Has UD Reached its Best Before Date?

Uncommon Descent still has some interesting topics, but the authors of the OPs simply do not tolerate any comments that do not validate their opinions.

Worse than this, they label any commenter who disagrees with any of their opinions as a Darwinist/atheist/subjectivist/materialist/communist/progressive. The two most flagrant abusers are Barry Arrington, the moderator, and Gordon Mullings, who posts as KairosFocus.

Kairosfocus’ most recent rants have been about objective moral truths and his charity of the day, self-evident first duties. It has been pointed out to him on numerous occasions that his objective moral truths are nothing more than human behaviours that most people have subjectively determined to be in their best interest if they want to continue to thrive in a social setting.

Rather than address the arguments raised against his views, he repeatedly erects strawman versions of his opponents’ views, and then argues from consequence.

The issue worth discussing here, is whether KF has a valid point.

108 thoughts on “Has UD Reached its Best Before Date?

  1. Alan Fox,

    Interesting. Well, Bob’s comments are short and to the point.

    Now there’s a new comment, some PaV, who thinks that because some changes are plastic, evolution doesn’t happen at all. In other words, if I can increase my strength by lifting weights, then those who are born much stronger, respond faster to weight lifting, quickly surpass any gain in strength I might achieve, didn’t have any genetically-based advantages over me. If some of these differences are plastic, none can possibly have a genetic component.

    We learn something every day.

  2. Alan Fox,

    Further news, ET rejoined the comment section over there, asking Bob if mutations weren’t involved. I’d say ET has Bob cornered now.

    Bob might say, you’re right ET, mutations were involved, therefore they’re not blind to fitness, because, well, there’s a selection component to the story that you seem to miss, but, what the hell, helping you out in that regard seems rather difficult, therefore, let’s not even talk about it and say you’re right.

  3. Looking at Neil Thomas’s series of essays on Epicurus and Darwin, it’s clear that the ID movement is predicated upon misunderstandings of history and philosophy just as much as it is predicated upon misunderstandings of biology.

    Yet Thomas, like Weikert and Dembski, is just barely good enough that it’s easy for the half-educated and gullible to be persuaded by his account.

    None of the rubes at Uncommon Descent know enough to see where Thomas goes awry and they all too happy to lap it up without questioning.

    (And yes, I did read the whole series he’s published on Evolution News and Views.)

  4. Kantian Naturalist,

    You claiming people don’t understand biology is a bit ironic. You are the one who keeps claiming that evolution doesn’t rely on unguided meaningless mutations to form complicated precise networks of organisms, but that instead there is a vague, third way, possibly teleological, possibly designed without a designer, possibly engineered but not engineered, but not chaos, because that’s a caricature, but also not not chaos, and its a modern synthesis but beyond the modern synthesis because no one knows what the modern synthesis means.

    Nothing about that is apparently a caricature of nonsense.

  5. phoodoo: You claiming people don’t understand biology is a bit ironic. You are the one who keeps claiming that evolution doesn’t rely on unguided meaningless mutations to form complicated precise networks of organisms, but that instead there is a vague, third way, possibly teleological, possibly designed without a designer, possibly engineered but not engineered, but not chaos, because that’s a caricature, but also not not chaos, and its a modern synthesis but beyond the modern synthesis because no one knows what the modern synthesis means.

    It appears you have been working very hard indeed to acquire an accurate understanding of KN’s position. I am confident he totally recognizes his views in your paraphrase.

  6. Corneel: It appears you have been working very hard indeed to acquire an accurate understanding of KN’s position. I am confident he totally recognizes his views in your paraphrase.

    Indeed, the accuracy was uncanny.

  7. phoodoo: but that instead there is a vague, third way

    A vague third way is nonetheless far superior to your ‘alternative’ of which we know literally nothing at all.

  8. phoodoo: because no one knows what the modern synthesis means.

