William Paley’s Excellent Argument

[note: the author formatted this is a way that did not leave space for a page break. So I am inserting the break at the top — NR]

  1. Paley’s teleological argument is: just as the function and complexity of a watch implies a watch-maker, so likewise the function and complexity of the universe implies the existence of a universe-maker. Paley also addressed a number of possible counterarguments:
    1. Objection: We don’t know who the watchmaker is. Paley: Just because we don’t know who the artist might be, it doesn’t follow that we cannot know that there is one.
    2. Objection: The watch (universe) is not perfect. Paley: Perfection is not required.
    3. Objection: Some parts of the watch (universe) seem to have no function. Paley: We just don’t know those functions yet.
    4. Objection: The watch (re universe) is only one possible form of many possible combinations and so is a chance event. Paley: Life is too complex and organized to be a product of chance.
    5. Objection: There is a law or principle that disposed the watch (re universe) to be in that form. Also, the watch (re the universe) came about as a result of the laws of metallic nature. Paley: The existence of a law presupposes a lawgiver with the power to enforce the law.
    6. Objection: One knows nothing at all about the matter. Paley: Certainly, by seeing the parts of the watch (re the universe), one can know the design.
  2. Hume’s arguments against design:
    1. Objection: “We have no experience of world-making”. Counter-objection: We have no direct experience of many things, yet that never stops us from reasoning our way through problems.
    2. Objection: “The analogy is not good enough. The universe could be argued to be more analogous to something more organic such as a vegetable. But both watch and vegetable are ridiculous analogies”. Counter-objection: By definition, no analogy is perfect. The analogy needs only be good enough to prove the point. And Paley’s analogy is great for that limited scope. Hume’s followers are free to pursue the vegetable analogy if they think it is good enough. And some [unconvincingly] do imagine the universe as “organic”.
    3. Objection: “Even if the argument did give evidence for a designer; it’s not the God of traditional Christian theism”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding.
    4. Objection: “The universe could have been created by random chance but still show evidence of design as the universe is eternal and would have an infinite amount of time to be able to form a universe so complex and ordered as our own”. Counter-objection: Not possible. There is nothing random in the universe that looks indubitably designed. That is why we use non-randomness to search for extraterrestrial life and ancient artefacts.
  3. Other arguments against design:
    1. Darwin: “Evolution (natural selection) is a better explanation”. “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws.” — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882. Counter-objection: “Natural selection” would be an alternative hypothesis to Paley’s if it worked. But it demonstrably doesn’t, so there is not even a point in comparing the two.
    2. Dawkins: “Who designed the designer?” Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    3. Dawkins: “The watch analogy conflates the complexity that arises from living organisms that are able to reproduce themselves with the complexity of inanimate objects, unable to pass on any reproductive changes”. Counter-objection: Paley is aware of the differences between the living and the inert and is not trying to cast life into a watch. Instead he is only demonstrating that they both share the property of being designed. In addition, nothing even “arises”. Instead everything is caused by something else. That’s why we always look for a cause in science.
    4. Objection: “Watches were not created by single inventors, but by people building up their skills in a cumulative fashion over time, each contributing to a watch-making tradition from which any individual watchmaker draws their designs”. Counter-objection: Once we establish that the universe is designed, only then we can [optionally] discuss other aspects of this finding (see counter-objection to Hume).
    5. Objection: In Dover case, the judge ruled that such an inductive argument is not accepted as science because it is unfalsifiable. Counter-objection: Both inductive and deductive reasoning are used in science. Paley’s argument is not inductive as he had his hypothesis formulated well before his argumentation. Finally, Paley’s hypothesis can absolutely be falsified if a random draw can be found to look designed. This is exactly what the “infinite monkey” theorem has tried and failed to do (see counter-objection to Hume).
    6. Objection: Paley confuses descriptive law with prescriptive law (i.e., the fallacy of equivocation). Prescriptive law does imply a lawgiver, and prescriptive laws can be broken (e.g., speed limits, rules of behavior). Descriptive laws do not imply a law-giver, and descriptive laws cannot be broken (one exception disproves the law, e.g., gravity, f = ma.). Counter-objection: Of all the laws with known origin, all (100%) have a lawgiver at the origin. The distinction between descriptive and prescriptive laws is thus arbitrary and unwarranted.
    7. Objection: It is the nature of mind to see relationship. Where one person sees design, another sees randomness. Counter-objection: This ambiguity is present only for very simple cases. But all humans agree that organisms’ structures are clearly not random.
    8. Dawkins: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Counter-objection: Just a corollary: since organisms indeed appear designed, then they are most likely designed according to Occam’s razor.
  4. In conclusion, Paley is right and his opponents continue to be wrong with not even a plausible alternative hypothesis.

