Comment on Science and Methodological Naturalism by Sean Pitman.
True science often doesn’t reveal how a particular phenomenon happens, only that it does in fact predictably happen in certain specific situations. When Sir Isaac Newton first described the effects of gravity, he had absolutely no idea “how” gravity worked. Newton wrote:
Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left open to the consideration of my readers.
Yet, even though Newton didn’t know “how” gravity worked, no one would argue that he wasn’t using scientific reasoning to describe its very predictable effects.
The same is often true in medicine in that it is often the case that it is known that a certain treatment or medication consistently works to produce a particular result, but exactly how this result is achieved is unknown.
That’s just the nature of science. Science can detect certain predictable relationships, certain predictable cause and effects, without knowing “how” a suspected cause produced or produces the phenomenal effect.
As far as “methodological naturalism” is concerned, the problem with this concept is that many scientists are arguing that only mindless natural causes should ever even be considered when trying to explain all natural phenomena. This is an obvious inconsistency that has nothing to do with explaining exactly “how” an intelligent agent produced a particular phenomena that would seem to demand intelligent input.
For example, I might not know how to make a chocolate cake myself, but I can still know that it required intelligent design when I see one. The same thing is true of highly symmetrical granite cubes or a radio signal tagged with the first 50 terms of the Fibonacci series or a Shakespearean sonnet or the information in the DNA sequence of a bacterium beyond the lowest levels of functional complexity.
And, mainstream scientists would agree with me with every one of these points with the exception of the last one. Why is that? Because, the last point, admitting design behind the basic informational complexity of living things, is too close to admitting the existence of a God or a God-like creative mind. And, of course, this suggests the existence of definitive moral responsibility – which atheistic scientists, like Lawrence Krauss for example, are strongly opposed. When questioned about the inconsistencies of his argument for infinite numbers of universes as an explanation for the fined tuned features of our universe necessary to support complex life, amazingly, Krauss responded as follows:
You talk about this god of love and everything else. But somehow if you don’t believe in him, you don’t get any of the benefits, so you have to believe. And then if you do anything wrong, you’re going to be judged for it. I don’t want to be judged by god; that’s the bottom line (podcast: 58:01).
(Lawrence Krauss in 2012 debate with Rodney Holder – Course director at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge.) http://www.educatetruth.com/featured/everything-from-nothing-without-the-need-for-god/
So, you see, it really isn’t about “science” or rationally-derived interpretations of various phenomena or forms of empirical evidence. When push comes to shove, it all boils down to trying to avoid moral responsibility…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
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…
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Persuasion is the job of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to persuade someone who is not open to the voice of God speaking to the heart and mind. Not even Jesus was able to persuade those who closed their hearts and minds to the voice of the Spirit and to their God-given reasoning abilities…
In any case, your quotation of Galatians 3:24-25 seems out of context. The “Law” Paul is speaking of here which functions as a “schoolmaster” is the Ten Commandments which leads us until we find completeness in Christ through faith – at which point the schoolmaster is no longer needed. The same is not true of the natural world which is no longer needed once the Bible is found. That’s not true at all. The study of nature and of God’s Word shed light on each other. They are both God’s revelations of Himself and, as such, the study of both is important to learn and grow in the understanding of the nature and character of God.
Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony. By different methods and in different languages they witness to the same great truths. Science is ever discovering new wonders, but from its research it brings nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation. The book of nature and the written Word shed light on each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which He works. (E.G. White, True Education, p. 77)
God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science; but the book of nature and the written Word do not disagree; each sheds light on the other. Rightly understood, they make us acquainted with God and His character by teaching us something of the wise and beneficent laws through which He works. (E.G. White, The Signs of the Times, March 20, 1884)
Again, while the Bible most certainly gives us a much more detailed picture of God, many attributes of God can be learned through the study of nature alone that cannot be as clearly recognized through the study of the Bible alone… so that even those who never had access to the Bible are “without excuse”. This is true despite nature being marred by sin. That is why having access to both the books of nature and the written Word is most ideal. One, without the other, leaves one handicapped, but not completely in the dark regarding the nature and character of God.
Science and Methodological Naturalism
It was King David who said:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. – Psalms 19:1-4
And, it was Paul who said:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
Mrs. White also wrote of the use of scientific investigation of nature in the search for a knowledge of God:
In the study of the sciences also, we are to obtain a knowledge of the Creator. All true science is but an interpretation of the handwriting of God in the material world. Science brings from her research only fresh evidences of the wisdom and power of God. Rightly understood, both the book of nature and the written word make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the wise and beneficent laws through which he works. – E. G. White, Christian Education, p. 66
Clearly, then, the Bible itself also promotes the idea that God can be recognized as God through the study of the works of His hands – of the empirical evidence found in nature (as does Mrs. White). Sure, the Bible gives a much clearer and more detailed revelation of God and His character, but do not discount the ability of nature to reveal important truths about her Creator for those who are open to taking their first steps toward God. Many scientists have been converted to the Christian Gospel message after first having recognized a Divine Hand behind various features of the universe and the world in which we live. Such steps are often the very first steps that some must take before additional steps can be taken toward a fuller discovery and relationship with God.
