@Brad: What this means is that …

Comment on Elliot Sober: Just Don’t Call the Designer “God” by Sean Pitman.

@Brad:

What this means is that the differences are clustered or nested because of the different functional needs of different organisms in different environments. – Sean Pitman

This suggested that you knew something about the designer that would enable a prediction. When I tried to draw out the consequence, you took it back. If you were honest, you would simply admit that your hypothesis does not make any empirical predictions, contrary to your earlier claims. You would also admit that all your talk about hierarchical patterns being the sorts of things designers naturally employ is irrelevant, since when you are threatened with evidence that clearly non-functional aspects of the genome also display these patterns you just throw up your hands and say that the designer could have done things that way for reasons we can’t discern.

I only suggested that there could be possible reasons why an intelligent designer may choose to use a NHP. This is not to suggest that all intelligent designers would use a NHP to produce complex interacting machines nor is the production of a NHP a clear prediction of the ID-only hypothesis since NHPs can be and are produced by apparently mindless process of nature all the time.

Again, the only real scientific basis of supporting the ID-only hypothesis, as Sober himself argues (though inconsistently), is the demonstration that the phenomenon is within at least human-level creativity while being well beyond any known non-deliberate source of natural production. That’s it.

Thanks for the entertainment; you couldn’t have misunderstood Sober more if you tried. You have not described the inverse gambler’s fallacy, which in this case is the fallacious inference from observing repeated double sixes to the hypothesis that many rolls had taken place before the observed rolls. By the way, the regularly gambler’s fallacy as standardly described is made by someone who by stipulation believes the dice are fair; and both fallacies are in fact independent of the particular hypothesis concerning the bias of the dice we choose for the sake of example. If you were taking my introduction to probability class, you would fail. In future, perhaps you should be a bit more cautious in supposing one of the leading philosophers of probability in the world to have made an elementary mistake of the kind you allege (and in a widely cited and twice-reprinted paper, no less).

Oh please. The fallacies are really the same in essence. The inverse gambler’s fallacy is the conclusion that a particular outcome of an apparently random process, like rolling double sixes ten times in a row, likely occurred in the past at a more common rate than would be expected given the assumption of fair dice. In other words, the gambler concludes that the dice are in fact loaded or biased given a certain unlikely pattern of outcome.

This is Sober’s mistake related to the topic of the design hypothesis: A gambler experiencing a seemingly biased series of rolls of the dice starts to make the hypothesis that perhaps the dice are not fair; that they are really biased. This hypothesis he holds not only for future rolls of the dice, but past rolls as well which he did not directly experience. In other words, his hypothesis could be challenged in two ways. Future rolls of the dice could falsify his hypothesis, and, someone with prior past experience that extends beyond that of our gambler own could also inform him of past rolls of the dice that falsify his hypothesis.

The point remains the same: Based only on the pattern itself the hypothesis of bias can be scientifically hypothesized to a useful, though never perfect, degree of certainty. Sober doesn’t recognize this point with his use of the “gambler’s fallacy”… and evidently neither do you.

For another interesting take on Sober’s argument that design cannot be inferred from certain characteristics of the phenomenon alone, but must have independent evidence of the existence of the designer (though Sober is not consistent with this argument), see Dembski’s counter-argument here:

http://www.designinference.com/documents/2002.10.23.Sober_indep_evid_req.htm

This addresses yet another flaw in Sober’s paper. Sober accuses IDists of appealing to the concept of “modus tollens“, or the absolute perfection of the ID hypothesis. He uses the illustration of a million monkey’s randomly typing on typewriters producing all of the works of Shakespeare. He argues that while such a scenario is extremely unlikely, that it isn’t statistically impossible. There is still a finite probability of success. While this is true, science doesn’t go with what is merely possible, but what is probable given the available evidence at hand. – Sean Pitman

Yes, that is the simple point here, that the design theorist shouldn’t say that non-design is impossible, just that it is unlikely. You agree with him, so this can hardly be a “flaw” in the paper.

The “flaw” in Sober’s argument here is to lump all IDist together into one boat. I personally do not know very many IDists or even informed creationist who make this particular mistake. Sober is using a simple debating tactic here to discredit all by associating everyone with the few who do not grasp this or that obvious concept.

If you agree that probabilistic modus tollens is invalid, then you had best not say that it had to be involved. Rather, the hypothesis is that it was involved. Sober’s argument is that there is no evidence for this claim, since there is no independent evidence sufficient to ground the probabilistic inequality:

∑i Pr(the eye has F1 … Fn │ Design & GAi)Pr(GAi│Design) > Pr(the eye has F1 … Fn │ Chance).

