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#141 Tony Watkins

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 01:54 PM

QUOTE(Jeff Kolb @ Sep 25 2006, 06:43 PM) View Post

Just to second what Alan said: the typical scientist has plenty of faults, but holding an anti-God agenda is generally not foremost among them. Such claims distract us from the real problems of scientific arrogance and scientific ignorance.

Nice article, Tony. I appreciate the contributions you've been making to this board.

You're most kind. blushing.gif


#142 Plankton

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 04:30 PM

QUOTE
I can't think of a single one who jumps out as having had an agenda with regard to denying God, although I'm sure there are a few of them somewhere. (And I also know of several scientist Christians who had no special agenda with regard to introducing God in the lab.)

To be sure. I'm also pretty sure that, if such agendas exist, they will be hidden ones. Nothing against the scientists you've met; I have no doubt you're right about them.

QUOTE
Just to second what Alan said: the typical scientist has plenty of faults, but holding an anti-God agenda is generally not foremost among them.

Well, we can argue for ages about this. I do know that there are a few well-known, very outspoken scientists who do hold a rather anti-God agenda. That's not to say the opinion is foremost, or that it's one that even exists for all atheist scientists. I don't want to start pointing fingers.

QUOTE
Such claims distract us from the real problems of scientific arrogance and scientific ignorance.

I would argue that the problems of scientific arrogance and ignorance, instead of being issues from which we are distracted by the Christian/atheist debate, may very well be rooted in this debate. I think that a lot of scientific arrogance springs from atheistic humanism; likewise, scientific ignorance often comes from the fear that science will contradict the Bible, and hence an unwillingness to have anything to do with science. And if this is the case, we have to get back to the root problem.

My point is that the macroevolution debate has evolved (biggrin.gif) into something it shouldn't have. In my opinion, macroev doesn't threaten Christianity, and doesn't support atheism. Whether macroev is right or not, the same issues exist on either side of the metaphysical debate; it doesn't tilt the balance in favour of one or the other. The fact is that metaphysics is about logic and philosophy, not science.


EDIT: I just read your article, Tony. Most excellent.

To sum up what I'm trying to say, our metaphysical beliefs shouldn't affect our scientific beliefs. The problems arise when they do; many Christians are guilty of this, and I should think a fair few atheists are too. That's all I'm trying to say.

And read Tony's article, whoever hasn't. He explains things way better than I do.

Edited by Plankton, 25 September 2006 - 04:44 PM.


#143 Tony Watkins

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 02:58 AM

--content deleted--

It's a common problem because people like Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, Atkins, Provine, Blackmore and some others managed to gain very significant public exposure for their unscientific assertions that science will inexorably drive the 'superstitions' of religion away.

To associate anti-God agendas with scientists in general is as unjustified as the assertions from the small number of aggressively atheist scientists.

#144 Ackworth

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 06:43 AM

Good stuff on your website Tony, thank-you.

Here in Essex, I have just started a new monthly 8 O'clock service dealing with cultural issues, and did 'Science-vs-Religion' on Sunday Evening. The link for the resources is HERE

I confess that even after a huge amount of preparation and caution I was still taken aback by how LITTLE thought some people have ever given the topic, and yet how ready they are to adopt a position.

In general I found explaining the main tenets of a broadly theistic evolutionary theory, afirming that the Bible has four seperate creation accounts, NONE of which were written to be read as 'science', was met with great enthusiasm from the under 40's and over 70's, but there was a group in their 50's who seemed to have been heavily influenced by young-earth creationism.

Anyone else ever come across this kind of age-distribution of ideas (this is the UK I talking about)?

Cheers

#145 Tony Watkins

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 07:30 AM

QUOTE(Ackworth @ Sep 26 2006, 12:43 PM) View Post

In general I found explaining the main tenets of a broadly theistic evolutionary theory, afirming that the Bible has four seperate creation accounts, NONE of which were written to be read as 'science', was met with great enthusiasm from the under 40's and over 70's, but there was a group in their 50's who seemed to have been heavily influenced by young-earth creationism.

