Comment on Faith without Evidence: Are we really a bunch of ‘Flat Earthers’? by Sean Pitman.
What is also interesting, regarding the Hazen paper in particular, is that Hazen et. al. make a very interesting argument for Beheâ€™s â€œirreducible complexityâ€. – Sean Pitman
Very interesting, indeed. But then again, according to a 2010 paper by Hazen, the very same author:
â€œNevertheless, the idea that life is â€œirreducibly complexâ€ and, consequently, that the origin of life required an intelligent designer has been soundly refuted on both scientific and philosophical grounds (Pennock 2002; Forrest and Gross 2004). Indeed, in terms of generating systems of high complexity, evolution by the cyclic Darwinian process of mutation and selection has proven to be far more effective than design.â€ (Hazen RM, Eldredge N (2010) Themes and variations in complex systems. Elements 6:43-46.)
That is interesting. But, I have a few little challenges for you:
1. Show me where Behe’s basic argument for irreducible complexity has been refuted by anyone and why you think it has been refuted. In other words, explain to me how Hazen can argue, on the one hand, that minimum structural thresholds are indeed required to achieve certain types of functionality, yet, on the other hand claim that there is no such thing as an irreducibly complex system. Does this argument actually make sense to you? To get you started, review the following linked discussion of Kenneth Miller’s argument that Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity has been clearly falsified (Hint: both Miller and Hazen make a basic error in logic):
2. Show me any example of evolution in action documented anywhere in literature beyond a level of functional complexity, as defined by Hazen’s own formula, that requires a minimum of at least 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues. Or, alternately, show me any paper detailing the statistical odds of success that the mechanism of RM/NS would be able to achieve such a level of functional complexity within a reasonable amount of time. As far as I’ve been able to find, there are no such papers or arguments. Everything is based on the assumption that sequence similarities must have been produced by RM/NS. No one, and I mean no one, stops to consider the likely time needed to produce the minimum differences requried to achieve qualitative differences in functionality beyond very low levels of functional complexity. You see, the required functional differences are what are important here; not the similarities. The similarities are very easy to explain via RM/NS – but not the functional differences beyond very very low levels of functional complexity (again, as defined by Hazen).
I’d be very very interested if you could answer either one of these questions. In fact, if you could, I’d become an evolutionist…
Oh, by the way, I have calculated the average time required to get beyond the 1000 fsaar level (Hazen’s definition again), and it is in the trillions upon trillions of years. The number of generations is even higher since the generation time for E. coli bacteria is only around 20 minutes…
For the details of this calculation see:
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Faith without Evidence: Are we really a bunch of ‘Flat Earthers’?
More Arguments for Blind Faith Trumping Evidence and “Last Thursdayism”
You start by asserting that the clear weight of evidence is strongly supportive of the SDA position on origins. Ervin Taylor disagrees with you. You dismiss Ervin Taylorâ€™s comment by calling him an ardent evolutionist. You reply with an Ad hominem attack. You attack Ervin Taylor, not his assertion.
Obviously, it is only my personal opinion that the weight of evidence is clearly in favor of the SDA perspective on origins.
You are also in the same boat I’m in by the way. You do realize that the majority of modern scientists also disagree with your personal opinion that the weight of scientific evidence supports the need for a God or a God-like power to explain the origin of certain features of the universe and life on this planet?
As far as presenting personal pejorative attacks against Erv Taylor, I’ve done no such thing. I’ve only presented his true personal views on origins as being clearly opposed to the stated fundamental position of the organized SDA Church on origins – which is a fact. I’ve also specifically addressed many of his old-life arguments on my website – to include his arguments for the ancient age of many of the Earth’s ice sheets, his assumptions on amino acid racemization dating, and his arguments for radiocarbon and tree ring dating. You can review my counter arguments on my website if you wish…
The crux of this argument appears to be whether or not the scientific evidence supports young age creationism (YEC) or not. You assert that it does. You are in the distinct minority view on this. Said more strongly, you are wrong.
You are certainly with the majority in that opinion. However, your opinion is against the opinion of the SDA Church organization… which is my whole point in this particular forum.
I have read your website. It contains many interesting points that reveal the weaknesses in the scientific evidence, but it does not rewrite the scientific consensus on plate tectonics, geology or other sciences that can inform a scientific evaluation of the claims of YEC.
It is one thing to make bald assertions like this. Any specific counter-arguments to anything I’ve actually said on these topics? in particular?
Here’s a list of just a few of my arguments for evidences that seem to me to clearly demand a young-age of life on this planet and a recent world-wide watery catastrophe as the origin of much of the geologic column and fossil records. I’d be most interested in your counter arguments to some of these points…
You are not wrong that the data are most consistent with a superhuman intelligence (God) creating the universe and life.
