I’ve been commenting at Uncommon Descent recently, initially because Upright Biped had reappeared there promoting his semiotic theory and I felt he wasn’t getting the response he needed. Upright Biped then withdrew but I haven’t been able to resist the urge to continue to chip in.
The discussions there often are dominated by right-wing religious commenters and I think it is only right, and good for them, to rattle their cages to challenge their assumptions, misconceptions, and misrepresentations. So when someone posted that life had to be more than chemicals as chemicals were random, I felt obliged to point out that chemical reactions are decidedly not random. I gave the example that hydrogen and oxygen, when mixed and a spark supplied, will react in exactly the proportion of two hydrogen atoms linking to one oxygen atom to form one molecule of water.
Imagine my surprise when a regular, BA77, misunderstood my point, thinking I was saying water is simple, and went off on a long diatribe to claim water’s admittedly strange and fascinating emergent properties are evidence for “Intelligent Design” (i. e. God). I find the claim unconvincing.
Here is the link to BA77’s comment.
One of the many things I found at first amusing, then baffling, and finally frustrating about the regulars at Uncommon Descent is that they don’t know what specific claims they are arguing for. Their mode of apologetics is to throw a bowl of pasta at the ceiling and see what sticks.
This whole thing about water is a case in point.
It’s certainly true that water has fairly unusual chemical and electrical properties — if I recall my undergrad chemical classes, it’s because the electrons in the hydrogen orbitals are ‘pulled’ towards the electron-hungry oxygen atom, so the oxygen atom takes on a mild negative charge and the two hydrogen atoms get positively charged. (This is also why water contains H+ and OH – ions.)
But the explanation for these unusual features lies in the origins of oxygen itself, which is (again, going back to my undergrad days) a product of stellar nucleosynthesis, which in turn requires that the laws of physics and fundamental constants allow for star formation.
Now, one could say that some supernatural being* was required to select the laws and constants so that there would be stars, so that there would be oxygen, so that there would be water, so that there would be life-as-we-know-it.
But on that view, the universe as such is fundamentally disposed towards the emergence of life. And that means there is no need for an intelligent designer to cross the explanatory gulf from physics to biology. Conversely, we might need an intelligent designer to get us from physics to biology if physics itself was not disposed towards the emergence of life.
Put otherwise, if we posit a cosmic intelligent designer, we don’t need a biological intelligent designer, and conversely.
I tried making this point many times at UD, and eventually gave up in frustration because I couldn’t get anyone there to see that they don’t need to insist on both posits.
There’s a similar confusion when it comes to philosophy of mind — on the one hand, they are insisting on how fantastically organized and complex the human brain is, and on the other hand, they insist that no matter how fantastically organized the brain is, it still couldn’t account for the mind. But if that’s right, then why does it matter how amazing the brain is?
* here ‘supernatural’ just meaning not belonging to this universe, not bound by the laws of physics in this universe, and capable of determining what the laws of physics in a universe are to be.
Indeed. The free protons (H+) then attach to another water molecule to form (H
3O+) hydroxonium ions. Wow, on checking, I see this is now hydronium, so, in the standard measure of acidity, the H in pH now stands for hydronium. The spacial configuration of hydronium is itself a work of art.
It is easy to slip into “art therefore artist” mode
Indeed. Which is why I’ve been insisting for years that the true alternative to intelligent design is not evolutionary theory, but complexity theory. You need a theory of how self-determining teleological systems can emerge from closely related complex dynamical systems, such as autocatalytic sets or dissipative structures. The more I read philosophy of biology, the less I think is explained by natural selection.
Books I’ve read recently as part of this project:
Organisms, Agency, and Evolution
Dynamics in Action
Also some biological philosophy of mind/cognitive science
The Evolution of the Sensitive Soul
By the way, I completely agree with your comment on UD that logical positivism got a bad rap and there’s a lot there that deserves respect. The question is how to reconcile what’s right about empiricism with what’s right about rationalism.
You made me look.
I’ve never seen such a humourless crowd. Do you think that Gordon or Philip have ever laughed?
Reading it now.
It’s probably just me not being used to books of a more philosophical persuasion, but I find it tough reading.
ETA: à propos, I have also started reading Jason Rosenhouse’s “The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism” and was amused to find it acknowledged two TSZ residents in the preface.
This must be a sign that the book is not worth reading. No book by a TSZ regular or inspired by a TSZ regular can be worth much. I would not recommend even my own (luckily I have not written any books and not going to).
The entire ID project has been a huge distraction, contributing nothing to science, philosophy, atheism or Christianity, unfortunately. Can this website broaden its scope a bit?
Haha, but their outstanding blogposts draw you back here everytime.
A small blessing indeed 😉
Sure, tell us what books you are reading. I am always looking for suggestions.
