On the malleability of language

Barry Arrington has a new post at UD:

where he objects to the discussion, particularly by thaumaturge, on an earlier thread:

The earlier thread is based on the accusation that Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins “believe the fundamental questions in biology have been settled and all that is left is to suss out the details.”

Suppose that I were to argue that

  • water is wet;
  • therefore roses are red.

You would be right to accuse me of faulty reasoning.  There is no inference from the wetness of water to the redness of roses.

The argument at UD is of a similar form.  Barry Arrington and others are claiming that because Coyne asserts that evolution is fact, therefore he must believe that biology is complete (in the sense that the fundamental questions of biology have been settled).  But there is no such inference.  Just as the wetness of water says nothing about the redness of roses, so a belief in the facticity of evolution says nothing about whether there is a belief in the completeness of biology.

To illustrate the point, suppose I were to say that number theory is fact.  That would not, in any way, imply that I believed mathematics to be complete.  Indeed, Gödel’s theorem showed that mathematics is not complete, and it did so by showing that number theory is not complete.

Ironically, while Barry Arrington has been engaging in fallacious reasoning (as detailed above), he has also started another thread:

where he accuses Kantian Naturalist of fallacious reasoning.

So yes, Barry, you are correct.  Language is not infinitely malleable.  And you have been bending it and twisting far beyond what it can  bear.





59 thoughts on “On the malleability of language

  1. Stephen Meyer’s concern is with the origin of metazoan phyla (a.k.a body plans) during the Cambrian.

    True. But as a combination of it being the first result out of Google, and a desire to illustrate principles in a phylum where people don’t have such a vested interest in exceptionalism, I thought ascomycetes would serve nicely. Who’s going to get worked up about the ‘body plan’ of Aspergillus? But equally, what in there is beyond the scope of evolution?

    The paper also illustrates the painstaking detail that people go into in attempting to objectively reconstruct history, to be dismissed by people who (eg WJM’s OP title) see the whole enterprise as a ‘just-so story’ construction by an atheistic cabal of whom laymen should be eternally suspicious.

  2. I see that kairosfocus has, as expected, dragged out and copy/pasted Michael Denton yet again.

    Denton is trying to paint a picture of sitting among atoms and molecules and watching their interactions. It is a picture that has been commonly used over the years by various writers; most notably by George Gamow.

    What Denton does not do is what Gamow and many physics and chemistry instructors have done for many years; namely to actually scale up the energies of interaction along with the sizes.

    This is what I claim that neither Denton nor kairosfocus –or any ID/creationist for that matter – can do. It is an introductory level calculation – often done in a high school physics or chemistry course – that allows the student to imagine sitting among atoms and molecules and “experiencing” the energies of interaction.

    Kairosfocus has simply demonstrated what he always demonstrates; he will copy/paste a blizzard of material that he does not have the ability to vet. But what kairosfocus cannot do are the actual calculations. And his complex specified information calculations are meaningless as well.

    Copy/paste blizzards are a dodge. The standard ID/creationist tornado-in-a-junkyard “argument” simply reveals that ID/creationists are implying that complex molecules are made up of junkyard parts or letters; an absolutely ludicrous implication.

    ID/creationists have been using that shtick ever since Duane Gish started beating up biology teachers with it. It has been refuted literally thousands of times in introductory courses; yet they still use it.

  3. petrushka:
    Robert, do you accept DNA evidence for establishing paternity in court?

    Yes I do.
    This is always said to me by evolutionists.
    Yet DNA connections in people is not scientific genetic evidence for descent from primates.
    Its just a line of reasoning. Even if it was true about the descent.

  4. rhampton:
    We know that you believe God created “kinds” of animals (that later evolved into countless species) so how is a scientist supposed to determine said kinds, and with what evidence?

    Well thats another issue.
    It really is up to evolutionists to demonstrate ToE is a scientific theory.
    I don’t think can do it.

  5. damitall2,

    it ain’t mountains.
    I haven’t waved away anything but argued it away.
    Its up to your side to demonstrate evolution is proven.
    We are the critics.

    you say whales having legs is evidence for evolution.
    i say it ain’t.

    I agree marine mammals came from the land and had legs therefore.
    I see them as a special case.
    Yet its not by evolution by mutations with selection plus time.
    You have convinced your self of evolutionary biology by simply observing a change in anatomy of a creature. you could do the same with people.
    Yet all that leggy whales shows is once they had legs.
    it doesn’t show process or descent from other whales.
    its just presumed there is no other way to ungrow a whales legs.

    Where is scientific biological evidence that whales evolved away there legs or evolved at all??
    Yes they changed but thats not evidence for mechanism.
    Its a slip of logic.
    If this is your favourite then you need a new favourite.
    tHis is not scientific evidence.
    Just mere observation and a hypothesis.

  6. Robert Byers,

    That’s fine, Byers. I hear what you say. I disagree with it, of course, but it has the virtue of being funny!

    Ah, well, perhaps one day YEC scientists will be able to describe the mechanisms involved in such hyper-rapid heritable morphological changes. I look forward to it.

    Now will you have the courtesy to return the favour by providing us with your favourite bit of evidence for a young earth? Because I reckon you know you don’t have any you can defend.

  7. damitall2,

    It was about your stuff.
    Anyways since you insist and i think its derailing the thread but…

    Its not about evidence for a young earth.
    First there is a witness in genesis.
    then what does the evidence of nature show about the earth.
    Well anything of earth fits fine with a young earth and no reason to see a lod one.
    All formations can be ascribed to mechanisms acting in short order.
    Thats the answer.
    Its up to a critic of short order mnechanisms to demonstrate only long time processes could and did happen.

  8. Byers’s comment is on the wrong thread. It is responding to arguments in the Byers thread. I will send all replies and further comments on that elsewhere.

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