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Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,09:56   

I am providing this thread in an attempt to provide an outlet for a (semi-)serious debate over the stated topics of Dr. Dembski's course, Christian Faith and Science

I ask everyone to restrict their comments to things directly relating to this syllabus and Francis Collins' book, The Language of God (a major focus of the course)

From the syllabus...
Quote
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES In this course the student will:
- Understand the main strategies for relating science and the Christian faith.
- Be able to summarize the main scientific challenges to the Christian faith.
- Learn to write critical reviews appropriate to the debate between science and religion.

While I don't have the ability to directly enforce the requested rules of this thread, I might be able to encourage self compliance by pointing out this is an opportunity to show off your understanding of the above topics.

I dare say most of the commenters in After the Bar Closes probably feel they are as close to experts in antievolution issues as one can get.

If both side can leave their complaints about "tone" and complaints about complaining to the other Phil:4483 thread, I would appreciate it.

This thread will also be a (hopefully) detailed review of The Language of God.  Dr. Dembski's students should have no excuses of an inability to talk to this subject.  A review of this book is supposed to be worth 30% of their final grade.

Here is the table of contents...
Quote
Introduction
Chapter 1: From Atheism to Belief
Chapter 2: The War of the Worldviews
Chapter 3: The Origins of the Universe
Chapter 4: Life on Earth
Chapter 5: Deciphering God's Instruction Book
Chapter 6: Genesis, Galileo, and Darwin
Chapter 7: Option 1: Atheism and Agnosticism
Chapter 8: Option 2: Creationism
Chapter 9: Option 3: Intelligent Design
Chapter 10: Option 4: BioLogos
Chapter 11: Truth Seekers
APPENDIX The Moral Practice of Science and Medicine: Bioethics


I have found a version of the book that I can copy and paste from.  It has 272 pages with the appendix taking up 38 of those (which we may or may not want to address).  It looks like a reasonably easy read.

I will be going through chapter by chapter with a summary.  I am hoping this will inspire some of Dr. Dembski's students to engage in meaningful conversation because I am going to look foolish if this ends up with me as the only one talking.

  
Albatrossity2



Posts: 2780
Joined: Mar. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,10:11   

Quote
Be able to summarize the main scientific challenges to the Christian faith.

That's backwards. Science does not challenge Christian faith-based beliefs. With regard to the major faith-based belief of Christianity (the divinity of Jesus Christ), science is silent. Silence is not a challenge.

When Christians choose to ignore Augustine's advice about using Scripture to tell non-Christians how the world works, they are challenging science. And that's where they have lost, are losing, and will continue to lose. If you make a claim about the natural world around us, you are entering the realm of science, not faith.

It's possible that by providing an alternative to superstition and woo, science is seen as a "challenge" to Christianity. But that is not specific to Christianity; rational alternatives to superstition are a threat to all religions.

--------------
Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.
                        - Pattiann Rogers

   
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,10:59   

Introduction: Francis Collins', Dr. Dembski's and mine.

I have a confession to make about an ethical dilemma.  The copy of Francis Collins; book I found is obviously in violation of copyright law and Collins' implied agreement with me.  I have little doubt we will get into how and why an atheist would be worried about ethical issues like this.  However, I am.  My resolution to this dilemma is to only post review-like snippets which is in keeping with the copyright agreement.  I will also spend the $15 necessary to download a legitimate copy even though I don't need one.

Dr. Dembski chose a very interesting quote for his introduction on the syllabus...
 
Quote
What you believe to be true will control you whether it’s true or not.
–Jeremy LaBorde

This is a multi-edged sword that generally goes to the heart of many philosophical discussions.  If a belief in God is good and necessary what difference does it make "whether it’s true or not" just as long as we believe it?

I doubt Dr. Dembski would openly admit to this, but it is rather obvious he feels a moral obligation to "...replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God..." regardless of the truth of the matter. link

Francis Collins' introduction can be summarized with this quote from his book...
     
Quote
So here is the central question of this book: In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews? I answer with a resounding Yes! In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul—and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms.

This is pretty much a restatement of Stephen Gould's Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA)

Dr. Dembski is doing his students a disservice if he doesn't at least mention Gould's ideas.  I noticed Gould is not on the required reading list.

I happen to embrace NOMA but that is probably a subject for later discussions.

  
skeptic reborn



Posts: 16
Joined: Nov. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,11:22   

You've brought me out of my self-imposed exile, TP.  I will follow this thread to see where it leads.  I'm guessing it will rehash earlier discussions of NOMA, which I have advocated in favor of, but it will be interesting to see if 3 years has brought on any changes.  I doubt I will post from here out but I wanted to let you know that you're not posting to empty air.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,11:58   

Chapter 1: From Atheism to Belief
This chapter started with...
     
Quote
MY EARLY LIFE WAS UNCONVENTIONAL...

And ended with...
     
Quote
...the evidence of God's existence would have to come from other directions, and the ultimate decision would be based on faith, not proof. Still beset by roiling uncertainties of what path I had started down, I had to admit that I had reached the threshold of accepting the possibility of a spiritual worldview, including the existence of God.
....
For a long time I stood trembling on the edge of this yawning gap. Finally, seeing no escape, I leapt.
How can such beliefs be possible for a scientist? Aren't many claims of religion incompatible with the "Show me the data" attitude of someone devoted to the study of chemistry, physics, biology, and medicine? By opening the door of my mind to its spiritual possibilities, had I started a war of worldviews that would consume me, ultimately facing a take-noprisoners victory of one or the other?

It is an unsurprising conversion story with the obligatory wise minister (this time he was a Methodist) giving just the right sagely advice (this time it was reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity) to get the ball rolling.
The informative part, for me, is that it appears Collins really didn't struggle with his philosophical outlook until late in life.
     
Quote
I practiced a thought and behavior pattern referred to as "willful blindness" by the noted scholar and writer C. S. Lewis.

I have struggled with my philosophical outlook for many years.  I am still struggling with it.  One of my main philosophies is to question my beliefs and motives by testing them.

One of the many religious people I have talked to in the past was a Jewish co-worker who I respected.  He said something odd during a religious discussion we were having.  It was something along the lines that my intelligence makes it much harder for me to come to the belief in God. He was sincere and genuinely sympathetic with my difficulty in understanding his faith in God's existence.

I don't have a problem with Francis Collins choosing to take a leap of faith any more than I would have a problem with him deciding to become a survivalist in a cabin in a wilderness.  Either can be seen as a form of escape.  While I get a little nervous that Collins wrote a book on it which could be interpreted as trying to force his belief on others, I take some solace in that Collins' says near the end of the book...
     
Quote
Each person must carry out his or her own search for spiritual truth. If God is real. He will assist. Far too much has been said by Christians about the exclusive club they inhabit. Tolerance is a virtue; intolerance is a vice. I find it deeply disturbing when believers in one faith tradition dismiss the spiritual experiences of others. Regrettably, Christians seem particularly prone to do this.

In short, while Collins' own life story isn't that compelling of an argument, I can hardly fault him for providing his readers with background information.

  
Doc Bill



Posts: 1039
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,12:10   

Quote
I have little doubt we will get into how and why an atheist would be worried about ethical issues like this.


Really, TP?

I have no recourse but to mock.  You are a moron and I call bullshit on this entire thread.

Hammersmith.

  
OgreMkV



Posts: 3654
Joined: Oct. 2009

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,13:15   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 28 2010,10:59)
Dr. Dembski chose a very interesting quote for his introduction on the syllabus...
   
Quote
What you believe to be true will control you whether it’s true or not.
–Jeremy LaBorde

This quote is fine for philosophy and morality and ethics (up to a point).  But in reality, it cannot apply to science.