    How odd that you can find definitions for it then quite easily:

    The Modern Synthesis describes the fusion (merger) of Mendelian genetics with Darwinian evolution that resulted in a unified theory of evolution. … It proposed a new definition of evolution as “changes in allele frequencies within populations , ” thus emphasizing the genetic basis of evolution.

    Perhaps you’ve never actually looked into it?

    https://www.encyclopedia.com/earth-and-environment/ecology-and-environmentalism/environmental-studies/modern-synthesis

  9. OMagain,

    I’ve got the book, well, the reedited version by MIT press. It’s a bit hard to read, because the old spelling causes me short-circuit, but it is much better than described by detractors and “super-ultra-modern” synthesis advocates.

  10. Corneel: It appears you have been working very hard indeed to acquire an accurate understanding of KN’s position. I am confident he totally recognizes his views in your paraphrase.

    No, come on, I get the joke, obviously! KN’s little slapstick about how evolution is not determined by meaningless random noise, but is actually controlled by complex systems which engineer their own outcomes, which form their own systems of cells and structures which of course have great precision because that is what nature builds by design… But there is no designer. So the idea of intelligent design, that is most definitely nonsense, how can anyone believe that!!

    Haha, KN is funny, I have to give him that. Pure facial comedy for sure, so yea I got the punchlines.

    You didn’t really think I thought he was serious, did you??? You are part of the skit right? It’s kind of over the top Benny Hill style, but some enjoy that overt comedy genre.

  11. phoodoo: No, come on, I get the joke, obviously! KN’s little slapstick about how evolution is not determined by meaningless random noise, but is actually controlled by complex systems which engineer their own outcomes, which form their own systems of cells and structures which of course have great precision because that is what nature builds by design… But there is no designer. So the idea of intelligent design, that is most definitely nonsense, how can anyone believe that!!

    Have it your way!

    KN is one of the few people here that will grant you that life can be said to be teleological. I understand that it is disappointing for you he doesn’t consider this to be the clincher that vindicates Intelligent Design creationism, but still I think it might be worthwhile for you to understand what reasons he has for rejecting that conclusion.

  12. Corneel: KN is one of the few people here that will grant you that life can be said to be teleological.

    When then surely he is ripe for ridicule, right? Isn’t that the tradition here-saying life is teleological is for fruitcakes isn’t it?

  13. phoodoo: When then surely he is ripe for ridicule, right? Isn’t that the tradition here-saying life is teleological is for fruitcakes isn’t it?

    In my experience this depends on what is meant by it and what arguments are used in support. If you want to argue that individual organisms have goals than that is fine with me. But how does one reach the conclusion that all of life has a single overarching goal? Not clear to me. If I understood correctly, KN agrees with the former, but rejects the latter. To argue that life was Designed for a purpose, you need the latter.

  14. phoodoo: The former suggests the later. To say otherwise is just burying your head in the sand.

    Now that is a good example of an “argument” that is ripe for ridicule. You should know by now that bluffing doesn’t work here.

    Anyway, if I were you I would be a little more interested in why people see things differently from you. You are not going to achieve a lot by declaring that all who disagree with you are “burying their head in the sand”.

  15. phoodoo: The former suggests the later. To say otherwise is just burying your head in the sand.

    “Suggests” is merely subjective association. To your mind, “each individual organism has its distinct goal” is associated with “there is a single goal for all life”. The rest of us do not have this association.

    Regardless, there is no logically valid argument that takes “each individual organism has its distinct goal” as a premise and has “there is a single goal for all life” as a conclusion.

    (This is obvious to anyone who knows first-order symbolic logic and tries to work out the proof.)

  16. Kantian Naturalist: “each individual organism has its distinct goal”

    I have no idea what “each individual has a goal” even means. Does each individual cell have a goal? How did it get this goal?

    Regardless, this is certainly not what all those books you recommended are saying.

  17. phoodoo: Regardless, this is certainly not what all those books you recommended are saying.

