Comment on Dr. Paul Cameron and the God of the Gaps by Paul Giem.
Do you really truly think what you have written honestly represents my views? I think not.
You did notice that Sean quoted you extensively. Was there something buried in the elipses that he should not have omitted? Was there something outside this quote that should have gone with it that would have changed or clarified it? Do you wish to retract the quote as not being representative of your thought? Did someone else post in your name without your permission? Perhaps you can clarify.
While you are at it, since you are understandably sensitive to people misrepresenting your position, you might be more careful not to misrepresent theirs. For example, you said,
You cannot conceive of it but assume that you can nonetheless deny all possibility. I guess it does fit with your assumption that you can know everything in science or religion…
Sean, to my knowledge, has never made a claim to omniscience. Nor does he believe it. Nor does he “deny all possibility”. He just finds it highly unlikely. Your statement is over the top and sets up a straw man. You, the sensitive one to misrepresentation, should know better.
Furthermore, unless I miss my guess, Sean is not a fundamentalist. He does not, IIUC, believe that there are no errors of any kind in the Bible. When you say,
You view your own understanding as supreme and reject with facility expert opinion in all areas that contradict your literalist fundamentalist position all the while denying that you have a faith position that provides a driver to confirmational bias.
you not only restate the fallacy of Sean’s belief in his own omnipotence, but you accuse him of being a literalist fundamentalist. You should at least ask before you assume that he takes a position.
Even if Sean does believe that there are no mistakes of any kind in the Bible, there are still short-age creationists who don’t believe that. I know, because I am one. I published a book (Scientific Theology–at La Sierra University Press!) whose major theme was how to do theology where the Bible (or any presumably revealed source) was authoritative but not inerrant. So you can’t just assume that all short-age creationists automatically are fundamentalist.
I realize that many of those who post here are, in fact, fundamentalist in that sense. And that may make it easier for you to dismiss them out of hand. But it is sloppy thinking to generalize to all short-age creationists, and doesn’t answer the (IMO) strongest creationist arguments. I expect better from you.
You complain that when you said,
Your arguments based on statistical improbability of natural selection is like arguing that H2O2 does not exist because the thermodynamic stability for 2H2O2 -> H20 + O2 is so high that the reaction can never go the other way. Of course in reality there is such a thing as H2O2 and it is very useful so any statistical argument is moot. How does this unstable and statistically improbably chemical exist? by clever chemistry… You assume you know all the variables in your statistical models but overlook the possibility that this is completely voided by the catalytic and enzymatic properties of life…
Sean objected to your analogy. Of course he did. He was right to have done so. For what you missed in your analogy was that precisely the point at issue is where your analogy breaks down. Rather than complain that
To fixate on my analogy of enzymatic processes as confounders in determining probability is really a schoolboy debating tactic and does you no credit.
you would have been better off to have understood and conceded the point, then tried to re-frame your main point avoiding the pitfall you had just fallen into.
In case you still don’t see it, let me try to explain. First, Sean is not saying that life cannot possibly exist. It is rather that the probabilities are so low that it is not reasonably expected without intelligence. If one finds life, one can reasonably deduce that it was (by far) most likely designed. Similarly, finding one molecule of H2O2 is not unexpected, But if one finds a container with 30% H2O2 in it, one can reasonably suspect that “clever chemistry” was done by clever chemists, that is, one can make an intelligent design inference. That same design inference is being made in the case of life itself.
Let me give you some practice in the art of gracious conceding. You will note in the above quote that you have the equation,
2H2O2 -> H20 + O2
I am reasonably sure you meant
2H2O2 -> 2H20 + O2
You can stonewall, or you can ignore, both of which come off as being defensive, and making people wonder about your integrity. Or you can say, “You’re right. Thank you for pointing that out.” And nobody will think the worse for you. Some of us will even give you credit for discussing instead of debating.
The point is not whether or not random mutation and natural selection is responsible for all of evolution but that evolution occurs and there is no clear limit to this process. You concatenate the 2 questions by arguing that since neo-Darwinian models of selection has limits then evolution cannot occur
I think that Sean would say, and I know that I would say, that “proving” neo-Darwinism wrong (as much as can be done in science), would not by itself destroy long ages, or even common descent. Once intelligent design is involved, especially Divine intelligent design, evolution would have literally no limit. The Cambrian Explosion could happen within 5 million years, or 5 days for that matter, manna could breed maggots overnight, and water could evolve into wine in less than 5 minutes. But if I saw any of these, it would be reasonable to reject neo-Darwinism as an explanation.
But notice that once we go there, we have left naturalism, and therefore if one insists on science as being circumscribed by naturalism, we have left science.
