Debate between Stephen Meyer and Charles Marshall

Stephen MeyerCharles Marshall - UC Berkeley

For those who were left rather underwhelmed by the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate (Ken Ham didn’t do very well), consider reviewing another far more interesting debate.

Late last year there was an interesting debate on Premier Christian Radio, “Unbelievable” with Justin Brierley between Stephen Meyer and Charles Marshall over Meyer’s latest book, Darwin’s Doubt.   Marshall, a UC Berkeley paleontologist, had published a review of the book in the journal Science a few months earlier and this was Meyer’s chance to respond to Marshall’s less than positive critique. For those interested, the radio debate is available by clicking on the following: (Link)

What follows here is my own summery, followed by my own personal take, on the debate:

Darwin's Doubt cover

The beginning of the debate:

Beneficial Sequences in Sequence Space Ocean

Meyer, of course, started off the debate arguing that the high level of information needed to produce the very wide variety of completely unique body plans (most modern phyla) that show up, all at once, in the Cambrian is essentially impossible for the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection to explain.  The argument is that “information is running the show”, as Meyer put it, and this information cannot be generated by mindless mechanisms.  As an example, Meyer pointed out that qualitatively new protein-coding genes are extraordinarily difficult to evolve because of their “fantastic rarity” in sequence space.  Given such rarity, it would simply take too long for random mutations to sort through all the junk sequences in sequence space to find any such beneficial island.  

What then is the source of this information?  Well, Meyer argued that we must appeal to our uniform and repeated past experience with known ways that complex digital codes are actually produced – which is only by intelligence alone (17:25).  There simply is no other known option available to us.  So, the “best explanation”, as Darwin himself argued, is the one that is known to actually work to produce the phenomenon in question.

Marshall’s initial response:

FusionMarshall was very cordial as he started off his initial response to Meyer’s central claims (19:30).  When asked to expand on his critique of Meyer’s book, he opened with an illustration of how the source of the Sun’s massive energy output was originally unknown during Newton’s day (now known to be the result of nuclear fusion).  Therefore, one could have hypothesized, similar to Meyer’s hypothesis, that because no natural mechanism is currently known, that therefore something outside of nature, some supernatural intelligence or source of energy, is feeding the Sun in some undetectable manner.  However, if one “trusts the process of science… eventually we discover things that make the apparently non-sensible sensible.  This takes us back to the world of Plato where the sensible is the world of cause and effect.”

Cambrian animals 2Marshall then went on to suggest that because of this starting bias it is possible that scientists may be missing something when it comes to explaining an event as unusual as the “Cambrian Explosion”.  This is why he was so keen to read Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt, since it was coming from an “outside perspective” that might highlight something that mainstream scientists had been overlooking.  However, Marshall was disappointed by Meyer’s arguments because he felt that they were more “1980s arguments” – a bit out of touch with more modern discoveries and understandings of how genetics works and how novel complexity evolves. Marshall explained that back in the 1980s, when he was an undergraduate student, there really wasn’t a very good explanation for Meyer’s arguments (as was the case in Newton’s day for the origin of the Sun’s energy).  Since then, however, “enormous progress has been made” in understanding these things.

So, what are these key discoveries that undermine Meyer’s claims?  Marshall explains that it used to be thought that, “New body plans required new genes” (24:30) – that different types of plants or animals are built with very different basic component parts, requiring a “completely different set of genes” for each new type of body plan. However, since that time it has become apparent that the number of unique genes (protein-coding genes) required to make very different kinds of living things is quite modest, “on the order of 10,000 or so”.  Marshall goes on to exclaim, “Staggeringly, all the animals use essentially the same genes! – just deployed slightly differently.” (25:28) Therefore, there is no need for massive genetic evolution to explain the Cambrian explosion anymore. Obviously then, Meyer’s central argument in his book, that new genes cannot be evolved in a reasonable amount of time, certainly not fast enough to explain the Cambrian explosion, is essentially irrelevant given that practically no new genes need to be evolved at all.

Marshall suggested that perhaps Meyer fell into this misunderstanding because Meyer isn’t a biologist.  And, for those who are not constantly reading up on the new discoveries in biology, it can be very hard to keep up with the latest information.

legos 2As far a the difference between things that humans create and design (32:30), Marshall argued that this was a “top down” approach, completely different than the ability of life to start as a single cell and then add components to itself as it goes along through time as a “bottom up” approach. This allows life to “grow and rebuild itself” whereas human-designed objects do not. Also, the basic parts of living things are interchangeable, whereas human-designed systems are not (i.e., The parts within a watch aren’t interchangeable with each other and therefore cannot be moved around within it – which isn’t true when it comes to something built with Legos or even language systems or computer systems where the same basic words are used to form entire paragraphs and books and operating systems).  Marshall also argued that proteins are far more flexible in their sequence requirements than is the human language system were very little sequence variability is allowed without a complete loss of function.  That makes the specificity in a protein “hundreds of orders of magnitude less than the degree of specificity for a computer code or for a written text.”

Meyer’s response

dGRNAt first approximation Marshall’s arguments seem pretty good – well reasoned and convincing.  Meyer countered, however, by noting that he did address several of Marshall’s key arguments in Chapter 13 of his book (36:00) – specifically the “developmental gene regulatory networks” or dGRNs.  These control genes that “tell other genes what to do” are involved in coordinating the gene products and their expression “in a circuit-like manner” – like the blueprint for a house.  Although Marshall argued in his Science review and in the debate the these dGRNs could have been rewired by evolutionary mechanisms early in the Cambrian period, he ignores the fact that “rewiring” itself would require a lot of informational input that would not be very easy to come by since the vast majority of possible ways that a rewiring could be done would not produce anything beneficial over what came before – exactly the same situation that makes it difficult for novel protein-coding genes to evolve.  In other words, circuit rewiring requires multiple coordinated mutations all happening at the very same time to be successful.  The work of Eric Davidson has shown that the central sub-circuits of dGRNs cannot be perturbed without “catastrophic effects to the developing organism.”  And, any control system that specifies an outcome cannot be made to be significantly more “malleable” or else it will cease to be a control system.  By their very nature control systems are “exquisitely constrained” systems.

Marshall on how dGRNs can evolve

Bird OrigamiMarshall countered (42:30) with the explanation that, from an evolutionary perspective, it can be difficult to understand that life “unfolds” and as it unfolds it “accretes complexity and sophistication”, which allows for dGRNs to be “less encumbered at the beginning”.  Marshall argued that Meyer is “precisely correct” in suggesting that modern dGRNs could not be modified between modern body plans – that the gap is far too wide so as to be essentially uncrossable. However, given the process of life as an “unfolding” process, one can “wind back the clock” to when life was made up of just single-celled organisms that then evolved into simplistic colonial organisms – or the “first recognizable animals called sponges”.

What is remarkable about sponges is that, “They do not have tissues or organs.” Yet, they have “essentially the same set of genes as a drosophila, a jelly fish, and a human… that have the capacity to make tissues and organs already sitting there.”   So, the theory is that different lineages independently evolved different body plans based on the same set of original genes.  The body plans themselves did not switch between one type of body plan and another, but each evolved from scratch from the same basic foundation on the ground that had yet to evolve a body plan blueprint.  Then, once the body plans are in place, natural selection holds them in place and prevents them from switching between different types of body plans.

The concealment of significant bioengineering problems 

blueprintMeyer responded (45:50) that the metaphorical language that Marshall used “concealed significant bioengineering problems.”  And, most tellingly, he cited Marshall’s own lectures on life’s ability to “unfold” where he admits that this ability of life to unfold is dependent upon pre-existing information in the form of “a few simple rules” that allows for this (a dramatic understatement of the pre-existing informational complexity it would take to get novel phenotypes to “unfold”). In short, always the emergent complexity of developing organisms depends upon prior informational complexity to code for the unfolding or emergent complexities of living things.

Marshal quickly responded, “I think there’s been a subtle shift in ground and I’m not going to deny the points that Steven just made.” (47:40)  He pointed out that his primary problem with Meyer’s book was his placing of the evolution of new genetic information (which Marshall evidently equates with protein-coding genes alone) at the time of the Cambrian explosion.  If Meyer is in fact arguing that these genes may have come along before the Cambrian period, his current argument for the basis of the Cambrian explosion, based largely on novel dGRNs, is a different argument – which is “fair enough”.  The question now is, where does the genetic and epigenetic information come from to begin with?  “I think that’s a very very important point.”

To which Meyer responded that he thought that novel genetic information was likely required within the Cambrian period, but that it could have pre-existed the Cambrian to be “parceled out in phases” during the Cambrian period.   However, either way the origin of the required information must be accounted for and explained.

Meyer went on to add that DNA is “necessary but not sufficient” to build animals (49:30).  That is why dGRNs are so important to explaining phenotypic diversity between various types of animals that all shares essentially the same basic protein-coding genes.  It is also being discovered that epigenetic regulation is very important to phenotypic expression as well.

Marshall noted, as this point, “I have only one response to that – You Betcha!  That’s it precisely.”  (50:00)

So, where does the information come from?

Non-equilibrium thermodynamicsWhen trying to tackle the main question as to where the required information ultimately comes from, Marshall started off with another illustration.  He pointed to the fact that energy is delivered, from the Sun to the Earth, at a very “steady and continuous rate” and the Second Law of Thermodynamics actually tells us that in such an energy flow situation that there is increased order and material cycles.  This means that “driven systems explore the improbable.” This means that as strings of DNA and amino acids become longer and longer, the functional properties of these strings will be explored – and “some will turn out to be functional and some to be nothing interesting.” He concluded by arguing, “So, the fact that complexity emerges on a planet like ours is entirely understandable in terms of simple mechanical processes.”

water drainMeyer, of course, responded (52:45) by noting that there is a branch of thermodynamics, known as non-equilibrium thermodynamics, that looks at what happens when energy is pumped through a system – which is popular in the origin of life debate (i.e., abiogenesis debate).  The problem is that all of the examples of energy flowing through a system and the order that follows all show the same thing – symmetric or redundant order (i.e., simple patterns, spiral wave currents, convection currents, etc.).  For example, as a bathtub is drained the swirl of the water that is formed as it goes down the drain is an example of the simple spiral wave pattern that is produced by this sort of phenomenon.  However, this is unlike the kind of “order” that is present in biological systems – which shouldn’t even be classified as “order” in the thermodynamic sense of the term.  A better term is “specified complexity” or “functional informational complexity”.  This is because there is a difference between meaningful or functional information and “order” in the thermodynamic understanding of order.  Meyer pointed out to Marshall, “You’re mixing up two different concepts there.”

Can Intelligent Design be a valid science?

Signature in the CellToward the end of the discussion (1:04:00) Meyer and Marshall went back and forth a bit on if Intelligent Design can or can’t be a valid science.  Marshall argued that the conclusion of design really doesn’t expand the “map” of science or provide any useful predictions as to how the world works since ID theories have made no positive contribution toward a scientific understanding of how the world works.  “Intelligent Design hasn’t offered any new words yet”.  He goes on to note that ID might plausibly be viewed as a scientific theory if only it had something solid to offer to contribute to the map of how science operates in a tangible explicit way.