Along the same lines as other comments here: unless I misunderstand the properties of the chemical elements have to align with the solutions of the Schrödinger Wave Equation. If a Design Intervention messes with the properties of water, then they are messing with the properties of hydrogen and oxygen, and thus need to mess with that equation. The consequences of which for the whole universe, and all other chemical compounds, would be dramatic.
I don’t comment here as much as I used to because I don’t really care about ID or about the atheism/theism debates. These days I’m reading and writing in philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science. I don’t think there’s much interest in those topics at TSZ.
I think the general idea is that the Intelligent Designer intentionally designed the structure of space-time and the properties of the subatomic particles in order for hydrogen and helium to form stars, the formation of heavier elements through stellar nucleosynthesis, supernova explosions that allow those elements to combine into larger molecules, and among them, water.
For anyone interested in understanding the conceptual error at the heart of ID, I recommend this: “On Being the Right Size: The Problem with Engineering Metaphors in Molecular Biology“
Agreed. But that’s really an argument for deism, though the Christian apologists twist it into an argument for Christianity.
It seems that there could not be actual evidence either for or against that argument.
That is a point I’ve made often. I’m a bit swayed on odd days of the week to at least ponder the universe as created by some power beyond our imagining. But the attributes tagged on to the various candidates proposed for the job seem very much within the bounds of human imagination.
It’s a much shorter journey from deism to Christianity then starting from atheism. Especially if one does not consider Christians a political threat.
Maybe, Bill. Did you make that journey? At what age? I was raised in a vaguely protestant Christian environment. It never made any sense to me, even as a child.
Yep. There’s no good argument from deism to Christianity. Not sure why there need to be, either. Apologetics is a fool’s errand, anyway.
Some are, some aren’t.
I had mostly a secular upbringing with the exception of my grandparents on my fathers side. Christianity started to make sense to me recently after Dr. Swamidass asked me to take a deeper look about 3 years ago. In general I think it is rare for people to get an explanation that makes sense. Some feel a connection and some come to faith through an awe of the universe and a deep sense that comes through studying scripture. Too many scripture is counter intuitive.
A very interesting question to ponder is who is Jesus? How does he fit in Jewish history?
An ontological question, I think. Unanswerable, really. What is there to work with other than texts of unknown provenance?
I am not sure what you mean by this but there is a historic relevance to who Jesus was in Judea Christian history. He was the Messiah that was part of God’s promise to the Jews in the Torah, the Tanakh and the Psalms.
Isaiah 9.6: Isaiah is a major Jewish prophet that lived around 600 BC
I don’t see it as an interesting question to even consider, nor would any discussion be productive or useful, when one considers not only the immense unreliability of the origins and meanings of the putative texts, but also the irreconcilable differences between the various traditions that recognize those texts as significant.
The question of who Jesus was in Jewish history, for example, will get different answers from Jews and Muslims than from Christians.
Yes, I remember Schrödinger’s wave equation forming the nub of lectures in spatial chemistry, sp3 orbitals, though it’s all very vague now.
There’s little chance that more historical material will turn up, though I guess it can’t be ruled out.
Indeed, as with the origin of life, we need a second data point.
Bill, the words “other than” were central to my comment.
Are you claiming there is only one documented data point identifying Jesus as a historical figure?
Your statement of other than is inaccurate.
No, Bill. I’m saying we have no other evidence of life in this Universe. That there is life here on Earth is one data point. Evidence that there is or was life elsewhere would be a second data point. Evidence there is or was life on Mars would indicate life is inevitable everywhere. I await the second data point.
Does my clarification help?
This appears to be a claim of a single data point for evidence of Jesus life and mission. Am I mistaken?
You can get disagreement among different Christian groups or Jewish groups.
History rarely has complete consensus regarding the nature of historical figures.
This trend will be interesting to watch. Believers means believes Christ is their Messiah. Source one for Israel.
Yes. Life exists on Earth. We don’t know if it exists now or existed elsewhere in this Universe. Nothing to do with Jesus.
No, he’s claiming that we have nothing other than texts of uncertain date and authorship making claims about Jesus.
As I see it, we should regard Jesus as we regard Socrates: a person who actually existed, who did and said things that inspired and influenced others who then made claims about what this historical figure said and did. What we know of Socrates is from dialogues and plays in which he appears as a main character. There’s no reason to doubt that someone named Socrates actually lived at some point in ancient Athens, and he probably did some of the things that are said about him — fought in the Peloponnessian War, mentored Alcibiades, etc.
But Plato uses his dialogues about Socrates to transform what Greek philosophy had been up until then. It doesn’t matter if what Plato says about Socrates is what Socrates really said or thought — reading Plato can still change your life and make you a better person.
The most convincing part of the Bible is the prophecy especially around the Messiah. Jesus matching this prophecy is remarkable to me and convinced me that the book was Divinely inspired and that the Judea Christian documented evidence supports God as the best explanation for the origin of the universe we live in.