Anyone else ever come across this kind of age-distribution of ideas (this is the UK I talking about)?

Interesting. I've not particularly noticed it, or stopped to consider it. A lot of my speaking on the subject is to student audiences though which affects my perceptions. It certainly seems to me that the very hardline expression of young earth creationism is becoming more prominent and I fear that we will become as starkly polarised as nearly everything I hear on the subject from the States suggests it is over there.


#146 Plankton

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 07:17 PM

QUOTE
But it has nothing to do with being scientists. There are theologians who have anti-God agendas, for cryin' out loud, as well as writers, politicians, teachers, homemakers, lawyers, business leaders--you name it.

Well, that's true, but it would seem a little out of place to coment on atheism in any other profession in a thread on Evolution. And I'm not sure if someone with an "anti-God agenda" could rightly be called a theologian (not in the strictest sense, anyway).

QUOTE
So why do you associate anti-God agendas with scientists in some special way?

That's not what I'm TRYING to do... forgive me if that's how it's come across. I'm just saying that some scientists allow their metaphysical beliefs to bias their scientific views. And NOT JUST ATHEISTS. There are probably more Christians guilty of this. But we can't put all the blame on Christians.

QUOTE
It's a common problem because people like Dawkins, Gould, Sagan, Atkins, Provine, Blackmore and some others managed to gain very significant public exposure for their unscientific assertions that science will inexorably drive the 'superstitions' of religion away.

Yes, I was thinking of a couple of those guys, but I don't want to stereotype.

QUOTE
To associate anti-God agendas with scientists in general is as unjustified as the assertions from the small number of aggressively atheist scientists.

Right, and I'm not trying to do that. I highly doubt that the majority of scientists hold anti-God agendas, or are even atheists. My point is not that scientists hold hidden anti-God agendas; there are a few who do, no doubt, but my point is that
QUOTE
our metaphysical beliefs shouldn't affect our scientific beliefs. The problems arise when they do; many Christians are guilty of this, and I should think a fair few atheists are too. That's all I'm trying to say.

I mean, ID has a great deal many problems, but the reaction from the scientific community (at least, the part of it that gets the most publicity) has been hardly commendable; rather than provide us with intelligent critiques, they make gross generalizations are, claiming that IDers are trying to push "religion" on us, and generally mock ID. I don't think this is the way to respond; it just doesn't get us anywhere. And to be sure, not all scientists, probably even most, aren't guilty of this. But those that are get a great deal of publicity, and most of them do seem to be coming from an atheistic perspective, as they choose to target and mock the idea that God can co-exist with science.

ONCE AGAIN, most scientists are probably not guilty of this; I definitely don't want to stereotype. Many scientists opposed to ID are theists, I know, possibly the majority. But those few who are guilty are deserving of reproof; it doesn't do to overlook this simply because the Christians at fault outnumber the atheists at fault. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Edited by Plankton, 26 September 2006 - 07:22 PM.


#147 Tony Watkins

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 08:19 AM

QUOTE
I mean, ID has a great deal many problems, but the reaction from the scientific community (at least, the part of it that gets the most publicity) has been hardly commendable; rather than provide us with intelligent critiques, they make gross generalizations are, claiming that IDers are trying to push "religion" on us, and generally mock ID. I don't think this is the way to respond; it just doesn't get us anywhere. And to be sure, not all scientists, probably even most, aren't guilty of this. But those that are get a great deal of publicity, and most of them do seem to be coming from an atheistic perspective, as they choose to target and mock the idea that God can co-exist with science.

ONCE AGAIN, most scientists are probably not guilty of this; I definitely don't want to stereotype. Many scientists opposed to ID are theists, I know, possibly the majority. But those few who are guilty are deserving of reproof; it doesn't do to overlook this simply because the Christians at fault outnumber the atheists at fault. There's plenty of blame to go around.

You're quite right. I share your frustration at ideologically-driven knee jerk reactions against stuff that doesn't fit with our working assumptions or theories (in every field, not just science).