Links:

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/paleys-argument-from-design-did-hume-refute-it-and-is-it-an-argument-from-analogy/

https://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/paley.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmaker_analogy

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872 thoughts on “William Paley’s Excellent Argument

  1. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: I think it’s just that in my beliefs I come from a more holistic direction than you do. We no doubt have different opinions on what is objective and what is subjective.

    I really don’t think that the key difference has anything to do with holism, since I’m committed to ontological holism (which I came to via Spinoza), epistemological holism (via Peirce) and semantic holism (via Wittgenstein). (Possibly there is a view that could be called “psychological holism” which I would associate first and foremost with William James, maybe Bergson.)

    Okay, I stand corrected.

    Rather, the key differences are

    (1) you are a realist about universals, i.e. you regard triangularity as a constituent of reality, whereas I am a nominalist — I think that only concrete particulars are real, though abstracta and universals play important roles in human conceptual schemes. (But why should this be so? How do abstracta and universals facilitate displaced reference and social triangulation? Those are the really interesting questions!) Anyway, the main argument in favor of nominalism is that the alternatives rely on magic.

    Let me return to the example of the summer triangle. As for triangularity this star configuration contains the particular and the universal.

    It is particular only from my point of view when I am looking at it or thinking of it as a mental picture. Objectively it is universal. Imagine it being looked at from every point on the infinite periphery surrounding it. It then becomes every shape a triangle could assume. It is a single triangle but it also contains an infinite number of different forms while still satisfying the concept triangle.

    Why should my point of view be thought of as more real than all of the infinite peripheral points of view?

    (2) you think of concepts as being basically images, so you think of triangularity — the concept of triangle — as something you imagine, as distinct from what you sense. Whereas I treat concepts as the rules that govern inferences; the concept of triangle is what makes “if something is a Euclidean right triangle, then the Pythagorean theorem is true of it” a good inference. One can understand this without any mental imagery of any kind. What matters is whether someone can understand and evaluate a structure of inference, not whether they can see little pictures when they close their eyes.

    I think of the mental picture as an image. To say I think of the concept as an image.gives the wrong impression. But it is true that I arrive at the concept by playing with a series of dynamic images in my mind. I can only physically see things from my point of view, but I can mentally see things from infinite points of view.

    Because you believe (1) and (2), you think of abstract universals like “triangularity” are beheld by the intellect in exactly the same way that tables and chairs are beheld by the senses. Since I do not share your commitment to (1) and (2), I don’t share your view of the intellect as “eyes of the soul’. The key difference has nothing to do with holism.

    No I regard physical triangles that I can perceive with my senses in the same way as I regard tables and chairs. And I am not commited to (1) and (2) in the way that you think I am.

    (3) you are an atomist about sense-impressions: for you the senses are receiving static snap-shots from the world, so it falls to the imagination to bring these static images together into a coherent flow of experience — like photographs being assembled into a movie. Whereas I regard sensings as themselves abstractions from embodied perceivings or sensorimotor activities– sensing is a moment of a whole complex organism-environment interactions. Thus there is no need for the intellect to do any work on atomic sense-impressions, because the very assumption that there are atomic sense-impressions comes out of a failure to properly notice the structure of lived behavior. Again, this comes out of my years of studying James, Bergson, and Merleau-Ponty.

    Our sense impressions are in constant motion with time. If I have used the metaphor ‘snapshot’ it is to emphasise their disjointedness until they are worked on by the thinking mind. The problem is that to say they make an impression is to say that already the mind has worked on them, so we never experience them in isolation. I don’t see a black patch moving across an area of blue, I see a crow flying across the sky. There is knowing in my seeing and it has been brought about by thinking.

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  2. Corneel to Flint: Since fish without tetrapods are a paraphyletic group, one could defend the position that mammals are still fish.

    In strictly cladistic terms, some fish are cats.

    For a cladist we are all fish. For Goethe concerning plants, all is leaf. There is unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity 🙂

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  3. Neil Rickert:

    DNA_Jock: Also, I have a question about “straight” edges.

    If you are doing sphericial geometry (geometry on the surface of a sphere), then a great circle counts as a straight line.

    DNA_Jock: And my question is, “Does Charlie agree?”

    Yes I agree that an infinitely large circle is a straight line and an infinitely large sphere is a flat plane.

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  4. CharlieM: For a cladist we are all fish. For Goethe concerning plants, all is leaf.

    For a change, you are not giving Goethe enough credit here. His interests extended to animal anatomy as well: It was him who recognized that the bones of the skull and the vertebrae are homologous structures, modified to serve a different purpose. This observation led to the recognition of similar modifications of homologous structures in skeletal morphology between species; Those became important anatomical clues of descent with modification.

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  5. Corneel: For a change, you are not giving Goethe enough credit here. His interests extended to animal anatomy as well: It was him who recognized that the bones of the skull and the vertebrae are homologous structures, modified to serve a different purpose. This observation led to the recognition of similar modifications of homologous structures in skeletal morphology between species; Those became important anatomical clues of descent with modification.