When PE came out, I dearly wanted it not to be true.  Still, the evidence mounted up and PE is more supported than not.

I can believe that my next check will have my bonus on it, so maybe I'll go spend some money. However if my belief is unfounded (and since the announcement of the bonus in January, so my belief has been unfounded in every paycheck so far), then I will be a bit of trouble come rent time.

What you believe should not be used to 'control' or as an excuse for a lack of control.

--------------
Ignored by those who can't provide evidence for their claims.

http://skepticink.com/smilodo....retreat

   
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,14:08   

Hi Albatrossity2,
Quote (Albatrossity2 @ Mar. 28 2010,10:11)
It's possible that by providing an alternative to superstition and woo, science is seen as a "challenge" to Christianity. But that is not specific to Christianity; rational alternatives to superstition are a threat to all religions.

I agree, that is a good point.  There may be challenges unique to Christianity but since Muslims also generally believe Jesus was/is something special than just about any scientific challenge to Christianity would also be a challenge to Islam.

Let's see if any of Dr. Dembski's students are brave enough to respond to this.

EDIT - I think it would have been more appropriate for the syllabus to read...

"- Be able to summarize the main scientific challenges to the Christian faith [and vice versa.]"

Unless, of course, Dr. Dembski thinks there is nothing Christianity can challenge science with.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,14:29   

Hi Skeptic Reborn,
 
Quote (skeptic reborn @ Mar. 28 2010,11:22)
You've brought me out of my self-imposed exile, TP.  I will follow this thread to see where it leads.  I'm guessing it will rehash earlier discussions of NOMA, which I have advocated in favor of, but it will be interesting to see if 3 years has brought on any changes.  I doubt I will post from here out but I wanted to let you know that you're not posting to empty air.

Thank you for speaking up.

At the risk of starting an off-topic discussion I think recent developments in Quantum Biophysics has the protential of illuminating a definitive barrier between that which is deterministic and that which is not.

I suspect even Dr. Dembski is aware of it (since here mentioned it in his Expert Witness Report).  As I indicated, his class would be woefully incomplete without a discussion of Gould’s NOMA.

If none of Dr. Dembski's students are confident enough to discuss NOMA, please consider doing so.
Sure, it might be a lot of rehash, but at least we can keep each other company.  :)

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,14:56   

Hi OgreMkV,
Quote (OgreMkV @ Mar. 28 2010,13:15)
from the syllabus...
     
Quote
What you believe to be true will control you whether it’s true or not.
–Jeremy LaBorde

This quote is fine for philosophy and morality and ethics (up to a point).  But in reality, it cannot apply to science.

When PE came out, I dearly wanted it not to be true.  Still, the evidence mounted up and PE is more supported than not.

I can believe that my next check will have my bonus on it, so maybe I'll go spend some money. However if my belief is unfounded (and since the announcement of the bonus in January, so my belief has been unfounded in every paycheck so far), then I will be a bit of trouble come rent time.

What you believe should not be used to 'control' or as an excuse for a lack of control.

I wish Dr. Dembski's students would hurry up and get here.  They are missing a good opportunaty to try out their developing skills in writing "...critical reviews appropriate to the debate between science and religion"

For example, PE = Punctuated Equilibrium, right?
It goes toward the argument with science it is supposed to be evidence, not philosophy, which controls what inferences to make and what experiments to run.

To be fair, I don't know how much the LaBorde quote is indicative of what Dr. Dembski is teaching.  Let's find out what his students have to say.

Students?

  
JLT



Posts: 740
Joined: Jan. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,16:57   

Quote (Albatrossity2 @ Mar. 28 2010,16:11)
 
Quote
Be able to summarize the main scientific challenges to the Christian faith.

That's backwards. Science does not challenge Christian faith-based beliefs. With regard to the major faith-based belief of Christianity (the divinity of Jesus Christ), science is silent. Silence is not a challenge.

When Christians choose to ignore Augustine's advice about using Scripture to tell non-Christians how the world works, they are challenging science. And that's where they have lost, are losing, and will continue to lose. If you make a claim about the natural world around us, you are entering the realm of science, not faith.

It's possible that by providing an alternative to superstition and woo, science is seen as a "challenge" to Christianity. But that is not specific to Christianity; rational alternatives to superstition are a threat to all religions.

Dembski could mean something like "No Adam & Eve, no Fall --> Jesus' sacrifice was unnecessary." For a Dembski-type Christian that's a challenging thought. AFAIK, his latest book is some far-fetched explanation of how the fall worked both forward and backward in time, thereby explaining why there was death before the first humans even existed (or some such).
But in that case, it's more reality that's challenging to your faith than science. Death is an integral part of life.
Even if I accepted that Adam & Eve actually existed. What if they hadn't eaten from the tree and no human or animal (plants apparently don't count as living) had ever died? We'd be buried under a thick cover of insects, for starters....

--------------
"Random mutations, if they are truly random, will affect, and potentially damage, any aspect of the organism, [...]
Thus, a realistic [computer] simulation [of evolution] would allow the program, OS, and hardware to be affected in a random fashion." GilDodgen, Frilly shirt owner

  
OgreMkV



Posts: 3654
Joined: Oct. 2009

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,17:16   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 28 2010,14:08)
Hi Albatrossity2,
Quote (Albatrossity2 @ Mar. 28 2010,10:11)
It's possible that by providing an alternative to superstition and woo, science is seen as a "challenge" to Christianity. But that is not specific to Christianity; rational alternatives to superstition are a threat to all religions.

I agree, that is a good point.  There may be challenges unique to Christianity but since Muslims also generally believe Jesus was/is something special than just about any scientific challenge to Christianity would also be a challenge to Islam.

Let's see if any of Dr. Dembski's students are brave enough to respond to this.

EDIT - I think it would have been more appropriate for the syllabus to read...

"- Be able to summarize the main scientific challenges to the Christian faith [and vice versa.]"

Unless, of course, Dr. Dembski thinks there is nothing Christianity can challenge science with.

This phrase on the syllabus has been bugging me ever since I read and I'm still not sure I have the reason totally down.

But from what I can figure out is that this statement is decidedly NOT a fair proposition.  It implies that science is a challenge to Christianity or whatever religion and that's just not the case.

It's basically telling students to expect to find problems with science.

Of course, it's pretty much impossible for an undergrad student with little if no science or math training to find problems with science.  But people like Dembski keep telling these kids that basic algebra, made up numbers, and incorrect versions of the science are problems for science.

It's a straight up lie.

--------------
Ignored by those who can't provide evidence for their claims.

http://skepticink.com/smilodo....retreat

   
Albatrossity2



Posts: 2780
Joined: Mar. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,17:21   

Quote (JLT @ Mar. 28 2010,16:57)
Dembski could mean something like "No Adam & Eve, no Fall --> Jesus' sacrifice was unnecessary." For a Dembski-type Christian that's a challenging thought.

Yeah, I do understand that Christians who are adamantly opposed to the thought of hominid life before Adam and Eve often take that particular line of "argument".

But there are far more profound arguments against the "Jesus died so that original sin could be forgiven" belief. Like logic, for example. What kind of omnipotent omniscient deity would dream up such a convoluted scheme to forgive the sins of creatures he made and which he knew were going to sin well in advance of the sinning? Only if you are raised with that notion drummed into your head a million times does such a scheme make any sense at all, and then only if you don't think about it.

So that is not only a challenge posed by science. It's a challenge posed by anyone who has two neurons to rub together.