Personally, I don’t believe so. I think that a scientist present at the feeding of the five thousand could do some interesting, and repeatable, experiments, that, except for the prejudice against the miraculous, would be eminently publishable. For example, were there only two sets of diploid DNA in the fish scraps left over from the feeding? That is a testable, and fascinating, question, with interesting theological ramifications.
If I understand correctly, your trump card is,
That you have misconstrued my simple argument that the history of science and of medicine has been one of continual erosion of magical explanation and replacement by explanation based on natural process represents a God of the gaps argument beggars belief and really is quite desperate. That I suggest that statistically this process is likely to continue represents no more than a projection based on history.
And without further information, it sounds pretty good. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on whose side one is on), there are some counterexamples to that claim. See
Read it thoughtfully.
Finally, it would help the discussion if you would clarify your position. From what I understand, you currently accept long ages for the history of life on earth. You also accept at least a modified version of common descent. (If I am wrong, please let me know.) I think you also believe in a God who is capable of intervening in nature.
Do you believe that God hasn’t intervened in nature? Do you believe that God has intervened, but in ways that we never can discover? Do you believe that He has intervened, and we can discover some of those ways, but that we haven’t done so yet? Do you believe that He has intervened, and in some cases we have reasonably identified some of those interventions, say at the origin of life? Or have you not formed an opinion on this set of questions?
Paul Giem Also Commented
Thanks for noticing the Nineveh paper. You said,
I am not sure how this is relevant to the arguments since it does not at any point invoke magic but is as far as I can see completely methodologically naturalistic.
The background for this paper is somewhat involved. Probably the best way to approach the possible supernatural dimension is to look at this reference, especially prediction #2:
You will notice that the editors of Origins felt the need to put a black box warning at the end of the article. As you can see, I live dangerously.
I hope that helps.
Thanks for the clarifications. (And it’s nice to be full width.)
I agree that at present, I do not know of any reproducible reasonably provable miracles, and therefore that category, although theoretically present (and perhaps practically present in Jesus’ day), is not, to my knowledge present now except in a very weak way. The prayer studies are controversial, and although theoretically if they had “worked” would have been remarkable, the consensus is now that they didn’t, so they are not enough of a case to force a change in your practical definition. I have my own personal prayer stories, that have become reproducible, but certainly are not good enough quality to publish. For now let’s just leave that question alone.
You go on to say,
Your 3 examples of miracles in science actually have nothing to do with miracles.Oh, but they do, and you seem to have missed that point. Let me explain.
1. There is currently a controversy surrounding the Turin Shroud, quite apart from any miracles possibly caused by viewing or touching it. Again, I don’t know enough to know whether the claims are true, but it is claimed that there is an image, of a person, that has unusual if not supernatural features, and some claim that this is because it is the actual burial shroud of Jesus. That, if true, could point to a supernatural event.
It is also claimed that the Shroud is a medieval forgery. If true, this would destroy the value of the Shroud as a witness to the Resurrection. Thus, the carbon-14 date might impinge upon a possible witness to a miracle. This is not repeated miracle, but could be reproducible evidence tending to support a miracle. You seem to think it is science, even though the possibility exists that the carbon-14 date could point in the direction of the supernatural. So your criterion of methodological naturalism is under a certain amount of strain.
2. The scrolls of Daniel and Leviticus, if dated earlier than 168 BC and 600 BC respectively, would destroy the Maccabean theory of Daniel and the Documentary hypothesis of the Pentateuch, and strongly suggest that Daniel made accurate prophecies, and that the writer of Exodus was an eyewitness, who in fact witnessed a miracle. In that case, what you would consider science would support supernatural events.
3. You are apparently not familiar with the data on carbon-14 dating. You write,”But try to explain that results that are within the noise of an assay provides any evidence for the young age of your object and you will as you should be heavily criticised by your peers in the review process.” True. But quite a bit of the data, not cherry-picked, is well outside the noise of an assay, so much so that one of the founders of the method has confessed that it exists (see TalkOrigins, of all places!). His explanation is that carbon-14 is being made by neutrons underground. I can give you references if you wish.
But even more important than the actual results, for our purposes, is the theoretical question, if these results were accurate and reproducible, would they be science? I think so. Do you?
I am glad that you do not require mechanism before declaring something science. I do agree with you that if we understand the mechanism, it is better. But if we do not understand the mechanism, it does not disqualify a subject as science, or we would have to disqualify quantum mechanics, the most successful physical (and maybe scientific) theory ever.