    His interests certainly did extend beyond just plants.

    The majority of researchers of his day were looking for evidence that could be used to demonstrate that humans are distinct from animals and therefore a special creation. They gave the example of the premaxillary or incisive bone which they said was distinctly an animal feature and didn’t exist in humans. Goethe proved them wrong and so demonstrated that physically humans were no different from their animal cousins.

    And here

    Johann Wolfgang Goethe* (1749–1832) believed that in 1784 he demonstrated the presence of the intermaxillary (premaxillary) bone in man, and that after a certain amount of opposition professional anatomists accepted his findings. This paper tries to show what the anatomical facts are, what it was that Goethe discovered, how his beliefs about his contribution and influence arose, and how his discovery is related to his general scientific aims and methods.

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  6. The difference between Goethe and Darwin was that Darwin saw descent with modification as a blind process. Here complexity was added to simple beginnings purely through the selection process on small variations. Goethe believed that the particular instances of form were an expression of an overarching type which was anything but simple because it contained in potential all the forms that subsequently appeared on the earth.

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  7. CharlieM: And with the sphere you have introduced a third dimension.

    Oh, no. The sphere is two dimensional. Mathematicians call the three-dimensional thingie a ball. And they use “sphere” for the two-dimensional thingie (the surface of the ball).

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  8. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: And with the sphere you have introduced a third dimension.

    Oh, no. The sphere is two dimensional. Mathematicians call the three-dimensional thingie a ball. And they use “sphere” for the two-dimensional thingie (the surface of the ball).

    You can play with words all you like but a sphere still encloses a three dimensional volume. Who here would take issue if they were asked to work out the volume of a sphere? Students like to get one over on their tutor but I’ve never heard one say, ‘I’m sorry sir/ms but I think you’ll find it’s the volume of a ball you wish me to work out, not a sphere! 🙂

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  9. CharlieM: You can play with words all you like but a sphere still encloses a three dimensional volume.

    I’m not playing with words. I am using standard terminology from mathematics.

    You are talking about a sphere that is embedded in 3-dimensional Euclidean space. That fits our commonplace experience. But you like to talk of ideals, and an ideal sphere should not need an imbedding in 3-dimensional Euclidean space.

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  10. CharlieM: You can play with words all you like…

    Oh, the irony, Charlie! You are a terror for having your own meanings.

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  11. Neil Rickert: I’m not playing with words.I am using standard terminology from mathematics.

    You are talking about a sphere that is embedded in 3-dimensional Euclidean space.That fits our commonplace experience.But you like to talk of ideals, and an ideal sphere should not need an imbedding in 3-dimensional Euclidean space.

    Okay. Let’s talk about sphere’s. There is no such thing that exists in the physical world. The surface of any physical ball is an approximation of an ideal sphere. No physical ball has the exact surface area of a sphere. there is only one ideal sphere and that is a two dimensional surface with every point on it being equidistant from a central point.

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  12. CharlieM: … there is only one ideal sphere …

    My count would be one less than that. The ideal sphere doesn’t really exist, so shouldn’t be included in a count.

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  13. Okay, if I had known that it was going to get this entertaining this fast, I would have brought up spherical geometry ages ago.
    I had no idea.

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  14. CharlieM: There is no such thing that exists in the physical world.

    A ball is a manufactured item and has all the defects associated with human made objects. However, a soap bubble floating in air fits the bill!

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  15. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: … there is only one ideal sphere …

    My count would be one less than that. The ideal sphere doesn’t really exist, so shouldn’t be included in a count.

    It doesn’t really exist, it ideally exists. But that leads me on to ask: What is reality?

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  16. DNA_Jock:
    Okay, if I had known that it was going to get this entertaining this fast, I would have brought up spherical geometry ages ago.
    I had no idea.

    Spherical geometry! That’s a load of bollocks 🙂

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  17. PeterP:

    CharlieM: There is no such thing that exists in the physical world.

    A ball is a manufactured item and has all the defects associated with human made objects. However, a soap bubble floating in air fits the bill!

    Since when have molecules been dimensionless?

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  18. CharlieM: But that leads me on to ask: What is reality?

    It is what we take it to be.

    Here, I’m mainly going by Wittgenstein’s “Meaning is use”. To ask “What is reality?” is to ask the meaning of “real” and “reality”. And those meanings come from the way that we use the words.

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  19. Corneel: Did you see a mountain rise? Which one?

    Everest is estimated to grow about 4mm per year. So yes, I see it through NASA’s believable measurements.

    Corneel: Are you arguing that a “universe-maker” does not sound crazy?

    I have yet to see your refutation. And anyway, you were confused about watch-makers and fishes.

    Corneel: You don’t know what “cladistic” means, do you?

    Haha. Crazytalk.