--------------
Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.
                        - Pattiann Rogers

   
Amadan



Posts: 1332
Joined: Jan. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,19:11   

Remember what Dembski’s students are there for. This is not High Academia, an Ivory Tower where ideas and knowledge are explored for their own sake. This is a missionary school.

The whole point of Dembski’s course is to rub up intellectual callouses that will let students survive contact with The Enemy with The Message intact, in their minds, if not in the other bloke’s.

This serves two purposes:

1. Positive reinforcement for the infantry: “The atheists could only swear at me” / “They just keep repeating the arguments I was inoculated against in Apologetics last October” / “The need for missionary work is so much greater than I thought!”

2. Feedback for the marketing bureau: “Hmmm, I’ll give a comprehensive criticism of that data in my next peer-reviewed paper in Nature dismiss that argument as irrelevant/unscientific/absurd in my next sermon.”

This is not about science. Science is not the ground on which this battle is being fought.

Where Dembski is vulnerable is in his expectation that students (as self-selected missionaries rather than academics) will equate refutation with rejection. Most, but not all, of these people are saturated with an authoritarian mindset. Some of the brighter, more empathetic ones, will compare the arguments they have been given as Holy Writ with those they have heard described as Wrong. Seepage will occur.

So lay off the abuse, if only on the kids' thread here, guys.


Edit: cuz yur wurthit

--------------
"People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutations" - Densye  4-4-2011
JoeG BTW dumbass- some variations help ensure reproductive fitness so they cannot be random wrt it.

   
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,20:33   

CHAPTER TWO - The War of the Worldviews

Starting with...
 
Quote
IF YOU STARTED THIS BOOK as a skeptic and have managed to travel this far with me, no doubt a torrent of your own objections has begun to form. I certainly have had my own: Isn't God just a case of wishful thinking? Hasn't a great deal of harm been done in the name of religion? How could a loving God permit suffering? How can a serious scientist accept the possibility of miracles?

The chapter deals with each of these four questions.

Collins argues God isn't the result of wishful thinking because it would be doubtful anyone would wish for the type of God we allegedly got.

Ironically, Collins made a statement in his first chapter that supports the idea God could be wishful thinking.  He wrote "I grew up with the general sense that you had to be responsible for your own behavior and your choices..."
This is hard work.  It is much easier to externalize responsibility (i.e. a form of escape).

As to the second question, unpleasant conclusions don't make the conclusion invalid.  IMO, arguing that religious doctrine is inaccurate because its bad is just as unpersuasive as arguing the doctrine is accurate because it is good.

This gets back to trying to control reality with beliefs.

No religious conversion would be complete without at least trying to deal with the problem of evil as Collins does in his attempt to answere his third question.  He didn't say anything very definative or unusual.

In another thread I came up with something I thought was an interesting concept for explaining how both a benevolent God and evil can coexist.

In the movie Matrix it was noted mankind would reject a utopian reality. If mankind does not struggle against adversity, its spirit dies. Man is also intelligent enough to see through a faux simulation of adversity. The adversity has to be real. This would include an inherent doubt of God’s existence. For man’s own good, God made it so his existence could never be known as a certainty which included providing scientists a difficult but consistent set of clues suggesting his existence was unnecessary.

I don't know how persuasive it is, but it’s about as persuasive as anything else I have heard, including Collins' version.

As for miracles (the fourth question) Collins relegates them to being very rare; nearly impossible but not totally impossible, only to be used on special occasions. If I didn't already know Collins thinks Common Descent is scientifically supported, this would have been foreshadowing that conclusion.

  
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4265
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 28 2010,21:32   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 28 2010,21:33)
In the movie Matrix it was noted mankind would reject a utopian reality.

[OT]

Yeah, but it was also claimed that net energy could be derived from a human body. Why not just burn the food, and skip all the trouble?

Sorry. Pet peeve of mine. Lamest sci-fi premise EVAR.

[/OT]

--------------
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,09:35   

Quote
If mankind does not struggle against adversity, its spirit dies.  


Assertion lacking experimental evidence.

--------------
Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
fnxtr



Posts: 2483
Joined: June 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,10:36   

Quote (midwifetoad @ Mar. 29 2010,07:35)
Quote
If mankind does not struggle against adversity, its spirit dies.  


Assertion lacking experimental evidence.

Also, terms not defined.

--------------
"But it's disturbing to think someone actually thinks creationism -- having put it's hand on the hot stove every day for the last 400 years -- will get a different result tomorrow." -- midwifetoad

"I am in a rush to catch up with science work." -- Gary Gaulin

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,11:46   

Quote (midwifetoad @ Mar. 29 2010,09:35)
Assertion lacking experimental evidence.

Quote (fnxtr @ Mar. 29 2010,10:36)
Also, terms not defined.

Both are valid critisisms and though I would like to explore this further, the thread is supposed to be about Dr. Dembski's class and Francis Collins' book.  Please excuse my weakness in bringing it up in the first place.

  
khan



Posts: 1525
Joined: May 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,11:46   

Quote (Doc Bill @ Mar. 28 2010,13:10)
Quote
I have little doubt we will get into how and why an atheist would be worried about ethical issues like this.


Really, TP?

I have no recourse but to mock.  You are a moron and I call bullshit on this entire thread.

Hammersmith.

Shit I agree with you.  I have been generous/charitable with no need for god-thingy.

I have been an atheist since 1966 or so after my older brother spent most of his (& my) life dieing from cancer.

If Collins had seen 4 waterfalls, would he have become a Muslim?

--------------
"It's as if all those words, in their hurry to escape from the loony, have fallen over each other, forming scrambled heaps of meaninglessness." -damitall

That's so fucking stupid it merits a wing in the museum of stupid. -midwifetoad

Frequency is just the plural of wavelength...
-JoeG

  
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,12:01   

Quote
What you believe to be true will control you whether it’s true or not.


Is the converse true? Does the absence of brotherly love imply lack of faith? If so, the question of faith is moot. There are no believers, only hypocrites trying to gain worldly advantage by swinging their faith penises and claiming theirs is the biggest.

--------------
Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
Louis



Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,12:24   

Quote (skeptic reborn @ Mar. 28 2010,16:22)
You've brought me out of my self-imposed exile, TP.  I will follow this thread to see where it leads.  I'm guessing it will rehash earlier discussions of NOMA, which I have advocated in favor of, but it will be interesting to see if 3 years has brought on any changes.  I doubt I will post from here out but I wanted to let you know that you're not posting to empty air.

Self imposed exile? You were restricted to the Bathroom Wall for acting the uneducable dolt, if memory serves. Morphing names to post again, classy move. Your comment implies that learning is not something you have acheived in the interim.

As for the topic, when someone gives me a good reason to take Collins' special pleading (or Gould's special pleading over NOMA for that matter) more seriously than that of any random buddhist, pizza delivery boy or closet pastafarian, then I'll listen most attentively. Thus far no one has managed it. Importantly no one has managed this for ANY religion, as the existence of multiple back and forth conversions and mutual disagreements attests. This isn't thought provoking, it is yet another interminable round in the utterly futile struggle of the religiously inclined to map their irrelevant wishes onto uncompromising reality. If one of Dembski's students comes here and manages to acheive even a basic restatement of the philosophical issues underpinning the subject I will be utterly staggered. I might, and heaven forfend this actually happens, even contemplate, with some help, being nice about it.

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,12:40   

PART TWO - The Great Questions of Human Existence
CHAPTER THREE - The Origins of the Universe
   
Quote
MORE THAN TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, Immanuel Kant, wrote: "Two things fill me with constantly increasing admiration and awe, the longer and more earnestly I reflect on them: the starry heavens without and the Moral Law within." An effort to understand the origins and workings of the cosmos has characterized nearly all religions throughout history, whether in the overt worship of a sun god, the ascription of spiritual significance to phenomena such as eclipses, or simply a sense of awe at the wonders of the heavens.
Was Kant's remark merely the sentimental musing of a philosopher not benefited by discoveries of modern science, or is there a harmony achievable between science and faith in the profoundly important question of the origins of the universe?

