XFiles Friday: No stinkin’ evidence.

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

Last week, Geisler and Turek began their defense against the principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” They took a scattershot approach, first arguing that this was an unreasonable demand, then adopting a most peculiar definition of “extraordinary” in order to build a straw man they could easily cast down, then attempting to argue (unsuccessfully) that they did have extraordinary evidence after all.

This week, they try and turn the tables, arguing that skeptics themselves believe in extraordinary claims without having any extraordinary evidence.

We don’t need “extraordinary” evidence to believe something. Atheists affirm that from their own worldview. They believe in the Big Bang not because they have “extraordinary” evidence for it but because there is good evidence that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Good evidence is all you need to believe something. However, atheists don’t have even good evidence for some of their own precious beliefs. For example, atheists believe in spontaneous generation and macroevolution on faith alone. We say faith alone because, as we saw in chapters 5 and 6, there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities.

Let’s count how many things Geisler and Turek manage to distort, misrepresent, or otherwise get wrong in these brief seven sentences.

  1. Nobody is saying “We need extraordinary evidence to believe something.” The point G&T purport to address is that extraordinary evidence is needed to believe extraordinary claims, not just any old claims.
  2. There is no such thing as an “atheistic worldview,” any more than there is a “people-who-do-not-believe-in-Santa worldview,” or a “people-who-do-not-like-Bruce-Lee-movies worldview.” Atheists are a diverse group with diverse views, having in common only their lack of belief in the deities promoted by men.
  3. Not only is there not “good evidence that the universe exploded into being out of nothing,” there is no evidence for this at all. Geisler and Turek simply have a very naive and very wrong image of what the Big Bang is, and what evidence ought to accompany it.
  4. The Big Bang theory, despite its picturesque name, is not a literal explosion, as in a sudden release of energy forcefully propelling matter out in all directions. The Big Bang is a sudden, rapid expansion of space itself, which is why there is no center to the universe.
  5. The Big Bang theory says that time, space, and matter/energy all originate in the same singularity, not that they all originate in “nothing.”
  6. Because time and the material universe had the same origin, it can truthfully be said that the universe has no “beginning,” since there was never a time when it did not exist.
  7. Saying that “good” evidence is all we need begs the question of what it takes for the evidence to be “good”. In the case of extraordinary claims, mere hearsay is not good evidence.
  8. Atheists are not the only people who believe in abiogenesis and evolution.
  9. Not all atheists believe in abiogenesis and evolution.
  10. Abiogenesis is not spontaneous generation, just as sexual reproduction is not cloning. They may produce similar results, but the two processes are significantly different, and occur under different circumstances. Spontaneous generation refers to maggots, rodents, and other complex creatures magically poofing into existence out of decaying meat, wheat fields, etc.
  11. Macroevolution is not a distinct process from evolution (or microevolution). The term macroevolution refers to the cumulative effects of microevolution over longer periods of time.
  12. Atheists do not take evolution on faith alone, as shown by the number of theistic evolutionists.
  13. Scientists, whether atheistic or theistic, do not regard abiogenesis as a proven conclusion, since there is currently no working model for how it would operate. Abiogenesis is simply the alternative whose possibilities are the most consistent with the evidence we have so far.
  14. Chapters 5 and 6 proved only that Geisler and Turek are willing and even eager to prostitute their limited understanding of science in order to promote a biased conclusion.

Ok, so they have about twice as many goofs, distortions and outright falsehoods as there are sentences in their paragraph. So much for turning the tables on the skeptics! But wait, there’s more:

Furthermore, skeptics don’t demand “extraordinary” evidence for other “extraordinary” events from history. For example, few events from ancient history are more “extraordinary” than the accomplishments of Alexander the Great (356-323 B. C.). Despite living only 33 years, Alexander achieved unparalleled success. He conquered much of the civilized world at the time… Yet how do we know this about Alexander? We have no sources from his lifetime or soon after his death. And we have only fragments of two works from about 100 years after his death. The truth is, we base virtually everything we know about the “extraordinary” life of Alexander the Great from historians who wrote 300 to 500 years after his death! In light of the robust evidence for the life of Christ, anyone who doubts Christ’s historicity should also doubt the historicity of Alexander the Great. In fact, to be consistent, such a skeptic would have to doubt all of ancient history.

Speaking of consistency, it’s hard to see how Alexander’s life is “extraordinary” if, as Geisler and Turek argued last week, the term “extraordinary” means “repeatable in a laboratory.” But I digress.

Geisler and Turek’s approach in the above paragraph is a simple equivocation on the meaning of “extraordinary.” Alexander’s life is “extraordinary” in the sense that few people are both emperors and generals, and fewer still achieve the same kind of success as Alexander did. This is “extraordinary” in the simple sense of being “rare.” We’re not talking about an Alexander the Great who achieved his military success by magically growing into an 80-foot-tall giant who literally stomped the opposition, or an Alexander who could make his men invulnerable just by pinching his nose. We’re not talking, in other words, about “extraordinary” in the sense of “contrary to and in violation of the apparent limits imposed by natural law.”

Notice, too, the defective view of “evidence” proposed by Geisler and Turek. In their view, only written accounts are evidence. This is the apologist’s emphasis, once again, on the mandate that we must put our faith in the words of men. There is no place, in their verbally-based standard of evidence, for considering things like the sudden establishment of the Greek language as a multinational common tongue, or widely distant cities named (*ahem*) “Alexandria,” or the difference between early documents not existing today and early documents not existing period, or the deductive approach we can take by comparing records across disparate traditions.

More importantly, Geisler and Turek fail to ask the important question of why some witnesses might be more questionable than others, even despite an apparent chronological advantage. The documents Geisler and Turek cite as being “robust evidence” for the life of Christ consists entirely of the claims of men, some some allegedly first-hand, some hearsay, all written by evangelists, by zealous proponents for a particular dogma, men who by G&T’s own testimony were so committed to their version of things that they were willing to die for it. Neutral, unbiased historians? Come on!

The history of Alexander the Great is documented by a huge amount of corollary anthropological information on the spread of Greek culture and civilization that followed after him, and there is currently no good reason to doubt that his story, though rarely repeated, is entirely within the realm of ordinary mortals exercising purely natural leadership skills and exploiting military, political, and economic opportunities to their own advantage. No one would use the life of Alexander as proof that the Greek pantheon were all real gods. His life wasn’t that kind of “extraordinary.”

The story of the life of Christ, however, involves quite a bit more. It’s not just that people only occasionally rise from the dead as immortal deities, nor is it a question of this alleged resurrection being witnessed and testified to outside the immediate circle of die-hard believers, no matter when their testimonies were written. There is, I believe, sufficient evidence to document that a man named Jesus did exist, and did form the core of what eventually became Christianity. The key claims of the Gospel, however—up to and including the so-called resurrection—are “extraordinary” in the extreme sense of not being at all consistent with what you and I can see in the real world. The story is much more consistent, in fact, with the conclusion that spiritually-minded Christians fooled themselves first, before turning to fool others with their oral and written words.

Ultimately, the “robust evidence” Geisler and Turek refer to consists exclusively of men making claims that are unsupported by the evidence. The early date at which they made these claims does not change the fact that the nature of this “evidence” is that it consists of unsupported claims.