There are two difficulties with responses to challenging views.

One is that many scientists are just so busy that they don't have time to give a reasoned response. They haven't got the time to engage fully with the issues so a knee-jerk is a kind of defence mechanism against having their world turned upside down. That doesn't excuse it, but it's not always intended to be unthinkingly dismissive.

Second, there is always a huge commitment to, and investment in, the prevailing paradigms (remember that Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift was all about changes in science, but has been found useful in other fields so that paradigm is verging on being a completely devalued word). Paradigms can - do - make certain ways of thinking inconceivable for its most committed adherents (like Peter Berger's plausibility structures).

Neither of these reasons mean that the position is justified, but I think it's helpful to understand what the motivation might be. Only a carefully argued debate will clarify the truth (or at least legitimacy) of the various claims and help to overturn the prevailing paradigm if necessary, or to bolster it if appropriate.

One of my problems with the ID debate is that a significant number of its propenents seem to be philosophers rather than scientists. And given that most scientists are not philosophers, there's a fair bit of talking past one another.

#148 Jeff Kolb

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 01:56 PM

Thanks for mentioning Kuhn; you beat me to it.

#149 Plankton

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 07:15 PM

QUOTE
You're quite right. I share your frustration at ideologically-driven knee jerk reactions against stuff that doesn't fit with our working assumptions or theories (in every field, not just science).

Yes! You agree! biggrin.gif

QUOTE
Neither of these reasons mean that the position is justified, but I think it's helpful to understand what the motivation might be. Only a carefully argued debate will clarify the truth (or at least legitimacy) of the various claims and help to overturn the prevailing paradigm if necessary, or to bolster it if appropriate.

Good point. I'm relatively new to the scientific views I hold (check the date of when I conceded to a non-literalist reading of Genesis, earlier in this thread), so I'm still wrestling with a lot of this stuff.

QUOTE
One of my problems with the ID debate is that a significant number of its propenents seem to be philosophers rather than scientists. And given that most scientists are not philosophers, there's a fair bit of talking past one another.

Yes, that would explain some of the confusion. The difficulty seems to come in separating science and philosophy, or the "how" (evolution, on some level) and the "why" (God or pure chance?).

I'm starting to suspect that the many problems I find with macroevolution aren't enough to disqualify the theory; many of the arguments against it that I encounter are working with the idea that macroev needs an atheistic or deistic worldview to survive. At this point, I'd concede that SOME form of macroevolution probably occurred, but that we haven't figured out most of the "bugs" (and quite likely, we never will).

#150 ThePersistanceOfWaffles

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 08:43 PM

I too appreciate the mention of Kuhn, and I also appreciate the courteous, open-minded tenor of the discussion that's been going on. I hope I don't ruin it. smile.gif

QUOTE
One is that many scientists are just so busy that they don't have time to give a reasoned response. They haven't got the time to engage fully with the issues so a knee-jerk is a kind of defence mechanism against having their world turned upside down.


I agree that scientists are probably busy people who are sick of talking about this, but I don't see it as a defense mechanism against "having their world turned upside down."

I like to picture myself in the scientist's shoes. If I, as a student of history, kept getting confronted by the media or the public with a "new" theory that attacked some principle central to the way I study history, like, I dunno, that people in different time periods saw thing differently than we do, and I had to spend all my time debunking this theory and defending my way of doing history, and was repeatedly told that I must be either ignorant or have some dark ulterior motive to reject their theory... hey, I'd be irritable and dismissive too.

Upon further thought, I also think there are plenty of scientists who would love to turn the scientific world upside down. Who doesn't want to make an exciting new discovery? Who wants to say "OMG, the Establishment has had it completely right for the past century and a half"? Nobody's going to make a name for themselves that way. Look at the fame that exploded around Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge, just for presenting what was a slight tweaking of the theory of evolution--can you imagine the prestige that would await the person who came up with a new theory that replaced evolution altogether? That person would be launched into a category with Newton, Einstein, and (formerly *g* ) Darwin. Yet despite it being such an obvious target, hardly any scientists have launched an inquiry against Evolution-- that says something to me.