Why are you so willing to disagree with the mainstream consensus of modern scientists here (telling me that my arguments in opposition to mainstream science are correct in this case), but tell me that I’m nuts for disagreeing with mainstream scientists when it comes to my interpretations of geology and the fossil record?
There is no way that inanimate matter could become alive due to random natural processes. An early insuperable obstacle is the homochirality problem, but that is merely one impregnable barrier. Many others follow.
Again, most modern scientists think you’re wrong here…
You are capable of arguing this point effectively, because the evidence is not in debate, even in scientific circles. The only debate revolves around opinions wholly unsubstantiated by anything other than the most scant of data. Scientists do not have a mechanism for the ignition of life from matter. They simply claim it happened. And without a universe that includes God, they resort to untestable ideas about selection based upon multiple universes with this universe being observed â€œbecauseâ€ an observer exists, rather than because God created it. (Anthropic principle)
Obviously, I agree with you here, but the same thing is true, in my opinion, for the mainstream interpretation of the fossil record and the geologic column…
However, YEC and flood geology cannot be supported by the available data. It is possible that God created a young earth to look old, much older than 6000 years. It is also entirely possible that the creation and flood were miraculous and that we cannot use human observation to answer these questions at all and we must simply believe.
It is also possible that God made everything “Last Thursday“, or even 5 seconds ago, and just made it look like it has been here longer. Such arguments are simply not helpful when it comes to establishing a solid basis for a rational hope or faith in the Gospel’s “good news”.
You are also not considering the possibility that what looks old to you only looks that way because you are not reading the evidence correctly. As I see the available evidence, the significant weight of evidence is inconsistent with the old-age arguments for the ancient age of either the geologic column or the fossil record. Both of these records literally scream “recent catastrophe”.
If you disagree, by all means list off some specific argument that I’ve made, either here or on my website, and why you think I’m wrong. Again, the above link would be a good place to start.
An honest scientist who works for the church is being demanded by you to hew to a dishonest position, and yet you call him/her a thief. This is untenable and wrong.
A honest scientist who disagrees with the SDA Church should not work for the SDA Church. It is not honest to take money from any organization that you honestly think is so wrong that you would be forced to undermine what they are trying to promote. It is dishonest to take money from anyone while going about promoting just the opposite of what you were paid to promote.
It is not a â€œworldviewâ€ problem. It is a data problem. Adventist GRI scientists honestly acknowledge the science does not support YEC, and yet they support fundamental belief #6, choosing to place faith above human interpretation of data and humbly acknowledging their inability to provide a scientific explanation that agrees with YEC. You follow by stating that Ben Clausen â€œhas done and is doing the Church a disservice in his employment with GRI.â€
If all that was needed was “faith” without any appeal to evidence, what’s the point of spending the Church’s money on the GRI institute? The GRI was not set up by the Church to argue that the best we have is “faith without evidence”. That’s not the point of the GRI. The point of the GRI, clearly, is to present the world with actual evidence in support of the Church’s position on origins. If you or anyone else, as a scientist, cannot, in good conscience, support the Church’s position on origins, the Church is not obliged to hire those who disagree. It doesn’t matter if the Church’s opinion is in the distinct minority when it comes to the modern scientific consensus. The Church is not required to support the majority view. If the Church wishes to remain viable, however, it definitely needs to hire only those who can, in good conscience, support the Church’s view…
Please stop the attacks. They are not thieves. They are not stupid. They are not dishonest. They are in the same position that I and many other committed Adventists are in. We love and support our church, we believe itâ€™s message, we accept the bible for what it says.
I never said that they were stupid or dishonest in their views on origins. What I said is that they are being dishonest toward their employer – the SDA Church in this case. The Church hired them to support the SDA perspective on origins, not with arguments of blind faith, but with arguments of empirical evidence. If a person cannot fulfill such a request in good conscience, then it would be dishonest of such a person to take such a job; to take money for doing one thing while doing just the opposite…
At times, science seems to disagree with revelation. In those circumstances I refuse to rise to the bait. I refuse to submit my belief in God and His creative power to the test of whether or not He is observable in the eyes of Richard Dawkins. This does not make me a believer in his flying spaghetti monster, nor does it make me a flat-earther. It makes me a person who is willing to wait for God to reveal this mystery to me in His own time, if necessary during eternity.
There are many who believe that faith trumps all forms of empirical evidence – that one can believe via faith even if all the available evidence is completely opposed. The problem with this notion is that it leaves one with no rational basis to distinguish between different faiths. Why is your faith in the existence of God better than someone else’s faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? or the Book of Mormon? or the Qur’an? or even the faith of most mainstream scientists that everything ultimately came from nothing via mindless mechanisms?