   
Quote
In God and the Astronomers, the astrophysicist Robert Jastrow wrote this final paragraph: "At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

While I don't agree with some of what he wrote, I think Collins presented his arguments fairly and well in this chapter.  As an example of fairness, he wrote "...any assumption that a conspiracy could exist among scientists to keep a widely current theory alive when it actually contains serious flaws is completely antithetical to the restless mind-set of the profession"

Apparently, at one time he had studied to be a physicist.  Therefore, he has a reasonable understanding of Quantum Mechanics (as much as it is possible for anyone to have a reasonable understanding of it).

I highlighted the Robert Jastrow quote, because its sentiment is one of my favorites.  I have noticed religious proponents quoting it and/or having the saying posted on their work cubical walls.

I don't know about others, but I smile at the thought that somehow this idea would be seen as a negative for those skeptical of religion.  Sure, one can avoid reading a mystery novel by just peaking at the last chapter, but what is the value of that?

  
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,12:47   

The phrase "highest peak" indicates a rather limited understanding of science and its history.

--------------
Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
Louis



Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,12:52   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 29 2010,17:40)
PART TWO - The Great Questions of Human Existence
CHAPTER THREE - The Origins of the Universe

[SNIP]

Quote
In God and the Astronomers, the astrophysicist Robert Jastrow wrote this final paragraph: "At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."


[SNIP]


I'll trade that quote for another, thanks:

 
Quote
God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos: He will set them above their betters.

H L Mencken, Minority Report: H L Mencken's Notebooks, no. 35 (1956)


The theologians are not at the top of the mountain waiting. They are trying to pretend the mountain doesn't exist and only occasionally skirting the foothills by dint of either sheer luck or agreement with the blindingly obvious.

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
fnxtr



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,13:24   

The only height theosophists climb is Mt. Hubris.

--------------
"But it's disturbing to think someone actually thinks creationism -- having put it's hand on the hot stove every day for the last 400 years -- will get a different result tomorrow." -- midwifetoad

"I am in a rush to catch up with science work." -- Gary Gaulin

  
Thought Provoker



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Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,16:15   

It looks like I might have touched a sensitive spot.

While my distrust and distain for organized religion approaches loathing, I really would think it kind of neat if it turned out there is a supernatural scientist (God) who created our universe.

It wouldn't bother me in the slightest to have the faithful claiming "I told you so" because they know and knew nothing.  A belief in something which happens to be true isn't knowledge.

A five year old girl could be taught to say "The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa."  Should a trained physicist be disturbed by this?

So far, Francis Collins hasn't gone too far out on a limb.  He is stating his opinion that God exists is based on little more than personal feelings.  He admitted this took a leap of faith.  In other words, he doesn't know God exists he is assuming it as a philosophical truth.

We know the waterfall event was the defining moment when Collins took his leap but that is in the final chapter.  In chapter 3 we are still discussing the possibility of some kind of supernatural force creating the universe.

It is often assumed the Big Bang is the one God-in-the-gap argument which can never be explained by science.  Collins has pretty much made that argument.  I disagree with him.  I think Roger Penrose would too.

  
Louis



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,16:40   

Not a sensitive spot, an area of annoyance.

These discussions are invariably a waste of time, clouded by obfuscation and unstated preconceptions. Usually what happens isn't the argument that's needed, it's what needs to happen before then argument that's needed happens. People, in my experience, often confuse the two. However, I will say that this doesn't apply to all theists/theologians etc, in honour of the wonderful discussion I had this weekend with some chums.

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
Thought Provoker



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Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,17:29   

Careful Louis, if you are too nice it might hurt your reputation.   ;)

Anyway, thank you for commenting.  The argument that needs to happen is surely not happening here.  It's pretty sad if I'm what passes for a religious proponent.

Even Francis Collins isn't a very persuasive advocate for believing in God.

I'm a little disappointed that it appears to be more of the same-old, same-old but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.

On the positive side, I wasn't aware C.S.Lewis was the creator of the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" trilemma.  At least I learned something new.

On the negative side, and definitely not a surprise, it doesn't look like anyone is willing to put their religious philosophy to the test.

However, I am the type who likes to finish efforts once started.  Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised by one of Dembski's students.

P.S. I really like your signature line.  I think it applies to much more than just science.

  
fnxtr



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Joined: June 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,17:38   

I live on the Canadian west coast, one of the most ridiculously beautiful places on the entire planet.  I have seen mountain and waterfall views that almost make me cry, and forget to breathe.  It takes a certain proclivity to begin with, I think, to attribute this reaction to any touch of the divine.

--------------
"But it's disturbing to think someone actually thinks creationism -- having put it's hand on the hot stove every day for the last 400 years -- will get a different result tomorrow." -- midwifetoad

"I am in a rush to catch up with science work." -- Gary Gaulin

  
qetzal



Posts: 311
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,18:23   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 29 2010,17:29)
On the positive side, I wasn't aware C.S.Lewis was the creator of the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" trilemma.  At least I learned something new.

Not surprisingly, Lewis is guilty of a false trichotomy. A more complete version would be Bart Ehrman's tetralemma:

"Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend"

  
Badger3k



Posts: 861
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,19:21   

Quote (qetzal @ Mar. 29 2010,18:23)
Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 29 2010,17:29)
On the positive side, I wasn't aware C.S.Lewis was the creator of the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" trilemma.  At least I learned something new.

Not surprisingly, Lewis is guilty of a false trichotomy. A more complete version would be Bart Ehrman's tetralemma:

"Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend"

No Lemming?  He could have been an intelligent space lemming in disguise.  About as plausible as Collins' answer.

--------------
"Just think if every species had a different genetic code We would have to eat other humans to survive.." : Joe G

  
Thought Provoker



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,20:11   

CHAPTER FOUR - Life on Earth (Of Microbes and Man)
Starts with...
Quote
THE ADVANCES OF SCIENCE in the modern age have come at the cost of certain traditional reasons for belief in God. When we had no idea how the universe came into existence, it was easier to ascribe it all to an act of God, or many separate acts of God. Similarly, until Kepler, Copernicus, and Galileo upset the applecart in the sixteenth century, the placement of Earth at the center of the majestic starry heavens seemed to represent a powerful argument for the existence of God. If He put us on center stage, He must have built it all for us. When heliocentric science forced a revision of this perception, many believers were shaken up.
But a third pillar of belief continued to carry considerable weight: the complexity of earthly life, implying to any reasonable observer the handiwork of an intelligent designer. As we shall see, science has now turned this upside down.

Ends with...
Quote
Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author. For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less.


This chapter strengthens my suspicions that Dr. Dembski might be using this book as an example of opposition.

For the most part, the chapter was a science lesson setting the reader up for the next chapter (I peeked).

I suggest it is close to something Ken Miller might have written.

  
Doc Bill



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,20:17   

TP thoughtlessly penned:

Quote
I really would think it kind of neat if it turned out there is a supernatural scientist (God) who created our universe.


Really, TP, he said mockingly?

"kind of neat"  Srsly?

You don't think it would be Kinda Neat for Santa Clause to be real and save us all a bundle at Christmas?

You don't think it would be Kinda Neat to own a flying unicorn or a beer volcano?

Wouldn't it be Kinda Neat if intercessory prayer really did work?

How about Kinda Neat if we could "accio car keys!"

Kinda Neat to be visited by a succubus every Wednesday night.