    Well, the central question of Deacon’s Incomplete Nature is how teleology emerged from thermodynamics. I think that’s a fascinating and important question. (And for what it’s worth, I think Deacon has a compelling answer to that question.)

    My next books to read in this subject are Life Itself by Rosen and Organisms, Agency, and Evolution by Walsh.

    I expect that Rosen and Walsh will have some productive ideas for how to understand teleology. Alas, no “Desingers”.

  18. Kantian Naturalist: Well, the central question of Deacon’s Incomplete Nature is how teleology emerged from thermodynamics. I think that’s a fascinating and important question. (And for what it’s worth, I think Deacon has a compelling answer to that question.)

    My next books to read in this subject are Life Itself by Rosen and Organisms, Agency, and Evolution by Walsh.

    I expect that Rosen and Walsh will have some productive ideas for how to understand teleology. Alas, no “Desingers”.

    Well, wait a second, you don’t think these books are simply arguing that an individual has a goal, but life itself doesn’t, right? That’s not what any book I have looked at that you referenced has suggested. They talk about “life” being teleological, not individuals. They talk about “cells” having direction, or being engineered, or about how cells have intrinsic natures, not about the behaviour of any one cell.

    So you have already changed the goalposts. You are now searching for an argument for how life can have teleology, without a designer. Not how individuals have, because it would be a really silly argument to say, cells have teleology, mammals have teleology, plants have teleology, invertebrates have teleology, bacteria have teleology, but let’s not suggest life does.

    So if you are now going to now acknowledge that all of life seems to possess goals, but you STILL don’t think that suggests a designer (not your previous less committed notion of well some individuals have) I don’t think most people would so easily accept your dismissal of teleologies origins.

    It doesn’t require much of a leap of faith to come to the conclusion that if teleology exists all throughout the living world, considering a designer caused that is NOT a ridiculous belief as you so flippantly suggest. Why do you think the DI has many positive things to say about many of these books you have listed here?

    And why do you think many other posters on this very forum resist your notions of teleology, because they are smart enough to know what that implies. For them, life must come from random meaningless noise, or they know their worldview is precarious. In which case you don’t get to say my description of their beliefs is any kind of a caricature.

  19. Kantian Naturalist,

    I think it would have been helpful if you would have included the whole title of the book by Rosen: Life Itself: A Comprehensive Inquiry Into the Nature, Origin, and Fabrication of Life (Complexity in Ecological Systems).

    Notice how the author uses the word “life” and not “individuals” to describe the inquiry into its nature, origin and fabrication. Not even a hint of describing this as an individual phenomenon, if that would even make any sense at all. So let’s dispose of your first hand-waving right now, that’s its just the case of some individuals having teleology (that argument didn’t last long) , and get to the real story, which is that life has teleology.

  20. phoodoo: nd get to the real story, which is that life has teleology.

    Then what is the purpose/goal of life?

    If you can’t say and yet insist it has such a purpose then the obvious question is how do you know that and yet not know what that purpose is?

  21. phoodoo: Well, wait a second, you don’t think these books are simply arguing that an individual has a goal, but life itself doesn’t, right?That’s not what any book I have looked at that you referenced has suggested.They talk about “life” being teleological, not individuals.They talk about “cells” having direction, or being engineered, or about how cells have intrinsic natures, not about the behaviour of any one cell.

    So you have already changed the goalposts.You are now searching for an argument for how life can have teleology, without a designer. Not how individuals have, because it would be a really silly argument to say, cells have teleology, mammals have teleology, plants have teleology, invertebrates have teleology, bacteria have teleology, but let’s not suggest life does.

    So if you are now going to now acknowledge that all of life seems to possess goals, but you STILL don’t think that suggests a designer (not your previous less committed notion of well some individuals have) I don’t think most people would so easily accept your dismissal of teleologies origins.