Meyer responded by saying that he completely agreed with Marshall – that scientific theories need to have wide explanatory power as well as predictive power.  Toward this end Meyer noted that he had personally laid out ten predictions based on intelligent design in his previous book, Signature in the Cell.

When questioned as to the actual identity of the designer of life, Meyer argued that it could be known that the designer is intelligent, has a mind, is rational, is capable of generating functional/meaningful information in the form of codes and alphabetic sequences that convey meaning and thoughts and perform functions – very similar to our own abilities. “That’s what we can known scientifically,” explained Meyer.  However, when it comes to believing in God as the designer, Meyer admitted that while he is a theist, he has other reasons for believing that God was in fact responsible for life and its diversity on this planet.

SETIWhen asked if the SETI project isn’t equivalent to the Intelligent Design position being promoted by Meyer (1:11:08), Marshall said that if we were to hear Shakespeare being sung beautifully from Alpha Centori, that we’d all say, “Good heavens! … Wow!  There it is.” But that this concept has no bearing on SETI whatsoever. In other words, if we heard an artificial SETI signal, “We’d presume that there is some physical entity somewhere that also had a mind that could produce the signal.  But, this is where the analogy breaks down miserably with the intelligent design thing.  Yes, a mind is capable of these things, but we build everything in a temporal-spacial framework – everything.  So yes, consciousness and minds build these things, but we build it.  So, the question is, how can it be built?  Where are the factories?  What is the signature?… At some point there has to be a corporeal body if we’re going to do this in a scientific way that operates in space and time.  And, intelligent design hasn’t been able to point to any of those thing whatsoever.  It’s just a disembodied notion of consciousness and mind.  The whole point of the Darwinian revolution, the whole point of it, which made Darwin so hesitant, was the fact that natural processes were capable of producing things that looked like, superficially, things that humans make.  But, it’s only superficial.  When you get into the details, my word, they’re fundamentally different.”

When asked what evidence could possibly convince him to favor intelligent design, Marshall said that he is fundamentally open to new ideas and the possibility that some evidence might someday be discovered that favored ID.  It’s just that he has yet to see such evidence.

mind 2Meyer responded (1:15:20) by arguing that it doesn’t really matter if an intelligent mind is embodied or not embodied. Either way, the fact that some intelligent mind of some kind or another was responsible for certain types of phenomena can still be determined scientifically by studying the object itself – such as the sheet music written by a composer which Marshall had cited as an illustration.  If someone were to go to the British Museum and look at the Rosetta Stone and say, “Isn’t it wonderful what wind and erosion can do, we would look at that person as daft…  We recognize the attributes of intelligence in many other fields of discourse, in archaeology, the SETI research program is a good example. Information is taken to be a Hallmark of intelligent activity in all of these other realms of experience, but in biology we say, ‘No, we can’t go there.’  This is where I think Charles is revealing that he has some deeper metaphysical commitments of his own.”

My take on the debate

computer codeI thought that the debate was very interesting.  I’m obviously biased, but I thought that Marshall lost the debate at the point where he essentially admitted that, at the very least, the “Cambrian Explosion” of a huge variety of very different body plans required the pre-existence of information that would have been needed to code for these body plans.  Chastising Meyer that this required information need not have been generated during the Cambrian period is hardly relevant to the problem of generating the required information in the first place.  Where did this information come from and how was it produced by random mutation and natural selection?  Marshall seems to have no idea aside from some vague but ardent kind of faith that it is somehow due to some kind of “simple mechanical process” that spontaneously arises out of non-equilibrium thermodynamics.  However, when it comes to the details, he has no idea how to explain how non-equilibrium thermodynamics produces anything beyond very simple repetitive patterns – nothing like the type of functional sequence complexity found in the DNA or proteins of living things or other kinds of language systems or computer codes.

AvidaI also found Marshall’s arguments for the uniqueness of living things, compared to human creations, very misinformed.  He essentially claimed that the parts within living things are interchangeable and that living things can reproduce and unfold according to developmental regulatory network programming. The fact is, many things humans can and do design are based on interchangeable parts.  All human language systems, for example, are based on a limited number of words, equivalent to protein domains in living things, that can be interchanged within paragraphs and books in meaningful/functional ways – exactly as occurs in DNA and protein-based systems (like a structure built out of Legos).  Computer codes work the same way as well and, on top of this, can be programmed to reproduce and mutate just like DNA.  This is in fact the basis for evolution simulation programs like Avida that Richard Lenski and others work with all the time in an effort to study biological evolution.  So, in no sense of the word are the codes and mechanical machines within living things somehow unique from what humans can and have created and continue to create all the time.

To add to his problems, Marshall argues that DNA and protein-based systems are orders of magnitude less specified compared to human language systems, but fails to recognize the significance of the degree of protein specificity that is required to produce useful functionality.  Consider, for example, the following sentence:

Waht I ma ytring ot asy heer si htat nEgilsh is airfly exflbie oot.

You see, a sequence of letters can be pretty flexible in the context of an English-speaking environment and still get the intended idea across.  Of course, the same is true for protein sequences – just as Marshall suggests.  Most of the amino acid characters in a protein sequence can be changed, one at a time, without a complete loss of original function.  And, if carefully selected, multiple amino acid positions can be changed at the same time, 50% or even 80% on occasion, without a complete loss of original function. This is especially true of the central hydrophobic regions of proteins, “a high fraction” of which can be mutated, at the same time, without a complete loss of original function (Link).  However, the exterior amino acids of a protein generally require a higher level of specificity and cannot be so easily mutated, even among the most similar amino acid alternatives, without a significant loss of function.

Of course, multiple completely random mutations that hit a protein at the same time do tend to result in an exponential decline in functionality.  However, carefully selected mutations can “compensate” for each other, and result in greater diversity of protein sequences without a complete loss in function.

What this means, then, is that although there is a fair degree of flexibility for most types of protein-based systems, there is also a fair degree of specificity required as well, beyond which the function in question will cease to exist at a selectable level in a given environment.  In other words, an average protein will be able to experience an average of 2.2 amino acid substitutions, per amino acid position in the sequence, without a complete loss of function (Link). Considering that there are 20 possible amino acid options, the potential for an average of just 2.2 options per position in a protein sequence is still a fairly sizable restraint on protein flexibility.  So, at this point it seems quite clear that the argument that up to 80% of a protein sequence can be changed without a significant loss of function simply doesn’t reflect the true limitations on sequence flexibility for most protein-based systems. This is the reason why, as one considers protein-based systems that require a larger and larger number of amino acids to produce a given function, the ratio of stable/functional proteins within these larger sequences spaces still drops off exponentially – the significance of which Marshall has yet realize.

Complex WiringMarshall’s argument that evolving control networks must be easier than evolving protein-coding genes also highlights his ignorance that the same problems apply to both situations – the very same problems.  Just as in protein-based sequence space, the vast majority of possible gene regulatory networks (GRNs) that could be produced, would not be functionally beneficial. And, this is exponentially more and more true with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.  The evolutionary steps keep getting exponentially higher and higher – which causes evolutionary progress to slow down, exponentially, with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.  Getting a GRN to take the same proteins to build a different system at a higher level of functional complexity requires accurately crossing vast non-functional gaps in the ocean of structural options that would not be beneficial.

Granite cubesAlso, I found it fairly disingenuous for Marshall to argue that we have to discover the actual mechanism for intelligent design, “the factories,” etc., before an object or phenomenon can be recognized as being intelligently designed.  He seemed to equate the hypothesis for intelligent design as being essentially equivalent to an argument for “God did it”.  Why then would he recognize the argument for SETI as being somehow different?  After all, he himself noted that he would accept the SETI signal as being intelligently designed – without having to be given the actual identity of the SETI intelligence or the precise method used to produce the SETI signal (i.e.,  no factories need to be demonstrated or anything else like that).  Why then this double standard when it comes to living things?  Why the need to actually be shown the designer at work on the one hand but not on the other?

As far as Meyer’s explanation of intelligent design as a valid scientific theory is concerned, I thought he covered the points presented quite well.  I would only add that the concept that complex meaningful or functional information exists on different levels of functional complexity.  This concept highlights the fact that it is exponentially harder to produce something one step up the ladder of functional complexity – regardless of if a new gene or the rewiring of a dGRN is required to achieve this step.  The odds that a random dGRN rewiring process, or any other kind of random mutation, will produce anything qualitatively novel that has a greater minimum size and/or specificity requirement decrease, exponentially, as the minimum structural threshold requirements increase in a linear manner. That means, of course that the odds of evolving anything beyond very low levels of functional complexity, by any random process of any kind, even starting with a bunch of higher level systems, are extremely unlikely this side of a practical eternity of time (i.e., trillions upon trillions upon trillions of years).

Foot-in-the-doorFoot in the DoorStill, Marshall maintains hope that someday, like the unknown source of the Sun’s energy in Newton’s day, that some future discovery will be made that will vindicate Darwin.  He might not currently know precisely how random mutations and natural selection can generate the high levels of functional information needed to produce life and its diversity beyond very low levels of functional complexity, but he has faith that somehow, someway, the mindless mechanism of random mutations and natural selection was in fact able to do the job.  Of course, unlike the situation in Newton’s day were the source of the Sun’s energy was completely unknown, the informational complexity apparent in living things does match a known source of such complexity – i.e., humans and the meaningfully/functionally complex systems humans create all the time.  

Why then doesn’t Marshall do what science is supposed to do? – go with the weight of evidence that is currently in hand and recognize that the best explanation that we currently have for the origin of functionally complex information is intelligent design? – because of a fear that this recognition might “allow a Divine Foot in the door“?  So what?  Where is the “science” behind a theory that is based on what might be discovered in the future that might counter what is currently known about the only viable source of higher levels of functionally complex information?  Where is the predictive value in that?  Where is even the potential for Marshall’s position to be questioned or effectively falsified? – if he can always appeal to some as yet future discovery to support his position?  Sounds like blind faith and wishful thinking to me – certainly not a valid science that is open to testing and at least the potential for falsification.  Meyer is obviously correct in suggesting that Marshall has his own faith-based metaphysical position, independent of any empirical evidence or science, that is driving his position on origins.

In any case, I would like to close with a few recent statements from James M. Tour, one of the ten most cited chemists in the world.

James M TourDoes anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.

I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules…

Still, I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you. Is that OK, for me to say, “I don’t understand this”? …

Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.”

These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?” And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.

If you understand evolution, I am fine with that. I’m not going to try to change you – not at all. In fact, I wish I had the understanding that you have.

But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, “This enzyme does that.” You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me. Nobody has come forward.

The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come! Now remember, because I’m just going to ask, when I stop understanding what you’re talking about, I will ask. So I sincerely want to know. I would like to believe it. But I just can’t.

Now, I understand microevolution, I really do. We do this all the time in the lab. I understand this. But when you have speciation changes, when you have organs changing, when you have to have concerted lines of evolution, all happening in the same place and time – not just one line – concerted lines, all at the same place, all in the same environment … this is very hard to fathom.