If you want something Kinda Neat, TP, at least you should wish for something you can use more than once, don't you think?  (Oops, might have stumbled on a truth there.)

Answer me this, oh Provoker of Thinks.  Suppose you came home one day and there was a chocolate cake on the kitchen table.

"Where did that come from," you ask?

Answer A:  I baked the cake for you this morning, said Dorothy.

Answer B:  All of the ingredients came together by themselves and the cake just assembled itself, said Dorothy.

Which answer is Kinda Neat?  Bonus points for why is your answer Kinda Neat.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,20:53   

Hi Doc Bill,

To answer your questions...

Yes, really.

Yes and no, i.e. Semi-seriously.

Yes

No - don't know how to take care of a unicorn and... <gasp>...  I don't drink beer (especially American beer)

No

Might be handy

Not really

It's not a wish, it is an opinion.

Answer A - Because I like my cake made the old fashion way, especially if it is chocolate

  
Doc Bill



Posts: 1039
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,21:34   

Ah, TP, from the rest of your unimaginative remarks over the past two eons I knew you'd opt for A.

But if you had thought about it for a mo, you might have considered the following.

In terms of Kinda Neat, having Dorothy bake the cake is anything but Kinda Neat.  As you said, it's the old fashioned way.  You're comfortable with Dorothy baking the cake.  Of course Dorothy bakes the cake!

And there you miss the philosophical boat and contradict your own thoughtless thoughts.

Dorothy baking the cake isn't Kinda Neat at all.  Nothing unusual, nothing surprising, nothing unexplainable, nothing to explore.  Just Dorothy, or God in your case, the cake being the universe.

However, you blithely ignore the seriously Kinda Neat proposition of the cake assembling itself.  Now, in the Kinda Neat world that's quite a trick, in fact, it's KINDA NEAT!  How did the cake do that?  Never seen that before!  I wonder if I could figure out how the cake did that?

You really don't think very much about things do you, TP?  There's nothing Kinda Neat about Dorothy baking a cake or a sky fairy creating the universe.

However, the self-assembly of a perpetuating biological reaction is, in my mind, Kinda Neat.

So, tell you what.  Me and the rest of the scientists are going to go exploring the universe and find all sorts of Kinda Neat stuff.  Meanwhile, you and Collins can go off in a corner and wank each other.  Have fun!

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 29 2010,23:12   

CHAPTER FIVE - Deciphering God's Instruction Book (The Lessons of the Human Genome)
 
Quote
Darwin could hardly have imagined a more compelling digital demonstration of his theory than what we find by studying the DNA of multiple organisms.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Darwin had no way of knowing what the mechanism of evolution by natural selection might be. We can now see that the variation he postulated is supported by naturally occurring mutations in DNA. These are estimated to occur at a rate of about one error every 100 million base pairs per generation. (That means, by the way, that since we all have two genomes of 3 billion base pairs each, one from our mother and one from our father, we all have roughly sixty new mutations that were not present in either of our parents.)

Most of those mutations occur in parts of the genome that are not essential, and therefore they have little or no consequence. The ones that fall in the more vulnerable parts of the genome are generally harmful, and are thus rapidly culled out of the population because they reduce reproductive fitness. But on rare occasions, a mutation will arise by chance that offers a slight degree of selective advantage. That new DNA "spelling" will have a slightly higher likelihood of being passed on to future offspring. Over the course of a very long period of time, such favorable rare events can become widespread in all members of the species, ultimately resulting in major changes in biological function.

In some instances, scientists are even catching evolution in the act, now that we have the tools to track these events. Some critics of Darwinism like to argue that there is no evidence of "macroevolution" (that is, major change in species) in the fossil record, only of "microevolution" (incremental change within a species). We have seen finch beaks change shape over time, they argue, depending upon changing food sources, but we haven't seen new species arise.

This distinction is increasingly seen to be artificial.

As you may have noticed, I have summarized most of the previous chapters starting with the opening paragraph and then the closing.  This chapter didn't lend itself to that.  Here Francis Collins seems to be writing like the geneticist he is.  He only occasionally relates it back to God and then it comes across as a forced afterthought.

Collins makes it clear he has no doubts evolution is well established scientifically.

He didn't say it, but I get the impression he would be among those who simply can't envision God mucking around with such an elegant system.  It simply wouldn't do to mess with the "Language of God" even by God himself.

EDIT - minor

  
Louis



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,03:13   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 30 2010,01:53)
[SNIP]

... <gasp>...  I don't drink beer (especially American beer)

[SNIP]

We don't take kindly to your type round here, stranger.

;-)

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
Cubist



Posts: 466
Joined: Oct. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,05:27   

Quote (Louis @ Mar. 30 2010,03:13)
 
Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 30 2010,01:53)
[SNIP]

... <gasp>...  I don't drink beer (especially American beer)

[SNIP]

We don't take kindly to your type round here, stranger.

;-)

Be generous, Louis. Surely the fact that he especially doesn't drink American beer makes up for the fact that he declines to imbibe any fluid that might rightfully be named 'beer'?

  
Louis



Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,05:38   

Quote (Cubist @ Mar. 30 2010,10:27)
Quote (Louis @ Mar. 30 2010,03:13)
 
Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 30 2010,01:53)
[SNIP]

... <gasp>...  I don't drink beer (especially American beer)

[SNIP]

We don't take kindly to your type round here, stranger.

;-)

Be generous, Louis. Surely the fact that he especially doesn't drink American beer makes up for the fact that he declines to imbibe any fluid that might rightfully be named 'beer'?

Oh it's a point in his favour, to be sure. However he clearly doesn't drink real beer either. This is a great moral evil and has been reported to the High Commander for Judgement. There will be a Reckoning, ohhhhh yes there will.

After all, if TP doesn't drink his share then the burden falls to others, like me, to pick up. Brothers, Sisters, I beseech you, is it fair to ask me to drink his sha....

....Oh. Wait. Nevermind.

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,06:48   

Quote (Louis @ Mar. 30 2010,05:38)
After all, if TP doesn't drink his share then the burden falls to others, like me, to pick up. Brothers, Sisters, I beseech you, is it fair to ask me to drink his sha....

....Oh. Wait. Nevermind.

Louis

lol :D

  
Henry J



Posts: 4565
Joined: Mar. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,11:20   

Quote
Be generous, Louis. Surely the fact that he especially doesn't drink American beer makes up for the fact that he declines to imbibe any fluid that might rightfully be named 'beer'?

Just remember what that philosopher Xander Harris once said - "beer bad". (Never mind that he was working as a bartender at the time.  :p  )

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,14:47   

PART THREE - Faith in Science, Faith in God
CHAPTER SIX - Genesis, Galileo, and Darwin

The chapter ends with...
 
Quote
Unfortunately, however, in many ways the controversy between evolution and faith is proving to be much more difficult than an argument about whether the earth goes around the sun. After all, the evolution controversy reaches into the very heart of both faith and science. This is not about rocky heavenly bodies, but about ourselves and our relation to a Creator. Perhaps the centrality of those issues explains the fact that, despite the modern rate of progress and dissemination of information, we still have not resolved the public controversy about evolution, nearly 150 years after Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species.

Galileo remained a strong believer to the end. He continued to argue that scientific exploration was not only an acceptable but a noble course of action for a believer. In a famous remark that could be the motto today of all scientist-believers, he said: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Keeping that exhortation in mind, let us now explore the possible responses to the contentious interaction between the theory of evolution and faith in God. Each of us must come to some conclusion here, and choose one of the following positions. When it comes to the meaning of life, fence sitting is an inappropriate posture for both scientists and believers.

I think Collins is being as reasonable as a theistic believer could be in this chapter right up until the last sentence.