Upon what rational basis should anyone accept your “faith” as being any more credible than any of these other “faiths”?
What can I say? Iâ€™ll let the reader decide whether you are undermining a fundamental SDA doctrine, and whether you yourself would be a liar and a thief if employed by the SDA church.
There is no point in discussing with someone who is trying to be deliberately obtuse. FB#6 is clearly talking about the existence of all things good… as at the end of Creation Week when God said that it was “very good”. Genesis 1:31 NIV
The suggestion that God made the bad as well as the good, the Ying and the Yang as some religions believe, is very clearly not a position of the SDA Church. As Prof. Kent very well knows, the SDA Church presents God as only being responsible for all that is good and none of that which is bad or evil in this world and universe…
I believe that reading the Bible can change a person. It changes me. Itâ€™s changed many of my family members and friends. I believe the Holy Spirit plays an important role in this. When I read the accounts of the apostles, who portray themselves as bumbling fools, I am moved by how little they gained and how all of them were willing to give up their lives for what they claimed they saw and heard. There are aspects of history portrayed in the Bible, and Biblical prophecy, that ring very true. These are but some of the evidences I choose to believe in, and from them, I am willing to accept the Bible in entirety as Godâ€™s inspired word and even much of the Creation account as true.
So, you do appeal to actual empirical evidence to support faith in the Bible… using similar arguments to the ones I use myself. That’s great!
However, at this point, I really don’t understand your efforts in opposition to my efforts to actively promoted additional evidences for faith? – specifically in reference to those empirically testable aspects of the Genesis account of origins? …
And none of us need quantitative scientific data to prove beyond doubt that all major life forms were created in only 6 days less than 6,100 years ago.
That’s not the issue. The issue is that given an understanding of the data that indicates that it is overwhelmingly evident that life has in fact existed and evolved on this planet over the course of hundreds of millions of years, the Genesis narrative cannot be true. It is effectively falsified and therefore looses a great deal of credibility given such a scenario – a loss of credibility which significantly impacts many other aspects of the Bible and various metaphysical claims that cannot be tested or falsified in such a direct manner.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Brilliant and Beautiful, but Wrong
Thank you Wes. Really appreciate your note and being able to see you again!
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
As far as the current article is concerned, I know of no “outdated” information. The information is current as far as I’m aware. The detrimental mutation rate is far too high for complex organisms to avoid an inevitable downhill devolutionary path. There is simply no way to rationally avoid this conclusion as far as I’m aware.
So, perhaps your friend could be more specific regarding his particular objections to the information presented?
Complex Organisms are Degenerating – Rapidly
Look again. I did reference the 2018 paper of Basener and Sanford (which was the motivation for me writing this particular article). Of course, as you’ve mentioned, Sanford has also written an interesting book on this topic entitled, “Genetic Entropy” – which I’ve previously referenced before in this blog (along with a YouTube video of a lecture he gave on the topic at Loma Linda University: (Link). For those who haven’t read it or seen Sanford’s lecture on this topic, it’s certainly worth your time…
Evolution from Space?
I will try to do it someday, but lately I’ve been swamped by speaking appointments, my real job, and my two young boys 😉
However, 300-400 people do visit and read articles on my websites per day – which isn’t bad for now. I also get very encouraging E-mails on a regular basis from those who have been helped by these postings. Some of these are teachers and professors who use this information in their own classrooms throughout the country – but often without giving the source for their material in order to avoid the automatic bias that comes with it.
The reason that no competent scientist will date the “soft tissue” of dinosaur bones is probably because the techniques used to extract that material seriously contaminate the extract from a 14C perspective. I am checking on that with several biochemists, but I suspect that this is true.
If that’s the case, then how can radiocarbon dating be relied upon to date the remains of mammoths or other late Pleistocene animals? How can you have your cake and eat it too?
Beyond this, aren’t there supposed to be ways to detect and eliminate contamination and to harvest material without causing significant 14C contamination? – especially when it comes to very well preserved collagen and other original soft tissues (as well as bioapatite)? After all, we’re talking about a lot of contamination here – up to 10% of the total carbon within the dinosaur bone. What kind of source could explain such a high degree of contamination? Also, as an expert in radiocarbon dating, isn’t it basic procedure for those in your profession to be able to detect if not remove 14C contamination from specimens? – as part of the AMS testing process?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but if collagen and bioapatite fractions show concordant radiocarbon dating, then isn’t this taken as a valid radiocarbon date? free of significant contamination?