I was in Israel not too long ago, talking with a bio-engineer, and [he was] describing to me the ear, and he was studying the different changes in the modulus of the ear, and I said, “How does this come about?” And he says, “Oh, Jim, you know, we all believe in evolution, but we have no idea how it happened.” Now there’s a good Jewish professor for you. I mean, that’s what it is. So that’s where I am.

Link Link

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38 thoughts on “Debate between Stephen Meyer and Charles Marshall

  1. Thank you for an intelligent, fact-studded, resume of the debate. I didn’t understand everything, but I suspect few readers will !

    Let’s keep raising the issues, keep defending truth as we perceive it. If there is a God, He will aid the arguments to reach willing, investigative, minds, and there will be positive, eternal results.

    Like Plato argued, surely this life isn’t all there is to expect. There must be something beyond.

    Richard Gates




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  2. Here is what James Tour had to say about creationists and an old earth:

    “Likewise, I do not well-understand the stance of many of my creationist friends regarding their scientific evidence for creation or intelligent design, but they seem to be quite comfortable in most respects with the natural and historical suggestions for its claims. I am happy for them, but I hope that their position does not cause them to trump brotherly love or charity in thought or words. When they write on these topics, they are too quick to cite each other or to refer to 40-year-old studies, and slow to consider the newer findings in the mainstream scientific literature. The scientist is not the creationist’s enemy, and most scientists are quite sincere in producing research that is accurate to the best of today’s measurement abilities. For example, the gross dismissing of radiometric dating experiments that use even multiple corroborating nuclei, not by a mere 20% or even 100%, but by 4-5 orders of magnitude, based on antiquated “scientific” arguments, is unscientific and unfair. Moreover, to simply suggest that “God made it look older than it really is” is also unreasonable. With what else is God deceiving us? The virgin birth, the crucifixion or the resurrection, perhaps? Never. God is not in the business of deception, but in causing man to seek so that he could find. And my creationist friends need some thoughtful explanations for their children because, in my experience, young college-aged people seek truth, and if you threaten them, try to brow-beat them, or show them a select set of cloistered “scientific” data, they’ll smell hypocrisy, and sooner or later in life, reject it altogether.”




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    • Good points…

      The problem isn’t with the speed or rate of radioactive decay or that God is trying to deceive us by giving false or misleading information. The problem is that the various ways of measuring time within the geologic/fossil record do not agree with each other – by many orders of magnitude. And, these problems are not outdated or based on “40 year old” papers. These problems are modern problems, some of which are of very recent discovery – to include the genetic evidence that slowly reproducing creatures are sustaining far more detrimental mutations than can be eliminated from their gene pools by natural selection, resulting in an inevitable deterioration of their gene pools (devolution) toward eventual genetic meltdown and extinction. All of these factors play into the obviously designed nature of complex life and the biosphere within which it lives.

      The fact is that the significant weight of evidence currently in hand strongly favors the concept of a recent arrival of life on this planet and a recent and very rapid formation of much of the fossil record.




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  3. @ Dr. Pitman

    I want to congratulate you for posting different points of view on your forum, notwithstanding at times some in opposition to you border on personal attacks. I especially found it offensive when someone referred to you as a crackpot. This is demeaning and has nothing to do with the issues.

    Interesting that James Tour does not subscribe to ID even though he doesn’t see the science supporting macro evolution. Not quite sure how his theology fits in with his science. What are your thoughts in this regard?

    Best regards
    George




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    • James Tour doesn’t subscribe to “creationism”, but he does seem to look favorably on the basic concepts of ID although he does reject the ID label – given that he recognizes that the Darwinian mechanism is not a viable explanation for higher levels of functional complexity within living things. I think he is naturally inclined to look for some kind of mindless naturalistic explanation in order to avoid appealing to a God or any other kind of intelligent designer and has specifically argued that nature cannot prove God or intelligent design.

      “I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion.”

      In other words, I think he would be quite happy if the Darwinian mechanism were a viable mechanism. I think he is quite sincere in wanting someone, anyone, to explain to him how such a mechanism could actually do the job. However, at this point, he is being honest with himself in recognizing, quite publicly, that the Darwinian mechanism simply isn’t capable of doing what most scientists claim it did. I don’t think this recognition has anything to do with his personal views on God’s existence or theology in general.




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  4. george: I want to congratulate you for posting different points of view on your forum, notwithstanding at times some in opposition to you border on personal attacks. I especially found it offensive when someone referred to you as a crackpot. This is demeaning and has nothing to do with the issues.

    I can only presume you are accusing me of suggesting Sean is a crackpot. I think this is not an accurate interpretation of the text but do apologize if you have been offended. I do think that Sean is heavily burdened with confirmation bias and is fixated on certain things but I do not think he is any way a crackpot. What I did do was pointed out to Sean that his style of communication and extreme reluctance to commit to publishing his work in the accepted channels of scientific communicaiton makes his communication largely ineffective in the broader discussion of science and faith outside the Adventist community.

    Where does a serious consideration of track record end and an argument ad hominem start in science? Any grant funding is based on a careful and ruthless comparison of track record an ad hominem assessment. I undoubtedly have asked Sean questions on the consistency of his logic and acceptance of the processes of science. As wiki notes there is a relationship between appeals to authority and ad hominem arguments.

    “Ad hominem arguments are the converse of appeals to authority, and may be used in response to such appeals.”

    Conversely when Sean claims that he rejects any appeal to authority he is immediately inviting a scrutiny of his views and evidence of expertise which is inevitably an “ad hominem argument”.

    having said all that I do totally agree with you that this last comment despite the obligatory and expected spin stands out as a outstanding piece of writing. This makes it even more tragic that Sean will not put his considerable skills to work in engaging with the process of science by writing for the peer reviewed literature.




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  5. Sean Pitman: I think he is naturally inclined to look for some kind of mindless naturalistic explanation in order to avoid appealing to a God or any other kind of intelligent designer. In other words, I think he would be quite happy if the Darwinian mechanism were a viable mechanism.

    It would help if you actually read what he believes as a messianic Jew who accepts Christianity. It is not hard to find and you would see you are mischaracterizing his views.

    http://www.jmtour.com/personal-topics/personal-statement/

    ” The Bible is the inspired word of God. Faithful Jewish scholars have preserved the Old Testament through the ages and it is an accurate account of God’s dealing with mankind, and more specifically, with the Jewish people. The New Testament, particularly the record in the four Gospels, is based upon eye-witnessed historical accounts that are accurate beyond compare to any historical documents of their time.[1]
    Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and God himself, as declared in the New Testament.[2]
    Jesus Christ came to earth as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah to fulfill that which had been written about him in the Old Testament.[3]
    Although sinless himself, Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of humankind, he was buried, and three days later he physically rose from the dead and appeared to many, including more than 500 people at one time. He then ascended to heaven to be seated at the right hand of his Father.[4]
    By the act of suffering, dying, and resurrection, Jesus provided the one and only way for any person to have an eternal relationship with God.[3-5]
    Regardless of one’s religious or ethnic background, nobody is born a Christian or automatically comes into salvation.[6]
    Salvation, or eternal life in Jesus, comes through a new spiritual birth into Jesus Christ.[7]
    There is nothing one can do to earn salvation, but it comes through believing and confessing the work that Jesus Christ did in dying for our sins and in his physical resurrection from the dead.[8]
    New birth, or salvation, is witnessed to the world by changes in followers’ lives, actions and words.[9]
    To those who have received Jesus Christ as their savior, they are no longer under the Old Testament Law, but are told to obey the commandments in the New Testament, of which there are more than 150.[10] [Letter on Faith, HTML or PDF format]
    These commandments not only focus on the physical acts to be valued by Jesus’ followers, but they directly address the followers’ heart attitudes.[11]
    God provides sufficient grace for the believer in Jesus to obey the commandments. Grace is the God-given desire and power to fulfill the will of God.[12]
    One’s obedience to these commands is a direct relation to their love for Jesus Christ.[13]
    The follower of Jesus Christ is commanded to testify of him.[14]
    There is a direct command to have fellowship with other believers in Jesus Christ. [15]
    The Father God will place honor upon the person who serves Jesus Christ and is willing to die for him. Willingness to die for him is a requirement for being his disciple.[16]
    If one has no faith, it is impossible to be pleasing to God.[17]
    There will be a physical resurrection of both the followers of Jesus (those who have accepted the salvation provided by Christ) and those who have rejected him. The followers will live eternally with Jesus, while the others will live separated from him.[18]
    Everybody will have to give an account for his or her words and deeds.[19]
    Jesus Christ will come again, but next time he will come as the crowned King to receive his followers.[20]”




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    • How does this counter what I said?

      James Tour is a Christian who originally believed the neo-Darwinian story of origins – much like Kenneth Miller who is a Catholic as well as an ardent evolutionist. For Tour (as well as Miller – and you), Christianity is not based on a literal understanding of the Genesis account and never has been. You also hold to the very same view on this topic. That is why the Darwinian story of origins, if accepted as true, would not undermine Tour’s view of Christianity – as is the case for you as well. Tour was brought up to look upon science as what was printed in “peer reviewed” literature – which he originally accepted without difficulty, but has since changed his mind.

      Specifically, in the past, I wrote that my standing as a scientist was “based primarily upon my scholarly peer-reviewed publications.” I no longer believe that, however. (Link)

      Clearly then, Tour would have no problem with the Darwinian story of origins as long as he could actually understanding the mechanism as being viable. In other words, his religion is not the basis of his problem with macro-evolution.




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      • @Sean Pitman:

        What is the basis for your comment
        “James Tour is a Christian who originally believed the neo-Darwinian story of origins – much like Kenneth Miller who is a Catholic as well as an ardent evolutionist.” ?

        His personal testimony gives no such indication; He specifically claims:

        “On a more personal note, I was born and raised a Jew in the New York City area. Yes, a Jew. And I remain a Jew. On November 7, 1977, while a college student, I came to the realization that Jesus Christ is indeed the Jewish Messiah.[3, 21] I asked Jesus Christ to forgive me for my sins and to come into my heart.[22] The result was an immediate and sustaining sense of his presence, peace and joy in a manner that I had never before known.[23] These came, according to the scriptures, by an indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[24] Therefore, in present-day terms, I am called a Messianic Jew.
        My experience was not a conversion to a new religion per se; religious conversion is an event that all gentiles must undergo in order to be saved. Although we must all undergo a conversion of the heart,[25] for a Jew, this is more of a return (making teshuvah) to the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and others through the promised Messiah.[26] These are the very things that were prophesied in the Old Testament, and it is the same return experience that was undergone by the first century apostles (who were also Jews). They never spoke of a conversion, but they spoke of repentance (teshuvah) from sins coupled with a belief and faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul argued that this following is not a sect, but the very Way itself, the Way that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.[27, 28] This results in salvation and the entrance of the Spirit according to the words of the Old Testament prophet, Joel.[28] Furthermore, it is a return since it draws the Jew into a deeper and more passionate relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.[23] I also have a heartfelt concern for all my Jewish brethren; hence, I pray for their welfare and the peace of Jerusalem.[29] I am well aware that my views are often upsetting to some Jews; however, I can not deny the truth, as I see it, from my study of the scriptures. Moreover, what I am in the flesh, a Jew, is nothing compared to what I am by the Holy Spirit. For Jesus said that although John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of woman, “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”[30] ”

        If you read his statements in context you will see that science is not the basis for this faith but he had a born again experimence which is the basis for his Christian belief. He has scepticism for both the ID and the macroevolutionary models of origins and as he says

        “What a comfort it must be to be pleasantly settled in one camp or the other, but I can not be so settled, and hence I have few tent-fellows. Based upon my faith in the Scriptures, I do believe (yes, faith and belief go beyond scientific evidence for this scientist) that God created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell therein, including a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. As for many of the details and the time-spans, I personally become less clear. Some may ask, What’s “less clear” about the text that reads, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth”? That is a fair question, and I wish I had an answer that would satisfy them. But I do not because I remain less clear.

