@pauluc: First off, I can’t believe any rational person would …

Comment on The End of “Junk DNA”? by Sean Pitman.


First off, I can’t believe any rational person would actually try to promote the virtues of a belief in any one particular admittedly “irrational” concept. Why choose to believe something that is admittedly irrational or opposed to one’s own reasoning abilities vs. anything else that is admittedly irrational?

There is no rational response to this question – right? That’s what makes such a “faith” position so irrational. The fact that you use the word “faith” here doesn’t change the fact that what you’re choosing to believe is admittedly nothing more than wishful thinking or some deep desire on your part.

If I’m wrong here, please do explain why any other rational person should also choose to follow the particular path that you’ve chosen for yourself? compared to any other irrational path that might also be chosen?

You parse Tolstoys words about his personal experience of faith and the way in which he embraced the message of Christianity with not at all a recognition of his leap of faith in the face of uncertainty but with an insistence that in fact there is no uncertainty at all.

I do in fact recognize Tolstoy’s “leap of faith” in the face of his own uncertainty and very strong doubts regarding what he saw as the “evidence”. I just don’t recognize such leaps of faith as being substantively superior to wishful thinking.

Also, I’ve explained over and over again that there is no such thing as absolute certainty. The “weight of evidence”, as one is personally able to evaluate it, is not the same thing as absolute certainty. The very same thing is true of any scientific hypothesis or theory. There is always room for doubt as well as the possibility of being wrong whenever one takes a leap of faith – even in science. However, a leap of faith that is not based on evidence of any kind from one’s own perspective is not any more rational or helpful than is wishful thinking.

In other words, a rational faith is dependent upon evidence as perceived from one’s own individual perspective. Such a faith is not dependent upon absolute certainty, since such is impossible to obtain, but upon the perceived weight of evidence that directs one’s faith in a reasonable or “rational” manner over and above mere wishful thinking.

As evidence of certainty about the provenance of the Christian text you appeal to a comment from a news item from the Dallas Theological Seminary. As though this is an unbiased view and rigorous examination of the historicity of the canonical text. I do not think you would believe and take at face value an account of the Third Reich by Goebels or consider a Leni Reifenstahl documentary authoritative nor accept and LDS account of Joseph Smiths archeology? It is called conflict of interest or at least vested interest and is a potent source of confirmation bias.

Oh please. Everyone is biased to one degree or another. The problem here is that the facts in question are pretty straight forward. I mean really, which one of the facts listed, in particular, do you take issue? Which one of these is clearly mistaken in your mind?

Wallace says “…we have as many as eighteen New Testament manuscripts from the second century and one from the first. Altogether, more than 43% of all New Testament verses are found in these manuscripts”. What of the provenance of the other 57%?

What of them? Science isn’t about what isn’t known, but about what can be extrapolated based on what is known. The pattern based on what is known is quite clear – at least from my own perspective thus far.

That there remains doubt is clear from the fact that Wallace cites his debates with Bart Ehrman an evangelical who in searching for the historically authentic words of Jesus followed a similar trajectory to Schweitzer and moved from the position of certainty you express to a position of agnosticism beyond even the deism of Schweitzer. If there was no doubt there would be no debate with Ehrman.

I never said that there was no room for doubt or that the evidence in hand is absolutely conclusive. What I said was that the weight of evidence in hand seems very clear – to me. Again, with which one of the facts mentioned do you take issue?

When confronted with any question of fact or evidence that most Christians would see as source of uncertainty and a call for faith you respond with a claim that there is no doubt or uncertainty [the clear weight of evidence] and denigrate anyone who does not accept the evidence in the same way as you. You claim;

Do you not realize that the “weight of evidence” is different for different people? When I use this phrase, I’m speaking for myself and my own perspective. The “weight of evidence” may be quite different for you and your perspective. That’s fine. God takes individuals where they are.

Salvation isn’t based on knowledge anyway, but on motive. Because of this, as I’ve noted many times before, even agnostics and atheists can be saved. One does not need to have a solid “faith” in the Bible as the true Word of God, the existence of God or Jesus, or knowledge that the Seventh-day Adventist perspective is the best available in order to be saved. Knowledge is useful, however, when it comes to establishing a solid hope in the reality of our bright future here and now.