    Corneel: Yes, we passsed that point when you argued that the sum of all allele frequencies will not add up to 100%.

    Falsenstein explained to you that the collection of alleles is basically infinite given how vague and dated the concept is. And as such, not measurable, much less exhaustively. Believe him if not me.

    DNA_Jock: Well, not sure what you know, but we all know that you are wrong, what with our ability to read an’all. Although, these days, even that is no longer necessary.

    Are you linking to some other retard story to support the original retard story? That makes a lot of sense. Not.

    Corneel: Got a hearty laugh out of this one. What is the significance level, I wonder?

    Corneel hears a crazy story and first thing he thinks: “could be true”. Oookay!

    Allan Miller: Even if he names one, ‘it’s still a mountain’.

    Others erode. Point is: measuring trends DO matter, and theories better agree with measurements. It’s a simple concept, really. But then again, probably beyond the minds of Darwinistas.

    Allan Miller: That’s what NIL evidence looks like.

    No, that’s what misinterpreted, unrelated evidence looks like. Is the classic movement on a billiard table evidence for Einstein’s relativity?

    Corneel: Everybody who is not a clueless nincompoop knows that erosion continuously shrinks mountains. They get smaller, not taller.

    This is plain dumb. Could it be that competing forces combine to a sum vector? High school physics anyone?

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  20. Nonlin.org,

    No, that’s what misinterpreted, unrelated evidence looks like. Is the classic movement on a billiard table evidence for Einstein’s relativity?

    Is this you demonstrating what misinterpreted and unrelated looks like? You could talk about that evidence for genetic relationship, or you could choose ‘dodge’. You choose …. dodge.

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  21. OMagain: would you agree that the ‘universe-maker’ is itself more complex than the universe it makes?

    Not my competence. Definitely not yours.

    OMagain: If so, and we agree, then from whence cometh your ‘universe-maker’?

    Stupid question way above your or my pay-grade. Better stick with something simple like “looks designed?” “Well, yes of course.”

    Also, read the answer provided at 3.b. before displaying your ignorance.

    Alan Fox: Yes, all life that we know of is related and descends from a common universal ancestor

    Related, yes. “Common universal ancestor” is a bridge waaay too far… into the crazyness.

    Corneel: But what qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat?

    Indeed. “What qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat”, Corneel?

    Corneel: Meanwhile, the evidence tells us that, despite names, guppies (fish) can be grouped with cats (not fish), to the exclusion of whale sharks (fish). So what’s in a name? NIL

    Would you agree that “grouping” is one thing while “descent” is an entirely different concept?

    “Name” is not what’s being discussed here.

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  22. Corneel: For a change, you are not giving Goethe enough credit here. His interests extended to animal anatomy as well: It was him who recognized that the bones of the skull and the vertebrae are homologous structures, modified to serve a different purpose. This observation led to the recognition of similar modifications of homologous structures in skeletal morphology between species; Those became important anatomical clues of descent with modification.

    So now stupid Darwin isn’t enough for you anymore? How many more retard poets have an opinion on things beyond their competence. Is it “all”? I knew it.

    And since when ‘anatomic similarity’ equals ‘descent with modification’? Don’t you see how illogical this fake link is?

    Allan Miller: You could talk about that evidence for genetic relationship, or you could choose ‘dodge’.

    See above: “relationship” is one thing, “evolution” an entirely different (and stupid) thing.

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  23. Nonlin.org: Not my competence. Definitely not yours.

    And yet you are happy to opine on the universe itself and its origin. Just not anything about that origin.

    Convenient…..

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  24. Nonlin.org: How many more retard poets have an opinion on things beyond their competence. Is it “all”? I knew it.

    If your opinion was within your competence you’d be a successful author.

    Are you?

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  25. Nonlin.org,

    See above: “relationship” is one thing, “evolution” an entirely different (and stupid) thing.

    Once again, he plays ‘dodge’. Relationship can have more than one meaning, sure. I mean it in the genealogical sense. Just to avoid equivocation.

    In that light, on what grounds do we reject the repeatable results of the ‘fridge-o-matic’ challenge, as indicative of a genealogical relationship pretty much irrespective of the gene you choose? It’s certainly good enough for actual molecular genealogy.

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  26. Nonlin.org: Are you linking to some other retard story to support the original retard story? That makes a lot of sense. Not.

    Your claim was that the evidence for a fish –> cat transition was NIL.
    In caps ‘n’all.
    So, whether you don’t like the evidence, or wish to dismiss it out of hand (perhaps because you find it upsetting) does not matter. You are still wrong with your “NIL” claim.

    Nonlin.org: Would you agree that “grouping” is one thing while “descent” is an entirely different concept?

    You do understand that cats and guppies share a more recent common ancestor than guppies and whale sharks, right? Cuz it seems like you are utterly clueless.

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  27. CharlieM: It doesn’t really exist, it ideally exists. But that leads me on to ask: What is reality?