    Some of this is fair. Rosen, Deacon, and Walsh would certainly say that life is teleological. But for them, that means that all living things have goals of some kind or other, not that there is one single goal for all of life. The question for them is about how to take teleology seriously as a real property of living things (teleological realism) but without rejecting naturalism in the broader sense.

    And while it’s certainly true that historically speaking, teleological realism has been the thin end of the wedge for idealism and theism, I don’t think that must be the case.

    It doesn’t require much of a leap of faith to come to the conclusion that if teleology exists all throughout the living world, considering a designer caused that is NOT a ridiculous belief as you so flippantly suggest.Why do you think the DI has many positive things to say about many of these books you have listed here?

    I think that they have positive things to say about the books that I read because they are fundamentally confused about the distinction between extrinsic purposiveness (which does require a designer) and intrinsic purposiveness (which does not).

    And why do you think many other posters on this very forum resist your notions of teleology, because they are smart enough to know what that implies. For them, life must come from random meaningless noise, or they know their worldview is precarious. In which case you don’t get to say my description of their beliefs is any kind of a caricature.

    I suspect that many other posters at TSZ resist my notion of teleology because they don’t see it as having any explanatory usefulness. And indeed, it might not — my interest in this concept is that of a philosopher with a keen interest in the sciences, not that of a practicing experimental scientist. No one here rejects it because taking it seriously would threaten their worldview.

  22. KF is one of those people who thinks they know more philosophy than they do, because they have read some secondhand accounts but few primary texts and no understanding of the relevant scholarship.

    Nevertheless it’s tolerably clear that he places a great deal of trust in his ability to detect which premises are “self-evident” and what consequences are entailed by those self-evident premises.

  23. It is quite obvious that he accepts his religious teachings and uses whatever twists of logic and convoluted apologetics to convince himself that they are self-evident truths. The fact that he must jump through all these hoops to arrive at this conclusion simply demonstrated that they are not self-evident.

    He has a long history of jumping to a conclusion and digging in his heels no matter how valid the arguments against him are. Whether it be objective moral values, hydroxychloroquin, ivermectin, same sex marriage, pizza-gate, abortion or the resurrection of Jesus, he is incapable or unwilling to attempt to understand the counter-arguments. He just declares them strawmen, red herrings, polarizing rhetoric, self-referentially incoherent or, in the ultimate solution, silently bans his opponent.

    When I started visiting UD, KF was just another obtuse overly verbose commenter, ignored by most people. He is now the most prolific writer of OPs, garnering the longest comment threads. I suspect that most of his opponents on these threads are simply there to poke the hornets nest, knowing that it is easy to trigger a lengthy and inarticulate response. I was guilty of this for a few years but I stopped out of a feeling of embarrassment and guilt.

  24. Acartia,

    I don’t think that you need to feel guilty. Gordon is a big fish in a tiny pool. He loves attention of any sort and I’m sure he very much appreciated the attention you gave him.

  25. Alan Fox:
    Acartia,

    I don’t think that you need to feel guilty. Gordon is a big fish in a tiny pool. He loves attention of any sort and I’m sure he very much appreciated the attention you gave him.

    I just feel guilt because, over time, I concluded that KF, BA77 and Joe probably suffer from a mental pathology beyond their control. Having a couple family members with mental illness, I just don’t think it appropriate to intentionally trigger their pathologies just for entertainment purposes.

  26. Acartia,
    Well, Phil Cunningham is a special case. I don’t think I ever exchanged comments with him when I was able to post at UD.

  27. Joe, I’m not so sure. He has a home, family, etc. I’ve interacted with him on and off for twenty years. He’s just playing a role.

  28. Acartia: It is quite obvious that he accepts his religious teachings and uses whatever twists of logic and convoluted apologetics to convince himself that they are self-evident truths. The fact that he must jump through all these hoops to arrive at this conclusion simply demonstrated that they are not self-evident.

