Comment on Debate between Stephen Meyer and Charles Marshall by pauluc.
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.
pauluc Also Commented
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. The result was an immediate and sustaining sense of his presence, peace and joy in a manner that I had never before known. These came, according to the scriptures, by an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 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, 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. 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. 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. I also have a heartfelt concern for all my Jewish brethren; hence, I pray for their welfare and the peace of Jerusalem. 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.” ”
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.
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.
” 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.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and God himself, as declared in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ came to earth as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah to fulfill that which had been written about him in the Old Testament.
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.
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.
Salvation, or eternal life in Jesus, comes through a new spiritual birth into Jesus Christ.
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.
New birth, or salvation, is witnessed to the world by changes in followers’ lives, actions and words.
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. [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.
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.
One’s obedience to these commands is a direct relation to their love for Jesus Christ.
The follower of Jesus Christ is commanded to testify of him.
There is a direct command to have fellowship with other believers in Jesus Christ. 
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.
If one has no faith, it is impossible to be pleasing to God.
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.
Everybody will have to give an account for his or her words and deeds.
Jesus Christ will come again, but next time he will come as the crowned King to receive his followers.”
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
Recent Comments by pauluc
To summarize the issues in your long response.
1] NHP as you have articulated do not offer any possibility of deciding between relatedness by descent and “God made it that way”
2] ID only hypothesis; Has never been formulated in any rigorous way that has been subject to testing. I do not even know what you mean by “ID-only”. Most scientists would understand ID as code for “We dont understand this except God did it”.
3] Hypothesis testing you say
“Real science demands that models be at least theoretically falsifiable. That means that a particular model can be shown to be false even if there is no other model with which to replace the current model. A false model is a false model. It’s as simple as that.”
Unfortunately it is nowhere near as simple as that as you would know if if you had bothered to try to understand science beyond your sectarian base. Although the poperian model of science as hypothesis testing and a requirement for falsifiability is still the dominant understanding it is much more complicated than that. The discussion by Alistair McGrath in “A scientific theology vol 3 theory” pg 192-214 of the Durham – Quine theory and the nature of hypothesis testing would be a useful start to understand hypothesis testing and falsifiability. In summary however the theory suggests that a thesis such as quantum mechansisms, origin of life by evolution by common descent is surrounded by a group of agregated interrelated hypotheses. These might include Darwinian natural selection. In reality as Jerry Fodor has suggested in his book “What Dawin Got Wrong”, the Darwinian hypothesis can be rejected based on evidence without at all rejecting the core evolutionary hypothesis. As he says in his eassy “Fodor against Darwinism” found on his website
“None of this should, however, lighten the heart of anybody in Kansas; not even a little. In particular, I’ve provided not the slightest reason to doubt the central Darwinist theses of the common origin and mutability of species. Nor have I offered the slightest reason to doubt
that we and chimpanzees had (relatively) recent common ancestors. Nor I do suppose that the intentions of a designer, intelligent or otherwise, are among the causally sufficient conditions that good historical narratives would appeal to in order to explain why a certain kind of creature has the phenotypic traits it does (saving, of course, cases like Granny and her zinnias.) It is, in short, one thing to wonder
whether evolution happens; it’s quite another thing to wonder whether adaptation is the mechanism by which evolution happens. Well, evolution happens; the evidence that it does is overwhelming. I blush to have to say that so late in the day; but these are bitter times.”
The response to data that would falsify one of the hyptheses is to change that hypothesis to better account for the new fact without at all changing the original thesis.
A recent review on evolution of cellular complexity by ratchet like mechansisms rather than selection also critiques Darwinian selection as the mechanism of generating complexity but does not question the well established rubric of evolution of cellular complexity. (Gray MW, LukeÅ¡ J, Archibald JM, Keeling PJ, Doolittle WF. Irremediable Complexity? Science 2010 Nov;330(6006):920 -921). This is the model of scientific advance you are confonting. Science could completely reject all darwinian mechanisms but the thesis of evolution would remain because of the absence of a better theory.