    Funny that leads me to ask ,what is ideally exist?

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  28. Nonlin.org: Corneel: Everybody who is not a clueless nincompoop knows that erosion continuously shrinks mountains. They get smaller, not taller.

    Nonlin: This is plain dumb. Could it be that competing forces combine to a sum vector? High school physics anyone?

    How could you possibly miss what I was getting at? Alan spotted it right away:

    Alan Fox: Regression to the mean, obviously.

    Mountains rise and mountains fall. Very slowly, but they change nonetheless. You can’t see it happening yourself but you rely on the authority of NASA scientists to tell you that mountains do change. And you even acknowledge that to argue that the mountains have always been the way they are now is “plain dumb”. Yet this is exactly the position you take with respect to biological evolution.

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  29. Nonlin.org: Indeed. “What qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat”, Corneel?

    Let’s say that everything that descends from the last common ancestor of lamprey and guppies are fish. Cats are everything included in the family Felidae. Under those definitions, cats are a type of fish

    Your turn. What qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat? Why group lamprey, sharks and guppies to the exclusion of cats? Is fish a created kind?

    Nonlin.org: Would you agree that “grouping” is one thing while “descent” is an entirely different concept?

    No, I would not. See Jock’s comment. You need to learn how modern taxonomy works in a hurry.

    Nonlin.org: DNA_Jock: Well, not sure what you know, but we all know that you are wrong, what with our ability to read an’all. Although, these days, even that is no longer necessary.

    Nonlin: Are you linking to some other retard story to support the original retard story? That makes a lot of sense. Not.

    I second Jock’s recommendation. Lovely book. Filled to the brim with that evidence you are looking for so fervently.

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  30. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: But that leads me on to ask: What is reality?

    It is what we take it to be.

    Here, I’m mainly going by Wittgenstein’s “Meaning is use”. To ask “What is reality?” is to ask the meaning of “real” and “reality”. And those meanings come from the way that we use the words.

    Reality is returning two polarities into a unity. The outer world of the senses is only appearance and so is not the full reality, it is but one pole. The inner world of concepts contains the other pole and it is not until both these poles are reunited that we gain the full reality concerning what is perceived.

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  31. newton:

    CharlieM: It doesn’t really exist, it ideally exists. But that leads me on to ask: What is reality?

    Funny that leads me to ask ,what is ideally exist?

      

    One half of reality. The world of appearance that we take to be reality is only a partial reality. It is not until we associate it with its matching concepts from the ideal sphere that the full reality is restored.

    To take the example of a watch. If it was found by a group of Andaman islanders who had never seen anything like it and had no concept of what a watch was, it would be a mystery to them. Their senses would be giving them the same information as the person who originally owned it but it would not carry the same meaning for them. But when someone can add the concepts that accompany the watch then its reality is comprehended. Adding the correct concept to the sense experience gives the full reality of the particular.

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  32. Nonlin.org,

    Falsenstein explained to you that the collection of alleles is basically infinite given how vague and dated the concept is.

    Er, no. Clearly, the space of possible alleles of a sequence of any given finite length is itself finite. The sum of the frequencies of such sequences is most definitely 1, since you have x instances, each at frequency 1/x. x times 1/x is 1.

    So you don’t win that one by appealing to infinity, or pretending it is ‘vague’ when precisely defined. In any case, we were talking of actual alleles, variants at a locus in a real population. Which also add up to 100%.

    When you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

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  33. CharlieM: One half of reality. The world of appearance that we take to be reality is only a partial reality. It is not until we associate it with its matching concepts from the ideal sphere that the full reality is restored.

    Concepts aren’t “from the ideal sphere”, whatever that could mean; concepts are habits, patterns of animal behavior.

    To take the example of a watch. If it was found by a group of Andaman islanders who had never seen anything like it and had no concept of what a watch was, it would be a mystery to them. Their senses would be giving them the same information as the person who originally owned it but it would not carry the same meaning for them. But when someone can add the concepts that accompany the watch then its reality is comprehended. Adding the correct concept to the sense experience gives the full reality of the particular.

    All this means is that these islanders had never acquired any of the habits or embodied know-how that we have and which allows us to use the word “watch” in various contexts in more or less reliable ways. No “ideal sphere” necessary to explain what’s going on here.

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  34. Nonlin.org: Falsenstein explained to you…

    I’m going to assume this was a typo. We use member’s names as displayed. Further “typos” of this sort may be sent to guano.

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  35. Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: One half of reality. The world of appearance that we take to be reality is only a partial reality. It is not until we associate it with its matching concepts from the ideal sphere that the full reality is restored.

    Concepts aren’t “from the ideal sphere”, whatever that could mean; concepts are habits, patterns of animal behavior.

    That is your belief and you are welcome to it. You don’t know what I mean by the ‘ideal sphere’ so what makes you sure it has nothing to do with concepts?