Alexander’s career, by contrast, had a huge impact on ancient civilization, and is the reason that, for example, the New Testament was written in Greek instead of in the native language of the people that wrote it. Granted, there is similar evidence for the accomplishments of Christians in the years following Jesus, but this is all evidence of what the men said and did, not evidence that the “miracles” of the first century were anything more than the “miracles” we see today (which consist of men talking themselves into believing they’ve experienced something other observers cannot detect).

Geisler and Turek close this section by repeating the tired canard that “atheists just don’t want to believe,” which they “rebut” by repeating their earlier (somewhat backwards) claims that we know miracles are possible because God exists.

Why do skeptics demand “extraordinary” evidence for the life of Christ but not the life of Alexander the Great? Because they’re hung up on miracles again. Despite the fact that miracles are possible because God exists—and despite the fact that miracles were predicted and then witnessed—skeptics can’t bear to admit that miracles have actually occurred. So they set the bar for believability to high. It’s as if some skeptics are saying, “I won’t believe in miracles because I haven’t seen one. If the resurrected Jesus were to appear to me, then I would believe in him.” Now that would be extraordinary evidence.

Finally, after all that flailing around, Geisler and Turek stumble onto the truth. The extraordinary claim is that Jesus rose from the dead. The extraordinary evidence that would be consistent with that claim would be for a risen Jesus to show up for someone besides fanatical believers to see. Geisler and Turek could have saved themselves a lot of fumbling around by simply admitting the truth up front.

Alas, they’re only playing at devil’s advocate here, and having raised the subject of the genuine “extraordinary” evidence that would fit their extraordinary claim, they can’t wait to jump away from it.

It certainly would be extraordinary, but is it really necessary? Does Jesus have to appear to every person in the world to make his claims credible? Why would he? We don’t have to witness every event firsthand in order to believe the event actually occurred. In fact, it would be physically impossible to do so. We believe the testimony of others if they are trustworthy individuals, and especially if their testimony is corroborated by other data. This is exactly the case with the testimony of the New Testament writers.

Once again, they take a reasonable standard of evidence, and try to twist it into some kind of unreasonable demand by taking it to unreasonable extremes. Instead of Jesus just showing up in real life after his resurrection, Geisler and Turek take us straight to the extreme of Jesus has to personally appear to every person in the world, which would be physically impossible, right? I mean, Jesus would have to be God or something.

But it’s not either/or. We don’t have to choose between “Jesus appears to every person” and “Jesus doesn’t appear at all.” President Obama does not personally visit each and every person in the world individually, yet (unlike Jesus) he shows up in real life enough to establish as factual the conclusion that he exists. Jesus, unfortunately, can’t quite live up to a standard set so high.

They close by repeating their earlier claim that God can’t show up in real life without committing a sin against our free will.

Furthermore, as we pointed out in chapter 8, if God were too overt because of frequent miraculous displays, then he might, in some cases, infringe on our free will. If the purpose of this life  is to allow us to freely make choices that will prepare us for eternity, then God will give us convincing evidence but not compelling evidence of his existence and purposes.

As they declared before, this means God can only give us a Book, and can’t actually do any of the miracles that are claimed by the Book. To go beyond a mere tale would be to infringe on our free will by allowing us to make informed and truth-based choices, instead of having to rely solely on gullibility and faith in the words of men. Sigh.

Thus, Geisler and Turek come to their feeble, hand-waving conclusion. Having done everything to distract us from the real evidence which would actually support the claims of the Gospel, when they finally do confront it, they have to implicitly concede that they do not have this evidence, and then pretend we don’t really need it anyway. In a book whose entire premise is that the evidence is on the Christian’s side, Geisler and Turek end up pleading, “We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence, we can just put our faith in whatever unsubstantiated claims men try to sell us.”

Like I said before, they could have saved themselves a lot of fumbling if they’d just admitted up front that they have no answer for the problem of extraordinary claims demanding extraordinary evidence. When it comes right down to it, they evidence they really need is precisely the evidence they don’t have, because neither the Father nor the Son actually shows up in real life. And that’s been the apologist’s problem for the past 2,000 years.

 
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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 108 Comments »

108 Responses to “XFiles Friday: No stinkin’ evidence.”

  1. Danny Says:

    I thought the cosmic background radiation counts as evidence for the big bang. As is the cosmic red shifting of astronomical objects.

  2. Tacroy Says:

    The fact that G&T can say that we do not have “extraordinary” evidence for the Big Bang shows that they wouldn’t know extraordinary evidence if it bit them in the ass.

    In 1989 we launched the Cosmic Background Explorer. It measured the energy density of the cosmic microwave background, and found that the Big Bang theory predicted the density perfectly – so perfectly that you can’t even see the error bars. (though this is my favourite rendition of the graph) It was almost like guessing at quantum theory just by contemplating Zeno’s paradox.

    If that’s not extraordinary evidence, then I don’t know what is.

  3. cl Says:

    Danny,

    I can’t speak for DD, but I don’t think DD argued that COBE findings and Hubble’s law are not evidence for the Big Bang. From what I read, DD argues there is no evidence for creation ex nihilo, and that’s correct as far as I know.

    DD,

    1) Agree. G&T presuppose the Big Bang is an extraordinary claim in the same sense miracles are. That might be a matter of opinion, but I don’t agree. To me, Big Bang theory is just a common-sense extrapolation of current data. Sure, it’s rather grand, but that doesn’t really make it extraordinary, to me. Gravity, the speed of light and relativity are all quite ordinary. On the other hand,

    Good evidence is all you need to believe something. (G&T)

    It’s hard to know what they mean by “good,” but I tend to agree. I think it’s a bit unfair to ask for “more evidence” just because the claim at hand involves the purportedly supernatural. Evidence is evidence, proof is proof. To me, although the re-capitation example is not proof of Buddha’s divinity, it is most certainly in line with what we would expect in the real world if Buddha were God, because as you say, truth is consistent with itself. To deny this is textbook slothful induction, and I feel SMERF’s and appeals to coincidence qualify.

    2) Disagree vehemently. Atheism entails positive truth claims about what is, and there are things one must believe to be an atheist. Further, theists are also a diverse group with diverse views, having in common only their belief in deities. I know it irks some skeptics and atheists to imply they have a worldview, but what’s good for the goose must be good for the gander.

    3) Agree. Strawman argument G&T’s is, on ex nihilo.

    4) I agree “expansion” is a better term than “explosion.”

    5) Agree, and you covered that in 3.

    6) Conjecture entirely. Fierce and unresolved battles are raging in cosmology over this point, right now.

    7) Agree, and I said the same thing myself above.

    8) Agree, but think you might have jumped the gun. At least in the cited source material, G&T do not claim otherwise. A person saying “Atheists believe X” isn’t necessarily saying “Only atheists believe X.” If not a strawman, we’re at least in the cornfield on this one.

    9) Really? That’s something I’d honestly never heard. I’m completely thinking outloud right now, but don’t atheists have to believe in abiogenesis and evolution? Can you point me to some that don’t, so I can read their counter-explanations for the diversity of biological life?

    10) If all you’re trying to say here is that Pasteur’s experiments don’t disprove the hypothesis that life arose on a young primordial Earth, I agree.

    11) Conjecture entirely. Fierce and unresolved battles are raging in biology over this point, right now.

    12) You lost me there. How does the existence of the theistic evolutionist have any bearing on whether atheists accept evolution on faith alone? Is this a rhetorical trick centered on the word, alone, as in, “Atheists aren’t the only ones… believers also take evolution on faith?”

    13) I agree that scientists do not regard abiogenesis a proven conclusion.