It seems you are suggesting that rather than accept that one must take the leap of faith in the face of uncertainty which is the response of most of the people of faith you critique in this blog as “wishful thinking”, your impulse is to change the facts or at least the perception of reality by careful selection of facts so that there is no uncertainty.

Again, there is always uncertainty to one degree or another. However, the greater the evidence, the less the uncertainty and the greater the potential for faith. Without any evidence, there is maximum uncertainty where belief in the face of which is not readily distinguishable from wishful thinking.

Let me ask you, do you think the disciples of Jesus had more or less faith after His resurrection? What does that tell you about the relationship of faith to evidence?

Again, rational faith and evidence walk hand-in-hand. Each being dependent upon the other with neither one trumping the other.

I can see now that in this you are indeed very consistent in your approach to religious belief and your understanding of the natural world. But isn’t this faith, though it may differ from the usual approach in that it is manifest in the way you direct your selective consciousness of reality?

I don’t see my view of reality as being any more biased or “selective” than anyone else’s view of reality – including yours. I have no desire to fool myself. I want to know the actual truth – even if that reality is not in my favor. I’d rather know. I see no need to fool or trick myself into believing something or having faith in something that has no more substance outside of my own mind than do my own wishful thoughts. That is why I have such a problem with your notion of “faith” as being devoid of the need for any real basis in evidence.

If anyone is being subjectively selective as far as what one wants to believe, it’s you – as you yourself freely admit.

Sean I really worry for your influence in the Adventist Church. With your denigration of faith, are you really even at core Christian?

I don’t denigrate faith at all – at least not the type of faith described in the Bible. The problem here is that you’ve redefined the word to mean a belief in something that is inherently irrational. That’s not how the Bible defines faith.

Tell me, was it irrational for the disciples to place their faith in Jesus after seeing His miraculous power? after seeing him heal all manner of diseases and even raising the dead? Was it irrational for them to put their faith even more strongly in Him once they saw Him risen from His own grave? I think not. All of this “faith” was evidence based. It is because the evidence was so incredibly strong that they were so incredibly strong in their testimony for their risen Lord.

Are you connected in an emotional and committed way to Christ and His redemptive acts?

Of course – or I wouldn’t be here.

Your writings do not reveal much beyond an intellectual assent to Adventism, its lifestyle and it propositions. I worry that your “evidence based” committment is fragile, rigidly defined and lacks depth and is pathologically dependent on confirmation bias for its existence [“This is why if I ever honestly became convinced that the weight of empirical evidence was on the side of life existing on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, I would leave not only the SDA Church, but Christianity as well” 19 Aug 2011 Biblical Interpretation by Sean Pitman”] Is this the model of Christianity we want Adventist youth at our colleges to emulate? As EG White in her latter year recognized in her more mystical and most profound writings “Christ and Him crucified” is truly the core of Adventism and we as a Christian church will surely fail when we do not recognize that.

I appreciate your concern and all for my own personal relationship with Jesus. However, with all due respect, where do you get off? You think yourself able to judge the quality of my relationship with Jesus when you have only seen a very very limited spectrum of what I do in my public and personal life?

Now, I most certainly do agree that the most important event in Christian history is indeed the reality “Christ and Him Crucified” – regardless of if one does or does not recognize this reality. This reality, independent of one’s knowledge of it, gives all humanity the possibility of an eternally bright future.

Again, it is the love of truth, not the actual conscious recognition of it, that has the power to save because of Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us. Shocking as it may sound, you don’t have to be an SDA fundamentalist to be saved! 😉

However, true knowledge has the power to give us a conscious hope and assurance, here and now, in the reality of the Gospel story. And, the credibility of this story is dependent upon evidence – evidence that has the power to appeal to rational candid intelligent minds.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

The End of “Junk DNA”?

It does seem like this feature would probably have an effect on the odds, but I’m not sure what additional significance this would bring to the table since the odds of evolving anything qualitatively novel that requires a minimum of more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues would require trillions upon trillions of years of time.