        I hope that’s satisfactory; I mean for me, a scientist and a Christian, to be unsure of a few things in both science and Christianity. The question is not fundamental to my salvation as a Christian which is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, my confession in him as Savior and my belief in his resurrection from the dead. And I used to think that my outward confession of skepticism regarding Darwinian Theory was also of little consequence to my career as a scientist. Specifically, in the past, I wrote that my standing as a scientist was “based primarily upon my scholarly peer-reviewed publications.” I no longer believe that, however.”

        He became a Christian in his first year of Unversity and science or evolutionary models had nothing to do with it. I think you have certainly given an incorrect interpretation of his statement which was nothing about changing his mind about any particulars of science but about him now being judged by his Christian views and not only his science. What he is arguing is that there has been a rise of a fundamentalist version of philosophical naturalism in the academy that is opposed to faith.

        I am honoured that you have classified me with him as a person committed to science but recognizing that Christian faith comes from the word of God the scriptures and the community of faith not at all from the empirical evidences of science. I cannot but admire a man of God who spends 2 hours a day in spiritual exercises. Whatever differences I may have with his understanding of biology pales into insignificance in the face of the recognition of him as a fellow Christian who seeks to advance the Kingdom of Heaven. He is a great scientist and he is a saint in the true sense of the word.




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        • He became a Christian in his first year of Unversity and science or evolutionary models had nothing to do with it.

          I agree. Where did I suggest otherwise? His personal view of Christianity is not related to his view of science or evolution. They are independent topics in his mind – as is the case with you and others like Kenneth Miller.

          I think you have certainly given an incorrect interpretation of his statement which was nothing about changing his mind about any particulars of science but about him now being judged by his Christian views and not only his science.

          Hardly. He has changed his opinion about what is and what isn’t the scientific basis of origins. He no longer believes that the neo-Darwinian story of origins is scientific. That’s a significant change of position for him with regard to his scientific position on Darwinism – or at least the Darwinian mechanism which he no longer believes is scientifically tenable.




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  6. @ Pauluc and Dr. Pitman

    Firstly, Pauluc I am not offended by the allusion, by link, to Dr. Pitman as a crackpot. And I know you did not directly call him that but you certainly directed the readership to that link to show that Dr. Pitman is treated by the scientific community with scorn. For what purpose? Gentleman, as I am sure you have gathered, I am not a Christian but I am often appalled by how Christians of different theological stripes treat each other. In my books human respect is paramount and doesn’t have to flow from any belief in god(s) but from inner moral conviction.

    As we have been discussing Professor Tour, I posted the further comment from the cited link by Dr. Pitman. Of particular interest is his reference and endorsement of Pascal. Science cannot prove or disprove God. Prof Ford understands this and that is why he does not subscribe to ID to buttress his faith. First Cause – perhaps of a metaverse, of which there is evidence- will likely always remain an unknown. Man will continue to anthropomorphize God to provide a mystical explanation for creation and meaning for ‘human’ life. New forms or iterations of religion will continue to arise to address this issue as few have the stomach to face the potential accidental existence of human life; notwithstanding the weight of the objective scientific evidence supports that notion. And that weight cannot be wieghed by one individual. If Dr Pitman, as a scientist, is going to succed in his quest he is going to have to persuade the scientific community he is right – like Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Hawkings etc. And that does mean that the ‘greats’ were absolutely right as the history of science demonstrates.

    Notwithstanding I do not have it, I do not disparage faith. But if the attempt is made to link it to physicsl reality then such faith must be put to the absolute critical tests to ensure it doesn’t supplant objective human inquiry. In this Dr. Pitman, I can assure you I am absolutely not disingenous and I hope to provide a humble counterpoint on your excellent forum. For this ongoing opportunity I gratefully thank you.

    “I have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (ID) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion. So I prefer to be free of that ID label. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaise_Pascal), one of the finest scientists, mathematicians and inventors that the world has ever enjoyed, and also among the most well-respected and deepest thinking Christian apologists, wrote in his Pensees 463, “It is a remarkable fact that no canonical [biblical] author has ever used nature to prove God. They all try to make people believe in him. David, Solomon, etc., never said: ‘There is no such thing as a vacuum, therefore God exists.’ They must have been cleverer than the cleverest of their successors, all of whom have used proofs from nature. This is very noteworthy.’” As Kreeft (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kreeft) points out in his commentary on Pascal’s Pensees, “If the Scripture does not use nature to prove God, it can’t be the best strategy. Notice that Pascal does not say that there are no good proofs of God or that none of them begin with data from nature. Elsewhere, he specifies merely that such proofs are psychologically weak, but he does not say they are logically weak. More important, they are salvifically weak, [meaning that] they will not save us. If nature proved God clearly, we would not have to search for him with all our hearts.” Pascal further writes in his Pensees 429 , “This is what I see that troubles me: Nature has nothing to offer me that does not give rise to doubt and anxiety; if there is a God supporting nature, she should unequivocally proclaim him, and that, if the signs in nature are deceptive, they should be completely erased; that nature should say all or nothing so that I could see what course I ought to follow.” Though 350 years since Pascal penned his dilemma, as a modern-day scientist, I do not know how to prove ID using my most sophisticated of analytical tools. I share Pascal’s frustration. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if, when scientists had obtained the first molecular resolution images of human DNA, it had self-assembled (a thermodynamic process) into the Hebrew script to say, “The God of Heaven and Earth was here.”? But it did not, and I suppose that the wonder would have elicited no love from the skeptic anyway. Therefore, God seems to have set nature as a clue, not a solution, to keep us yearning for him.”




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  7. “Clearly then, Tour would have no problem with the Darwinian story of origins as long as he could actually understanding the mechanism as being viable. In other words, his religion is not the basis of his problem with macro-evolution.”

    That is right.

    And I agree that macroevolution is not sacrosanct and should bear as much scrutiny as any other scientific theory. But at this point in time what other scientific theory exists for the origins of and development of life on earth? As Tour points out the evidence for [YEC/YLC] is not there. I think he is being objective in this regard as he is about not seeing the compelling evidence for macroecolution. For him his default mechanism is scripture although he concedes scripture cannot scientifically prove creation anymore than nature can prove the existence of God.

    Is macroevolution a religion? No. It is not premised on whether is or is not a God and is open to falsification. Should one have faith in the gaps between micro and macro evolution? No. Such gaps should continually be scientifically examined. Is YLC a competing scientifc theory to macroevolution? No. It is a religious premise not supported by the objective weight of the evidence as determined by scientific consensus. Can scientific consensus be turned around? Yes, if over time the individual doing so is proved
    right.

    But the legitimate scientific questiions and concerns of Dr.Pitman should not simply be bluffly dismissed by elliptically categorizing him as a crackpot. I agree with Pauluc that Dr. Pitman suffers from YLC confirmation bias- unlike Dr. Tour and Pauluc who are able to separate their religious faith from their science. And to set the record straight I have no confirmation bias as to whether God does or does not exist. My salvation is irrelevant to the scientific investigation origins and development of life and the universe. Personally I’d be quite delighted if it can be detemined that there is a concious design to the universe even if ( accidental?) human life only will exist for the briefest span of cosmic, cognitive time. I’d be even more excited if it can be determined that there is ID behind the development of life on earth.

    Gentleman, I suggest that the biggest problem for your religious faith is not so much science – which in my estimation can shed light on what God is not – but rather theodicy. Cause and effect Nature provides a far better explanation for historical, physical reality than a changing, anthropormophized, arbitrary God who arbitrarily murders then saves his creation. Why worship that petulant entity?




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    • And I agree that macroevolution is not sacrosanct and should bear as much scrutiny as any other scientific theory. But at this point in time what other scientific theory exists for the origins of and development of life on earth? As Tour points out the evidence for [YEC/YLC] is not there. I think he is being objective in this regard as he is about not seeing the compelling evidence for macroecolution. For him his default mechanism is scripture although he concedes scripture cannot scientifically prove creation anymore than nature can prove the existence of God.

      I think this is a fair assessment of Tour’s position. While I happen to agree with him regarding his opinions on the limitations of the Darwinian mechanism, I don’t agree with him on the evidence for the age of life on Earth. However, even if it was generally admitted, by the scientific community at large, that the Darwinian mechanism simply isn’t scientifically tenable, neo-Darwinism, as a whole, would fail – and everybody knows it.

      Is macroevolution a religion? No. It is not premised on whether is or is not a God and is open to falsification.

      Anything that is believed without a basis in empirical evidence is a form of blind faith religion. Being anti-God doesn’t mean a person isn’t religious in his/her views. Religious-type conviction can be for or against God – or even neutral or agnostic with respect to God’s existence and identity.

      Should one have faith in the gaps between micro and macro evolution? No. Such gaps should continually be scientifically examined.

      As with any scientific position, a leap of faith is required. You can’t be a scientist if you refuse to take any leap of faith beyond that which can be definitively proved. While it is true that scientific theories should be continually examined, it is not true that no position can be accepted as “most likely true” based on the weight of evidence that is currently in hand.

      Is YLC a competing scientifc theory to macroevolution? No. It is a religious premise not supported by the objective weight of the evidence as determined by scientific consensus.

      Again, just because an idea isn’t popular among scientists doesn’t mean it isn’t scientific. As I’ve already pointed out to you, Einstein’s theories were not immediately popular among scientists. In fact, they were very unpopular. This fact, however, didn’t make his theories non-scientific. The consensus of scientists really has nothing to do with determining if a theory is or isn’t scientifically valid. This is what Tour is trying to point out in the reasons for his rejection of the Darwinian mechanism as scientifically tenable. He does this in the face of the consensus of scientists who claim the opposite.

      Can scientific consensus be turned around? Yes, if over time the individual doing so is proved right.

      Again, you can be a scientists and do good science and come to valid scientific conclusions well before the “consensus” of scientists realizes the truth. You simply don’t need the “consensus” to do your thinking for you. If everything were based on the “consensus” scientific progress would stall out.

      But the legitimate scientific questiions and concerns of Dr.Pitman should not simply be bluffly dismissed by elliptically categorizing him as a crackpot. I agree with Pauluc that Dr. Pitman suffers from YLC confirmation bias- unlike Dr. Tour and Pauluc who are able to separate their religious faith from their science. And to set the record straight I have no confirmation bias as to whether God does or does not exist. My salvation is irrelevant to the scientific investigation origins and development of life and the universe. Personally I’d be quite delighted if it can be detemined that there is a concious design to the universe even if ( accidental?) human life only will exist for the briefest span of cosmic, cognitive time. I’d be even more excited if it can be determined that there is ID behind the development of life on earth.