BTW, I've been thinking, and I think at the heart of my irritation with a lot of creationist arguments (at least the ones made by lay people, which is most of them) is their implicit "we understand this subject better than any of the people who actually do this for a living" attitude-- which is a slap in the face not just to scientists, but to anyone who dedicates their life to studying a subject they love. I think that is the real reason for the brusqueness from most scientists.

Which is not to say that scientists are always right or that we non-scientists should trust them blindly, especially on non-science matters, but I should certainly hope to God that spending years studying and researching a field gives you some greater insight into that field than the average joe on the street has. Otherwise, I might as well call off my education altogether and go live in a van down by the river. smile.gif


#151 Tony Watkins

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 03:23 AM

QUOTE(Plankton @ Sep 28 2006, 01:15 AM) View Post

we haven't figured out most of the "bugs"

When JBS Haldane was asked what his work in biology has taught him about God, he apparently replied, 'It has taught me that the ALmighty has an inordinate fondness for beetles.' It's estimated that there are several million species or which less than 400,000 have been described. So we certainly haven't figured out most of the bugs. wink.gif


#152 Chashab

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 11:43 AM

"Intelligent Design" clip here.

Hmmmm . . .

#153 David Smedberg

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Posted 24 November 2006 - 12:02 AM

This paragraph really cuts to the heart of it:

[blockquote]The museum's research scientist, Dr Jason Lisle, has a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He realised he was a Christian while he was an undergraduate, but didn't spread it around: "People get very emotional about the issue. I don't believe we should ever be obnoxious about our faith. I just kept quiet." And how did he pass the exams? "I never lied, but if I was asked a question about the age of the universe, I answered from my knowledge of the topic, not my beliefs."[/blockquote]

What he may not realize is that museums like this are part of the reason people "get very emotional".

FWIW, this project doesn't make me mad - since I think the weaknesses of their approach ought to be pretty plain to their visitors - but they are wrong about evolution, and that makes me sad.

#154 Grow Up

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 01:16 PM

QUOTE(David Smedberg @ Nov 24 2006, 06:02 AM) View Post
FWIW, this project doesn't make me mad - since I think the weaknesses of their approach ought to be pretty plain to their visitors - but they are wrong about evolution, and that makes me sad.


The geologist Ron Peterson once defined "creation science" as "An attempt to give credibility to Hebrew mythology by making people believe that the the world's foremost biologists, paleontologists, and geologists are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops."

Harsh, perhaps, but true!

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#155 Plankton

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 06:14 PM

QUOTE
The geologist Ron Peterson once defined "creation science" as "An attempt to give credibility to Hebrew mythology by making people believe that the the world's foremost biologists, paleontologists, and geologists are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops."

Harsh, perhaps, but true!

At the risk of looking like a backwards Evangelical, I'd just like to point out a few bits in this definition that aren't entirely accurate. For one, "creation science" is a pretty generic term. One can accept "creation science" and still believe in evolution (as do many on this thread, myself included). It's called "creationist-evolutionism" (or something of the sort). Also, "to give credibility to Hebrew mythology" does not entail taking it literally. From a creationist-evolutionist perspective, the Hebrew creation account is entirely credible -- in what it is meant to communicate. I do not believe that it is meant to tell us that God created everything in a week, made Adam from a pile of dirt, made Eve from his rib, etc. There are underlying fundemental spiritual truths that are communicated figuratively and symbolically in these myths.

The last part of the definition, however (about making people believe that the world's foremost ... are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops), is an accurate assessment of ID's underlying assumption. dry.gif

#156 Plankton

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 06:56 PM

QUOTE
But creationism <> science, and I don't seen any need for a hybridized position. If anyone asks, I hold an "evolutionist" position. The only times I feel any need to interject anything resembling creationism into an otherwise non-religious discussion is when someone insists that evolution is inherently atheistic.