    14) No comment, because I haven’t read the source material, but ironically, you have no “stinkin’ evidence” for 6 and 11, and I feel those show a limited understanding of science. Not nearly as bad as G&T’s though, and I don’t think you’re prostituting your own understanding of things to promote a biased conlusion.

    Those are my initial thoughts, with more to come…

  4. cl Says:

    Interesting…. “8” + “)” = sunglass smiley-face dood.

  5. R. C. Moore Says:

    On cl’s comments:

    from wikipedia:

    Within the Modern Synthesis school of thought, macroevolution is thought of as the compounded effects of microevolution. Thus, the distinction between micro- and macroevolution is not a fundamental one – the only difference between them is of time and scale

    This seems very consistent with DD’s usage, and is borne out by the evidence. I think any claim to the otherwise, as G & T have made is based on ignorance or a desire to purposefully mislead.

    DD’s claim that time and material had the same origin seems consistent with cosmology. This does lead to the problem with defining the word “beginning” as commonly used. There is no major cosmological issues with this concept in the informal way it is used here. (Or if it is, none was evident at the recent Origins Conference). The conference had fierce battles, but mostly in the area of multiverses.

    cl said:


    Atheism entails positive truth claims about what is, and there are things one must believe to be an atheist.

    I hear that a lot, but sadly, none of the accusers ever actually are able to tell be what those things are. They seem to be as elusive as God. If someone knows, I would appreciate enlightenment.

    cl said:

    but don’t atheists have to believe in abiogenesis and evolution?

    Not the same concepts, so lumping them causes problems, neither of them have anything to with the concept of God, so atheism is not relevant. Thinking in scientific terms, I don’t “believe” in evolution, I find it to be a factual process, with no reasonable alternatives. Abiogenesis is the study of how life arose from non-life (informal definition). No evidence to the contrary, so I accept the concept. Again, not a belief (unless one knows of evidence to the contrary, and I refuse to accept it).

    As to DD’s key point in this point, it does appear that apologetics requires distortion, misrepresentation, and error to reach its conclusions. Very well summarized, I think.

  6. cl Says:

    R.C.

    …sadly, none of the accusers ever actually are able to tell be what those things are. They seem to be as elusive as God. If someone knows, I would appreciate enlightenment.

    Atheism entails the positive truth claim that life and consciousness can arise through non-conscious processes. Hence, atheists must believe that life arose through non-conscious processes.

    Not the same concepts, so lumping them causes problems, neither of them have anything to with the concept of God, so atheism is not relevant.

    Your concerns would be better directed at DD here. He originally wrote the string, “believe in abiogenesis and evolution.” I agree lumping them together causes problems, and that’s why I don’t conflate the terms. Again, I was responding to DD’s verbatim words. Also, I know what abiogenesis is. Did you presuppose I didn’t?

    …it does appear that apologetics requires distortion, misrepresentation, and error to reach its conclusions.

    Damning as they might be, G&T’s blunders don’t support your conclusion. People that engage in apologetics often distort and misrepresent erroneously, but apologetics itself does not require distortion, misrepresentation, or error. Apologetics doesn’t reach conclusions; people do.

  7. cl Says:

    R.C.

    Oops… forgot to address your opening points, but pointing me to Wikipedia doesn’t persuade.

    There is legitimate scientific debate about whether macroevolution is more than just lots of microevolution or whether macroevolution encompasses mechanisms not seen in microevolution. It’s the sufficiency of microevolution argument. I happen to be one of those scientists who agree with Stephen Jay Gould that there are many levels of evolution (hierarchical theory). Thus, macroevolution cannot be sufficiently explained by lots of microevolution. There are other things going on at the higher levels. (Larry Moran, Professor of Molecular Evolution at University of Toronto)

    Yet,

    I think any claim to the otherwise, as G & T have made is based on ignorance or a desire to purposefully mislead. (R.C. Moore)

    Especially in light of the above, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD can you lay off the heavily-played-out “desire to purposefully mislead” nonsense? Didn’t you read the “Comments” post yesterday? How many times do DD and myself need to remind you? Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re ignorant or arguing in bad faith!

    Are Larry Moran and Stephen J. Gould ignorant? Or arguing in bad faith to purposefully mislead? Or, how about the more logical conclusion, which is that you and DD are wrong on this point?

    The same scenario repeats itself in the question of whether or not “time” began with the universe, and no pun intended, but I don’t have the time or patience right now.

    Please R.C., show me you’re not one of those atheists / skeptics who fancies themselves above correction by a believer, by admitting that you’re wrong, at least about the macro/micro thing…

  8. John Morales Says:

    cl:

    Atheism entails the positive truth claim that life and consciousness can arise through non-conscious processes. Hence, atheists must believe that life arose through non-conscious processes.

    Not so.
    I am an atheist. I have no such positive truth claim; my claim is that there is no evidence that life and consciousness arose other than through natural processes, and it’s a tentative claim.
    This shows (by counter-example) that you’ve at the very least overgeneralised.

    Atheism is a lack of theism, not a belief.

  9. cl Says:

    DD,

    Speaking of consistency, it’s hard to see how Alexander’s life is “extraordinary” if, as Geisler and Turek argued last week, the term “extraordinary” means “repeatable in a laboratory.” But I digress.

    I agree G&T blunder by trying to categorically equate “extraordinary” in both instances. Their argument would be better aimed at those who deny Christ’s existence, which you do not. And if I may digress, I really want to hear your answers to my previous questions on verification, and atheists who do demand repeatability.

    Alexander’s career, by contrast, had a huge impact on ancient civilization, and is the reason that, for example, the New Testament was written in Greek instead of in the native language of the people that wrote it. Granted, there is similar evidence for the accomplishments of Christians in the years following Jesus, but this is all evidence of what the men said and did, not evidence that the “miracles” of the first century were anything more than the “miracles” we see today.

    I think you switch standards in the middle of this paragraph. Christ’s career had a huge, even larger impact on civilization. You begin with a standard of impact on civilization, but end with the believer’s burden of proof of the miraculous not being met.

    Geisler and Turek close this section by repeating the tired canard that “atheists just don’t want to believe,”

    Any believer who repeats this “tired canard” also shows ignorance of their own Bible.

    Why do skeptics demand “extraordinary” evidence for the life of Christ but not the life of Alexander the Great? (G&T)

    Although there are skeptics who demand “extraordinary” evidence for the life of Christ, G&T drop the ball here, IMO. In my experience, skeptics demand extraordinary evidence for Christ’s claims, not Christ’s existence. And yes, G&T argue circularly in that paragraph, just as you claim.

    It’s as if some skeptics are saying, “I won’t believe in miracles because I haven’t seen one. If the resurrected Jesus were to appear to me, then I would believe in him.”

    Even with 100% ironclad proof, belief in anything is always volitional, and the error of slothful induction can always raise its ugly face. Hence, I think it’s naive to assume a person can be forced via evidence to believe anything. I’m with G&T here, especially since they include the pertinent qualifier some. And I’ll take it further – many skeptics wouldn’t even be convinced even by a disparate manifestation. After all, that “Jesus” who appeared to you could’ve been a neurological misfire, right? Or Satan in drag? Or a SMIPF? (Sudden Magical Image Production Field) 😉

    Alas, they’re only playing at devil’s advocate here, and having raised the subject of the genuine “extraordinary” evidence that would fit their extraordinary claim, they can’t wait to jump away from it.