My definitions are not at all meant to be theoretical positions but are operational definitions describing what I do as a scientist publishing in the literature of science.I like that. You are certainly correct that your views are not idiosyncratic, but AFAICT, are the vast majority view. That, of course, does not make them right, but does make them respectable. (You may be wrong, but you are not an idiot, and I’ll say that to my colleagues who try to imply that you are.)
It makes absolutely no assumption about whether or not there is a supernatural or miracles but says we can operate and understand the physical structure of the natural world without including these as causalities.
It is not clear what “It” is, but presumably you mean either methodological naturalism (MN), or science that includes MN. And by MN, I assume you mean the strong form.
I see two problems with that: 1. If we insist on MN in science, and we do not have a procedure for stating what is outside science, we are in fact operating under a de facto philosophical naturalism (PN). For PN is empirically indistinguishable from the proposition that MN applies in all places at all times. That is, the insistence on MN is in fact PN.
2. The cases above seem to be perfectly legitimate, at least theoretically, but they could at least theoretically point to the supernatural. Do we just keep doing the experiments until we realize where they might be pointing, and then try to expunge them from the science journals? In this regard, it is interesting to read the following article, that made it into Science (!):
Gentry RV, Christie WH, Smith DH, Emery JF, Reynolds SA, Walker R, Cristy SS, Gentry PA, 1976: “Radiohalos in coalified wood: New evidence relating to the time of uranium introduction and coalification.” Science 194:315-8.
Should Science retract this article?
That is why I prefer the softer form rather than the strong form of MN. Do you see the point, and if so do you agree? Or do you prefer to defend the consensus at this point? If so, what do you do with the above data?
Your point 2 is uncontroversial, as you noted. I agree that it usually excludes miracles, but not always, at least theoretically. The manna that fell every morning to the Israelites could have had several tests done on it, and apparently had a few crude tests done on it, including whether it kept overnight (of course, if one doesn’t believe that manna ever existed, the illustration is not convincing). I would rather not exclude the supernatural by definition, but rather (the vast majority of the time) practically.
Your point 3 is desirable. You say,
3] Publication in the peer reviewed literature of science. This is not at all a capricious criteria I have invented but describes the way science has been done for more than 200 years.
That’s not quite true; Darwin didn’t publish his theory in a journal, and that was closer to 150 years ago. But I agree, in general. While it may be science before it is published, if the experiment or observation is repeated, it is strongly desirable that the results be disseminated to where all scientists can obtain them, and possibly attempt to reproduce them. And peer review, done properly, helps correct errors before publication.
I don’t think communication is irrelevant to science. It is important. I just don’t think it should be part of the definition.
On reading your (second) post, I think that we need to be careful to distinguish between the definition of science, how science ideally should be done, and how science is in fact done. In a way, citations are a non-thinking man’s proxy for judging the value of a publication personally. The more citations, the more other people felt the paper was important, so the administrator or granting institution doesn’t have to make his/her/its own independent judgment (and impact rating is just a more refined measure of citations). And considering that the judging person or agency may not be able to make that judgment, it may be the only measure available. But we shouldn’t deify those shortcuts. They are shortcuts, not the ideal. The same goes for funding.
So, as requested, I will give my definition of science. Science is the study of the reproducible. If magic or miracles are truly reproducible, then they qualify. One-off episodes of magic or singular miracles do not qualify.
Mechanism is desirable, but not mandatory.
I don’t exclude peer review from science; I simply exclude it from the definition of science. I hope you see the difference. It definitely is desirable to publish, and it is desirable to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. YouTube videos under the proper circumstances could inform science. Personal communications often get cited (!). However, a single YouTube video is not yet reproduced, and is in the same category as a single miracle or magical act. If you want more on my philosophy of science, go to Scientific Theology, chapter 1.
Does that help?
… I think I can distil your detailed response down to conclude that you think miracles are and should be part of science.”
I’m sorry if you got that impression. Science, in my mind, is (or should be) the study of the reproducible. Miracles should only be considered part of science if they are reproducible. The aftereffects of miracles, on the other hand, can easily be reproducible.
You then go on to describe your concept of the scientific method:
1] From an observation construct an hypothesis for causation and mechanism based on methodological naturalism that is amenable to experimental testing,
So your science has methodological naturalism built into it.
2] Do experiments to test the hypothesis.
Here we agree.
3] Report those experiments in the peer reviewed literature which is the canonical repository of scientific information.
Be careful of the word “canonical”; it smacks of religion. 😉 But I am worried more about the concept than the word used.
It seems that this concept is not strictly necessary to do science. For using this concept means that Isaac Newton did not do science, which seems preposterous. Neither did Charles Darwin. He didn’t publish in Nature. He wrote a book.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is a desirable goal. I have done it. But science shouldn’t be defined that way.
