Comment on A “Christian Agnostic”? by Sean Pitman.
I do indeed think you are wrong but you have introduced so many caveats and defined so closely and narrowly what you are looking for that it becomes futile and meaningless to offer any specific response.
I don’t get your objections here? Are you suggesting that it is impossible to tell the difference in functional complexity between different types of systems? – like the difference between a protein-based function that requires a single protein of just 10 specifically arranged amino acid residues vs. one that requires a minimum of 10,000 specifically arranged residues within 50 different specifically arranged proteins? Can one not tell the difference here? – as to which one is more functionally complex?
Do you really not understand that some things are more functionally complex than other things? What is so hard to understand about this simple very basic concept?
If a system requires more specifically arranged parts to work to produce a given type of function is it not clear that this type of function is at a higher level of complexity compared to a different type of function that requires fewer parts or less specificity of the arrangement of parts?
This isn’t rocket science you know. These simple concepts have been described in published mainstream literature. Also, the nature of sequence space, to include the exponential decline in viable vs. non-viable sequences for sequence spaces that contain systems at higher and higher levels of functional complexity has also been described in literature.
Not to mention our private emails concerning your low view of scientists, dating and ice cores initiated after you censored my post on this site.
I never censored your posts on this site to the best of my knowledge. Perhaps Shane inadvertently deleted some of your posts?
In any case, back to the topic actually at hand, all I’ve asked you to do is to present any example of evolution in action producing any novel system of function beyond very low levels of functional complexity – i.e., a system that requires a minimum of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues.
It’s a very simple concept. Why act like you don’t know what I’m talking about?
What I find particularly disappointing in this thread is first that you attack a Erwin a scientist who has rigorously and actively tried to understand dating methods and attempt to reconcile this with his understanding of the Gospel but secondly that you now wish to set yourself up as the arbiter of what is real science and yet be so unwilling to propose and test your hypotheses in the only arena that matters the peer reviewed literature.
If you can’t answer my very simple question, just say so. Otherwise, you know as well as I do that mainstream literature is not unbiased with respect to what it will and will not publish on this topic in particular. Just ask Richard Sternberg or Stephen Meyer what happens (Link).
Beyond this, the relevant information regarding the creative powers of RM/NS beyond very low levels of functional complexity has already been published, as already noted for you.
As far as Erv Taylor is concerned, he goes around attacking the most basic goals and ideals of the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding the literal 6-day creation week in particular, suggesting that those who believe in such fairytale nonsense are either completely ignorant or in some other way self-deluded to the point of living in Alice’s Wonderland (his own words). Yet, he himself is even more inconsistent in his acceptance of the existence of God and of Jesus as the Son of God, born of a virgin woman, and raised from the dead after three days to go back to Heaven to intercede with the Father on our behalf.
I’m simply pointing out the rather obvious inconsistencies of Dr. Taylor’s position here – which seems to be lost on you since you have also been fooled into believing that mindless mechanism can somehow build men out of mud given enough time and raw undirected energy.
If you don’t see the difference between just-so story telling and science, if you don’t see the need for real scientific hypotheses to be based on measurable predictive value (i.e., some form of statistical odds analysis), then you simply don’t understand how science really works – and neither does Erv Taylor.
Concerning your fixation with the numerology I can use R and bioconductor probably better than the average biologist but like lawyer jokes the adage about “lies, damn lies and statistics” resonates because it has some basis in reality. Biologists use statistics to decide what is the likely among the possible processes and hypotheses. Statistics and mathematics are tool in biology not the reality. Particularly annoying I find the abuse of post hoc probabilities which are largely meaningless and depend on the rigor of your definition of the dependent variables proposed as precedent to the outcome. Bayes and the savy gambler understood the real purpose of statistics.
I know you don’t like statistics and think statistical analyses of hypotheses are all suspect and subject to manipulation for various agendas, but if you don’t have some sort of backing to produce some kind of predictive value to support your hypothesis as superior to competing hypotheses, you’re not doing science.