    AHEM… You have demonstrated your logical prowess sufficiently before, but I simply cannot see how this is not blatant special pleading. Subsequent paragraphs in the OP clearly indicate that “show up” in this sense means DM, not FR. If a “re-capitation” is not “genuine evidence” of Buddha’s divinity, as you have vehemently held for over two months now, how in the world could you have possibly typed the above sentence with a straight face?

    So, whenever it behooves you a manifestation is genuine evidence?? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding, and I’m open to explanation, but I simply cannot take your appeals to rationalism seriously if you tell me that a manifestation counts as evidence when you’re rebutting G&T, but not when myself, Jayman or any other believer offers it. If I am misunderstanding, I apologize, and answers to yesterday’s questions will greatly assist in my clarifying exactly what “genuine evidence” and “verifiable” mean in your opinion.

    As they declared before, this means God can only give us a Book, and can’t actually do any of the miracles that are claimed by the Book.

    I realize you’re eager to rebut G&T’s silliness, but we’re in the cornfield again. This is not what they claimed. You rewrote their claim that too many miracles would violate free will into, “God can only give us a Book, and can’t actually do any of the miracles.” This is not what they said.

    Morales,

    I feel your comment is semantic equivocation and slothful induction entirely, but I’m open to more counter-arguments.

    I have no such positive truth claim; my claim is that there is no evidence that life and consciousness arose other than through natural processes, and it’s a tentative claim.

    That’s fine, but follow it through. In other words, your claim is that there is evidence that life and consciousness arose through natural processes, right? If there weren’t, I feel safe in assuming you wouldn’t be an atheist. Why do you think Dawkins made his famous statement about Darwin and what it takes to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist?

    All negative claims, beliefs, hunches, tentative claims, or whatever else one wants to call them also happen to entail positive corollaries, and vice-versa. Not all atheists agree with me on this point. I can’t help that, but it’s straight-forward logic. I’ve definitely over-generalized before, but I’m sorry, you haven’t convinced me that’s the case here.

  10. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl said —

    Atheism entails the positive truth claim that life and consciousness can arise through non-conscious processes.

    No, atheism has nothing to say on how life and consciousness arise. It is merely the rejection of theism based on a lack of evidence.

    Enlightenment must wait, I guess.


    Also, I know what abiogenesis is. Did you presuppose I didn’t?

    I thought we were past the sniping cl. I clearly stating an informal definition for my usage. I assume the attack is obscure the lack of an answer to my points, I apologize in advance if not.


    Damning as they might be, G&T’s blunders don’t support your conclusion. People that engage in apologetics often distort and misrepresent erroneously, but apologetics itself does not require distortion, misrepresentation, or error. Apologetics doesn’t reach conclusions; people do.

    Logically, no. I was remarking on the empirical evidence.


    Are Larry Moran and Stephen J. Gould ignorant

    Not that I know of. I certainly would not expect them to make the mistake of trying to make an argument from authority, or mistake educated speculation for a scientific result, or the basis for a change in paradigm.

    Science, unlike faith, always moves forward, all claims are provisional, and should the evidence improve on the definition of macro-evolution, I will gladly embrace it. But for now, the current definition is entirely workable, and the speculation of other mechanisms remains that.


    Please R.C., show me you’re not one of those atheists / skeptics who fancies themselves above correction by a believer, by admitting that you’re wrong, at least about the macro/micro thing…

    If you need more than what I explained above, let me know, as I am unclear what evidence you require. Do I need to supply an example of macro-evolution that did not arise from micro-evolution? Or do I need to supply the percentage of biologists that constitute a “raging controversy”?

    I do admit that you have supplied evidence that a Professors Moran and Gould have speculated on the various causes of macro-evolution.

    How that gets inflated into the claims you have made is beyond me.


    Especially in light of the above, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD can you lay off the heavily-played-out “desire to purposefully mislead” nonsense? Didn’t you read the “Comments” post yesterday?

    I did, thoroughly, and DD was clear that comments aimed at G & T were entirely fair and acceptable. I assumed that by extension, anyone who believed as they did could be included in such comments. DD may correct me if I am wrong.

  11. Arthur Says:

    This is a bit of a subject change now, unfortunately, but there still seems to be some difficulty with that whole “extraordinary claims” business:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to ask for “more evidence” just because the claim at hand involves the purportedly supernatural. Evidence is evidence, proof is proof.

    Maybe that Carl Sagan quote is just too pithy.

    Here’s the Laplace Principle it comes from:

    The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.

    And here’s some David Hume, from which (as far as I can tell) the whole point comes:

    Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours to establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous; in that case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less unusual.

    …when the fact attested is such a one as has seldom fallen under our observation, here is a contest of two opposite experiences; of which the one destroys the other, as far as its force goes, and the superior can only operate on the mind by the force, which remains.

    I should not believe such a story were it told me by Cato, was a proverbial saying in Rome…. The incredibility of a fact, it was allowed, might invalidate so great an authority.

    And here’s Martin Gardner quoting Thomas Huxley paraphrasing David Hume (because he does run on a bit):

    Hume’s arguments…resolve themselves into a simple statement of the dictates of common sense—which may be expressed in this canon: the more a statement of fact conflicts with previous experience, the more complete must be the evidence which is to justify us in believing it. It is upon this principle that every one carries on the business of common life.

    Then he tells a story about a horse, a zebra, and a centaur showing up in Piccadilly.

    It’s too much to hope that the issue can be put to bed, but does this help at all, re the perennial issue of extraordinary claims and people’s differential acceptance of them?

    P.S. I have always been under the impression that the macro- micro- issue was not an actual source of concern for biologists but invented by critics of evolution. I could certainly be wrong, but here is a pretty readable article on why the distinction isn’t a real one.

  12. John Morales Says:

    cl,

    [me] my claim is that there is no evidence that life and consciousness arose other than through natural processes, and it’s a tentative claim.

    That’s fine, but follow it through. In other words, your claim is that there is evidence that life and consciousness arose through natural processes, right?

    By “That’s fine”, do you mean you acknowledge that the only a positive truth claim I’ve made is regarding the nonexistence of evidence that natural causes are not sufficiently explanatory?

    Regarding following through, I advise that your paraphrase is not semantically congruent to its source and introduces the positive claim where there was none.

    Accordingly, I hereby reiterate, in more detail:
    My claim is that I don’t see any reason to believe that natural processes can’t account for life and consciousness. I have every reason to believe that consciousness is a property of mind, which is an epiphenomenon of the brain, which is an organ developed by a particular kind of life, which is an epiphenomenon of a suitable arrangement of matter, which is an epiphenomenon of our configuration of space-time/mass energy; I have no reason to invoke additional suppositions for the existence of anything natural, and plenty of historical examples of once-unaccountable for things (e.g. the origin of species) being accounted for naturally.
    It’s a tentative belief as to the origin and nature of life and mind, and subject to revision if and when I encounter new credible evidence – i.e. it’s a falsifiable belief, and open to falsification, nor is it arbitrary.

    Clearly, I disagree with your contention that the above is a positive claim. Further, I think the positive truth claim is that natural processes are somehow insufficiently explanatory and couldn’t, even in principle, account for life and consciousness. This is what most theists believe.

    So, contrary to your original contention, I submit that theists, not atheists, are the proponents of the positive truth claim, and that therefore the onus of proof is on their claim.

  13. R. C. Moore Says:

    John Morales said:


    So, contrary to your original contention, I submit that theists, not atheists, are the proponents of the positive truth claim, and that therefore the onus of proof is on their claim.