"I don't know" is a very appropriate posture for a pure scientist, IMO.

Collins is framing the debate by attempting to force people to choose between meaningless life versus life having definite meaning.

What is wrong with "life may or may not have meaning, we just don't know yet"?

Anyway, this chapter sets up the following chapters where Collins considers various common postures concerning the big questions of the meaning of life.

Are ANY of Dembski’s students reading this?

If so, at least send me a PM, thanks.

  
Henry J



Posts: 4565
Joined: Mar. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,15:18   

Quote
Perhaps the centrality of those issues explains the fact that, despite the modern rate of progress and dissemination of information, we still have not resolved the public controversy about evolution, nearly 150 years after Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species.

I suppose that's largely because most people don't study biology. (Me included; what I know about the "controversy" comes mainly from reading internet BB's and blogs.)

But anyway, evolution supplies a reason why we're only slightly different anatomically, biochemically, and genetically from several other ape species.

With the separate creation that some want to be believed, we'd wind up having that extensive similarity be the deliberate decision of who/what ever designed us. If anything, that would make us less "special", not more.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,20:34   

CHAPTER SEVEN - Option 1: Atheism and Agnosticism
(When Science Trumps Faith)

 
Quote

ATHEISM
Some have divided atheism into "weak" and "strong" forms. Weak atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of a God or gods, whereas strong atheism is the firm conviction that no such deities exist. In everyday conversation, strong atheism is generally the assumed position of someone who takes this point of view, and so I will consider that perspective here.
...
Dawkins's arguments come in three main flavors. First, he argues that evolution fully accounts for biological complexity and the origins of humankind, so there is no more need for God. While this argument rightly relieves God of the responsibility for multiple acts of special creation for each species on the planet, it certainly does not disprove the idea that God worked out His creative plan by means of evolution.
...
"The second objection from the Dawkins school of evolutionary atheism is another straw man: that religion is antirational. He seems to have adopted the definition of religion attributed to Mark Twain's apocryphal schoolboy, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."4 Dawkins's definition of faith is "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence."
5 That certainly does not describe the faith of most serious believers throughout history, nor of most of those in my personal acquaintance.
...
Dawkins's third objection is that great harm has been done in the name of religion. There is no denying this truth, though undeniably great acts of compassion have also been fueled by faith. But evil acts committed in the name of religion in no way impugn the truth of the faith; they instead impugn the nature of human beings, those rusty containers into which the pure water of that truth has been placed.
...
The major and inescapable flaw of Dawkins's claim that science demands atheism is that it goes beyond the evidence. If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence. Atheism itself must therefore be considered a form of blind faith, in that it adopts a belief system that cannot be defended on the basis of pure reason.

Upon reading this chapter I read all the chapters concerning options to see if Collins was at least balanced in his unfair criticisms.  Nope, Collins' critique of Atheism and Dawkins is uniquely contrived and harsh.

Collins starts off by framing the argument as to force Atheists to prove a negative and then unsurprisingly beats up Dawkins for trying to do just that.  However, this requires Collins to completely ignore all of Dawkin’s references to fairies, teapots, invisible unicorns, spaghetti monsters, etc.   Dawkins makes it quite clear he does not hold that “God is outside of nature” and subjects it to the same scientific investigation as everything else.  God may exist but, by God, theists must provide evidence justifying their beliefs (excuse the pun).

The worst Dawkins’ quote Collins could find was a discussion about “faith” as a meme.  And, even then, he had to put it in juxtaposition with a Mark Twain quote to imply Dawkins said something that he didn’t.

I suspect this situation may be similar to how ex-smokers are among the most obnoxious critics of smoking.

BTW, I think Collins could have made a reasonable argument challenging Dawkin's NOMA stand instead of erecting a strawman out of non-existant strawmen.

 
Quote
AGNOSTICISM
The term "agnostic" was coined by the colorful British scientist Thomas Henry Huxley, also known as "Darwin's bulldog," in 1869.
...
Most agnostics, however, are not so aggressive, and simply take the position that it is not possible, at least not for them at that time, to take a position for or against the existence of God. On the surface, this is a logically defensible position (whereas atheism is not). Certainly it is entirely compatible with the theory of evolution, and many biologists would put themselves in this camp. But agnosticism also runs the risk of being a cop-out.

It was a so-so history lesson.  As an argument, it was downright pathetic.

  
qetzal



Posts: 311
Joined: Feb. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,20:35   

Quote
After all, the evolution controversy reaches into the very heart of both faith and science.


Except that it doesn't. It reaches into the heart of certain faiths that insist that humans are extra-special independent creations of God.

But so what? Should we also conclude that the heliocentrism controversy reaches into the very heart of both faith and science, just because certain (mostly-extinct) versions of faith insisted that the Sun revolved around the Earth?

Quite frankly, I'm amazed that Collins can be a good scientist when he obviously has such dismal ability to reason. My guess - he's not actually a good scientist, so much as a good science administrator.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,21:10   

CHAPTER EIGHT - Option 2: Creationism
(When Faith Trumps Science)

Quote
Over the past century ... the term "Creationist" has been hijacked (and capitalized) to apply to a very specific subset of such believers, specifically those who insist on a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 to describe the creation of the universe and the formation of life on earth. The most extreme version of this view, generally referred to as Young Earth Creationism (YEC), interprets the six days of creation as literal twenty-four-hour days and concludes that the earth must be less than ten thousand years old. YEC advocates also believe that all species were created by individual acts of divine creation, and that Adam and Eve were historical figures created by God from dust in the Garden of Eden, and not descended from other creatures.
...
Thus, by any reasonable standard, Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time. By attacking the fundamentals of virtually every branch of science, it widens the chasm between the scientific and spiritual worldviews, just at a time where a pathway toward harmony is desperately needed. By sending a message to young people that science is dangerous, and that pursuing science may well mean rejecting religious faith, Young Earth Creationism may be depriving science of some of its most promising future talents.

But it is not science that suffers most here. Young Earth Creationism does even more damage to faith, by demanding that belief in God requires assent to fundamentally flawed claims about the natural world. Young people brought up in homes and churches that insist on Creationism sooner or later encounter the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of an ancient universe and the relatedness of all living things through the process of evolution and natural selection. What a terrible and unnecessary choice they then face! To adhere to the faith of their childhood, they are required to reject a broad and rigorous body of scientific data, effectively committing intellectual suicide. Presented with no other alternative than Creationism, is it any wonder that many of these young people turn away from faith, concluding that they simply cannot believe in a God who would ask them to reject what science has so compellingly taught us about the natural world?

I'm not well equipped to critique this chapter.

<calling Dr. Dembski's students...  ANY student...  hello?>

Oh well.

I think Collins did a good balance between science and faith in this chapter.  He didn't waste his time making detailed scientific arguments (they would be either not necessary or not accepted).  He was just matter of fact; accepting Creationism means rejecting science.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 30 2010,21:55   

CHAPTER NINE - Option 3: Intelligent Design
(When Science Needs Divine Help)

Starts with...
 
Quote
THE YEAR 2005 WAS A TUMULTUOUS ONE for Intelligent Design theory, or ID as it is commonly known. The president of the United States gave it a partial endorsement, by stating that he thought schools should include this point of view when discussing evolution. His comment was made as a lawsuit against the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, over a similar policy was heading to a much-ballyhooed trial.

 
Quote

The emergence of ID coincided with a series of judicial defeats to the teaching of creationism in U.S. schools, a chronological context that has caused critics to refer to ID uncharitably as "stealth creationism" or "creationism 2.0." But these terms do not do justice to the thoughtfulness and sincerity of ID'S proponents. From my perspective as a geneticist, a biologist, and a believer in God, this movement deserves serious consideration.
The Intelligent Design movement basically rests upon three propositions.