If so, this is what was done with the dating of some dinosaur bone specimens as well: “Collagen and bone bioapatite and/or total bone organics gave concordant C-14 dates after careful extraction and purification of those fractions.” (Link)
Is this not the proper procedure? Is this not what is also done when dating ice-age megafauna such as Siberian mammoths, saber tooth tigers, sloth dung, and giant bison?
All of the evidence presented by you and those who agree with you have been dealt with so many times by so many competent scientists that a reasonable individual would almost certainly say something like: Well, anyone who continues to dispute the scientific evidence on this point apparently just can’t bring themselves to admit the truth of the matter for some religious reason.
An argument from authority already? That’s the best you have? As long as it’s popular among the experts in a given field of science, even if one doesn’t personally understand it and suspects that something isn’t quite right, you’d recommend just going with the flow without question? – trusting that someone else must know the answers?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d be the first to admit that the popular opinion of experts in a particular field of study should be taken into careful consideration. However, such “expert opinion” isn’t the end-all of science and has often turned out to not only to be wrong, but painfully wrong. I guess it’s Ok if I’m too lazy or don’t care enough about a particular topic to investigate it for myself to simply trust in the expert opinion of the day. However, let’s not confuse that with conclusive “science” or a valid scientific explanation. Such blind appeals to the authority of “experts” or the status quo within the scientific community, by themselves, are not at all helpful when it comes to answering valid questions in that they have no explanatory power in a discussion like this one. After all, don’t you realize that this is the very same tactic often used by those promoting some religious agenda? – who don’t have anything else beyond an appeal to authority to fall back on? – no reasonably understandable argument besides, “My holy book says so”? – or “most theologians agree”? I believe it was Carl Sagan who once said:
One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else. – Sagan (July 6, 2011)
Consider also this humerus exchange between Socrates and Meno:
Meno: Is this true about yourself, Socrates, that you don’t even know what virtue is? Is this the report that we are to take home about you?
Socrates: Not only that, you may also say that, to the best of my belief, I have never met anyone else who did know.
Meno: What! Didn’t you meet Gorgias when he was here?
Meno: And you still didn’t think he knew?
Socrates: I’m a forgetful sort of person, and I can’t say just now what I thought at the time. Probably he did know, and I expect you know what he used to say about it. So remind me what it was, or tell me yourself if you will. No doubt you agree with him.
Meno: Yes, I do.
Socrates: Then let’s leave him out of it, since after all he isn’t here. What do you yourself say virtue is?
– Plato, Meno, 71c, W. Guthrie, trans., Collected Dialogs (1961), p. 354
So, I ask you again: In your own words, please do explain to me where, exactly, mainstream scientists have so clearly and reasonably dealt with some of the fundamental problems of Darwinian-style evolution that seem so difficult to me? You don’t even appear to understand the difference between Mendelian variation and the mechanism of Darwinian evolution (random mutations in the underlying gene pool combined with natural selection). You don’t seem to understand that animal breeding is based on phenotypic selection alone, as is natural selection, or that Darwin himself used animal breeding as an illustration of how natural selection is supposed to work. Where can any reasonable explanation be found as to how novel genetic information can enter a given gene pool, via the Darwinian mechanism, beyond the very lowest levels of functional complexity this side of a practical eternity of time? Also, where has any scientist produced a reasonable explanation as to how very well-preserved soft tissues, proteins, and antigenic fragments of DNA can be preserved for even 100k years? – at ambient temperatures? These are honest and sincere questions for which I have found no reasonable answers from anyone – scientists or otherwise. If you know the answers, if they are so obvious to you, why not share them with me here?
I’m sorry, but it seems to me, at this point in my own search, that you, and scientists in general, are not immune from personal bias or from philosophical/religious motivations – or from peer pressure (the fear of being unpopular in your community). In short, you’re human just like the rest of us. 😉
One more thing, your notion that religion and science do not and cannot mix is fundamentally at odds with the existence of a personal God who created the universe and died on the cross for the salvation of humanity. If such a God actually exists, He is the Creator of science and scientific thinking as well as everything else and His Signature can therefore be rationally detected in the things that He has made (Psalms 19:1-3). If this cannot be achieved, then your notion of “God” is essentially the same as atheism – for all practical purposes.
I’m sorry, but William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, makes much more sense here (in a speech he gave for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
No gods worth having exist;
No life after death exists;
No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims. Darwinian-style evolution is just one more argument for the philosophical position of “Philosophical Naturalism” – a position that suggests that everything within the physical world, everything that we can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell, is ultimately the result of non-deliberate mindless forces of nature. And, you yourself can’t tell the difference since, as you once said, you wouldn’t be able to give your own granddaughter any good evidence for the existence of God if she were to ask you for such evidence. Why then do you even pretend? – why even give lip service to Christianity?