    Absolutely! When the limits of science are reached for the moment, the atheist is merely says “I know nothing more”. It is the theist who says “but I do! I know more than science”. This is the quintessential positive truth claim, one based on complete speculation.

    I point you to exhibit A: The knowledge of God, objectively considered: being the first part of theology considered as a science of positive truth, both inductive and deductive
    By Robert Jefferson Breckinridge

  14. R. C. Moore Says:

    Arthur said:


    P.S. I have always been under the impression that the macro- micro- issue was not an actual source of concern for biologists but invented by critics of evolution. I could certainly be wrong….

    You are not. Thanks for the link, very interesting article.

  15. nal Says:

    Arthur:
    P.S. I have always been under the impression that the macro- micro- issue was not an actual source of concern for biologists but invented by critics of evolution. I could certainly be wrong, …

    What is macroevolution?

    Evolution proponents often say that creationists invented the terms. This is false. Both macroevolution and microevolution are legitimate scientific terms, which have a history of changing meanings that, in any case, fail to underpin creationism.

  16. jim Says:

    Arthur:

    Great link, indeed! I’ll be pouring over that one for a while. Here’s a related favorite of my own regarding so-called irreducible complexity.

  17. nal Says:

    DD:
    6. Because time and the material universe had the same origin, it can truthfully be said that the universe has no “beginning,” since there was never a time when it did not exist.</b

    cl:
    6) Conjecture entirely. Fierce and unresolved battles are raging in cosmology over this point, right now.

    If the universe (aka spacetime) had a beginning, then there was no time, since time didn’t exist, when the universe didn’t exist. If the universe did not have a beginning, same thing. More of a logical argument than a cosmological argument.

  18. Facilis Says:

    I have a question and a challenge for the proponents of the “Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Evidence”(Hereafter ECREE) proponents.
    1)Please define “extraordinary”.Explain how the resurrection
    2)Should ECREE be used in all historical studies, or only in cases involving Jesus? Why or Why not?
    3)Demonstrate that ECREE is a principle used in historical methodology. A citation from a prominent book on historical methodology would be sufficient to establish this.
    thanks

  19. Facilis Says:

    The Big Bang theory says that time, space, and matter/energy all originate in the same singularity, not that they all originate in “nothing.”
    And I’ve seen several philosopher make the case that such a singularity is ontologically equivalent to nothing. You are just question begging.

    Because time and the material universe had the same origin, it can truthfully be said that the universe has no “beginning,” since there was never a time when it did not exist.
    “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time,
    http://books.google.com/books?id=LstaQTXP65cC&dq=The+Nature+of+Space+and+Time&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=EfbfSc25Op2-tAPdz_y2CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#PPA20,M1)
    I think I’ll go with what the expert physicists say.

  20. John Morales Says:

    Facilis:
    1. Extraordinary: Beyond what is ordinary or usual; highly unusual or exceptional or remarkable.
    2. It should be applied in every field.
    3. The Daubert standard.

  21. John Morales Says:

    Oh yeah, the Resurrection is extraordinary because science tells us it’s so unlikely (if true, it would invalidate all our theories of biology and physics), so that it’s most parsimoniously explained as a historical fiction.

  22. Facilis Says:

    Oh yeah, the Resurrection is extraordinary because science tells us it’s so unlikely (if true, it would invalidate all our theories of biology and physics),
    I’m not claiming that Jesus rose to the dead by any law of biology or physics. If I claimed there was a certain law of biology or physics that raised people from the dead, this would be a highly improbable claim. However I am claiming Jesus rose from the dead by the actions of God . I do not see it as extraordinary that God would choose to raise a man from the dead.

  23. John Morales Says:

    I do not see it as extraordinary that God would choose to raise a man from the dead.

    The question at hand is whether the Resurrection is an extraordinary claim. I think it is, and I base that on the definition I provided above.
    Furthermore, I don’t consider the holy text of the followers of a mendicant preacher as sufficiently credible evidence so as to convincingly establish such an extraordinary claim.

  24. Arthur Says:

    Facilis,

    If none of the whatnot I cited up there helps you to understand the principle, then I’m not sure how to proceed. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say:

    1) it’s got nothing special to do with the word “extraordinary”;

    2) it’s got nothing special to do with Jesus; and

    3) it’s got nothing special to do with history.

    I do not see it as extraordinary that God would choose to raise a man from the dead.

    Surely you recognize that not everyone believes what you believe. I mean, here you are, posting on this blog. Do you mean to say that you are unable to imagine anyone “seeing it as extraordinary”?

  25. John Morales Says:

    Arthur, may I take the opportunity to thank you for your earlier comment. Were I superstitious, I might even say it was prescient, inasmuch as it pre-emptively responded to Facilis’ question.

    Well done, sir!

  26. R. C. Moore Says:

    facilis said:


    I’m not claiming that Jesus rose to the dead by any law of biology or physics. If I claimed there was a certain law of biology or physics that raised people from the dead, this would be a highly improbable claim. However I am claiming Jesus rose from the dead by the actions of God

    Because the hand of God is more probable?

    I answer directly, because stated your claim on a personal, not a logical or scientific basis.

    If a belief system does not allow one to admit even the possibility of being wrong, then what is there to discuss?

    Why would anyone respond to questions you pose, when it is taken as given the answers are to be ignored? What is the purpose of the asking?

    Your philosophy can have no impact on me, because you are it’s sole point of reference. I cannot understand it, because the rules are your own, made up as needs arise.

    You are welcome to it, of course, but such stagnant thinking is not for me. I enjoy the mystery of discovery too much.

    If however, you can concede that for one to accept the less probable of a solution requires evidence that can balance out the improbability, then we can have an interesting discussion, perhaps in Bayesian terms, of how one navigates a terrain in which much is unknown. In other words, we don’t have to agree on the conclusion, but we have to degree on the rules.

    Here is the first rule I propose: Objective evidence is to be taken over subjective evidence.

    Here is the second rule: Objective evidence is defined as the evidence that gives the same result to all observers using the same protocol (within some minor allowances for measurement error)

    What do you think? Are you game for a step by step analysis of the evidence for the extraordinary claim of the resurrection of Jesus using these rules?

    You may propose the first bit of evidence.

  27. cl Says:

    Morales / R.C. Moore,

    I notice the bulk of your disagreement with me is over my claim that atheism entails positive truth claims. It does. Now, whey you say, “I’m simply saying there is no God,” no – in and of itself – that is not a positive claim. However, like all negative claims, it entails a positive claim about what is. Atheism and theism are just converse worldviews, each entailing their own sets of beliefs and views on the world. All negative conclusions entail positive conclusions and vice-versa. It’s nothing personal, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the burden of proof. Of course the burden of proof falls on the person making the claim. It always strikes me as weird that atheists get so worked up over the idea that they have a worldview. Everybody but the most extreme apathetic has a worldview. There are far more significant things we could discuss than this, IMO.

    And R.C., as far as the macro / micro thing goes, I successfully refuted your’s and DD’s claim. That there is legitimate debate around this issue means we cannot simply say, “Macroevolution is just lots of microevolution.” We don’t know whether or not this is so, and just as much evidence points to it being not so, as so. So we can’t jump to conclusions and say, “This is so,” when it is not. This approach shows respect for the scientific method, and I think you would have to agree, no?

  28. pboyfloyd Says:

    “..precious beliefs..”