Oh, absolutely. Problem is, many people (read: Christians) will assume that because you believe in evolution, you're an atheist.

Which, of course, is absurd.

#157 draper

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Posted 27 November 2007 - 01:00 PM

Did you see the NYT article on Creationist Geologist from Sundays Magazine?

#158 Christian

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 03:39 PM

This is not encouraging:

Normally, peer review is a valuable step in the publication of scientific research. Scholars submit new discoveries to academic journals, which, in turn, solicit independent experts to assess the reliability of the work. Answers Research Journal, a new "professional, peer-reviewed technical" publication of "interdisciplinary scientific research," has streamlined this process by inviting the submitting scholars to suggest who should review their work.

#159 Jeff Kolb

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 01:01 AM

Jeffrey O. recently pointed out Brett McCracken's post about Ben Stein's "Expelled", a docu-drama favorable toward Intelligent Design.

Here's an expanded version of the comment I left in response to McCracken's generally positive review:

The real problem is *not* that the scientific establishment refuses to fairly consider ID theory. The theory is simply less predictive, less helpful than evolutionary theory...though evolution is certainly not without weaknesses. Most theories are, in fact, incomplete; some are nearly contradictory (e.g. the standard model of particle physics must be part of some larger theory or else it's useless). But these theories are the best we have.

Rather, the real problem is our society which, by-and-large, has come to regard science as the only reputable truth-teller. Until the grip of effective materialism is loosened, other methods of meaningful experience and inquiry will always be judged under the strict and somewhat narrow laws of empiricism.

Edited by Jeff Kolb, 05 March 2008 - 01:03 AM.


#160 SDG

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 11:28 AM

Ran across this story on PZ Myers' blog while researching Expelled (Myers also provides a link to a related article at National Geographic):
..in 1971, scientists started an experiment. They took 5 male lizards and 5 female lizards of the species Podarcis sicula from a tiny Adriatic island called Pod Kopiste, 0.09km2, and they placed them on an even tinier island, Pod Mrcaru, 0.03km2, which was also inhabited by another lizard species, Podarcis melisellensis. ... When scientists finally returned to the island and looked around, they discovered that something very interesting had happened.

The lizards' skulls were wider, deeper, and longer, and they had stronger bites a necessity for chomping off bits of tough plants, instead of soft mosquitos. Instead of chasing bugs, they're browsing stationary plants, and their legs are shorter and they are slower. Population densities are higher. The Pod Mrcaru lizards no longer seem to defend territories, so there have been behavioral changes.

Still just a lizard, I know.

Now here's something really cool, though: these lizards have evolved cecal valves. What those are are muscular ridges in the gut that allow the animal to close off sections of the tube to slow the progress of food through them, and to act as fermentation chambers where plant material can be broken down by commensal organisms like bacteria and nematodes and the guts of Pod Mrcaru P. sicula are swarming with nematodes not found in the guts of their Pod Kopiste cousins. ...

The cecal valves are an evolutionary novelty, a brand new feature not present in the ancestral population and newly evolved in these lizards. That's important.

Some of these alleged changes don't necessarily seem all that immediately impressive as evolutionary development. Changes like larger heads and harder bites might simply be physiological responses to a different diet and environment, just as if you transplant a family of Asians subsisting on a traditional grain-based diet to a country with a Western-style diet, subsequent generations will grow much taller.

The new gut structures, though, seem more striking. Are these really new structures representing a genetic development, an "evolutionary novelty" as Myers says?

Or is this simply what happens to Italian wall lizard guts when you feed them on a veggie diet? If you moved more Italian wall lizards to the same island, would they quickly "develop" the exact same structure? Or if you moved the "new" lizards back home, would the new structures disappear in a single generation?

If the new structures are a genetic novelty, this seems to be a striking documented case of the kind of mutative advance that many anti-evolution polemicists say has never been documented.

If not, Myers (and others) would seem to be over-claiming in a way that would really undermine their credibility.