The potentially falsifiable hypothesis is that only ID could have produced the particular phenomenon in question.

As I previously noted for you several times, I call this the ID-only hypothesis. The basis for supporting this hypothesis is the very same basis that Sober himself claims is a valid basis for SETI and is also the basis for other sciences that invoke ID – like anthropology or forensics.

The argument, as Sober explains, is that the phenomenon in question is known to be well within the powers of at least human-level creation while being, at the same time, well beyond the known powers of non-deliberate natural production.

That’s it. It is a very simple argument that Sober himself uses.

I apply the very same argument to certain features of living things – the very same argument. Sober disagrees with my application only because he thinks that Darwin has provided an obvious mechanism to explain what I’m claiming can only be done by at least human-level intelligence and creativity.

This is quite different from your argument where you are claiming to be able to support a mindless naturalistic process without any known viable mechanism. Remember, you said that you were “ambivalent” regarding the creative powers of RM/NS. Sober, on the other hand, is not. He is convinced of the creative powers of RM/NS. Therefore, given this starting premise, Sober is on much higher logical ground than you are.

For the record, here are my “thoughts” regarding what is “convincing” about the “arguments” in Sober. First, the arguments are valid. Second, I can see no reason to doubt any of their premises. Finally, I regard as convincing exactly those valid arguments formed from premises I can see no reason to doubt.

Incidentally, this whole exercise is becoming very tedious, since I am beginning to suspect that every single argument you have will end up depending on your in-principle argument regarding natural selection. Since I regard the probability of that argument succeeding as negligibly small—after all, you have no expertise in this area and have convinced exactly no-one who is—these conversations look increasingly fruitless. Do you agree?

It depends. You seem to me to disagree with a core basis of logic which Sober himself is defending. By your own admission you do not recognize the clear creative potential of RM/NS which Sober defends – a mechanism with which you are “ambivalent”. You also don’t seem to realize that the basis of ID arguments aren’t an effort to prove God, but to support the ID-only hypothesis where all that is know of the intelligent agent is that he/she/it was intelligent to at least the human level. That’s all.

You also seem to think that if you find a particular pattern that can be explained by mindless naturalistic processes that everything associated with that pattern can be explained by the same. This is a logical fallacy on your part which is why I asked you to discuss the geometric granite rock problem – which you have yet to do.

As far as not convincing those with letters after their name, I’m not in this discussion with you to convince you or anyone else of anything. I’m in it for myself, to challenge my own ideas to see if they really can fly. And, its fine if you have lost interest and no longer wish to continue this discussion. No one is twisting your arm here.

If you do wish to continue, however, I suggest that your goal also should not be to convince me of anything. Your goal should be to speak to those who have not yet thought about these issues and have not made up their minds to the point of being so biased that they cannot see “rational” arguments for what they really are for themselves (without seeing if others of high academic rank are convinced first). There are many “lurkers” who frequent this forum, usually over 2000 per day, – not all of whom are completely blinded by their religious background and many of whom, I know for a fact, would preferentially favor your perspective if they were ever exposed to it.

Just something to think about…

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Elliot Sober: Just Don’t Call the Designer “God”
@Professor Kent:

My understanding is that, historically, Adventist fundamental beliefs have shifted in ways that individuals holding one particular position, including Ellen White herself at times, could have been expelled from the Church by those holding another particular position. There was a time when those of the Church held different views on what 24-hour period of the day should be kept as Sabbath (it wasn’t always sunset to sunset); the Godhead (we once rejected the trinity); and righteousness by faith (we once believed in righteousness by works).

These disagreements occurred before certain agreed positions were so settled in the minds of the founding fathers and mothers of the SDA Church that they became “fundamental” pillars of the SDA faith. The current list of fundamentals was not always as it currently stands. It grew and developed over time. It is only expected that as more information comes clearly to light that the list of important “fundamental” beliefs would also expand over time.

And, as the early Church founders soon discovered, without the maintenance of internal order, discipline, and government within the Church, as based on the concept of “present truth”, as understood by the organized body of believers, the organization soon begins to fragment towards chaos and irrelevance…

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Elliot Sober: Just Don’t Call the Designer “God”
@Professor Kent:

Sean, while I could agree with your statement on a prima facie basis, I think one needs to dig a bit deeper here. This statement basically says that we don’t need the Bible or any type of falsifiable evidence or even beliefs to gain admission to heaven, which seems to contradict what you often state (not to mention the purpose of this website). I could be wrong, but I believe that God is able to claim souls who lack knowledge in Him because he can judge whether they would accept Him and Christ’s sacrifice if they had representative knowledge of Him.