    A little snarky considering that they are claiming to be the arbiters of truth.
    Certainly nothing extraordinary for this type of intellectually dishonest intellectual though.

    These two must have ‘tea’ with Dinesh D’Souza.

  29. John Morales Says:

    cl:

    [1] I notice the bulk of your disagreement with me is over my claim that atheism entails positive truth claims. [2] It does.

    1. That’s rather understating it.
    2. I believe I’ve stated my position clearly, and it contradicts that assertion.

    Now, whey you say, “I’m simply saying there is no God,” no – in and of itself – that is not a positive claim.

    But I don’t say that, and to claim I do would be to misrepresent my intent.
    What I say is that I have no reason to believe that the god-concept is explanatory in any way, and plenty of reason to think it’s not. I can clarify by stating that self-contradictory or incoherent definitions of God, such as that of the God of the Bible, are refutable thereby.

    However, like all negative claims, it entails a positive claim about what is.

    Given that it’s not my claim at all, may I note that every thesis has its antithesis, and every proposition has a converse – but this seems to me to be an irrelevant consideration.

    Atheism and theism are just converse worldviews, each entailing their own sets of beliefs and views on the world.

    I dispute this, the union of the set of beliefs of theists and of atheists may intersect anywhere but on deity-belief subsets.
    Again, I note you speak of atheism as a belief system, rather than as a conclusion.

    All negative conclusions entail positive conclusions and vice-versa.

    I’ve addressed this above, may I add that I think you either misunderstand or misapply the term entail; it refers to logical implication in a discursive context. I take it you mean that any proposition’s locus and its converse by definition must fill the possibility space, but fail to see how it supports your claim.

    Of course the burden of proof falls on the person making the claim.

    That’s what I argued, but you have asserted it (“It does [entail positive truth claims”). You have supported this by claiming that every proposition has a counter-proposition – i.e. that because every proposition can be stated in the negative form, every proposition is a positive one.

    It always strikes me as weird that atheists get so worked up over the idea that they have a worldview.

    I believe you are conflating concepts here. Specifically, everyone has a worldview, not excluding atheists, and this is not in dispute. However, atheists do not by any means share any monolithic or even meaningfully common world-view.
    Atheists are the set of people who do not have deity-belief. We have no shared worldview by virtue of our common disbelief; else you could (by analogy) meaningfully discuss aunicornists compared to unicornists. 🙂

    There are far more significant things we could discuss than this, IMO.

    Indeed, and it is of little significance that you appear not to accept that an atheist having a worldview doesn’t entail that there exists a common atheist worlview.
    It was brought up in the context that you appear to consider that atheism is a belief, which is a fundamentally flawed perception. What it is, is a disbelief. Like our disbelief in the tooth-fairy, but more controversial, apparently.

    And R.C., as far as the macro / micro thing goes, I successfully refuted your’s and DD’s claim.

    I have made no claims regarding this matter, so I disbelieve you have refuted any such.

    That there is legitimate debate around this issue means we cannot simply say, “Macroevolution is just lots of microevolution.” […] This approach shows respect for the scientific method, and I think you would have to agree, no?

    I don’t think there’s such a legitimate debate, in the sense that the science itself is in dispute.
    Microevolution basically refers to changes in allele frequencies, macroevolution is the compounded effects of microevolution. They refer to the same process (evolution), at different scales.

    Respect for the scientific method would entail endeavouring to understand scientific concepts and terminology when evaluating scientific claims.

    (phew! Long response. I hope the HTML works.. 😉

  30. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    I feel I should mention, outside of creationist attempts to discredit science, there are no such things as macroevolution and microevolution. Just as there is no microaddition for numbers less than one and macroaddition for numbers over one.

  31. R. C. Moore Says:

    John Morales said:

    “I dispute this, the union of the set of beliefs of theists and of atheists may intersect anywhere but on deity-belief subsets.”

    I agree with this. The set of beliefs theists have about their gods are not members of any set an atheist would have on the matter. Antithetical theistic beliefs are always other theistic beliefs:

    Monotheism is (not) pantheism
    Flawed gods are (not) perfect gods
    The creator or (not) the creator
    etc.

    A more correct comparison would be on the the sets of evidence for or against belief in a deity. The atheist would place in his evidence set those things for, and those things against, and then, though a Bayesian process, with some Cox thrown in to achieve rankings, arrive at an overall probability for the existence of a deity, which for the atheist is very low.

    A theist could do the same, and presumably reaches the opposite result.

    For some theists, this process runs backwards: the deity is assumed, and then the evidence is assigned probabilities in order to bias the evidence for the already accepted conclusion. Or, in some cases, the entire Bayesian process is considered a challenge to faith, and disregarded as irrelevant.

    Another useful approach would be substitution. If a child believes in Santa Clause, is the adult who is really supplying the presents guilty of positive truth claims? Does the adult possess a “converse worldview”?

    I think not.

  32. John Morales Says:

    Well, I was blindly mistaken in perceiving cl’s comment to RC and DD as being to me.
    This just to acknowledge that. My bad. Sorry.

    Not that I resile from what I wrote, but I didn’t intend to intrude in another exchange.

  33. Arthur Says:

    cl said

    That there is legitimate debate around this issue means we cannot simply say, “Macroevolution is just lots of microevolution.”

    and I am willing to take it as given that he’s right. It seems safe to say, however, that Deacon’s actual point stands: when Geisler and Turek say

    …there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities.

    they are distorting, misrepresenting, or otherwise getting macroevolution wrong. They’re referring, not to the science, but to a deliberate reification error on the part of evolution critics.

    John Morales said

    Were I superstitious, I might even say [your earlier comment] was prescient, inasmuch as it pre-emptively responded to Facilis’ question.

    I suspect it brought on Facilis’ question, actually. Like in Kung Fu Panda, and like, I’m the master, and I let the evil snow leopard out by trying to make sure he can’t get out. One often meets his fate on the road he takes to avoid it. Sigh.

  34. R. C. Moore Says:

    John Morales said:

    Not that I resile from what I wrote, but I didn’t intend to intrude in another exchange.

    Good responses are good responses. The intrusions are what makes discussions threads worthwhile — the ability to gather ideas from the collective.

    I personally don’t think we should have any rules as far as who questions are directed to, as long as the responses are clear, concise, with good examples, and to the point.

  35. nal Says:

    Macroevolution

    If we could track a single lineage through time, say from a single-cell protist to Homo sapiens, then we would see a long series of mutations and fixations as each ancestral population evolved. It might look as though the entire history could be accounted for by microevolutionary processes. This is an illusion because the track of the single lineage ignores all of the branching and all of the other species that lived and died along the way.

    Every species is a series of microevolutions, but it is not the whole story of speciation.

  36. nal Says:

    Macroevolution

    If we could track a single lineage through time, say from a single-cell protist to Homo sapiens, then we would see a long series of mutations and fixations as each ancestral population evolved. It might look as though the entire history could be accounted for by microevolutionary processes. This is an illusion because the track of the single lineage ignores all of the branching and all of the other species that lived and died along the way.

    Every species is a series of microevolutions, but it is not the whole story of speciation.

  37. nal Says:

    Macroevolution

    If we could track a single lineage through time, say from a single-cell protist to Homo sapiens, then we would see a long series of mutations and fixations as each ancestral population evolved. It might look as though the entire history could be accounted for by microevolutionary processes. This is an illusion because the track of the single lineage ignores all of the branching and all of the other species that lived and died along the way.