    I think this is basically right. But looking closely at the details is sometimes instructive to see how the sausage gets made.

    In this latest thread, there’s a drive-by comment asking for an example of a self-evident truth. KF obliges by saying “error exists” is a self-evident truth.

    Now, I think it’s not quite clear if “error exists” is a self-evident truth in every sense, since if it were self-evident, we might not need an argument for it.

    Regardless, KF has, on many occasions, signaled his commitment to an ‘argument from error’: it is absolutely certain that we can be in error, ergo it is not the case that we cannot be absolutely certain of anything.

    The original version of this argument, to my knowledge, comes from Josiah Royce, who takes it as the foundation for his distinct fusion of pragmatism and German Idealism. In that context, the argument function as the beginning point of the subsequent dialectic.

    KF claims that this argument establishes that we are rationally committed to the belief in a mind-independent knowable reality*. And he is perfectly right about that. The problem is that he never puts in the real work necessary to go beyond this baby-step. (It is not as if Marxists, his bete noire, deny that objectively knowledge of the world is possible and desirable!) The argument from error is sufficient only for refuting the most extreme form of skepticism — it will do nothing to resolve disagreements amongst those who are not extreme skeptics. Yet KF seems to think that it is sufficient to point that we sometimes get things wrong in order to argue against all the enemies of civilization that he sees under his bed.

    * a reality independent of all finite minds — worth stressing because Royce uses the possibility of error to conclude that the fundamental nature of objective reality is that of divine consciousness.

  29. Kantian Naturalist: Yet KF seems to think that it is sufficient to point that we sometimes get things wrong in order to argue against all the enemies of civilization that he sees under his bed.

    In all these years his arguments seem to have only had the effect of filling up some hard drives somewhere. I’m not sure what he thinks he’s achieving with his screeds. It’s a lot of effort for literally no return or effect in the actual world beyond the 5 people who still comment at UD. And I doubt any of them actually read it.

  30. Hey folks! Driving by and thought I’d say a hello! Been catching up the goings on in Panda’s Thumb and TSZ worlds. I would say alas, not much, but then I’m actually happy to see that ID is looking mostly like an end-around of the past. Not that there aren’t other newer eye-rolling concepts to be concerned about now…

    In any event, although this is an older thread at this point, I think UD has reached a point where it’s like that container of yogurt you occasionally find hidden in the fridge and when opened, has turned that sickly pink color. Yeah…not a good look…

  31. Robin,

    Hi Robin. Hope you are keeping well.

    Yes, activity on all the sites I used to follow regularly to keep up with the fortunes of the ID movement seems to have lessened. That should be considered a good thing on the whole.

    I was a bit concerned as I hadn’t seen Joe Gallien commenting at Uncommon Descents for a while and drove by his blogspot to check he was OK. He said “I am Ok. That is why you don’t see me”. I take that to mean there is one more recovering blogaholic. 😉

  32. Alan Fox:
    Robin,

    Hi Robin. Hope you are keeping well.

    Yes, activity on all the sites I used to follow regularly to keep up with the fortunes of the ID movement seems to have lessened. That should be considered a good thing on the whole.

    I was a bit concerned as I hadn’t seen Joe Gallien commenting at Uncommon Descents for a while and drove by his blogspot to check he was OK. He said “I am Ok. That is why you don’t see me”. I take that to mean there is one more recovering blogaholic.

    Hey Alan! Good to see you!

    Good to know. Well…about the decreased volume of ID activity. I see Meyers and Behe are still publishing books, but I’ve not seen any discussion about trying to get ID taught or discussed anywhere. There was this:

    https://ncse.ngo/creationism-bill-narrowly-defeated-arkansas

    Anywhoo…

    I’m trying to keep well. Spent 2019 – the end of 2021 with few unpleasant ills, but I seem to be recovering at this point.

    Speaking of Joe, I was just going back and looking at some of the old discussions and one from 2017 on Biological Evolution: What is Being Debated had me falling out of my chair. That is some comedy gold! Fun times!