Your approach of pointing out the problems you see with some aspect of the evolutionary model completely misses this point. You are approaching science and knowledge from the approach to truth you hear from the pulpit and from fundamentalists like Bob Ryan. You cannot be a christian unless you believe in the literal creation. You cannot have a sabbath unless the literal creation is correct. There can be no second coming unless the creation is literally true. This is not the mindset outside the inclaves of fundamentalism. The pillar talk of people like this engender the idea that failure at a single point destroys the whole edifice. This does not pass the test of realism.
You cannot hope to change the scientific paradigm that is the thesis of evolution by pointing out even a multitude of errors or inconsistencies in the surrounding interrelated hypotheses without a compelling alternative core model. You have to provide both an overarching alternative to evolution as a thesis and to each of the surrounding interrelated hypotheses each of which provide support for the overall hypothesis.
I know you have taken the view that you can and must personally understand everything related to origins and have published critiques in all conceivably related fields. This is all well and good but these have to be both credible and well informed in each field.
for Eg do you seriously want us to believe that geo biodiversity can be accounted for by a model of plate tectonics that suggests that in 6000 years south america moved >11000 km from Gwondanaland. This is incredible; minimal rate of nearly 2 Km per year! The constraints imposed on the model, a 6000 year earth history makes your task of credibility virtually impossible. But if you move away from the “about 6000” of divine relevation you are on your own and well away from the mothership of the church.
You have a problem in that your core thesis that God created everything 6000 years ago was the dominant model some 150 years ago but this has been tested and progressively rejected as untenable because of accumulating evidence for the alternative model over the last 150 years. It is extremely unlikely that this will ever be a scientific thesis although it will always remain as a faith statement which is outside the magesteria of science and hypothesis testing. People like Prof Kent seem to recognize this.
4] The organization of the genome;
“Beyond this, your notion that the genome is a hodge-podge poorly planned jumbled mess is a view that is at odds with the currently emerging view of the genome”
I think it interesting that you would take a journalists view, albeit published in science, as the best evidence for “currently emerginf view of the genome”. Even given this caveat I do not read this review as supporting your contention of design on which it is completely silent. Unless of course you see in a Mandelbrot and all complexity the finger of God.
If you had read the chicken defensin gene paper you would have an example of what I mean by messy. Within this gene family
a] Why are the introns of different length ie different ?random intronic lengths
b] why are the intergenic distances variable?
c] why does the gal13 have partial repeat sequences
d] why is the orientation of the gene seemingly at random?
This does not to me seem the carefully ordered regular precise structure I would expect of intelligent design. If you suggest that we do not yet know but that all of this nonetheless reflect careful thought or that it reflects interference and corruption from the devil as David Read woudl suggest I would have to conclude that your ID concept is vaccuous has not explanatory value and is far from scientific.
In contrast the evolutionary model of common origin and ancestory has extraordinary explanatory and predictive value. It predicts that changes between species will reflect this history of origin by descent from common ancestors.
I ask you to take any published analysis of a multigene family and ask the same questions. Do they objectively support order and design or are they best accounted for by contingency and chance with a mere modicum of selection.
5] I have dealt with “real science” and new models above but your statement
” … but on the functional aspects associated with the NHP that cannot be explained by any known mindless mechanism while being within the realm of the powers of intelligent design at a very high level.”
is a faith statement, a non-sequitur that does not get to the point of this dialogue which was why the genome is as it is and can you honestly say it is best accounted for by “design”.
The End of “Junk DNA”?
“I’m a very strong supporter of the freedoms of religion, speech, and general expression within the confines of civil law and government………………church employment is an entirely different matter. Church employment is a privilege, not a basic human right. No one should expect payment from any particular organization, to include a church organization, just because one claims the name of that organization”.