Proposition 1: Evolution promotes an atheistic worldview
and therefore must be resisted by believers in God.
...
Thus, while ID is presented as a scientific theory, it is fair to say that it was not born from the scientific tradition.

Proposition 2: Evolution is fundamentally flawed, since it cannot account for the intricate complexity of nature.
...the main scientific argument of the ID movement constitutes a new version of Paley's "argument from personal incredulity," now expressed in the language of biochemistry, genetics, and mathematics.

Proposition 3: If evolution cannot explain irreducible complexity, then there must have been an intelligent designer involved somehow, who stepped in to provide the necessary components during the course of evolution.

 
Quote

...Intelligent Design fails in a fundamental way to qualify as a scientific theory. All scientific theories represent a framework for making sense of a body of experimental observations. But the primary utility of a theory is not just to look back but to look forward. A viable scientific theory predicts other findings and suggests approaches for further experimental verification. ID falls profoundly short in this regard. Despite its appeal to many believers, therefore, ID'S proposal of the intervention of supernatural forces to account for complex multicomponent biological entities is a scientific dead end. Outside of the development of a time machine, verification of the ID theory seems profoundly unlikely.

Core ID theory, as outlined by Johnson, also suffers by providing no mechanism by which the postulated supernatural interventions would give rise to complexity. In one attempt to address this, Behe has suggested that primitive organisms might have been "preloaded" with all of the genes that would ultimately be necessary for the development of the complex multicomponent molecular machines that he considers irreducibiy complex. Behe proposes that these sleeping genes were then awakened at an appropriate time hundreds of millions of years later, when they were needed. Setting aside the fact that no primitive organism can be found today that contains this cache of genetic information for future use, our knowledge of the mutational rate of genes that are not being utilized makes it highly improbable that such a storehouse of information would have survived long enough to be of any use.
...
Behe cites Darwin's famous sentence to support the arguments of irreducible complexity: "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."5 In the instance of the flagellum, and in virtually all other instances proposed for irreducible complexity, Darwin's criteria have not been met, and an honest evaluation of current knowledge leads to the same conclusion that follows in Darwin's next sentence: "But I can find out no such case."


Collins goes on to explain why ID is bad theologically because it is "God in the Gaps".  However, I don't think I need to go into this since it doesn't look like there are many theists expressing interest in this thread.

While most people at AtBC might think Collins went too easy on ID (including me), his description of the situation is fairly accurate.

  
JLT



Posts: 740
Joined: Jan. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2010,02:57   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ Mar. 30 2010,20:47)
PART THREE - Faith in Science, Faith in God
CHAPTER SIX - Genesis, Galileo, and Darwin

The chapter ends with...
   
Quote
Keeping that exhortation in mind, let us now explore the possible responses to the contentious interaction between the theory of evolution and faith in God. Each of us must come to some conclusion here, and choose one of the following positions. When it comes to the meaning of life, fence sitting is an inappropriate posture for both scientists and believers.

I think Collins is being as reasonable as a theistic believer could be in this chapter right up until the last sentence.

"I don't know" is a very appropriate posture for a pure scientist, IMO.

Collins is framing the debate by attempting to force people to choose between meaningless life versus life having definite meaning.

What is wrong with "life may or may not have meaning, we just don't know yet"?

Does Collins really say that without god, life is meaningless?

IMO, that's pure BS. For one thing, no atheist (that I know of) thinks his life is meaningless but what I really want to know: What special meaning does faith give to your life? Even if humans were specially created a few thousand years ago, how would that on its own give meaning to anyone's life? We still wouldn't know WHY god created us. To worship him? Because he was bored and we are his daily soap opera? That's not much of a meaning. Or is the meaning of life for Christians to die and go to heaven or what.

Honestly, I've never understood how belief in the christian god is supposed to give your life meaning or purpose.

--------------
"Random mutations, if they are truly random, will affect, and potentially damage, any aspect of the organism, [...]
Thus, a realistic [computer] simulation [of evolution] would allow the program, OS, and hardware to be affected in a random fashion." GilDodgen, Frilly shirt owner

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 31 2010,07:01   

Hi JLT,

Good comment, thanks.

Quote (JLT @ Mar. 31 2010,02:57)
Does Collins really say that without god, life is meaningless?

I did a quick search and found something that comes close to this in the next chapter (Chapter 10).  While Collins doesn't specifically say this, he frames the debate is such a way it is the only conclusion left to the reader.

Quote (JLT @ Mar. 31 2010,02:57)
IMO, that's pure BS. For one thing, no atheist (that I know of) thinks his life is meaningless but what I really want to know: What special meaning does faith give to your life? Even if humans were specially created a few thousand years ago, how would that on its own give meaning to anyone's life? We still wouldn't know WHY god created us. To worship him? Because he was bored and we are his daily soap opera? That's not much of a meaning. Or is the meaning of life for Christians to die and go to heaven or what.

Honestly, I've never understood how belief in the christian god is supposed to give your life meaning or purpose.

Very good point.  Now, if we only had someone to argue the opposing view.

<Calling Dr. Dembski's students...  hello?....  Bueller?>

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2010,15:45   

CHAPTER TEN - Option 4: BioLogos
(Science and Faith in Harmony)

Starts with...
 
Quote
AT MY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION, an earnest Presbyterian minister, father of one of the graduates, challenged the assembled fidgeting teenagers to consider how they planned to answer life's three great questions: (1) What will be your life's work? (2) What role will love play in your life? and (3) What will you do about faith? The stark directness of his presentation caught all of us by surprise. Being honest with myself, my answers were (1) chemistry; (2) as much as possible; and (3) don't go there. I left the ceremony feeling vaguely uneasy.

 
Quote
By the now standard criterion of Google search engine entries, there is only one mention of theistic evolution for every ten about creationism and every 140 about Intelligent Design.

Yet theistic evolution is the dominant position of serious biologists who are also serious believers. That includes Asa Gray, Darwin's chief advocate in the United States, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, the twentieth-century architect of evolutionary thinking. It is the view espoused by many Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, including Pope John Paul II.

 
Quote
This perspective makes it possible for the scientist-believer to be intellectually fulfilled and spiritually alive, both worshiping God and using the tools of science to uncover some of the awesome mysteries of His creation.

 
Quote
My modest proposal is to rename theistic evolution as Bios through Logos, or simply BioLogos. Scholars will recognize bios as the Greek word for "life" (the root word for biology, biochemistry, and so forth), and logos as the Greek for "word."

 
Quote
Unlike Intelligent Design, BioLogos is not intended as a scientific theory. Its truth can be tested only by the spiritual logic of the heart, the mind, and the soul.

Ends with...
 
Quote
Will we turn our backs on science because it is perceived as a threat to God, abandoning all of the promise of advancing our understanding of nature and applying that to the alleviation of suffering and the betterment of humankind? Alternatively, will we turn our backs on faith, concluding that science has rendered the spiritual life no longer necessary, and that traditional religious symbols can now be replaced by engravings of the double helix on our altars?

Both of these choices are profoundly dangerous. Both deny truth. Both will diminish the nobility of humankind. Both will be devastating to our future. And both are unnecessary. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic, awesome, intricate, and beautiful—and it cannot be at war with itself. Only we imperfect humans can start such battles. And only we can end them.

This is the option Collins embraces.  He spends most of his time defending it as religious/philosophical.

I am not sure why I was hoping for something more, but I was.

