists. I’d suspect that we’re more common than you would believe.

    Having said that, there is definitely an element of truth in your ideas that a large part of the vehemence in evolution/ID/creationism arguments is down to vastly different cultures and politics. Political power struggles between the different camps are what adds the heat to the fire. I’d suggest that if the ID/creationist movement didn’t actively try to insert itself into school curricula, that the arguments would be much less heated and more technical. Speaking for myself, I don’t understand the mindsets of people who dismiss or misconstrue scientific arguments based only on their beliefs. That absolute sense of confidence that they are right and everyone else is wrong and should be converted. That scares me, that such people can (and have done) get into power and wreak real harm.

    It’s also why I’m interested in the ID/evolution arguments. I grew up Catholic in the Bible belt. But we learned evolution in school and read Inherit the Wind. Then in university, a student group campaigned for highlighting courses in the syllabus that taught evolution so that the faithful could avoid them. I still can’t understand that perspective.

    I once asked how a very religious colleague of mine (another theistic evolutionist) dealt with the subject of evolution with his family and church. He said that he simply explained the nuts and bolts of evolutionary theory and pointed out that there was no footnote that read “Therefore, no God.” They were fine after that. For the vast majority of people who do not accept evolution, I suspect that they simply don’t understand it and believe that atheism is a requirement. I suspect that may be true of many pro-ID internet commenters.

    (Hope there’s something useful in this ramble.)

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  41. FYI, the quoted comment above is actually all mine.

    I’m getting lost in vanishing posts and inability to edit b/co the spam filter!

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  42. WJM:

    Theistic evolutionists, if I’m not mistaken, believe all the necessary information for life and evolution was front-loaded in the creation of the universe.

    Personally, I’m not sure what you mean by that. If it’s like Davison’s genetic front-loading ideas, then no. There are a wide range of TE beliefs, and I don’t think they can be easily generalised beyond believing in God and accepting evolution.

    So would TEs in your view be basically theists with a bit of evolution thrown in “to avoid certain problems one’s ideological perspective runs into” or atheists with a bit of God thrown in for the same reason? What is my fundamental belief that I’m window dressing?

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  43. So would TEs in your view be basically theists with a bit of evolution thrown in “to avoid certain problems one’s ideological perspective runs into” or atheists with a bit of God thrown in for the same reason?

    The former.

    What is my fundamental belief that I’m window dressing?

    Theism, because you would believe in god whether, in your mind, NDE theory was valid or not. Correct? IOW, correct me if I’m wrong, it doesn’t matter to you in any existential or deeply emotional sense if NDE is true or not, but it does matter to you in a deep and profound way if there is a god or not.

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  44. William J. Murray:
    Also, I think it’s why creationists, theists, IDers, the religious, the supernatural, and other categories of beliefs are often lumped together by the NDErs, and why the IDers so often lump together atheism, NDEists, materialists, nihilists, scientism, etc.The two tribes who are fighting for something they deeply identify with, and the labels they put on “the other” are symbolic representations of what they are fighting against.

    IMO, it’s a classic perspective of good vs evil, which accounts for why emotions run so deeply in the debate.

    On thinking about it, you don’t see scientists and science educators getting all incensed about Flat Earthers, or Bigfoot “researchers”, or Alien Invader fans, or even Aquatic Ape Advocates. Only Creationists and their ID auxiliary.

    Why is that? It’s because only Creationists and their ID auxiliary attempt to bypass the scientific debate completely and lobby legislators and school boards to get their mythology ensconced in public school curricula. In a nutshell, that is 99% of the reason for sites like this.

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  45. William J. Murray: There are no “arguments underneath”, IMO. There is simply a choice one either makes consciously or is made unconsciously, and that choice is fundamental to many aspects of how one sees the world and their part in it. No amount of evidence or argument, IMO, is going to ultimately make any real difference, because how one interprets evidence and how one reasons is largely informed by that choice.

    The realchoice, IMO, is simply between theism and atheism; everything else is just (essentially) post hoc justification, rationalizing, cheerleading and rhetoric that flows from that choice.

    I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    Also, I think that this is why many believers just prefer witnessing over argument, because they think that the real choice has nothing to do with “beating” someone else in a logical or scientific debate.

    No, the real choice is between debating and lobbying.