Does your rhetoric and claimed principle really just come down to concerns about administrative process and control of thought by economic leverage? Do you have no respect for education as a process that involves academic freedom?
Your approach seems to be blind to the progressive history of Adventism. Adventist have no creed and what you believe about origins is not precisely what early adventists would believe. Adventism has had a doctrine of creation like all christians. Most have adopted a YEC view but that YEC in general has not always believed that the earth was old or that a big bang occurred. The idea that there has been a single standard of belief over the last 150 years is naive. Are you advocating that what you believe now in 2012 including your belief on natural mechanisms of macroevolution (as it is usually defined) and the age of the earth is the gold standard manifests to me a huge amount of hubris and lack of perspective. Have you not read the statement of fundamental beliefs and its preamble? What do you want to do. Sack people every time there is new perspective on mechanisms of creation? Do you have a purge your educational faculties with every change in administration? Doesnt seem to have worked very well for ADRA. Do you think you are the one who can determine the “truth” to which we must educate. How about a little academic freedom and acknowledgment of the true standard. Recognition of a doctrine of creation rather than judging people by the nuances of some theory of creation.
I do not really know the people who teach science at La Sierra but as Prof Kent has suggested it seems to me they may well have projected a lack of respect for traditional Adventist positions and heritage in the past but I suspect you are now beating a dead horse and the University has done what it can to be responsibly responsive to the expressed concern.
“The freedom of expression and the ability to hire only those who will most accurately reflect one’s views is also extended to the “ignorant”.”
Yes we are all ignorant it is a question of whether we are able to admit it and concede expertise to those who manifest it. I have never claimed to be brilliant, I simply try to practice my craft as honestly and consistently as I can and that means accepting the tradition and process of science as a window to understand the natural world and accepting the value and insight of both the Adventist tradition and the Christian faith as it has been practised by our spiritual fathers for 2000 years. I ask only that we practice charity rather than condemnation toward those who are trying to educate in science and in knowledge of God.
Thanks for that. Wise choice, that I knew given your intelligence you would make despite you vigorous defence of your near perfect pair model of origins. We will pass over the assumption that there are no deleterious mutations and that you discriminate against animals with variant expression of FGF4 and consider it deleterious. Why the prejudice against short legs?
Lets recap what we do agree on
1] A genetically bottle-necked population such as 2 Daschunds lacks the genetic diversity to allow rapid selection of phenotypic novelty by selection among allelic variants. imposing a bottleneck on a non-bottle-necked population of wolves is also suspect so you choose 100 pairs.
2] In this you seem to be accepting the conventional scientific view that a bottle-necked population is undesirable as it has dramatically decreased repertoire in their gene pool and high levels of homozygosity. Lack of variation rather than deleterious mutation is the issue.
3] You accept that wolves and their subfamily dogs, foxes, jackal and coyotes are all derived from 2 animals living 4000 years ago. This by definition is a genetic bottleneck
4] These animals had 2 genomes and maximum of 4 haplotypes and alleles for every gene. Any additional alleles has arisen subsequently as random or non-random mutations.
5] The vast majority of the SNP (>2.5million) arose in the progeny of this pair by mutations over a period of 4000 years.
5] The multiple DLA alleles at the class II arose denovo since these 2 animals provided the 4 original alleles.
6] Similarly in man [assuming 8 people on the ark and that Noahs sons were the progeny of he and his wife, and that his daughter in laws were unrelated to each other and to Noah and his wife and were heterzygous] there were a total of 10 alleles at HLA B. this means that 1590 of the HLA-B alleles currently recognized by genotype in man have arisen denovo over the last 4000 years.
7] In this case if we accept Seans value of 1600 HLA-B allels then 99.3% of the variation seen today has arisen by chance mutations and selection.
8] If we conservatively estimate the HLA-B serological specificities associated with amino acid changes and differences in peptide binding are 60 and all of the 10 HLA-B alleles in the 8 people on the boat were associated with serological specificity then we can assume that at least 83% of the variation in the highly functional amino acid changes in HLA-B seen the current population were derived by chance mutations.