    By the ‘ideal sphere’ I mean the objective inner world of ideas arrived at by reason. There are mathematical and scientific concepts that are true regardless of whose minds they happen to occupy. They belong to the ideal sphere.

    To take the example of a watch. If it was found by a group of Andaman islanders who had never seen anything like it and had no concept of what a watch was, it would be a mystery to them. Their senses would be giving them the same information as the person who originally owned it but it would not carry the same meaning for them. But when someone can add the concepts that accompany the watch then its reality is comprehended. Adding the correct concept to the sense experience gives the full reality of the particular.

    All this means is that these islanders had never acquired any of the habits or embodied know-how that we have and which allows us to use the word “watch” in various contexts in more or less reliable ways. No “ideal sphere” necessary to explain what’s going on here.

    And what you are saying is basically what I am saying. They do not share the concepts which allow them to have extensive knowledge of the watch. Although I’d like you to explain what you mean by ’embodied know-how’. Where in the body do we keep this ‘know-how’? The ideal sphere is not some secret, separate, magic, far off land. It is the inner world of our experience. It is not something that needs explaining because every thinking person has experience of it.

    Once this is understood there is no need to posit an unknowable reality hidden behind the everyday, outer world of personal experience. And it can be understood that it is not the case that there is an external world that we have an imperfect copy of lurking somewhere in our neurons. We are capable of grasping the true reality which is beyond subjectivity and objectivity.

    Even the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity are arrived at through thinking which means that thinking is neither one nor the other, it is beyond them.

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  36. Nonlin.org:

    Alan Fox: Yes, all life that we know of is related and descends from a common universal ancestor

    Related, yes. “Common universal ancestor” is a bridge waaay too far… into the crazyness.

    Well, I wonder what relatedness means to nonlin then.

    Let me set out my understanding of universal common descent.

    Life got going on Earth shortly (in geological timescales) after the Earth was cool enough for water to condense on the planet, sometime between 4 and 3.6 billion years ago. There may have been more than one type of early life but only one survived and proliferated, chemosynthesis likely predating photosynthesis as the key to sustain disequilibrium between the cell and the niche. It may have originally depended on RNA both for replication and catalysis but the line that made it through till today settled on the (almost) universal genetic code using DNA and proteins as the major catatytic molecules. Universal code, universal stereochemistry based on the carbon atom, and reactions in aqueous medium.

    Life has two essential properties: it is self-sustaining – it can use an energy source to grow and maintain itself, it is self-replicating – given enough resources it can produce copies of itself which will also self-sustain while the resources of the niche remain.

    Common descent is the idea that similarities and differences between organisms fit a pattern of descent where every single organism that lives or has ever lived* is linked by an unbroken chain of descent between parent and offspring from that initial population of organisms that emerged on Earth 3+ billion years ago. And each and every one of all those were organisms that live at the moment or have ever lived came from parent organisms who were (at the most different), very similar to them and, if they were lucky, gave rise to offspring that were very similar to them.

    Briefly, prokaryotes, bacteria and archaea were around on Earth for a billion years until eukaryotes made an appearance around 2.7 billion years ago. Eukaryote organisms have huge diversity: fungi, plants and animals, all related by descent (with modification) from the common ancestor. And there has been constant change which, allowing the very long geological timescales and short generation times of prokaryotes especially, the changes between generations only need to be small per generation to result in large changes over geological timescales.

    Common descent is universally accepted in the biological sciences. Even creationist icon Michael Behe accepts common descent.

    So when nonlin says “related, yes” does he agree with me and Behe?

    (Corrections from anyone if I’ve misrepresented the consensus view appreciated.)

    ETA, I should clarify that whilst life may have originated more than once and lifeforms unrelated to us may have existed, all existant life is related by descent from a single common ancestor. (H/T Walter Kloover)

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  37. Kantian Naturalist: All this means is that these islanders had never acquired any of the habits or embodied know-how that we have and which allows us to use the word “watch” in various contexts in more or less reliable ways.

    Reminds me of a common UD denizen argument about finding an unusual artifact on Mars forcing one to conclude the existence of alien intelligent beings. (Not sure what point this was meant to prove). Without any experience of aliens or what technology they might possess, how would we even recognise such an artifact as an artifact?

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  38. Perhaps nonlin has not seen the work by Douglas Theobold:

    29+ Evidences for Macroevolution

    The Scientific Case for Common Descent
    ______________________________________________________________

    The theory specifically postulates that all of the earth’s known biota are genealogically related, much in the same way that siblings or cousins are related to one another. Thus, universal common ancestry entails the transformation of one species into another and, consequently, macroevolutionary history and processes involving the origin of higher taxa. Because it is so well supported scientifically, common descent is often called the “fact of evolution” by biologists. For these reasons, proponents of special creation are especially hostile to the macroevolutionary foundation of the biological sciences.