    I don’t think there is any controversy that species are a series of microevolutions.

  38. pboyfloyd Says:

    “…there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities”

    I think that they’re playing word-games here and ‘clubbing’ the {sponteneous generation and macroevolution} together for the sake of technical honesty.

    Not sure what they think that the geological column with the fossils ‘in order’ and the ‘oh-so-rare’ appearances of actual diverse life-forms, descendants of that fossil evidence IS?

    First the (truly?)Godly want evidence of the process before they’ll believe it’s not magical, then they admit that the process is REAL but insist that it’s NOT ‘the’ process.

    “You can’t make a cat and a dog from a cat/dog anscestor.”

    No, that’s not the thinking, is it? It’s, “You don’t see a dog giving birth to CATS!”, but THAT would be magical.

    I think that they’re pissed that evolution is taking the magic out of it all.

    They’ve still got abiogenesis to pick on, snidely calling THAT ‘spontaneous generation’ for ‘effect’.

    Still, I think that the ‘thrill is gone’.

  39. cl Says:

    First a group note, since some folks seem prefer parroting knee-jerk responses over critical analysis: R.C., Morales, Arthur, ThatOtherGuy – echoes are not arguments, and each of you presents a rather naive understanding of the terms macroevolution and microevolution. Perhaps here any definition works, but as working evolutionary biologists generally use them, macroevolution (what Rensch called ‘supraspecific’ evolution) refers to change => species, microevolution to change =< species. If macroevolution is just “lots of microevolution,” how is it that macroevolution can occur in a single generation, in the complete absence of a series of successive gradations? Also, none of you have even typed the words, “hierarchical theory,” so I can only assume this isn’t a scholarly discussion as much as a polemical one. Atheists use tired canards too, and I’m astonished at the eagerness of ostensible rational people to continually advance claims without evidence. Any atheist who grossly oversimplifies evolutionary biology by saying, “Macroevolution is lots of microevolution,” actually does speak from ignorance of the terms – and repeats a tired, obsolete canard. I challenge you to open your minds, and via objective contemplation of the facts consider that I might just have at least a semblance of a valid point here. Maybe you guys think I’m one of those people who deny macroevolution, like a YEC’er or something. Maybe this explains your harsh resistance to my ideas. Who knows. And if we can’t agree, let’s at least dispel the factual misinformation.

    There is legitimate scientific debate about whether macroevolution is more than just lots of microevolution or whether macroevolution encompasses mechanisms not seen in microevolution. It’s the sufficiency of microevolution argument. I happen to be one of those scientists who agree with Stephen Jay Gould that there are many levels of evolution (hierarchical theory). Thus, macroevolution cannot be sufficiently explained by lots of microevolution. There are other things going on at the higher levels. (Larry Moran, Professor of Molecular Evolution at University of Toronto)

    It would not be disingenuous to actually respond to this. It might be disingenuous to continually ignore it.

    Morales,

    But I don’t say that, and to claim I do would be to misrepresent my intent.

    My fault. I spoke loosely. I wasn’t necessarily attributing “I’m simply saying there is no God,” to you. It was meant to be an hypothetical negative statement, representative of atheism. Even then it fails, as it is representative only of hard atheism.

    ..the union of the set of beliefs of theists and of atheists may intersect anywhere but on deity-belief subsets.

    True, and doesn’t contradict the statement of mine you responded to.

    Again, I note you speak of atheism as a belief system, rather than as a conclusion.

    Atheism and theism are conclusions that entail belief systems.

    You have supported this by claiming that every proposition has a counter-proposition – i.e. that because every proposition can be stated in the negative form, every proposition is a positive one.

    I admitted to a loose sentence earlier. You should do the same for me here. This is not what I’m claiming. I do not claim that every proposition is a positive one. Re-read me. Or ponder Carrier: “…it is good to dispel myths whenever we can. As it happens, there really isn’t such a thing as a “purely” negative statement, because every negative entails a positive, and vice versa. Thus, “there are no crows in this box” entails “this box contains something other than crows” (in the sense that even “no things” is something, e.g. a vacuum). “Something” is here a set restricted only by excluding crows, such that for every set S there is a set Not-S, and vice versa, so every negative entails a positive and vice versa.”

    Specifically, everyone has a worldview, not excluding atheists, and this is not in dispute.

    I’m not conflating anything, and here it seems like you’re agreeing with me. Yes, everyone has a worldview…

    ..atheists do not by any means share any monolithic or even meaningfully common world-view.

    That’s false, and leaves me really scratching my head.

    Atheists are the set of people who do not have deity-belief.

    Theists are the set of people who have deity-belief.

    We have no shared worldview by virtue of our common disbelief;

    That’s false, and again leaves me scratching my head.

    ..you appear not to accept that an atheist having a worldview doesn’t entail that there exists a common atheist worlview.

    I don’t claim that atheists having a worldview entails a common atheist worldview. However, there is a common atheist worldview, as there is a common theist worldview. I can’t understand why you won’t accept that.

    It was brought up in the context that you appear to consider that atheism is a belief, which is a fundamentally flawed perception.

    Yes, that is a fundamentally flawed perception, and not what I’m saying. ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF – it is a statement of disbelief – but like any negative statement, it entails its own positives.

    Now that you have intruded in another exchange:

    Microevolution basically refers to changes in allele frequencies, macroevolution is the compounded effects of microevolution. They refer to the same process (evolution), at different scales.

    I challenge you to prove your case. Echoes are not arguments.

    Respect for the scientific method would entail endeavouring to understand scientific concepts and terminology when evaluating scientific claims.

    Indeed, it would, and that’s where your strategy could use improvement, IMO.

    ThatOtherGuy,

    I feel I should mention, outside of creationist attempts to discredit science, there are no such things as macroevolution and microevolution. Just as there is no microaddition for numbers less than one and macroaddition for numbers over one.

    Although you’ve demonstrated imperviousness to facts with me before, and I now feel any response to you is a waste of time, why not: Echoes are not arguments, and that’s a rather naive analogy.

    R.C.

    If a child believes in Santa Clause, is the adult who is really supplying the presents guilty of positive truth claims? Does the adult possess a “converse worldview”?

    As far as I can see, this has nothing to do with anything I’ve said. Care to explain?

    I personally don’t think we should have any rules as far as who questions are directed to,

    I agree.

    Arthur,

    and I am willing to take it as given that he’s right.

    Echoes are not arguments. And as far as DD’s “actual point,” I already conceded that G&T show limited understanding of science.

  40. Tacroy Says:

    Really, if you want to argue about evolution, you should read through TalkOrigins first. There’s no difference between macro- and micro- evolution. Indeed, rejecting the fact that microevolution leads to macroevolution is basically like rejecting proof by induction.

  41. cl Says:

    Tacroy,

    Again, echoes are not arguments. I don’t want you to handwave and point me to sources I’m already possibly more familiar with than yourself. How many 100,000+ words manuscripts have you published on evolution? Not that it matters, but don’t assume that just because I don’t agree with the canard, “macroevolution is just lots of microevolution” that I’m some dumbass who’s not well-read on the topic.

    From the very first sentence in said source: “Microevolution and macroevolution are different things, but they involve mostly the same processes.” Yes, they involve mostly the same processes, and this does not justify the claim that “macroevolution is just lots of microevolution.” Further, how do you account for the anomalous evidence? You avoided my question entirely.

    Indeed, rejecting the fact that microevolution leads to macroevolution is basically like rejecting proof by induction.