Sean Pitman

The End of “Junk DNA”?

What is clearly not acceptable is that there is generation of any new “information” as that would clearly play into the hands of the evolutionists. As we discussed in detail concerning the vast predominance of allelic variation in canids and man that must have arisen de novo from the breeding pair or breeding 5 do you or do you not think that new allelic variation contains new “information”?

The vast majority of allelic mutational changes do and did not produce qualitatively new information – only changes to the degree of expression of pre-existing systems (i.e., more or less of the same thing). More or less of the same thing isn’t what I would call “new” information.

However, there are relatively rare examples of truly new information that is qualitatively unique entering the gene pool. The problem, of course, is that all such examples are at very very low levels of functional complexity (i.e., requiring less than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid residues).

So, its relatively easy to evolve a novel beneficial system that is based on a specified 3-character sequence. It’s exponentially harder to evolve a truly novel system that is based on a minimum of 20 specified characters. And, it is effectively impossible to evolve a qualitatively novel system that requires at least 1000 specifically arranged characters (regardless of the type of information system you’re dealing with).

If you say yes then you are certainly outside the current YEC convention. If you say no then you are suggesting that species with very different phenotypes can evolve without any new information. A position that most biologist would find surprising.

I have been invited to speak in numerous venues, to include those largely populated by YECs and YLCs – as you can imagine. Yet, after I present evidence for low-level evolution the vast majority of creationists I’ve spoken to respond very favorably – even enthusiastically. After all, it simply makes good sense that the random discovery of novel beneficial sequences within sequence spaces would be exponentially easier to achieve when you’re dealing with 3-character sequences vs. 20 character sequences. It just makes sense to most people – including well-educated creationists.

Sean Pitman

The End of “Junk DNA”?

You tout reason as trumping faith but do not appear to see that the enlightenment enterprise took precisely the position you think desirable.

I didn’t say that reason trumps faith. What I said was that faith does not trump reason. There’s a difference. What I’ve also said many times in this forum is that a useful or rational faith must go hand in hand with reason. One cannot exist in any kind of meaningful or useful way without the other. Even science itself is dependent upon making leaps of faith into that which is not absolutely known or knowable. Faith and reason are equals in my mind, both created by God. I believe that God gave us our reasoning minds for a reason and He does not expect us to then forgo its use (to paraphrase Galileo).

The logical and consistent end of that road is nihlism. That people like Richard Dawkins and the new atheists unlike the old atheists arrived at a faith position of meaningfulness in humanism rather than meaningless nihlism I think reflects the essential desire in all man for meaning and some higher meaning or faith.

There is no doubt that all mankind desires meaning. However, a desire for meaning is just wishful thinking if desire isn’t backed up by evidence. The same is true for faith. Faith, without the backing of evidence-based reasoning is nothing but wishful thinking.

Also, if God is the God of reason as well as faith, the honest and sincere use of the Divine gift of reason will lead one toward the God of reason; not nihilism.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

Motivation is vital, but given the sincere motivation of the heart, the Divine miracle is that God steps in and interacts with Human reasoning capabilities to guide the mind, based on evidences He has provided, toward Himself. God never asks for acts of faith without first providing evidence as a rational basis for the act or leap of faith. We are even asked to test various claims, to “test the spirits” to see what is and what isn’t from God. (1 John 4:1 NIV) Throughout the Bible God is constantly providing evidence as a basis for His claims and a reason to follow, serve, and worship Him. Nowhere is God portrayed as expecting blind faith in any naked claim coming from His mouth. The claims are always backed up by some form of evidence or prior experience with God and evidence of who He claims to be.

God understands the importance of evidence and the natural human desire for evidence. After all, He’s the one who made us this way.

Sean Pitman

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.” – Galileo Galilei

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…

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

Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.

The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.

God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.

The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.

For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”

That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.

Sean Pitman

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

Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.

God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28

Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.

Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.

This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…

Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.

Sean Pitman

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

Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.

Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.

Sean Pitman

Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…

Sean Pitman