      If you’d consider the evidence for yourself outside of what the “consensus” is telling you, there is a great deal to make you very excited along all of these lines – and more.

      Gentleman, I suggest that the biggest problem for your religious faith is not so much science – which in my estimation can shed light on what God is not – but rather theodicy. Cause and effect Nature provides a far better explanation for historical, physical reality than a changing, anthropormophized, arbitrary God who arbitrarily murders then saves his creation. Why worship that petulant entity?

      You have a mistaken view of God and of the nature of human free will and morality…

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  8. @ Dr. Pitman

    Re: ID v Biology of the Gaps

    I agree with Pauluc: your writing is quite exquisite.

    However, I find you have a double standard when it comes to ID v macroevolution

    On one hand you argue ID as a default mechanism scientific theory for the origin of life even though you can’t demonstate how the design mechanism works. How was life originally designed? How was mutation built into the design, etc. ? Here you personally rely on your generalized theology ( weight of the evidence for biblical creationism) to fill the gap or void. And you seem to say your position is scientific.

    On the other hand when it comes to macro evolution ( that conventionally has occured over billions of years of time) you put it to strict laboratory, observable proof. Not quite sure how a genetic experiment can be run over a billion years? And you claim that if the mechanism cannot be proven at the present time an extrapolation from micro to macro evolution is mere faith and wishful thinking.

    Is this not a disingenous ( theological) argument? Please not that I did not call you personally disingenous 🙂

    Regards




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    • I agree with Pauluc: your writing is quite exquisite.

      However, I find you have a double standard when it comes to ID v macroevolution

      On one hand you argue ID as a default mechanism scientific theory for the origin of life even though you can’t demonstate how the design mechanism works. How was life originally designed? How was mutation built into the design, etc. ? Here you personally rely on your generalized theology ( weight of the evidence for biblical creationism) to fill the gap or void. And you seem to say your position is scientific.

      As I’ve explained several times before, one doesn’t need to know “how the design mechanisms works” before one can detect design behind a given artifact. You wouldn’t need to know exactly how the highly symmetrical granite cube was created before you’d recognize it as a true artifact of intelligent design – even if found on an alien planet like Mars. The science behind detecting deliberate design is not based on any requirement for knowing the actual mechanism used to produce the artifact(s) in question.

      On the other hand when it comes to macro evolution ( that conventionally has occured over billions of years of time) you put it to strict laboratory, observable proof. Not quite sure how a genetic experiment can be run over a billion years? And you claim that if the mechanism cannot be proven at the present time an extrapolation from micro to macro evolution is mere faith and wishful thinking.

      You don’t need to run an experiment over billions of years in order to understand the exponential nature of the problem at hand. The gap distances in sequence space between potentially viable islands increases with each step up the ladder of functional complexity. This increase can be measured and these measurements can be very reasonably extrapolated in a testable scientific manner. This is the reason why low-level examples of evolution in action cannot be used to assume that higher levels will also evolve by the same mechanism given a bit more time. This assumption ignores the exponential nature of the problem – which is your problem as well.

      Is this not a disingenous ( theological) argument? Please not that I did not call you personally disingenous 🙂

      It is not at all disingenuous because the argument is based on a very clear demonstration that the gap distances increase exponentially with each step up the ladder of functional complexity. That’s the entire problem for the Darwinian mechanism. And, this isn’t some kind of theological argument. It does not assume that God is the creator. It simply notes that the Darwiniam mechanism is not capable of doing anything beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  9. @ Dr. Pitman

    “You have a mistaken view of God and of the nature of human free will and morality…”

    Perhaps, but perhaps you do :). Perhaps what happens in the universe is entirely the result of cause and effect mechanisms of Nature rather than the original man taking a literal bite of forbidden fruit.




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    • Not according to the clear weight of evidence. Of course, you argue that the weight of evidence is not so clearly supportive of my position, but you’ve presented nothing substantive to counter my position beyond the fact that my position is unpopular. Beyond this, you don’t seem to have an argument about the evidence itself. You, like Dr. Cameron, seem to only care about what happens to be popular regardless of if you personally understand the arguments presented or not…




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  10. george: Firstly, Pauluc I am not offended by the allusion, by link, to Dr. Pitman as a crackpot. And I know you did not directly call him that but you certainly directed the readership to that link to show that Dr. Pitman is treated by the scientific community with scorn. For what purpose?

    I was pointing out to Sean that his current strategy for putting his point of view is clearly not persuasive. Another strategy is needed. That strategy I contend is to present his data before the most skilled people in the field. Much as we would like the mountain to come to Muhammad that is not likely and Sean must go to where the experts are and to coherently present his critique there. He should present it in the forum of the peer reviewed literature. He has every necessary skill to do so but is not prepared to do so. I would commend Augustine suggestion to any Christian who would aspire to apologetics;

    “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, this is a disgraceful and dangerous things for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumable giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these subjects; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of the Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

    (De Genesi ad litteram, Book I, Chapter 19) Augustine 353-430




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    • The arguments aren’t persuasive to you, not because of a problem with the arguments themselves, but because you value the majority opinion more than you value the actual arguments presented. You don’t think for yourself outside of what the “experts” believe… regardless of the arguments that might be presented to you.




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  11. @ Dr. Pitman

    ” The arguments aren’t persuasive to you, not because of a problem with the arguments themselves, but because you value the majority opinion more than you value the actual arguments presented. You don’t think for yourself outside of what the “experts” believe… regardless of the arguments that might be presented to you.”

    I find this totally ironic from someone who is the son of an Adventist pastor and can’ t think outside the fundamental Adventist box notwithstsnding the objective weight of the evidence across many scientific disciplines. You only respect such science that supports your pre conceived biblical beliefs. Where is the evidence that the world was created in 6 literal days? If there is no such evidence then why do you empirically believe it!!!!!!! Oh, I know, I know, because the ‘weight of the biblical evidence’ supports the literal truth of the biblical account.

    Come on Dr. Pitman, are you really thinking for yourself, rather than bending the evidence into your YLC box? You seem to think you are the only one thinking for himself, unless others agree with you. That is solipsism my friend. I don’t agree with Pauluc or his religious convictions but I’m pretty sure he thinks for himself. What you are trying to do, ineffectually, is demonstate that your unique version of origins is totally self determined independent of the influence of your acculturated Adventist upbringing. I don’t think anyone is buying it.

    Like Pauluc says, if you want to persuade those beyond the gullible you are going to have to do it in the scientific forum. Remember, Eddington proved Einstein right. Who is your Eddington?




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    • I am indeed indebted to my Adventist upbringing for giving me an edge in many different areas. I have no problem with that. You’re the one claiming that you’re completely objective, free of all bias – not me. I’m at least aware of my biases and I’ve tried to question them and think of things from opposing perspectives, putting my ideas to the test with the very real risk of being proved wrong and having to leave Adventism and even Christianity behind. I think I’ve made this quite clear – so clear in fact that Dr. Cameron keeps citing my willingness to leave Christianity (if evidence can be presented to me that does in fact fundamentally counter the Biblical claims) as something “dangerous”. He fully admits that he takes the consensus of mainstream scientists as most likely true even though he does not have a personal understanding as to how the Darwinian mechanism works at higher levels of functional complexity. He simply takes their word for it. The same appears to be true for you as well. How is this doing your own thinking regardless of what anyone else thinks?

      Where have you demonstrated your willingness to consider the evidence outside of the opinions of others? – to take a position regardless of what this or that “expert” believes? – to move outside of your solipsistic cocoon?

      What I am claiming, regardless of what may or may not be popular, is that there is significant empirical evidence to support the Adventist perspective on origins – evidence which effectively falsifies the claims of popular scientists. I’ve presented this evidence in this and several other forums for a number of years now. What have you done? Nothing. You’ve brought nothing to the table that fundamentally challenges any of my key arguments. You seem to have no personal arguments of your own.

      So, prove me wrong…

      Where is your evidence that the Darwinian mechanism can actually do what you claim it did? – beyond very low levels of functional complexity? Where is your evidence that life on this planet has really been here hundreds of millions of years? – evidence which trumps the significant weight of countering evidence that life on this planet cannot be nearly as old as you claim?

      I’m sorry, but until you can cite an actual argument beyond a mere appeal to authority, what do you really have to bring to the table beyond your solipsistic position that the majority of scientists simply have to be right? Based on what specific scientific argument that clearly falsifies anything I’ve presented? – or any of the testable claims of the Bible regarding origins?




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  12. @ Dr. Pitman

    “Not according to the clear weight of evidence. Of course, you argue that the weight of evidence is not so clearly supportive of my position, but you’ve presented nothing substantive to counter my position beyond the fact that my position is unpopular. Beyond this, you don’t seem to have an argument about the evidence itself.”

    Where is the evidence the world was made in 6 literal days?

    Where is the evidence that creation was once perfect?

    Where is the scientifc evidence that life on this planet is younger than 10,000 years?

    You believe these ‘popular’ Adventist beliefs don’t you? Those that challenge you here are not here because we are popular or do not think for ourselves.




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    • I’ve repeatedly given you evidence for the recent creation of life on this planet, for the inevitable degeneration of complex life over time, for the requirement for high level creativity and intelligence and design to explain even the most simple of living things and various biomachines within all living things, and for the overall credibility of the Bible on the topic of origins which fills in gaps in knowledge and does in fact go beyond what the empirical evidence itself can support. After all, if all of the claims in the Bible could be directly demonstrated, one wouldn’t need the Bible. The credibility of the Bible, as I’ve already explained to you, is based on those elements that can actually be tested and evaluated in a potentially falsifiable manner. These tests give credibility to those claims that cannot be directly tested – such as the Virgin Birth, the literal 6-day creation week, or the Resurrection.

      In contrast, I fail to see where you have presented any argument against any of this or against anything the Bible has to say on origins, or the position of the SDA Church, beyond a simple appeal to the authority of the opinions of others. Where is your own argument that you think you personally understand? Present an argument against any of the evidence I’ve presented in this forum for several years now. You have yet to do so as far as I can tell.

      I already know that I’m in the minority when it comes to the opinions of mainstream scientists. Telling me this over and over again simply isn’t helpful when it comes to explaining or getting me to see and understand why I’m wrong. For example, why not present some specific argument that explains the Darwinian mechanism to me and how it works beyond low levels of functional complexity? Have you even tried to do this? No, you haven’t. Or, present some specific argument that explains away the problem of the high detrimental mutation rate for slowly reproducing organisms. Have you done this? No, you haven’t. Present an argument for the preservation of proteins and DNA in dinosaur bones for 60 million years – in the face of kinetic chemistry experiments that strongly suggest that such long-term preservation is highly unlikely. Have you done this. No, you haven’t. What about the problem of continental or mountain erosion rates? Nothing from you. The list goes on and on and on.

