@Pauluc: Sean I am really confused now. You are on …

Comment on A “Christian Agnostic”? by Sean Pitman.


Sean I am really confused now. You are on one hand arguing against a blind faith that would accept Christian faith as based on the revelation of Jesus. You seem to intimate that Christianity must instead be based on evidence and not blind faith but you now seem to be suggesting that the scientific literature in the life sciences is “nothing but blind faith and false extrapolations from very limited examples of evolution in action”.

When it comes to evolution in action beyond very low levels of functional complexity, yes, there is nothing in scientific literature, beyond blind faith, to support the notion that the mechanism of RM/NS is remotely capable of doing the job – nothing. There is no demonstration and there are no relevant statistical models. There is simply no science to support the RM/NS conclusion at all for systems with minimum functional complexity requirements beyond the 1000aa level. There are only just-so stories. That’s it. It is simply assumed, blindly and without evidence to support the mechanism, that mindless mechanisms were somehow able to do the job.

The currently available evidence strongly suggests that this belief in the magnificent creative powers of RM/NS is not only blind, but is completely irrational – directly contrary to everything that is known about protein sequence space and the distribution and exponentially increasing rarity of viable sequences at higher and higher levels of functional complexity.

If you think I’m so obviously wrong, based on the little you’ve read of my ideas online, please do present just one example of evolution in action or a relevant statistical model where the mechanism of RM/NS is shown to likely to produce, in a predictable period of time, any qualitatively novel system of function in a given gene pool which requires a minimum of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues (to include multiprotein systems where the proteins must be specifically arranged in 3D space). If you find such an example, I’d be very very interested. So far, I’ve been unable to do so.

The only thing you will find in literature in this regard are papers discussing the sequence or structural similarities of higher-level systems compared to the lower-level systems from which it is assumed they evolved. The problem with these papers is that they do not discuss the minimum structural differences required to evolve from one to the other. They do not discuss the statistical problems for RM/NS to produce these minimum structural differences in a reasonable amount of time. They simply assume, blindly, that it happened somehow because they know, from their interpretation of the fossil record, that it had to have happened. They do not, however, have any idea how RM/NS could actually have done what they believe it did in just a few billion years (a drop in the bucket compared to the time that would actually be needed to produce just one qualitatively novel system of function that requires a minimum of just 1000 specifically arranged aa residues (i.e., trillions of years wouldn’t be enough time).

You further seem to have descended into a gnosticism that indicates that there is no need for Christians to do original research and publish and participate in science because all the evidence you need is already in the literature if you can only understand it right.

Original research is great. I’ve published a few papers of my own. There is always and will always be more to learn and understand. However, the relevant concepts regarding levels of functional complexity for protein-based systems, and what happens to the distribution of viable sequences in sequence space at different levels of complexity, have already been published in literature.

Simple basic questions.
1] Do you believe in science as hypothesis testing and is this a route to understanding?


2] Can Christians legitimately participate in this activity and publish their findings?


3] Are biologists doing science in good faith or they all bewitched by the devil and deluded?

I’m sure they are honest and sincere. This has nothing to do with the morality of a person or his/her standing before God. I think that evolutionary biologists are wrong and misguided. They may not understand that what they believe regarding the evolutionary mechanism isn’t really based on science. Regardless of the purity of their motivations however, they are painfully mistaken on this particular topic.

4] How does a simple biologist know which are the just-so stories and which are true?

Just-so stories have no backing by scientific methodologies. They have no testable predictive value since they have no basis in observation or relevant statistical analysis. You can’t actually measure or test the likelihood that a just-so story is more or less true compared to the opposing or null hypothesis.

5] How do you decide which are the evidences that can legitimately be used to build faith and which are not?

All evidences can be used to build faith. It is just that the “evidence” presented must actually have some valid testable, potentially falsifiable, predictive value that can actually be measured statistically vs. other competing options or hypotheses. In other words, there has to be some way to measure the likelihood that your story is more or less likely true compared to other competing stories or hypotheses. It must therefore be testable in a way that produces measurable predictive value.

6] Is there such a thing as Mortons demon and how will I recognize it.

Personal bias is always present and the best one can do is recognize that one’s own previously established biases will always come into play when analyzing new data (see my next post on dinosaurs evolving from birds). I’m not immune from personal bias and neither are you. No one is.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

A “Christian Agnostic”?

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?

Sean Pitman

A “Christian Agnostic”?

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.

Sean Pitman

A “Christian Agnostic”?

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…

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

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.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
@Bill Sorensen:

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.

Sean Pitman

Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull

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.

Sean Pitman

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…

Sean Pitman