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  39. Neil Rickert: Here, I’m mainly going by Wittgenstein’s “Meaning is use”. To ask “What is reality?” is to ask the meaning of “real” and “reality”. And those meanings come from the way that we use the words.

    This may seem minor, but it gets at some important philosophical issues.

    Wittgenstein does not say “meaning is use”.

    What he says is, “For a large class of cases of the use of the word ‘meaning ’— though not for all — this word can be explicated as: the meaning of a word is its use in the language” (Philosophical Investigations 43). So this is not to say that “meaning is use” but to say that most of the time, when we ask for what the meaning of a word is, we’d be better off understanding how the word is used.

    In other words, there are lots of ways in which we can get someone to catch on to rule-governed linguistic behavior, and one of those ways is by using the word “meaning” — which is not the same as offering a theory of meaning according to which “meaning is use”.

    Apologies if this is already understood but it’s a subtle point that I thought deserved emphasis.

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  40. Alan Fox:

    Let me set out my understanding of universal common descent.

    There may have been more than one type of early life but only one survived and proliferated, chemosynthesis likely predating photosynthesis as the key to sustain disequilibrium between the cell and the niche.
    . . .
    Common descent is the idea that similarities and differences between organisms fit a pattern of descent where every single organism that lives or has ever lived is linked by an unbroken chain of descent between parent and offspring from that initial population of organisms that emerged on Earth 3+ billion years ago.

    (Corrections from anyone if I’ve misrepresented the consensus view appreciated.)

    Possible minor correction: Is there an edit necessary to reconcile “there may have been more than one type of early life but only one survived” and “every single organism that . . . has ever lived . . . is linked”?

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  41. Alan Fox:

    Kantian Naturalist: All this means is that these islanders had never acquired any of the habits or embodied know-how that we have and which allows us to use the word “watch” in various contexts in more or less reliable ways.

    Reminds me of a common UD denizen argument about finding an unusual artifact on Mars forcing one to conclude the existence of alien intelligent beings. (Not sure what point this was meant to prove). Without any experience of aliens or what technology they might possess, how would we even recognise such an artifact as an artifact?

    You might as well ask, ‘how long is a piece of string’?

    That all depends on the particular artefact. Signs of metal that had been refined, worked, shaped or combined in a complex regular way. Regular shaped moving parts. Possible function. I would look for that sort of thing.

    And its not just alien artefacts that might be difficult to recognise. A watch is easy to recognise, some stone tools can be much more difficult to distinguish.

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  42. Allan Miller: Relationship can have more than one meaning, sure. I mean it in the genealogical sense. Just to avoid equivocation.

    So how do you build a genealogy without an independent verification? Without that (independent verification) and without any hint of an ongoing “evolution”, all you have is similarities. And you know what accounts for that? One Creator. That’s right! Whereas with “evolution” and “abiogenesis” you have to wonder: “why the unique similarities (like DNA), and why no evidence for multiple abiogenesis events”? Also: “being so unique yet unitary on so many levels, can life be anything other than a miracle?”

    DNA_Jock: So, whether you don’t like the evidence, or wish to dismiss it out of hand (perhaps because you find it upsetting) does not matter.

    We just don’t accept circular “evidence” in science. That’s all. Ask someone.

    DNA_Jock: You do understand that cats and guppies share a more recent common ancestor than guppies and whale sharks, right?

    You mean they share some ‘similarity’, because “common ancestor” you most certainly cannot prove experimentally. You see, ‘similarity’ is not at all synonymous with “common ancestor”.

    Corneel: And you even acknowledge that to argue that the mountains have always been the way they are now is “plain dumb”. Yet this is exactly the position you take with respect to biological evolution.

    This is plain dumb again. Where the fuck do you see me argue “mountains have always been the way they are now”? Can you bring that link once you wake up? And what’s the link to biology (forget “empty word “evolution”)?

    We’re deviating greatly from Paley’s excellent argument, but go back to the regression argument: “The regression can happen over a few generations as in most epigenetic changes, many generations, and even the indefinite future if the adaptive stimulus is maintained (such as in domestication). “ assuming you know what “indefinite future” means… does that sound like “have always been the way they are now”?

    I am very patient, but at some point will start ignoring half baked arguments.

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  43. Nonlin.org,

    So how do you build a genealogy without an independent verification?

    Perhaps you could answer that for a molecular genealogy in humans. What independent verification is applied to a molecular paternity test?

    Without that (independent verification) and without any hint of an ongoing “evolution”, all you have is similarities.

    It’s not mere ‘similarities’, but a stacked, branching pattern of differences, whichever gene you pick. That’s how I can be so confident with my random ‘fridge-o-matic’ means of picking genes to analyse; I know in advance that almost all genes will give a congruent result. Even genetic stretches that are not translated show this pattern. If it’s not a copying process, it has been rigged to give precisely the results of one.