      So, if the best you have is to tell me that my ideas aren’t popular, but you don’t personally know why, I’m sorry, but that’s just not helpful to me. I’m just not interested…




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  13. @ Dr. Pitman

    “In contrast, I fail to see where you have presented any argument against any of this or against anything the Bible has to say on origins, or the position of the SDA Church, beyond a simple appeal to the authority of the opinions of others.”

    Al righty then, let me present my very, own, personal argument that does not rely on any authority of others beyond my own personal observation on my question: “Where is the evidence that creation was once perfect? ”

    I have observed no evidence whatsoever or heard of any evidence that the world was once perfect without death. My personal observation is that all living creatures die, of which death I have witnessed a great deal. Prove it that once upon a time this was not the case by by hard, physical evidence – by science. And if you can’t, please have the humility to admit that such perfection of the world before sin is purely a matter of faith, not science.

    There you go, you asked for an argument in personam, not subject to the authority of others, and you have it. Ball’s in your court 🙂




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    • I’m not sure I understand your question? You’re not questioning the evidence for intelligent design or the recent arrival of life on this planet or any of the other arguments I’ve presented along these lines. You’re not even talking about origins at all at this point. You’re asking for direct evidence for the existence of eternal life? – a situation were no sentient living thing suffers or dies?

      It could be argued that the existence of original high-level meaningful information strongly implies an eternal origin of the original source of this information (the basis of my “turtles all the way up” argument). However, when it comes to the eternal life of sentient created beings, like humans or other sentient animals, there is no direct evidence.

      As I’ve tried to explain numerous times before, there are many claims in the Bible that cannot be directly tested in a falsifiable manner. I mentioned a few of these claims in my last response to you, to include the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the literal 6-day creation week, etc. The biblical promise of eternal life is also in this category. Obviously, this claim of the Bible cannot be directly tested.

      How then is a belief in such things based on anything more than blind faith or wishful thinking? Because, as I’ve explained to you innumerable times now, it has to do with establishing the credibility of the witness – the Bible in this case. How is this done? By testing those claims of the witness that are actually subject to direct evaluation and testing in a potentially falsifiable manner. And, by noting that many of the testable features of the Bible require a Supernatural explanation – especially the prophetic claims of the Bible. Fantastic claims require fantastic evidence if they are to be credible – which the Bible provides in abundance in my opinion.




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  14. @ Dr.Pitman

    ” As I’ve tried to explain numerous times before, there are many claims in the Bible that cannot be directly tested in a falsifiable manner. I mentioned a few of these claims in my last response to you, to include the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the literal 6-day creation week, etc. The biblical promise of eternal life is also in this category. Obviously, this claim of the Bible cannot be directly tested. ”

    Thank you for the admission

    I presume you now acknowledge that I have presented my own argument and am thinking for myself, as opposed to relying on the authority of others.

    Let’s move on to your credibility of biblical witnesses argument. Regarding origins, where is the direct evidence of Adam or Eve that they spoke to God and were created from dust? No direct evidence, well where is the author’s name on the Book of Genesis? No author’s name, well who wrote Genesis? Possibly two people after the fact based on biblical interpretation? Where did those two folks get their information? Passed down legends? Redacted stories, influenced by other cultures? Without direct evidence, or accounts sworn under oath and tested by cross examination, these are just ‘ just so’ stories.

    Such evidence would be considered the worst form of hearsay in any modern court of law and not accepted as proof of the statements contained therein. When it comes to evidence, law is very exacting as to the credibility of evidence and what is and is not reliable. Hearsay evidence, especially long after the fact, is not reliable and not admissible. Thus, why would you as a man of science and reason, ever accept evidence that would not be accepted in a court of law and is not, as you have admitted, scientific?

    Again, as you have stipulated, this is my argument, not one based on the authority of others.

    Looking forward to your reply.




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    • Thank you for the admission

      You’re welcome, yet again. I’m truly not sure why you keep asking me to “admit” the very same thing over and over again? (Link) What’s you’re point here? You’re like a broken record. Why not come up with something new that we haven’t covered numerous times already?

      I presume you now acknowledge that I have presented my own argument and am thinking for myself, as opposed to relying on the authority of others.

      Not when it comes to your belief in neo-Darwinism and the ability of mindless mechanisms to produce higher levels of functional/meaningful complexity.

      Let’s move on to your credibility of biblical witnesses argument. Regarding origins, where is the direct evidence of Adam or Eve that they spoke to God and were created from dust? No direct evidence, well where is the author’s name on the Book of Genesis? No author’s name, well who wrote Genesis? Possibly two people after the fact based on biblical interpretation? Where did those two folks get their information? Passed down legends? Redacted stories, influenced by other cultures? Without direct evidence, or accounts sworn under oath and tested by cross examination, these are just ‘ just so’ stories.

      Such evidence would be considered the worst form of hearsay in any modern court of law and not accepted as proof of the statements contained therein. When it comes to evidence, law is very exacting as to the credibility of evidence and what is and is not reliable. Hearsay evidence, especially long after the fact, is not reliable and not admissible. Thus, why would you as a man of science and reason, ever accept evidence that would not be accepted in a court of law and is not, as you have admitted, scientific?

      As I’ve asked you several times before (Link Link Link), when was the story of Alexander the Great written down? What is the basis of belief in the historical account of what took place at the Battle of Issus or the Battle of Gaugamela? You’ve responded before that you’re not sure that these accounts are historically meaningful (which I think is rather disingenuous of you). Yet most historical scientists believe that these accounts do in fact represent literal history. How so? Because of the established credibility of the witness – credibility that has a basis via a form of scientific investigation into historical claims. This is true even though most of the specific details of the historical account cannot be directly tested or investigated. Yet, they are still believed, by scientists, to be most likely true.

      The very same thing can be true of the Biblical accounts. You see, the claims of the biblical author(s) of various accounts are not just baseless hear-say if their testable elements show themselves to be true. You keep asking for direct evidence for non-testable elements of various Biblical accounts. What you need to ask yourself is if the testable elements of the accounts have shown themselves to be accurate? – in line with the evidence in hand. If they are in line with the evidence in hand, then the entire account gains credibility. And, there are many testable elements within the Genesis account – an account that was most likely written and compiled by one person, Moses. The Documentary Hypothesis that you seem to reference has lost credibility in recent years (also explained to you before: Link).

      Also consider, yet again (Link), that the key elements of the Genesis account were confirmed by Jesus. This means that the credibility related to the New Testament authors regarding the life and death, claims and identity of Jesus also comes into play on the topic of origins. This also means that Biblical prophecy in general comes into play when it comes to establishing the credibility of these claims. The statements of Mrs. White also come into play for those who recognize the Divine origin of her visions along these lines.

      So, if you want to effectively discredit the Biblical account on origins, you need to try to effectively falsify those elements of the account that are actually testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. Most mainstream scientists believe that this has been done, quite clearly, by neo-Darwinism. They claim that Darwinism turns the Genesis account into nothing but a moral fable – certainly not a literal historical account of real history. And, if Darwinism were actually a viable theory, they’d be right.




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  15. @ Dr. Pitman

    “So, if you want to effectively discredit the Biblical account on origins, you need to try to effectively falsify those elements of the account that are actually testable in a potentially falsifiable manner.”

    Actually I don’t because you have already admitted that the biblical story of origins cannot be proven scientifically. Mission accomplished!

    If you seriously think you can elliptically establish the scientific truth of origins of life through second hand accounts the resurrection of Christ you are stretching the boundary of rational credulity and naively or disingenuously trying to evade faith based belief. This is what Prof Kent, Pauluc and I have been saying to you all along. But you are in serious denial and can’t see what is obvious to other serious intelligent minds. Oh well ….




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  16. @ Dr. Pitman

    “So, if you want to effectively discredit the Biblical account on origins, you need to try to effectively falsify those elements of the account that are actually testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. ”

    Actually, as you have admitted that 6 day creation cannot be scientifically proven, I don’t.

    What you are attempting to do is argue that if some parts of the Bible are historically accurate then the whole of the Bible musf be true. This is not a scientific argument and really not a very good argument at all. Why? Because the Bible was not written by any one individual. The Bible was not written at any one point in time. Many of the authors of the Bible are unknown ( authors of Genesis) . Many passages are written after the fact ( new testament accounts of Jesus). Parts resemble earlier cultural stories ( Epic of Gilamesh v Noachian flood). Interpretaions of the Bible vary greatly.

    What you are also attempting to argue is we can absolutely trust historical accounts as is history was an exact science. For example how many soldiers fought at the Battle,of Gaugamela? Which account is true? Do you believe redacted historical accounts written after the fact?

    Here is a little test I use with my students to test the accuracy of oral memory. Take twenty people. Make up a very short story. Write it down. Then whisper the story to the first person, who in turn whispers itmto the second, then to the third, etc…. Then have the twentieth person write down the passed down story. I suggest you will find the actual story compared to the redacted version will vary significantly. Now imagine a story passed down through hundreds of years where bias and culture comes into play. On a scientific basis how accurate do you think the story will be?

    In sum you argue that because you think design is detectable, the Bible is testable and falsifiable as to the divinity of Christ ( really?) , and evolution over billions of years cannot be proven in a lab (naturally!) that the only viable ( scientific?) theory for origins is YLC. Do you really think this is a supportable, scientific
    proposition or is rather your acculturated position by a mozaic of faith, philosophy and cherry picked science?




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    • Telephone Game vs. Oral Traditions

      You don’t understand the nature of orally transferred historical accounts – i.e., oral traditions. They aren’t like your telephone game example. They are far more consistent over time for several reasons (Link).

      1)They are passed on to large groups of people who, collectively, remember the details of the story better than if it were passed on between individual people.

      2) They are passed on by people trained from early childhood to remember the details of the story – a story repeated over and over and over again by numerous people who all agree on the details of the story.

      3) The details of the story are considered important to remember by many people, and great effort is made to transmit these details accurately.

      It is for such reasons that the collective “core” of historical accounts of some famous historical figure, like Alexander the Great, can be trusted with a fairly high degree of confidence – to include the details of his numerous battles and even the details of conversations he had with various people. That’s quite amazing if you think about it, and not at all like the telephone game you play with your students. After hundreds of years useful historical information can be and clearly has been maintained in such cases.

      Beyond this, it doesn’t matter if the Bible was written by numerous authors. What matters and what adds to the credibility of the Bible is that these authors agree. That is why having four different authors write about the life and death of Jesus, each with a different take and different details about various events, add to the credibility of their accounts. If there were only one account or if the various authors presented identical details of various events, this would take away from the overall credibility of their story – as it would in any court case where multiple witnesses were describing the same event. Beyond this, the testable elements of their writings can be empirically tested for accuracy against other sources and currently available empirical evidences.

      As far as the Genesis account in particular, I’ve already explained to you how your Documentary Hypothesis has lost credibility over the years. It now seems most likely that one author (Moses) did in fact write the Genesis account. Did he use other sources? Most likely. However, he also claims to have spoken “face-to-face” with God Himself about all kinds of things. Given the truth of such a claim, it it’s hard to come up with a more original source that God. Of course, how does one test the credibility of such a fantastic claim? By testing those elements that can be tested. That’s how. What about redactions? The evidence is that there were no substantial redactions of the writing of Moses aside from some updates of various names of cities or the spelling of various words and the like – nothing which substantively changes the details of the stories themselves.