9] There seems little reason to argue that the same process that must occur in highly polymorphic systems such as the MHC do not occur in other gene systems.
9] If between 83% and 99% of the variation in the progeny of 2 animals and 8 humans arose rapidly over 4000 years and in the case of canines this acquired variation was able to generate at least the species wolves, coyote, foxes and Jackals, it is hard to then mount a consistent criticism that species can never arise by acquired mutations.
10] You can of course invoke miracles. Indeed I think it is the only logically consistent conclusion given your premises.
1] All species variation arose over 4000 years from an extremely bottle-necked population
2] Mutations account for any variation not present in the original near perfect pair.
3] These mutations cannot generate anything useful or novel that can contribute to the phenotypic development of breeds or species.
I have great faith in your ability to reconcile these but I do not have the intellectual horsepower to do so except by invoking miracles.
“Don’t sell yourself short! You think you’re just as right in your opinions and that I’m clearly mistaken. You’re certainly no less “gifted” in this regard than I am.”
No Sean this is really the core of the differences between you and me. It is not a matter of opinion but a matter of statistical probability. In almost all of what I have posted on this site I have reflected the evidence for the consensus view rather than my opinion.
Dismiss me as kowtowing to authority if you will. I have faith in the process of hypothesis driven science and the community of scientists that seeks to arrive at objective truth by free and open communication of ideas by publication and peer review. In this process I continue to participate for I do think it is one of the most noble human endeavours.
As a outsider to this process and as one who has never had formal training in science you uncritically accept the paranoid meme that says you must be somehow blessed by some scientific inner circle to have your papers accepted. You feel excluded but have you actually tried to participate?
I accept in good faith the work of scientists and the derivative consensus view in most areas of science but like all good scientist understand it is always a tentative synthesis. I maintain a cynical attitude which unfortunately taints the way I view your claims. I nonetheless can appreciate the elegance of a solution to a conundrum and an hypothesis that has huge explanatory value while still accepting its tentative nature. I understand my limitations and have some inkling of the extent of the biomedical literature. I recognise expertise and am therefore happy to defer to the expertise of others with an appropriate track record.
In contrast because of your religious views you do not accept the consensus view of scientists in a vast number of areas including geology, climatology and paleoclimatology, volcanology, oceanography, genetics, paleontology, cladistics, and molecular biology. In all these areas you imagine that you have more expertise and insight than the people who have dedicated their lives to the study of the content of these areas.
In spite of the way you construct it I am not suggesting I am more righter than you and I have only ever suggested that you have some respect for the history of the current consensus view in science and a little more realism in your perception of mastery of these areas. You may view this as a contest and that you easily best some fool from the antipodes but in rejecting my appeals to the evidence and the orthodox consensus view in areas in which I have some expertise you are essentially claiming you know it all.
[to save time I will acknowledge this space as containing some castigation from you or Bob Ryan such as “Gotta love the appeal to authority!!!”]
Which brings me to the question of probabilities. Statistically who do you think is more likely to be right? 1] An MD from Southern California whose ambition in life seems to be to extinguish any open discussion of views that do not align with his own views and interpretation of most all of science. 2] The consensus view of many scientists who in good faith attempt to understand the world through a process of hypothesis testing and experimentation and open communication of that information and interpretation.
Concerning your fixation with the numerology I can use R and bioconductor probably better than the average biologist but like lawyer jokes the adage about “lies, damn lies and statistics” resonates because it has some basis in reality. Biologists use statistics to decide what is the likely among the possible processes and hypotheses. Statistics and mathematics are tool in biology not the reality. Particularly annoying I find the abuse of post hoc probabilities which are largely meaningless and depend on the rigor of your definition of the dependent variables proposed as precedent to the outcome. Bayes and the savy gambler understood the real purpose of statistics.