“When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”
Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics), Tipler, F.J. 1994. The Physics Of Immortality. New York, Doubleday, Preface
Also, consider that the determination of the Divine origin of the Bible itself, through the study of Biblical prophecy as it compares to empirically-verifiable history, is a form of scientific investigation…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
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…
I agree with Prof Kent. I think you have a few problems
1] You have used an arbitrary statistical limit to define a universal limits of evolutionary development and speciation
The limitation is not arbitrary. It is both observed in real time and can be calculated to show that it (a minimum requirement of 1000 specifically arranged residue positions) is the most likely limitation this side of trillions of years of time – from the perspective of RM/NS.
2] You have conceded that 80-90% of the genetic variation between species has been acquired over 4000 years. (I am surprised that you feel able to extend this to 5000 years given EG White’s writings.
It depends upon what type of variation you’re talking about. Certainly all variation at lower levels of functional complexity could easily be realized in this period of time.
3] You allow for rapid development of phenotype and novel repurposing of proteins in the development of evenomation
DNA can and does rapidly mutate – true.
4] You claim some value for a limit of 1000fsaar but do not seem able to identify concrete examples of this during speciation.
Speciation is not based on producing novel functional complexity beyond very low levels of functional complexity. In fact, speciation can be based on functionally neutral genetic changes. Also, there are no examples of evolving beyond the level of 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues because it is statistically impossible to do so. Only variations at low levels of functional complexity can be or ever have been demonstrated.
5] Indeed comparative genomics between man and apes suggests that the differences between these species is mostly at the single nucleotide level and in gene duplications
and that there seems to be none of the barriers of 1000fsaar complexity that Sean suggests to limit evolution of homo sapiens from an hominid ancestor common with great apes.
Humans and apes are quite different in various respects, to include brain structure and function – which is thought to be based on numerous differences in genetic regions that code for miRNAs (around 8% of which are human specific).
“miRNAs recently have been implicated in synaptic development and in memory formation. As the species specific miRNAs described here are expressed in the brain, which is the most complex tissue in the human body, with an estimated 10,000 different cell types, these miRNAs could have a role in establishing or maintaining cellular diversity and could thereby contribute to the differences in human and chimpanzee brain … function.”
Eugene Berezikov, Fritz Thuemmler, Linda W van Laake, Ivanela Kondova, Ronald Bontrop4, Edwin Cuppen & Ronald H A Plasterk, “Diversity of microRNAs in human and chimpanzee brain”, Nature Genetics, Vol 38 | Number 12 | December 2006 pp. 1375-1377.
The Y-chromosome is even more unique. A study published by Nature in early 2010 showed many striking differences between human and chimp chromosome structure, gene content, and even qualitatively unique genes between the two species. As far as looking at specific genes, the chimp and human Y-chromosomes seem to have a dramatic difference in gene content of up to 53 percent. In other words, the chimp is lacking approximately half of the genes found on a human Y-chromosome. Because genes occur in families or similarity categories, the researchers also sought to determine if there was any difference in actual gene categories. They found a shocking 33 percent difference. The human Y-chromosome contains a third more gene categories, entirely different classes of genes, compared to chimps.
Hughes, J.F. et al. 2010. Chimpanzee and human Y chromosomes are remarkably divergent in structure gene content. Nature. 463 (7280): 536-539.
For further discussion see:
6] You define species classification as being arbritary but have some nebulous concept of a barrier of complexity for potential changes induced by the acquired changes which you concedes occurs rapidly and frequently.
This limit to complexity you relate to some theoretic 1000fsaar limit.
Again, this limit is both observable and calculable based on known distributions and densities of viable sequences in sequence spaces at various levels of functional complexity.
You seem to support models of rapid evolution by Darwinian mechanism inside a 1000fsaar limit; if you think them scientific they must be tested by reference to reality and real data. I suggest you look at the genomic data and point out the genetic differences that correspond to your 1000 FSAAR limit.
I’ve given you numerous examples already of systems that require a minimum of far more than 1000 specifically arranged residues. How many more examples do you need?
You might like to also comment on you model of evolution of all Y chromosome variation that exists today from a single Y chromosome 4000 years ago at the time of flood.
In case anyone suggests there were 4 males on the boat and therefore there were 4 Y chromosomes, Noah and his 3 sons would all have the one identical Y chromosome because of transmission from Noah to his sons. Humans in terms of Y chromosomes are equivalent to a breeding pair.
The variation in the Y chromosome in humans today, like all other unclean animals must therefore date to mutations in the last 4000 years.
All this genomic sequence is now freely available so there is no excuse for not testing it except the paucity of value you see in your arguments.
What testing would you want? Low level genetic changes can and do take place very fast – especially in larger populations. There are no examples of higher level changes because, statistically, they are impossible this side of a practical eternity of time.
Both Jeff Kent and I have both offered advice in publication of these experiments in the peer reviewed literature.
Until you give me some real evidence based on experimental data you seem to be simply doing what Bob Ryan abhors; telling just so stories.
Sit down. Do the math for yourself. Then, come back and talk to me about who is telling the just-so stories regarding the creative potential of random mutations and natural selection (RM/NS).