Much better to clearly articulate the domain of science and accept that there is much beyond science including miracles that are best analysed by alternative mechods.
I will agree that the miracles themselves are usually beyond science. However, if they become reproducible, various physical and theological hypotheses can be tested. And their aftereffects certainly can be tested.
Just to give you three examples, the Shroud of Turin was claimed to be the burial cloth of Jesus. Multiple tests have been done, including carbon-14 tests, which apparently indicated a late date. Claims have been made that these tests were on a corner patch from later. I do not have direct evidence that can make me reasonably sure one way or the other. But the tests were published in scientific journals. Were they not scientific? Would they not be scientific if they had come out matching the first century AD?
There are also all kinds of carbon-14 dates done on manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. If they dated a manuscript of Daniel to before 168 BC, or a manuscript of Leviticus to before 600 BC, would the results be scientific? Should they be published in Radiocarbon? (Those dates were scheduled, but never done, according to what A. T. Jull of ASU told me.)
Finally, suppose we were to find, consistently, small but measurable (above background) amounts of carbon-14 in diamonds, coal, dinosaur bones, etc. Would those results be scientific? Should they be published in scientific journals? If you were editor, would you reject them because they might point to a miracle?
You don’t say so specifically, but I get the idea that everything published in scientific journals should have a mechanism. Would you agree with this proposition?
Before you answer, ask yourself these questions. Do we have to have a clearly defined mechanism before we publish a study on the efficacy of metoclopramide for migraine headaches? Did Radiocarbon err when it published and article reporting a statistically significant offset between the carbon-14 dating of bones from the city of Nineveh and the standard calibration curve without giving a mechanism that the authors deemed probable? (See
(I have a certain interest in the subject: See the acknowledgements)
And finally, if mechanism is required, can you explain the mechanism behind the double-slit or ghost pathway experiments in Quantum Mechanics? Have you ever seen a mechanistic, as opposed to a mathematical, explanation of quantum mechanics? Should it be excluded from the realm of science?
It seems like your definition of science could use some work. Just for what it is worth, multiple philosophers of science have worked on defining science, and the consensus is that there is no currently satisfactory answer to the “demarcation problem”, and may not be in the future. If you don’t believe me, read the philosophy of science literature.
Recent Comments by Paul Giem
LSU Removes Dr. Lee Grismer as Chairman of the Biology Department
When there is someone available that is competent enough, and knowledgable enough, to make a reasonably accurate presentation.
LSU Removes Dr. Lee Grismer as Chairman of the Biology Department
I had to laugh. You wrote,
Southern does way better than that in terms of recognizing academic excellence. But thanks to David, Sean and their ilk the pickings are likely to be very thin as what self respecting scientist would like to have a job of professor of science based on adherence to the prevailing views of a religious organization.
Yes, Southern probably has more qualified short-age creationist candidates. Certainly Southern has more qualified short-age creationists. However, I don’t think it is David, Sean, or their “ilk” that caused that. Rather, it was La Sierra’s deliberate selection against short age. Oh, well.
Both points of view may be correct. They may have been assisted by Grismer’s decision to dive under his desk, or his simply tiring of the responsibilities of department chairmanship. Sometimes several causes converge to produce a common result, and the precise percentages cannot always be assigned empirically. Don’t forget, there may be more than just naturalistic reasons here.
In any case, I think we should pray that God will work through this situation, and those of us in a position to help, should.
LSU Removes Dr. Lee Grismer as Chairman of the Biology Department
I won’t say any more, but there has been a sea change.
Pray. And those of you who can, help.
LSU Removes Dr. Lee Grismer as Chairman of the Biology Department
This move makes perfect sense.
To put things in perspective, there are two organizations accrediting La Sierra. AAA wants Adventism to be taught. WASC wants the university to be autonomous. Under ordinary circumstances, a chairman with 87 publications would never abdicate in favor of one with 2 (I am assuming the numbers are accurate, but strongly suspect that they are approximately correct). But Perumel is a short-age creationist, with a remarkable story of conversion (I have met him), and Grismer is not.
I suspect that the story is being soft-pedaled because the university doesn’t want WASC to make waves and possibly withdraw accreditation. I suspect also that it was done in such a way as to be deniable (e.g., Grismer wanted more time for research). Grismer is still on the faculty (he is tenured) and WASC can’t really complain. The change was done without fanfare, hoping to fly under WASC’s radar.
What could be done, and what should be done, is to revamp that final quarter biology class to be more Adventist-friendly. I think those of us who are capable of helping should volunteer to help Perumel in any way we can.