P.S. - Earlier I made reference to a Chapter 10 quote that I forgot to add.
Quote
BioLogos doesn't try to wedge God into gaps in our understanding of the natural world; it proposes God as the answer to questions science was never intended to address, such as "How did the universe get here?" "What is the meaning of life?" "What happens to us after we die?"

  
Louis



Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2010,16:08   

Quote (Thought Provoker @ April 01 2010,20:45)
[SNIP]

I am not sure why I was hoping for something more, but I was.

Like I said in my perhaps overly curmudgeonly way, I've yet to see a theistic argument that doesn't somewhere rely on special pleading or appeals to mystery when put under even cursory examination.

It's actually a) deeply disappointing and b) why I read theology books. I am keen to find a decent argument. Oh well.

Louis

--------------
Bye.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2010,16:49   

CHAPTER ELEVEN - Truth Seekers
Starts with...
 
Quote
THE IMPOVERISHED VILLAGE OF EKU lies in the delta of the Niger River, near the crook in the elbow that makes up the western coastline of Africa. It was there that I learned a powerful and unexpected lesson.

I had traveled to Nigeria in the summer of 1989 to volunteer in a small mission hospital...

 
Quote
...it became abundantly clear that the majority of the diseases I was called upon to treat represented a devastating failure of the public health system. Tuberculosis, malaria, tetanus, and a wide variety of parasitic diseases all reflected an environment that was completely unregulated and a health care system that was completely broken.

Overwhelmed by the enormity of these problems, exhausted by the constant stream of patients with illnesses I was poorly equipped to diagnose, frustrated by the lack of laboratory and X-ray support, I grew more and more discouraged, wondering why I had ever thought that this trip would be a good thing.

Then one afternoon in the clinic a young farmer was brought in by his family with progressive weakness and [other serious complications]

 
Quote
The choice was for me to attempt a highly risky and invasive needle aspiration or watch the farmer die. I explained the situation to the young man, who was now fully aware of his own precarious state. He calmly urged me to proceed. With my heart in my mouth and a prayer on my lips, I inserted a large needle just under his sternum and aimed for his left shoulder, all the while fearing that I might have made the wrong diagnosis, in which case I was almost certainly going to kill him.

 
Quote
Nearly a quart of fluid was drawn off. The young man's response was dramatic. His paradoxical pulse disappeared almost at once, and within the next twenty-four hours the swelling of his legs rapidly improved.

For a few hours after this experience I felt a great sense of relief, even elation, at what had happened. But by the next morning, the same familiar gloom began to settle over me. After all, the circumstances that had led this young man to acquire tuberculosis were not going to change.

 
Quote
...this young Nigerian farmer, just about as different from me in culture, experience, and ancestry as any two humans could be, spoke the words that will forever be emblazoned in my mind: "I get the sense you are wondering why you came here," he said. "I have an answer for you. You came here for one reason. You came here for me."

I was stunned. Stunned that he could see so clearly into my heart, but even more stunned at the words he was speaking. I had plunged a needle close to his heart; he had directly impaled mine. With a few simple words he had put my grandiose dreams of being the great white doctor, healing the African millions, to shame. He was right. We are each called to reach out to others. On rare occasions that can happen on a grand scale. But most of the time it happens in simple acts of kindness of one person to another. Those are the events that really matter.
...
Nothing I had learned from science could explain that experience. Nothing about the evolutionary explanations for human behavior could account for why it seemed so right for this privileged white man to be standing at the bedside of this young African farmer, each of them receiving something exceptional. This was what C. S. Lewis calls agape. It is the love that seeks no recompense. It is an affront to materialism and naturalism. And it is the sweetest joy that one can experience.

 
Quote
So here, in the final chapter, we have come full circle, returning again to the existence of the Moral Law, where this story began. We have traveled through the sciences of chemistry, physics, cosmology, geology, paleontology, and biology—and yet this uniquely human attribute still causes wonder. After twentyeight years as a believer, the Moral Law still stands out for me as the strongest signpost to God. More than that, it points to a God who cares about human beings, and a God who is infinitely good and holy.


 
Quote
WHAT KIND OF FAITH?
...
Most of the world's great faiths share many truths, and probably they would not have survived had that not been so. Yet there are also interesting and important differences, and each person needs to seek out his own particular path to the truth.
...
1 had never really thought of applying the word "sinner" to myself before, but now it was painfully obvious that this old-fashioned word, one from which I had previously recoiled because it seemed coarse and judgmental, fit quite accurately.

I sought to engineer a cure by spending more time in self examination and prayer. But those efforts proved largely dry and unrewarding, failing to carry me across the widening gap between my awareness of my imperfect nature and God's perfection.

Into this deepening gloom came the person of Jesus Christ. During my boyhood years sitting in the choir loft of a Christian church, I really had no idea who Christ was. I thought of Him as a myth, a fairy tale, a superhero in a "just so" bedtime story. But as I read the actual account of His life for the first time in the four gospels, the eyewitness nature of the narratives and the enormity of Christ's claims and their consequences gradually began to sink in. Here was a man who not only claimed to know God, He claimed to be God. No other figure I could find in any other faith made such an outrageous claim.

 
Quote

As had happened so many times with previous dilemmas, the words of C. S. Lewis captured the answer precisely:
 
Quote

But supposing God became a man—suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer
at all.

Before I became a believer in God, this kind of logic seemed like utter nonsense. Now the crucifixion and resurrection emerged as the compelling solution to the gap that yawned between God and myself, a gap that could now be bridged by the person of Jesus Christ.
...
Quote
You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Lewis was right. I had to make a choice. A full year had passed since I decided to believe in some sort of God, and now I was being called to account. On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains during my first trip west of the Mississippi, the majesty and beauty of God's creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ

I do not mean by telling this story to evangelize or proselytize. Each person must carry out his or her own search for spiritual truth.

 
Quote
...if you are one who trusts the methods of science but remains skeptical about faith, this would be a good moment to ask yourself what barriers lie in your way toward seeking a harmony between these worldviews.

Have you been concerned that belief in God requires a descent into irrationality, a compromise of logic, or even intellectual suicide? It is hoped that the arguments presented within this book will provide at least a partial antidote to that view, and will convince you that of all the possible worldviews, atheism is the least rational.

This chapter and, therefore, the main book ends with...
 
Quote

It is time to call a truce in the escalating war between science and spirit. The war was never really necessary. Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides, sounding alarms that predict imminent ruin unless the other side is vanquished. Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of all great truths. That ancient motherland of reason and worship was never in danger of crumbling. It never will be. It beckons all sincere seekers of truth to come and take up residence there. Answer that call. Abandon the battlements. Our hopes, joys, and the future of our world depend on it.

This has officially become a chore.  Therefore, I have no interest in slogging through the appendix where Collins expresses his views on “The Moral Practice of Science and Medicine: Bioethics”

Since it doesn’t look likely any of Dr. Dembski’s students are going to show up, I release the restrictions I placed for commenting to this thread.

I thank you for the patience and consideration generally shown here.

  
Thought Provoker



Posts: 530
Joined: April 2007

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2010,16:53   

Hi Louis,

Quote (Louis @ April 01 2010,16:08)
I am keen to find a decent argument.

Be careful what you wish for.

Since I didn't get what I wanted from Collins, I have pretty much decided to attempt to argue the affirmative side for NOMA myself.

Thank you for your comments.

  
Dr.GH



Posts: 2113
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: April 01 2010,22:16   

I was waiting for Dr.Dr.D student meat.

Is it open floor?

How about we wait until I get back from fishing tomorrow?

Edited by Dr.GH on April 01 2010,20:17

--------------
"Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy."

L. Susskind, 2004 "SMOLIN VS. SUSSKIND: THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE"

   
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