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  46. FWIW, this is the version of TE I guess I used to hold:

    That the universe runs according to created rules, and, while these rules are fundamentally probabilistic, God willed and foresaw (being omnipotent and omniscient) that the universe that actually transpired was one in which intelligent beings capable of love and goodness would evolve.

    Or, if you like, God figured out a universe that could potentially bring forth intelligent beings capable of love and goodness, made that, and set the allowable parameters to values that would ensure it did.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t figure out what the properties are of the universe that He made are that enabled us to exist, or what the parameter settings must have been. And it always struck me as rather clunky to postulate that God couldn’t quite manage to bring off a universe that could bring us about spontaneously, but had to reach in and break its own rules in order to ensure that we could happen.

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  47. William J Murray: I think a better thread would be “Why are you a theist or an atheist?”

    I consider religion and evolution to be two completely separate issues, but of course in fora such as these (and with undeniable support from the likes of Dawkins) they clash. But I’m not here to argue for atheism or against theism.

    Still, here is the Miller’s Tale, a personal case study … I was an atheist from about 11, and even before that, only ‘believed’ in God in a vague sense. It has always seemed implausible to me. I did not choose my disbelief, any more than I could now say “Yes, I Believe!”. I don’t know how one does that: an active decision to believe something other people are telling you. Either you do or you don’t. I’ve always been independent-minded, and religion has always struck me as a man-made construct. The reasons people might insist I believe as they do are many and varied – to better advance their own claim to immortality, to control my behaviour for whatever reasons they may have; to get money out of me… but in many respects, religion is a force for good, and I do not hate it or shy away from it. I just don’t believe in it.

    My 11-year-old mind was not cast adrift in shadows, desperate for a reason to support my “turning away from God”, my “willfull disobedience to recognise Undeniable Truths”, as tgpeeler had it over on UD. How can I disobey something that does not exist? But of course I am familiar with Psalm 14:1. “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”. Oh really? I could insert some spicy invective at this point, but this would get me in Guano! But people think that – and you have weighed in with approval, so I guess you do too. I am a bad bad person, because I happen to find religion unbelievable. OK then.
    As to evolution: I was always a keen birdwatcher. I was familiar with the Linnaean classification system. I persuaded my mum to get me a weekly ‘partwork’, Animal Life (“builds week by week into an encyclopedia to treasure”), and free with the first issue was an evolutionary wallchart. I stuck it on my wall. And had a ‘eureka’ moment. Of course! That is why my birds grouped into groups, and groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups. Common Descent. Simple, elegant, obvious. It explained something about the world. At NO point did I experience any connection with religion (“phew! I am now an intellectually fulfilled atheist!”). It was purely a matter of biology. I chose to do science for ‘A’ level, then went to university to study biochemistry. I learnt about DNA, and about molecular phylogenies, but the naturalist in me wanted to link it into the populations of ‘wildlife’ that had been a passion from an early age. I taught myself a bit of population genetics, and about speciation, and about mutation and selection and drift … it has great explanatory power, and substantial intellectual appeal. And that is it. It is not an ideology, though I give up trying to persuade any theistically-inclined correspondent of that fact.

    So, as I say, these are two separate matters. My mind was perhaps more receptive to evolution than it might have been had I been raised in Utah, but nobody forced me to accept it, to study it. And I have never considered it a reason to ‘reject’ God, or to form anything essential to my worldview. I just understand it, and get frustrated with people who don’t even WANT to, and yet cheerfully pontificate. Yet the good folks of Utah consider me (because of atheist inclinations coupled with an understanding of the way Nature works) to be morally corrupt, foaming-at-the-mouth, ideologically motivated … I am doomed; when all are called to account (in their view), I will be cast into Hell for failure to recognise the Hand of God in Nature, while their failure to be persuaded by evolutionary science gains them eternal reward. Which is a curious representation of this Deity and his interpreted wishes, I must say.

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  48. GilDodgen,
    Gil, if you’re still reading, don’t give up! I’ve got you pegged as a good guy. Sure, There’ll be pot-shots and cheap shots from both sides, but not giving up on people is I think something you hold ideologically dear. You’re a smart guy. We need those. Let’s collectively see how close to ‘truth’ we can get. Whatdya say?

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