    But I am glad he’s doing well. I hope he gets at least some attention on his blog. I confess, I didn’t know he had one. If I can find it, I’ll check it out.

  33. dazz:
    Hi, Robin! Good to see you back and doing well!

    Hey Dazz! Good to see you! How’s it shakin’?

    It’s nice to be back and seeing some of the chats. “Well” is relative, but I’m doing.

    It’s like a nice 5th year reunion. I’m afraid I missed the 15 year Dover reunion and I’m probably worse for it, but it doesn’t appear to have been a lot of fanfare. 🙂

  34. Alan Fox:
    Robin,

    I was a bit concerned as I hadn’t seen Joe Gallien commenting at Uncommon Descents for a while and drove by his blogspot to check he was OK. He said “I am Ok. That is why you don’t see me”. I take that to mean there is one more recovering blogaholic. 😉

    Joe has resurfaced. His prescription must have run out.

  35. Joe may be back in all his former “glory”, but BA77 has been absent for several weeks. My scroll-wheel is enjoying the break.

  36. UD is an odd place now. Denyse still turns in a random selection of “news” which pick up a comment or two with the odd verbal diarrhea from GEM where off-topic discussions drag on among the usual suspects. Nothing about “Intelligent Design”.

  37. Alan Fox:
    UD is an odd place now. Denyse still turns in a random selection of “news” which pick up a comment or two with the odd verbal diarrhea from GEM where off-topic discussions drag on among the usual suspects. Nothing about “Intelligent Design”.

    It’s not a surprise to me. The whole intelligent design movement was only ever a marriage of convenience between “my simplistic caricature of the Modern Synthesis can’t explain this new fact!” and “atheism is destroying the moral foundation of Western culture!” So that’s what they have left.

  38. Acartia: Joe has resurfaced. His prescription must have run out.

    Heh! That’s funny Acartia! I’ll have to go have a look. You know…for old chuckling sake.

  39. Kantian Naturalist: It’s not a surprise to me. The whole intelligent design movement was only ever a marriage of convenience between “my simplistic caricature of the Modern Synthesis can’t explain this new fact!” and “atheism is destroying the moral foundation of Western culture!”So that’s what they have left.

    Is “atheism is destroying the moral foundation of Western culture” the 2nd cousin once removed equivalent of the “the Bible is literal twoof!”? I seem to recall there was something about that in some discussions about ID.

  40. Robin: Is “atheism is destroying the moral foundation of Western culture” the 2nd cousin once removed equivalent of the “the Bible is literal twoof!”? I seem to recall there was something about that in some discussions about ID.

    The two discourses are surely closely connected in the minds of most UD commentators.

    I don’t know how many of them are Biblical literalists but most of them begin with the historical fact that the Bible has been foundational to Western ethics, politics, art, and science and fallaciously conclude that therefore the Bible must always continue to be foundational to Western ethics, politics, art, and science.

  41. Kantian Naturalist: The two discourses are surely closely connected in the minds of most UD commentators.

    I don’t know how many of them are Biblical literalists but most of them begin with the historical fact that the Bible has been foundational to Western ethics, politics, art, and science and fallaciously conclude that therefore the Bible must always continue to be foundational to Western ethics, politics, art, and science.

    Yep…that, I think, is an accurate summation.

    While away from this an other sites for a bit during the pandemic (dealing with a slew of medical issues, ironically all unrelated to covid) I started writing essays on some concepts about God and gods, some related to some of the discussions I was a part of hereon. Mostly it was just because I felt like writing and while there were some stories and documents that I worked on as well, the essays…I don’t know…provided an outlet for free form thinking and expression.

    I now have quite a number of essays and I’m thinking of posting one or two here just to get some feedback and get an indication of what folks think. I’m particularly interested in philosophical views since I’m really not well versed in that subject.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.