The claims of miracles around Jesus and his disciples is also hard to doubt if you believe the evidence supports we are in a created universe. Creation in itself from my perspective is a supernatural occurrence. If God created man then making Jesus rise from the dead is not hard to imagine.
If the God of Abraham created the universe it does not make sense that he would do this and then not be involved.
I disagree. Life on Mars may not be a second data point but part of the first data point. There is good evidence that rocks ejected from Mars have been found on Earth, and this implies that rocks ejected from Earth can be found on Mars. Mars also cooled down before Earth, so it is possible that life on Earth originated on Mars and then reached Earth.
Sure, Joe. The possibilities are three. Mars sterile. Evidence of life on Mars similar enough to life on Earth to suggest a single origin. Evidence of life on Mars unrelated to that on Earth.
But we don’t yet have evidence for any of those three possibilities. Personally, I find the idea of the third possibility exciting but unlikely.
An optimistic report from NASA 1996. The evidence of bacteria-like organisms has not stood up to scrutiny, with suggestions of terrestrial contamination, which is why I think we will have to wait for pristine Mars rock samples for that (possible) second data point.
That’s one option, I guess. Another option is that whoever wrote down the stories about Jesus already knew all about the prophecy in Isaiah, quite plausibly had access to a physical copy of the text, and wrote the stories about Jesus so that it would conform to what Isaiah had already said.
The problem is the prophecy is much wider then Isaiah. The whole torah tanakh and psalms include promises for a Messiah that God made to Israel. Where did they get this prediction from? We know from the dating of the Dead Sea scrolls that the prediction was prior to Christs birth.
Also there are many accounts of the story including historical sources such as Josephus that came after the Gospels and the writings of Paul, Peter and James.
Why would many of the disciples die for a story that was made up?
At the end of the day this story is either true or the biggest and most believed conspiracy theory in history. On the other hand there is a very good case that this is our true origin story and not something to be trivially cast aside.
People will die for stories that are made up all the time. People kill and die over symbols, meanings, values — they die and kill because of what makes them afraid and because of what gives them hope.
I agree with you but in this case the martyrs would have known the story was made up as they were the primary source of it. Paul who got his information directly from the disciples (Peter and James) was considered a scholar. Luke, a companion of Paul, was also considered a scholar.
What this misses is that Paul had to go to extraordinary lengths to reconceptualize what it even meant for someone to be the Messiah, because Jesus was nothing like an Old Testament warrior-hero. For the Jews of that time (and indeed ever since) it was unthinkable that the Anointed One, the heir of David and Solomon, would live in poverty and be killed like a common criminal. He transforms the very concept of Messiah in order to argue that Jesus was the Messiah, and in doing so, he invents a new religion.
Paul was persecuting Jews prior to his conversion which emanated by an encounter with the risen Christ, his losing his sight and regaining it. The theological problem with Jesus as the Messiah was his claims of Devine authority. ie forgiving sins.
I agree many thought Messiah would be a warrior for the Jews but this is from a misinterpretation of the scriptures. Here is an example from Isaiah.53
Here is video that ties Isaiah 53 back to Leviticus (Torah) by the use of specific Hebrew words around sacrifice for atonement.
Yep, that’s what Paul tells us. Doesn’t mean it’s true.
Yep, the Gospels portray Jesus as having divine authority. That doesn’t mean that the historical figure of Jesus did anything like that.
The problem here is, you believe and therefore you cannot imagine yourself in the position of a skeptic. You present all these quotes as if they’re supposed to be evidence of anything, but the only reason why they seem like evidence to you is because you are already a believer.
I don’t begrudge you that. I really don’t care what you believe. But you present these quotes as if you’re trying to solicit a response from me, and that’s pretty annoying.
I am trying my best to have a conversation here and not annoy you. I am 67 years old and only became a firm believer(Jesus is the Jewish Messiah) recently based on what I consider evidence. Although I have believed in a creator for a long time (agnostic through most of college). I have not believed in the evidentiary strength of the New and Old Testament until recently.
The evidence I find compelling is prophecy and the consistency of the message through time, which is based on the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. If the information I give you annoys you then let’s take a break. Please know I do respect your thinking and arguments.
It is not everytime. It is not even most of the time.
I wish Torley would have continued his bizarre anti-Christian series. His plentiful misunderstandings of theology and of the general purpose of religion was what I enjoyed bashing.
I do not have interesting suggestions. My reading is lately almost entirely related to my job, which involves keeping up with the economic and financial news, the most boring stuff ever. I’m glad I did not have to deal with this nonsense when I was young.
I wonder why we don’t hear from Vincent, either. I’ll drop him an email.
You can’t be that old if you haven’t retired yet, Erik.🧐