    Misrepresentation. I haven’t once said or implied, “microevolution does not lead to macroevolution.” Re-read, and answer my questions. In particular: If macroevolution is just “lots of microevolution,” how is it that macroevolution can occur in as little time as a single generation, in the complete absence of a series of successive gradations, i.e. microevolution? Think about it before responding, and answer in your own words please – otherwise it’s hard to tell what’s motivating you.

    This is now the fifth or sixth time someone has merely handwaved instead of addressed the pertinent points in my comments. I don’t mind that you guys include links and cite sources – that is a good thing – but not when I’ve already been there and done that, and not with the idea that it excuses any of you from answering my questions.

  42. Arthur Says:

    Hey, if you say “Echoes are not arguments” twice, is it an echo?

  43. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl said:


    “each of you presents a rather naive understanding of the terms macroevolution and microevolution.”


    “If macroevolution is just “lots of microevolution,” how is it that macroevolution can occur in a single generation, in the complete absence of a series of successive gradations”

    Ok cl, you need to stop. You are way off topic for this entire blog.

    You do not know my background. I posted the wikipedia link on macro/micro evolution not as a limit of my understanding, but as a way on demonstrating a source other than my authority that could be considered trusted.

    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. I attend many graduate level seminars in the subject, especially evo/devo, the most recent of which I spent the day with PZ Myers (at UC Berkeley).

    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself with your questions. You don’t even know what the right questions are to ask, merely parroting whatever creationist party line you subscribe to.

    I involve myself in this group for discussions on rationalism, atheism, and skepticism. I assume the same for the other members, and that they have no interest in the hashing through the elemental details of evolutionary biology. There are other places for that, and they can visit them is necessary.

    I know I am crossing DD’s boundaries here, but your attack is aimed straight at what I have spent 30 years of my life gaining expertise in. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be.

    They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

  44. pboyfloyd Says:

    Hey cl.

    Geisler and Turek, essentially right with some arguably bad propaganda or essentially propaganda with some arguably good points?

  45. John Morales Says:

    cl,

    I do not claim that every proposition is a positive one. […] As it happens, there really isn’t such a thing as a “purely” negative statement, because every negative entails a positive, and vice versa.

    And therefore every proposition can be rephrased as the negation of its complement?
    As I understand it, a positive claim is one where the existence of something is asserted, a negative claim is where the non-existence is asserted. Restating either differently (paraphrasing) should not change their meaning, and so if properly restated they will remain positive and negative.
    This is a distraction to your main point, the subject of my disputation. Let’s revisit where this started, with your assertion that

    Atheism entails positive truth claims about what is, and there are things one must believe to be an atheist.

    I reiterate, the only positive truth claim I make regarding my atheism in general is that I see no reason to accept the existence of deity-entities or supernatural realms, though I’m open to further evidence or reasoning. On the Christian God and others, however, the evidence is compelling that they are imaginary constructs and their existence is not credible (cf. tooth fairy).
    As to what I have to believe to be an Atheist, well I suppose I am an a-solipsist and believe there’s an external reality I only perceive through my senses.

    ATHEISM IS NOT A BELIEF – it is a statement of disbelief – but like any negative statement, it entails its own positives.

    Let me try a metaphor to restate atheism’s position: Think of religious belief as hair, and atheism as lack of hair. Issues of hair colour or length or styling are irrelevant to bald people. The bald people don’t deny the existence of hair, but find it strange that some elegantly coiffeured people tell them that baldness is a type of hairdo, and that “there is a common bald worldview, as there is a common haired worldview”.

    “Macroevolution is lots of microevolution,” actually does speak from ignorance of the terms – and repeats a tired, obsolete canard.

    That which you’ve quoted is again semantically different from (at least) my claim. I said they were different views of the same overall process of biological evolution.
    cf. MICROEVOLUTION TO MACROEVOLUTION

  46. Arthur Says:

    Just as a matter of interest, and not because it will please anyone or be helpful at all, here is an old post of Deacon’s (from his Professor days) including, it would appear, a response to cl’s Laurence Moran reference.

  47. R. C. Moore Says:

    Arthur said:


    Just as a matter of interest, and not because it will please anyone or be helpful at all, here is an old post of Deacon’s (from his Professor days) including, it would appear, a response to cl’s Laurence Moran reference.

    That is helpful, as DD points out that his definition is not the technical definition of Dr. Moran. Go back to the DD’s point in this discussion — that “Macroevolution is not a distinct process from evolution (or microevolution).” has G & T evidently assert.

    All other discussion to the contrary in this thread is obfuscation, and I ask to what point? The only answer I can arrive at is the same as DD when speaking of G & T — to misrepresent and deceive.

    The use of such devices as “Fierce and unresolved battles are raging in biology” and claiming others take the position “Macroevolution is lots of microevolution” (only one individual has used that phrase here, yet has attacked everyone as though they had) can be called nothing else.

    I ask — in what way does emergent thought in the field of
    evolutionary biology pertain to a discussion on “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence”?

    Could it be because Dr. Moran’s views on the subject of “macro/micro” are the current talking point of the anti-evolution crowd, an outcome of the recent Texas School Board hearings on Science Education?

    This pitiful attempt at the creationist “wedge” strategy — continuous attempts to insert irrelevant and overblown issues, quibbles over semantics, the making of ridiculous demands and then claiming intellectual victory when they are ignored, “laundry list” objections without counter-example, etc. is meant to bring to a halt all intelligent discussion on the internet, which is ironic, as it only reveals the prejudices and motivations of the those that invoke it.

    Ok, I have again broken all of DD’s rules of propriety, and for that I apologize. But real discussion has become impossible here, which is a shame, because I find DD’s analysis enjoyable and stimulating.

  48. Freidenker Says:

    Cl, you had me until 11. I’m a biology undergrad, so I was completely befuzzled to read that paragraph.

    Macroevolution is a fact. I know it’s painful for a creationist (or even a theis) to accept that – but it’s still, and uncontentiously so in the academia (in biology, anyway), a fact.

    The “fierce battles” raging in biology right now are not of whether or not Macroevolution occurred, but more about: how did it occur for which taxa and when.

    Since I’ve read and explored the evidence myself, I know macroevolution occurred and occurs. Since macroevolution is a complex process, the resolution in which we can accord for it is low – which is good, because this means I’ll have a job someday.

    One more thing: as an atheist, biology undergraduate and science afficionado, I can say without a problem that I don’t “believe” in abiogenesis and I can even say that I don’t “think it’s true”. Personally, if I HAD to choose, my intuition would be abiogenesis, simply because there’s some evidence for it and it’s better than saying “magic”. But I would never teach it as fact, I would never support teaching abiogenesis as fact until a working model exists.

    AND I’m an atheist. It must be the end times, eh?

  49. Freidenker Says:

    Hmm. Wait a minute. Did you mean that 11 is “conjecture entirely” because macroevolution isn’t JUST cumulative microevolution? Or that it isn’t cumulative microevolution at all? In that case, there’s ample evidence that cumulative microevolution is an evolutionary mechanism working side-by-side to other exotic processes to achieve macroevolution (punctuated equilibria makes a lot of sense, for example. Especially considering the short amount of time it takes for vast anatomical evolution to occur and our knowledge of environmental variability).

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to attack a straw man – I might have misunderstood you if that’s what you meant.

  50. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    Again, cl, are you proposing that we distinguish between addition for numbers less than one and numbers greater than one?