      Why then believe that the Genesis account is historically accurate? – that it isn’t just some fanciful legend? If the empirical evidence is most consistent with the Genesis account, like I believe it is, then the Genesis account gains credibility as real history – even with regard to those specifics that cannot be directly tested (just as is the case for the history of Alexander the Great and other historical figures of antiquity). For example, if there is evidence that life has not existed on this planet for millions of years, not even 100,000 years, that life is very young indeed compared to the claims of mainstream scientists, this adds a great deal of credibility to the Genesis account of origins – to include the literal 7-day creation week. The fact that the 7-day weekly cycle is of ancient origin and that the circadian rhythms of pretty much every living thing is governed by a circaseptan (7-day) cyclical rhythm is also in line with this argument (Link). The arguments for the requirement for intelligent design to explain various aspects of the universe and of living things is also far more consistent with the Genesis account of origins than the self-assembly story of mainstream scientists. It all starts to add up more and more and more in favor of the Biblical account of origins.

      Is this some form of absolute proof? No. Of course not. It’s all about the weight of evidence. Which argument is most consistent with the currently available evidence? But, you seem to want more than the weight of evidence. You seem to want direct demonstration or some form of absolute proof. You accuse me of “attempting to argue [that] we can absolutely trust historical accounts.” That’s not at all what I said. You seem to think that science is about producing “absolutes”. Well, I’m sorry, but science doesn’t work that way. Historical sciences in particular are not based on a direct or in any other way absolute reproduction of past events, but on the weight of evidence as to what most likely took place. There is nothing definitive here. It’s all based on the weight of evidence. That is why one’s conclusions could always be proved wrong, or shown to be most likely wrong, given additional evidence.

      It is at this point that I part ways with the likes of Drs. Cameron and Kent and others like them who appeal to “faith” to give them a form of absolute assurance. Such an empirically blind faith, in my book, is no better than wishful thinking. It is emotion-driven faith based on what one wants to be true – regardless of what the evidence can or cannot tenably support. Again, I’m not talking about absolute proof here. I’m talking about a faith that is consistent with the weight of evidence.

      This is why I say that if Darwinism is true, Christianity is a lie. They are antithetical stories. Both cannot be true. They cannot be harmonized. That is why I would leave the SDA Church, and Christianity as well, if I ever was presented evidence that showed that neo-Darwinism is in fact the most tenable explanation of origins. Such a demonstration would, for me, clearly falsify the claims of the Bible and undermine its overall credibility. The maintenance of “faith” in the face of such evidence simply wouldn’t be rational – as Dr. Cameron would agree. His faith need not be rational or at all related to the weight of empirical evidence. My faith, on the other hand, must be in line with the weight of empirical evidence as I am able to understand it.




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  17. @ Dr. Pitman

    I got a chuckle over your appeal to apolgetics authority when it comes to the veracity of oral tradition and historicity 🙂 A tad bit of bias?

    Let’s test your theory: what parts of the Illiad do you think are true and why? Fiction? Fact? A bit of both?

    What parts of the earlier ‘recorded’ flood story Epic of Gilamesh do you think are true and why? Do you think that those witnesses are any less credible than the ‘unknown’ author(s) of Genesis who relied upon passed down stories about the Nochian flood? Don’t you think the Epic of Gilamesh was passed down to large groups of people who thought it important? ; so important in fact that it was recorded on clay tablets? Do you think there is any chance that the Noachian flood story was a modified version of the earlier Epic of Gilamesh? As both versions meet your historical test as above cited which is true or accurate? Either?

    As to the commentator in your link, I wonder if he spent much time in courts of law where the veracity of eyewitness accounts is tested? Perhaps you should talk to a few good trial lawyers about rules of evidence – especially hearsay or second hand evidence- in this regard. Also ask yourself how many historical acoounts of Alexander were written after the fact by historians that were not actually there.




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    • I got a chuckle over your appeal to apolgetics authority when it comes to the veracity of oral tradition and historicity 🙂 A tad bit of bias?

      Let’s test your theory: what parts of the Illiad do you think are true and why? Fiction? Fact? A bit of both?

      I’m not saying that there are no mythical stories – obviously. Clearly, myths can evolve and develop over time and they can have an element of original truth. Many such myths arose soon after the death of Alexander the Great for instance. What I’m saying is that the Genesis account was not written as a myth or in the style of a myth, but was written in an obvious effort, by the author, to present a real historical account of real events. Even secular scholars of Hebrew agree on this much. In other words, it is quite clear that the author of the Genesis account was actually trying to wright down a factual account of real history – not some fantastic myth that would have been mythological even from his own perspective. The intent of the author is important here. It is also important to understand that those passing on this account considered it extremely important to pass on this account with a high degree of accuracy. Unlike your comparison to the game of telephone, it is well documented that the Hebrew Scriptures have remained essentially unchanged over thousands of years of time – aside from a few minor updates of the names of places and the like.

      Now, when it comes to determining if the story is true or not, that’s when the credibility of the author’s account comes into play… as I’ll discuss a bit further below.

      What parts of the earlier ‘recorded’ flood story Epic of Gilamesh do you think are true and why? Do you think that those witnesses are any less credible than the ‘unknown’ author(s) of Genesis who relied upon passed down stories about the Nochian flood? Don’t you think the Epic of Gilamesh was passed down to large groups of people who thought it important? ; so important in fact that it was recorded on clay tablets? Do you think there is any chance that the Noachian flood story was a modified version of the earlier Epic of Gilamesh? As both versions meet your historical test as above cited which is true or accurate? Either?

      There are in fact a great many stories around the world in many different cultures about a world-wide Flood. This fact alone support the Biblical claim that all humans descended from those who survived the same Flood – and speaks against the idea that this Flood that has left its impression on human memory at large was just some local or regional flood.

      As far as the common claim that the Bible borrowed its account from the Sumarians, that the Epic of Gilgamesh (EoG) came first, this is very unlikely for several reasons. First off, this notion is taken directly from the discredited Documentary Hypothesis which you continue to reference for some reason. The Biblical account is far more internally consistent and is also much more consistent with empirical reality. For example, the ship described in the EoG is a perfect cube, not at all seaworthy, whereas the ark described in Genesis has been shown to be very stable in high seas. The gods in the EoG are petty and fearful for their own well-being. The God of the Genesis account is concerned for the pain and suffering that is being caused by the rapidly increasing evilness and violence of mankind – consistent with the general theme of the rest of the Bible and with the empirical evidence we see in the world in which we live. The total duration of the Flood described in the EoG is less than two weeks – to include just seven days of rain. This is not as consistent with the effects of a truly worldwide Flood as is the Genesis account, lasting just over one year before Noah and his family could get off the ark. There are numerous other similar details that collectively favor the credibility of the Biblical account both in regard to internal consistency and the currently available empirical evidence (Link).

      What does this suggest? Well, it clearly suggests that the Genesis account did not borrow from and was certainly not derived from the EoG, and most likely came first as the original account. Of course, there are many striking parallels between the two accounts. It is just that the Genesis account is the more credible account by far given the reality of a truly worldwide Flood. The credibility of the Genesis account is further established by the historical accuracy of the post-Flood stories described in Genesis. Such evidences, such as the discovery of archaeological evidence for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, long thought to be mythical, as well as the other cities of the valley in that region, found in exactly the same order as described in Genesis, add to the overall credibility of the author of Genesis as a very accurate historian. This is true throughout the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls, and other ancient portions of the Bible, also testify to the fact that the wording of the Bible was very accurately preserved over hundreds and thousands of years – unlike your comparison with the game of telephone. The Bible is by far the most credible, the most accurate, historical textbook that we have. It has proven itself to be superior to every other historical text that discusses similar events, persons, places, etc. This is a fact supported by vast amounts of archaeological evidence which continues to undermine, again and again, the claims of the Documentary Hypothesis that you continue to cite…

      As to the commentator in your link, I wonder if he spent much time in courts of law where the veracity of eyewitness accounts is tested? Perhaps you should talk to a few good trial lawyers about rules of evidence – especially hearsay or second hand evidence- in this regard. Also ask yourself how many historical acoounts of Alexander were written after the fact by historians that were not actually there.

      Again, you seem to be looking for something akin to legal proof or something “beyond all doubt”. Well, that’s not science. Science, especially historical science, is about the weight of evidence, not absolute proof or the removal of the possibility all doubt. Science is about what seems to be most likely true, what seems to be most reasonable, given the limited evidence that is currently in hand – knowing, all along, that such a conclusion is always open to being wrong, to being effectively falsified, given some additional evidence.

      In this line, ask yourself why pretty much all historians believe in the accuracy of the main outline of events in the accounts of ancient historical figures like Alexander the Great? – to include detailed strategies and events during his numerous battles and the very words that he spoke on various important occasions? – despite the fact that they weren’t written down for quite some time after his death and despite the fact that myths and legends about Alexander were rampant very soon after his death. Do historians believe in the reality of the core events of Alexander’s life based on absolute proof? Of course not. They believe based on the weight of evidence for the credibility of certain non-mythical accounts of his life – to include the internal consistency of certain accounts in particular as well as the lack of self-acclaim from these accounts, like those of some Alexander’s generals (Ptolemy in particular), who could have taken credit for acts of valor which they denied being involved in, giving credit to others instead. Also, descriptions of the flaws of the heroes and/or personal flaws within a historical account are also important. Such details add credibility to the other claims of the author as well.

      The same is true, or at least can be true, of one’s belief in the claims of the Biblical accounts – for the very same reasons.




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  18. @ Dr. Pitman

    I want to thank you for your kind and thorough response.

    Legal proof is not absolute. Usually in civil cases, depending on the jurisdiction it is based on the preponderance of the evidence ( much like the weight of the evidence). In criminal cases convicting evidence must be beyond a reasonable doubt. The reason there are appeal courts is that often the lower court judges can and will make mistakes in evaluating the evidence or the application of law to the facts. The great benefit of the legal process of course is that evidence – especially oral evidence – gets tested by cross examination and then adjudication which is greatly beneficial in determining its reliability.

    Of course one cannot do this with historical oral evidence, hence the problem with the potential unreliability on passed down oral stories. Obviously I am more skeptical than you are on historical accounts regarding divine ocurrences. This is because so many cultures and a plethora of religions make claims – largely through prophets – as to a direct connection to God(s). As I have not experienced this phenomenom, nor known anyone that can rationally demonstrate this, I remain skeptical that God is of this manner or intervenes in the cause and effect nature of our universe. All my religious friends say I must have faith or feel the spirit to experience this phenomenom. Science, to me, is the great, rational eye opener that gives natural explanations for physical, biological phenonmena rather than leave us ignorant in a state of fear and mysticism.

