XFiles Friday: What is evidence?

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 5)

I hate to get bogged down in Chapter 5, but Geisler and Turek are belaboring a fairly fundamental misconception or three that I think deserve to be highlighted and corrected.

Why then do Darwinists come to the conclusion that the first life generated spontaneously from nonliving chemicals without intelligent intervention? Spontaneous generation of life has never been observed. Ever since Pasteur sterilized his flask, one of the most fundamental observations in all of science has been that life arises only from similar existing life. Scientists have been unable to combine chemicals in a test tube and arrive at a DNA molecule, much less life. In fact, all experiments designed to spontaneously generate life—including the now-discredited Urey-Miller experiment–have not only failed but also suffer from the illegitimate application of intelligence…

Misconception number one: if science hasn’t done it yet, this proves that it cannot be done. At the time Geisler and Turek wrote the above paragraph, it was true that scientists had not yet artificially assembled a complete DNA molecule. It was only a matter of time, however, before they succeeded in doing just that. But there’s another misconception here, and that is that if scientists manage to recreate abiogenesis, that means they’re “illegitimately” injecting intelligence into the process.

That’s clearly a red herring: if the forensics team recreates the scenario under which the murder occurred, that doesn’t mean they’re injecting their own motives into the crime. If scientists apply their intelligence towards the task of artificially constructing a living cell, then yes, that would be a case of intelligently-designed life. If, however, scientists merely reconstruct the environment under which abiogenesis might have happened spontaneously, and then simply observe whether or not life does arise, then there’s nothing illegitimate about it, unless you want to claim that the initial conditions also require intelligent design. (Few creationists, however, claim to see evidence of intelligent design in ordinary mud puddles.)

And by the way, there’s more to Urey-Miller than Geisler and Turek would lead you to believe. But there’s yet another, even more fundamental misconception in this chapter.

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TIA: Lowering the Bar

[Update: Vox has posted this on the TIA discussion forum, in its entirety, so I'd like to welcome any new readers who happen to wander over this way, and to invite them to browse through my other posts on Vox's book.]

It is refreshing, in a way, how openly and sincerely Vox Day’s book The Irrational Atheist pursues a frankly ad hominem strategy in dealing with the writings of Dawkins and company. He cannot refute atheism itself, since that would require a God Who actually shows up and interacts with the real world in objectively verifiable ways. So he does the next best thing and attacks the atheists instead. He states this plainly in Chapter 1, “A Pride of Athiests [sic].”

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Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Why Race, Gender and Religion Are Not The Same

Ed Brayton makes some excellent points about the predictable complaints from the Religious Right about how criticizing Huckabee’s religious beliefs is like mocking Hillary for being a woman or Obama for being black.

He seems to just presume that ridiculing someone’s race or gender is equivalent of ridiculing someone’s religious beliefs, but that presumption is clearly false. He is committing a category error here. The difference is that religion is an idea (more properly a set of ideas) and ideas, unlike race or gender, deserve criticism. Someone’s race or gender can’t be wrong or absurd, but their ideas certainly can.

Recommended reading.

 
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Day v. Dawkins, et al

Via Brent Rasmussen comes word of a new e-book written by WND’s very own Vox Day. Rasmussen was impressed.

I strongly encourage Dr. Dawkins, Dr. Dennett, Hitch, Harris, and M’sieur Onfray to respond to TIA. It is not your run-of-the-mill “flea” book looking to make a quick buck riding on the coattails of The Amber Heard Fan Club*. It’s the real deal, it’s substantive, meticulously researched, it brings up real problems, and it addresses these problems without falling into the trap that other fleas have fallen into in the past. That is to say, relying on theology or the Bible to make their counter-arguments.

Obviously, I am not one of the above authors, but with an intro like that, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to give the book a look-see, especially since you can get a copy via free download. So let’s have a look, shall we?

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XFiles Friday: Mount Rushmore and the Man in the Moon

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 5)

One of the common criticisms you hear of Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion is that Dawkins isn’t really qualified to talk about religion because he doesn’t have a doctorate in theology and philosophy. Christian apologists like Geisler and Turek, however, feel no qualms about reversing things and lecturing us about how science should be done, despite their obvious lack of training in the field.

That raises an important question: if we can’t directly observe the past, then what scientific principles can we use to help us discover what caused the first life? We use the same principles that are utilized every day in our criminal justice system—forensic principles.

“Divide and conquer” is an attack strategy used to overcome a stronger enemy, and it’s not surprising that Christian apologists would seek to use this kind of tactic against science. Unconquered science has always been at odds with gullible faith.

But the fact of the matter is, the scientific method is still the scientific method, undivided, and unconquered. Creationists try to create separate categories for “observational” science versus “forensic” science, so that they can claim that the latter is unreliable and ought to be given no greater weight than their own superstitious origin-of-life scenarios. But the fundamental scientific principle is the same: truth is consistent with itself, whether you’re making observations in a laboratory that are (or are not) consistent with the hypothesis, or whether you’re observing the past through a telescope, looking for observations that are (or are not) consistent with the hypothesis. These are not separate, alternative branches of science called “observational” and “forensic.” It’s all just science.

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