    And you know what accounts for that? One Creator.

    Do you have any independent verification of that?

    That’s right! Whereas with “evolution” and “abiogenesis” you have to wonder: “why the unique similarities (like DNA), and why no evidence for multiple abiogenesis events”?

    It never takes long to get onto abiogenesis. If there is no evidence for multiple origins, why do you adhere to a theory of multiple origins?

    1+
  44. Corneel: Let’s say that everything that descends from the last common ancestor of lamprey and guppies are fish. Cats are everything included in the family Felidae. Under those definitions, cats are a type of fish

    Only when you prove any of that experimentally. Until then, we only see guppies out of guppies. Sorry, we DO require experimental proofs in science.

    Corneel: What qualifies as a fish, and what qualifies as a cat? Why group lamprey, sharks and guppies to the exclusion of cats? Is fish a created kind?

    I’ll go with standard definition with the caveat that it’s vague like most. We group based on similarities without any presumption of origin. Best scientific evidence, my personal belief, and Paley’s excellent argument is that fish is created along with all else (whatever you mean by “kind”).

    Corneel: Nonlin.org: Would you agree that “grouping” is one thing while “descent” is an entirely different concept?

    No, I would not. See Jock’s comment. You need to learn how modern taxonomy works in a hurry.

    Well, let’s apply your stubbornness to something else: “since we group by sex, it must be that only men are grandparents of other men”. Whatever extra credibility (to some TSZ hobos) you ever had, it’s going down the drain quickly.

    Corneel: I second Jock’s recommendation. Lovely book. Filled to the brim with that evidence you are looking for so fervently.

    Circular reasoning is not evidence.

    Allan Miller: Er, no. Clearly, the space of possible alleles of a sequence of any given finite length is itself finite.

    Too stupid to address again.

    Alan Fox: Let me set out my understanding of universal common descent.

    Your understanding fails. No such thing.

    Alan Fox: Common descent is the idea that similarities and differences between organisms fit a pattern of descent

    Nope. Similarities fit a Single Mind pattern of creation. If “evolution” and “abiogenesis” were true, we would expect multiple creation episodes and no multiple divergences from DNA, pro/eukaryote models, organ types, etc. etc. Instead, life is an unique, unitary, and miraculous event.

    Alan Fox: Common descent is universally accepted in the biological sciences. Even creationist icon Michael Behe accepts common descent.

    That might be. Still a physical impossible as repeatedly proven.

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  45. Neil Rickert: Yes.I take “meaning is use” to be a slogan, not an attempted definition.

    Owen Barfield discusses language and meaning here He writes:

    In plain words I am suggesting that it is rather rash to try and analyse meaning or lay down rules for the proper use of words without first taking a good look at their history. That of course is not the same as saying that the meaning of a word and its derivation are the same thing. Or that ambiguities and disputes can best be resolved by a resort to etymology. If a lawsuit turns on the precise meaning in a will of the word securities, it is not likely to help either party much, to point out that the word is derived from a Latin adjective meaning “free from care.” What I do say is, that if the subject under examination is meaning in general or language in general, then you will get into a mess if you leave out history. After all, much the same thing happened with the science of biology. The early 18th-century biologists put up all sorts of rival theories about the variation of species and disputed them passionately, but it was all pretty amateurish until Darwin and some of his predecessors began to say: “Let us first see how the species gradually developed into what they now are.” When we reflect that, in the case of meaning, language is not only the corpus vile under examination, but also the scalpel and microscope with which we have to do the examining, – I submit that the need for patient observation, humility and caution is at least not less apparent than in the case of biology.

    In his opinion nearly all words are ‘fossilised metaphors’. I think the article is worth reading in full.

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  46. Allan Miller: What independent verification is applied to a molecular paternity test?

    For one, molecular paternity must match birth and death dates. If the presumed parent died more than nine months before the presumed birth and no freezing was involved, then the molecular test is invalidated.

    Did you just lose again? Will you admit?

    Allan Miller: It’s not mere ‘similarities’, but a stacked, branching pattern of differences, whichever gene you pick.

    Nah. Just similarities.

    Allan Miller: Do you have any independent verification of that?

    Of course. Paley’s excellent argument. Not only that, but the alternative hypothesis, “evolution” is a physical impossibility as proved. Not to say that H-a is true because H-b fails, but when H-a makes total sense it is “the science” at least until a new hypothesis H-c is formulated or until H-b is re-formulated to make sense.

    Allan Miller: It never takes long to get onto abiogenesis. If there is no evidence for multiple origins, why do you adhere to a theory of multiple origins?

    Huh?

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  47. Nonlin.org: Still a physical impossible as repeatedly proven.

    Just to be clear, nonlin, you are denying the fact of universal common descent? More than that, you assert that this fact has been repeatedly proven impossible*!

    By whom, when, how?

    *Waits, breath unbaited*

    ETA *

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