    I understand the attraction of Christianity and its contribution to humanity. The redemptive message is very alluring to humans that all fit on different pegs of the moral spectrum. Being without God, or unaware of God’s presence, does not mean being without morality or humanitly. In fact I consider the highest morality to do good without notice or any prospect of recognition whatsoever other than instrinsic gratification. ( ie anonymous philanthropy). A very hard state to achieve but worth attempting if one is an optimist 🙂

    I do find though that your sceintific exactitude regarding the prospects of macro evolution vs. your acceptance of biblical claims based on ‘historical claims’ to be far apart in rigourous rational examination. If, objectively you examined such bilbical claims with as much scrutiny as you do ‘sequence space’ I think you would better understand the problem of the double standard. Forgive me, but my observation is that you do take a large part of biblical origins on faith using the pretext of the weight of the evidence. In saying this I quite acknowledge that there is much yet to test and examine regarding evolution. However, I don’t think any competing ‘scientific’ theory for the origin and development of life on earth, or in the universe has come to light yet. It still may and I remain open to that. I would greatly enjoy the proof of ID of life in the universe as this would suggest an entity with God like powers, but maybe

    I really enjoy fleshing out ideas with you because it gives me a better understanding of how a highly intelligent, reilgious person thinks. This is a great pleasure and source of wisdom for me for which I am extremely grateful. You are also a decent, well meaning guy- often misunderstood by Adventists in theological disagreement with you. As I do not have a dog in the LSU fight I have no comment on your conduct on that internecine dispute.

    A bientot




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    • Legal proof is not absolute. Usually in civil cases, depending on the jurisdiction it is based on the preponderance of the evidence ( much like the weight of the evidence). In criminal cases convicting evidence must be beyond a reasonable doubt. The reason there are appeal courts is that often the lower court judges can and will make mistakes in evaluating the evidence or the application of law to the facts. The great benefit of the legal process of course is that evidence – especially oral evidence – gets tested by cross examination and then adjudication which is greatly beneficial in determining its reliability.

      I agree. The problem with determining truth on an individual level is that you must weight the evidence for yourself. No one can do it for you. You can use scientific tools to do the job, but you’re still the one doing the evaluation and determining what the evidence most likely means. You can, of course, rely on the opinions of others who appear to be more “expert” in various fields of study. However, even this determination must be made on an individual level.

      So, when I argue for the “weight of evidence” I’m not arguing that this weight of evidence would necessarily be universally agreed upon or that any particular “court of law” would recognize it. What I’m saying is that each individual has to determine it on a personal level.

      Of course one cannot do this with historical oral evidence, hence the problem with the potential unreliability on passed down oral stories. Obviously I am more skeptical than you are on historical accounts regarding divine ocurrences. This is because so many cultures and a plethora of religions make claims – largely through prophets – as to a direct connection to God(s). As I have not experienced this phenomenom, nor known anyone that can rationally demonstrate this, I remain skeptical that God is of this manner or intervenes in the cause and effect nature of our universe. All my religious friends say I must have faith or feel the spirit to experience this phenomenom. Science, to me, is the great, rational eye opener that gives natural explanations for physical, biological phenonmena rather than leave us ignorant in a state of fear and mysticism.

      I totally agree. I’ve also have never experienced God speaking to me in any kind of direct manner. I’ve never “felt the Spirit” as many others claim to have experienced. No angel or supernatural being of any kind has ever spoken to me in a manner that I could actually recognize as Divine – something outside of myself. So, what then is left for me when it comes to discovering God? For me, it is the same basic logic and arguments used for any kind of scientific discovery. Using these arguments and evidences it has become clear to me that a being indistinguishable to me from what I would expect from a God does in fact exist and did in fact create the universe, the basic laws of nature, living things on this planet, and is behind the fantastic prophecies of the Bible. The Bible in particular is unique in my investigation. No other book or religious document comes remotely close to what the Bible has to offer. Just on a historical basis alone, the Bible is by far the most accurate historical document known to modern man. This, however, doesn’t necessarily make it Divine or of any kind of supernatural origin – at least not in my book. For me, the primary feature that makes the Bible clearly supernatural in its origin are its prophecies – prophecies which are unlike any other prophecy from any other religion or religious document. Many of the Biblical prophecies are extremely detailed and precise and open to clear falsification depending on future outcomes. Compare this with the vague prophecies from the “prophets” of other religions where the “fulfillment of the prophecy can only be determined “after the fact”. For me, only a God who created time itself would be able to produce the amazing prophecies that the Bible contains.

      Beyond this, on a lesser but still important level of evidence, are my own personal experiences with my own prayers, specific prayers, that have often been answered in a manner that I cannot deny as requiring Divine power to explain. This doesn’t tell me about what is right or wrong in the Bible, of course, but it does tell me that there is a God who is personally interested in me and my life.

      I understand the attraction of Christianity and its contribution to humanity. The redemptive message is very alluring to humans that all fit on different pegs of the moral spectrum. Being without God, or unaware of God’s presence, does not mean being without morality or humanitly. In fact I consider the highest morality to do good without notice or any prospect of recognition whatsoever other than instrinsic gratification. ( ie anonymous philanthropy). A very hard state to achieve but worth attempting if one is an optimist 🙂

      Yes, I agree. However, I see this motivation as a gift of God, not naturally acquired. It is a Divine spark that is equivalent to the voice of God speaking to the mind and telling us the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. This Divine consciousness, or “conscience”, cannot be explained through naturalistic arguments. It is therefore a compelling argument against atheism. The atheist cannot present a tenable argument for the existence of evil or ethics in general. While it is possible for an atheist to be morally good and upright, it is not possible for the atheist to present a cogent argument as to where his/her moral sensibilities come from. From the purely naturalistic perspective, there is no real morality – no real right or wrong. Everything is morally neutral with each individual determining his/her own personal moral “truth”. However, from the Christian perspective there is a very good reason for the existence of a universal morality of the kind you just articulated. The reason for the universality of such a moral understanding is because we were all created, originally, with this moral code planted within each one of us. We inherently know the difference between right and wrong because God gave each one of us this ability from birth. From the atheistic perspective, on the other hand, it makes no real sense to call one action evil and another good – upon what universal basis?

      I do find though that your sceintific exactitude regarding the prospects of macro evolution vs. your acceptance of biblical claims based on ‘historical claims’ to be far apart in rigourous rational examination. If, objectively you examined such bilbical claims with as much scrutiny as you do ‘sequence space’ I think you would better understand the problem of the double standard. Forgive me, but my observation is that you do take a large part of biblical origins on faith using the pretext of the weight of the evidence.

      I appreciate your opinion here, but this is obviously not how I see things. For me, it’s all the same. All forms of science require a leap of faith beyond that which can be absolutely proved. You often talk about a lack of “proof”, but that only suggests that you view science as more of a proof than of the weight of evidence for or against a particular theory. Also, consider that the weight of evidence from one perspective might not be so from another perspective. The weight of evidence is affected by all of one’s personal experience, background, knowledge, and even personality. There is a subjective component to it. One may try to compensate for this by using rigorous tests and falsifiable arguments to evaluate the world around one’s self. However, it is impossible to completely escape the subjective nature of evaluating the evidence that comes to your mind through your senses. That it why, in the end, you must do your own thinking for yourself. No one else can do it for you.

      In saying this I quite acknowledge that there is much yet to test and examine regarding evolution. However, I don’t think any competing ‘scientific’ theory for the origin and development of life on earth, or in the universe has come to light yet. It still may and I remain open to that. I would greatly enjoy the proof of ID of life in the universe as this would suggest an entity with God like powers, but maybe

      Again, I encourage you to continue your search along these lines and look closely at the evidence for the creative potential and limitations of mindless naturalistic mechanisms – like random mutations and natural selection. If you do your own detailed research along these lines, I’m extremely confident that you will being to realize that only intelligent design on a very high level can explain living things, or even many of the complex subcellular machines within living things. This was in fact the first steppingstone for me when I began to wonder if God really did exist. After a couple years of studying this problem I became very excited to discover that intelligence is in fact required to explain functional complexity beyond very low levels of functional complexity – regardless of where it may be found (i.e., human language systems like English or Chinese, computer codes and software, or biological codes and information systems within DNA).

      I really enjoy fleshing out ideas with you because it gives me a better understanding of how a highly intelligent, reilgious person thinks. This is a great pleasure and source of wisdom for me for which I am extremely grateful. You are also a decent, well meaning guy- often misunderstood by Adventists in theological disagreement with you. As I do not have a dog in the LSU fight I have no comment on your conduct on that internecine dispute.

      It’s been enjoyable for me as well. I’m often too busy to respond right away, but I do enjoy these discussions.

      All the best.




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  19. ” From the purely naturalistic perspective, there is no real morality – no real right or wrong. Everything is morally neutral with each individual determining his/her own personal moral “truth”.

    Yes, this is what an existentialist would argue (including me). However Kant argued for a categorical imperative for moral precepts based on human reason. The codification of laws, including the Ten Commandments, is society’s attempt to socialize morality.

    My observation is human morality sits on a broad spectrum. Some do good naturally and some do bad naturally. However, through reflection and hard work we can improve ethically. For a guy like me it is really hard work as I am constantly fighting self interest and pride!!!!!




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  20. “Again, I encourage you to continue your search along these lines and look closely at the evidence for the creative potential and limitations of mindless naturalistic mechanisms – like random mutations and natural selection. If you do your own detailed research along these lines, I’m extremely confident that you will being to realize that only intelligent design on a very high level can explain living things, or even many of the complex subcellular machines within living things. This was in fact the first steppingstone for me when I began to wonder if God really did exist.”

    And let me say you have been a an articulate advocate for ID in this regard. I can’ t fathom rationally why evolution would have a cut off point and life seems to adapt to an endless plethora of harsh living conditions. This does not seem to be designed but rather the result of RMNS. However I understand your arguments, if not the molecular biology, behind the limits of the evolutionary mechanism beyond low levels of functional complexity.

    But, as we have discussed before, if you are right about ID, then this raised the spectre of an intelligent designer that designed for life and death, and disease in sentient creatures, including humans. In my estimation to think of a life designer who would design for death in children ( cancer) is monsterous! The apologetic of Man’s sin caused by the eating of the forbidden fruit causing all human suffering, is to me the most creative, alllegorical story ever written. Secondly would be the Noachian flood where many innocent children and other sentient creatures would have been destroyed by malice. What monster would do that?
    So, on theodicy alone, independent of evolution and cosmology, I think the Biblical story of origins and the flood is creative fiction. I find the leap from the first stepping stone from ID to the biblical God to be a gap I can’t jump :).

    When it comes to theology and the idea of a perfect God, such an entity in my estimation cannot perform like a petulant child who on what hand pulls wings off flies, then on the other would sacrifice part of himself by allowing a piece to die. I think rhe idea of a non intervening entity, a cosmic dice thrower makes much more scientific sense and morsl sense given the weight ofnthe evidence and a human rational understanding of morality. And in this my good, deliberative, thoughtful, compaasinate friend, I can assure you I am not veing disingenous but speaking from heart and head.

    My thoughts are with you on this Good Friday.

    All the best




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    • Again, you seem to base your ideas on the “science” of Darwinian evolution on what you believe a God would or would not do – not on the actual empirical evidence available regarding the creative potential of RM/NS. How then is your position “scientific”? or otherwise rational?




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