Exactly…

It just goes to show that it is motive, not current knowledge or beliefs, that is important when it comes to judging if a person is or is not savable.

This idea does not contradict my efforts to uphold truth as I see it. Just because knowledge is not the basis of salvation does not mean that it isn’t important. Knowledge is the basis of the solid conscious hope of the Gospel message. While one can be saved without ever having a conscious knowledge of this future glory while here on Earth, it sure would be nice to have known while here – right?

I’m not convinced that God saves them because they have “love;” after all, many animals give well-documented evidence of having love, which is an instinct written in the genes of many life forms, including most humans (I’ve met a few who could be exceptions). I suspect that He who knows us in the womb can discern much more than our love, and recognizes what our choice would be given an opportunity to know Him and serve Him.

Our moral choices are based on motive, not knowledge. While animals do express love and devotion to their masters, they cannot appreciate moral freedom as we humans can. They have not been given moral responsibility or choice as we have been given it. Free moral choices are based on the motive of love – of doing unto others as you would like to be treated because of your love for your neighbor.

Remember, it was Jesus who pointed out that all the Law and the Prophets were built on the single “Royal Law”, and James put it, of Love – love to both God and toward our neighbors. Matthew 22:39-40 NIV.

And, as Paul points out, those who love their neighbors as themselves fulfill the Law and are therefore savable – regardless of their knowledge or lack thereof regarding the particulars of God’s existence, the life and death of Jesus, His true character, or any other doctrinal truths while in this life. Romans 13:8-10 NIV.

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Elliot Sober: Just Don’t Call the Designer “God”
@Professor Kent:

Like the vast majority of readers here, I don’t need a scientific basis for my faith, and I believe I can be saved by it however “blind” it may be.

Salvation is based on love, not blind faith – or faith of any kind for that matter. It is for this reason that even those who have never heard the name of Jesus or had any real concept of God can be saved according to how they expressed the Royal Law of Love toward their neighbors – a law which has been written on the hearts of all. This is why I believe that there will be a number of very surprised atheists in Heaven someday…

Faith or belief is the basis of conscious hope, but not of salvation. If you have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, you have gained nothing… 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV.

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

The Sabbath and the Covenants (Old vs. New)
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Christians and the Sabbath
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Again, most people, including most non-Christians, consider late-term abortions (abortions within the third trimester of otherwise healthy viable babies) to be murder. There is relatively little argument about this. One doesn’t have to know the “precise point” to know that, after a certain point, abortion is clearly murder. The argument that a baby isn’t alive or really human until the moment that it is born is nonsense in my opinion.

Of course, before the third trimester, things start to get a bit more grey and unclear. Some define the beginnings of human life with the full activity of the brain’s cortex. Others define it with the earliest activity of the brain stem. Others define it as the beginnings of fetal movement or the fetal heartbeat. I might have my own opinions here, but the question I ask myself is at what point would I be willing to convict someone else of murder? – and be willing to put them in prison for it? For me, I wouldn’t be willing to do this until things are overwhelmingly clear that the baby is functioning as a full human being and is viable (which would include full brain activity).

As far as rape or incest is concerned, the resulting pregnancy should be terminated as soon as possible within the first trimester. Waiting for the third trimester is simply not an option because, at this point, it would still be murder to kill a fully-formed baby regardless of its origin…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
I agree with you up until your last sentence. It seems very very clear to me that a baby becomes human before it takes its first breath. A baby born at 40 weeks gestation is not somehow inherently “more human” than a baby that is still inside its mother at 39 weeks gestation. At 39 weeks, such a baby is indistinguishable from a baby that has already been born. The location inside or outside of the mother makes absolutely no difference at this point in time and development.

I think, therefore, that we as Christians should avoid both obvious extremes here in this discussion. There are two very clear ditches on both sides of the road here. We should avoid claiming that a baby is not really human until it is actually born at full term, and, at the same time, we should also avoid claiming that full humanity and moral worth is instantly realized at the moment of conception…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Most would agree with you that the baby John the Baptist, before he was born, was, at some point, a real human being who could “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44). Even most non-Christians would agree that a third-trimester abortion is murder. However, this isn’t the real problem here. We are talking about if a single cell or a simple ball of cells is fully “human” and if ending a pregnancy at such an early stage of development is truly a “murder” of a real human being. After all, when conception first takes place a single cell cannot “leap for joy” – or for any other reason. It’s just a single fertilized cell that cannot think or feel or move and has no brain or mind or intelligence of any kind. The same is true of an embryo that consists of no more than an unformed ball of cells for quite some time. Upon what basis, then, is it “murder” to end a pregnancy at this early point in embryological development?