And, we aren’t talking post-hoc probabilities here. We are talking about making meaningful predictions of the creative potential of the mechanism of RM/NS at various levels of functional complexity. The concept of functional complexity has been well defined in literature. I’m not simply making up my own definitions here. Different levels of functional complexity occupy different types of sequence space. The sequences spaces that contain higher-level systems have an exponential reduction in the ratio of potentially viable (and beneficial) protein sequences. This produces a statistical effect on the odds of evolvability of functionally novel protein-based systems which can be used to make scientifically valid predictions as to the effectiveness of RM/NS at a given level of functional complexity over a given span of time. These predictions can be tested and potentially falsified – as with any valid scientific hypothesis.
Such is not true for your just-so stories about how RM/NS must have done the job in the past even though you have no observable higher level examples nor do you have any statistical basis for your stories that can actually be used to produced useful predictive value for your assumed mechanism. Therefore, in what sense of the word are your just-so stories for the creative powers of RM/NS beyond very low levels of functional complexity “scientific”?
Sean Pitman Also Commented
This nicely encapsulates the evangelical zeal I have increasingly seen acolytes of Richard Dawkins and the new atheists who embrace ET as a antidote to the nihlism that characterized the “old” atheists and gives meaning in the present of mortality salience.
Since when does Richard Dawkins find ultimate meaning in life? – beyond what can be self-generated or enjoyed for the here and the now? or for however long one’s offspring may live in the terminal universe? – a universe with a limited life span? As far as I’m aware he is right in line with the likes of William Provine who wrote:
One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism. – No Free Will (1999) p.123
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.
Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.
“Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life” 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address
And, speaking from the perspective of Darwinism, I think that the modern atheists, like Dawkins and Provine, are right on the money here. Also of interest, and worthy of consideration in this particular discussion, Provine went on to write:
I obviously agree with Gould about intelligent design in organisms, but I think also that a real disagreement exists… Gould said it’s fine to believe that God created all creatures through the laws of science but this is basically deism, considered atheism in Isaac Newton’s day.
Gould described his own personal view as “agnostic,” appropriately conciliatory in pursuit of NOMA. Did he treat his own scientific theories in a similarly agnostic way? Did he say he is an agnostic about the concept of punctuated equilibria, one of his favorite theories? … Gould, Thomas Henry Huxley (inventor of the term), and Charles Darwin all billed themselves as agnostics, although they somehow avoid being agnostic about natural selection. Gould appeared to be saying that religion is fine as long as it can’t be distinguished from atheism in the natural world.
Darwinism, Design and Public Education (2003) p.507-8
To summarize, it was Richard Dawkins who said:
I have a certain niggling sympathy for the creationists, because I think, in a way, the writing is on the wall for the religious view that says it’s fully compatible with evolution. I think there’s a kind of incompatibility, which the creationists see clearly.
– Adventures in Democracy March 8 2010 2.20
Without the hope of God or an eternal life in a better place after we die in this life, upon what basis is there any real ultimate meaning or purpose to life?
Christian Agnostics (distinct from a Christian who is agnostic) practice a distinct form of agnosticism that applies only to the properties of God. They hold that it is difficult or impossible to be sure of anything beyond the basic tenets of the Christian faith.
Indeed. Which, I suppose, is why Dr. Taylor claims to believe in God and in Jesus as the Son of God. However, when asked, Dr. Taylor also says that he knows of no good evidence to support his belief in even the basic existence of God that he could honestly share with his own granddaughter. In this sense, his form of agnosticism goes a bit deeper than what you’ve referenced here.
Also, the idea that one can accept the fantastic claims of the Bible about Jesus’ divine origin, life, death, and resurrection, but reject other Biblical statements on the origin of life on this planet is just a bit inconsistent… which was the main point of my essay.
You’re right. I originally understood your comment as suggesting that Adventists believe in the existence of a conscious soul independent of the body. Now that I re-read your comment, I misunderstood what you actually said. My apologies.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…