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October 27, 2009

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Very Good read, thanks

If Dawkins presupposes that the Big Bang was the beginning of the material universe, then he must necessarily infer that a God like creature must have caused the Big Bang. This is necessary because the singularity that existed prior to the Big Bang must have had some outside force act upon it in order to cause it to "bang". Since nothing material existed outside of the singularity, this must have been something immaterial.

I love to find the ironies (and there are MANY) in this debate between materialists and, well, more reasonable people. Dawkins and all of those guys love to say that, for example, Intelligent Design is a "science stopper." But look at what Dawkins admits here about his materialistic view! It's a science-stopper! Because of materialism, you CANNOT EXPLORE FURTHER than the North Pole!! Amazing.

Thank you for a terrific blog entry.

That North Pole comment takes the cake - I’m sorry. And the people that don’t believe in the blind watchmaker thesis are the close-minded ones? Got it. We can't forget that.

Dawkins was blind sided in this interview and was not prepared to defend the questions thrown his way. I always find it comical when he is interviewed by a believer. His arguments and come backs usually consist of, well, if thats what you want to believe then...

Great come back! He doesn't do many debates and turns down debates all the time. His point of views are easily brought down because they are so limited. He's so smart but yet so limited in his studies, it's sad really...

Dawkins is actually probably right in his narrow claim about time. There are actually some pretty big conceptual problems with time that stretches infinitely back. For starters, every passing moment would be a completed infinity.

Also, the seems to be an unanswerable question for theists and atheists alike regarding the first moment of the created order: "Why now?" If you're an atheist, then, in the words of Terry Pratchett "In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded." If you're a theist, you're saying that God was drifting through the infinite past and suddenly, for no reason that He didn't have five minutes earlier, He made the world.

Augustine saw these troubles centuries ago and argued that time is just another thing that God created.

I think the problem we have with a beginning of time is that we like to view time as this infinitely extended rail that the events of history are hung upon. Events come before or after each other depending on where they are hanging on the rail. Thus if someone says that the rail has an end on, say, the left side, we imagine the rail coming to an end with plenty of empty space to the left. Or we imagine that we hit a hard barrier to the left, and if we could just break through...

Instead, the events of history stand in a relationship of before and after with respect to each other. And that's all. The time 'axis' is an abstraction from the relationships. Not the other way round. On this view, there's no problem, really, with talking about a first moment in time. You are just saying that there is a whole family of events that have no other events before them.

These events are still, quite contingent, a therefore require a causal explanation of course. There must be a necessary first cause. The cosmological argument for the existence of God is about necessity and contingency, not about coming to be in time. It is quite unfazed by any of the considerations above.

Einstein speaks of the slowing down of clocks in a gravitational field. At the time of the Big Bang, the gravitational field might have been so intense that clocks had not even started up.

Dawkins did not say you could not explore beyond the North Pole. He just said you couldn't learn anything more about northness beyond the North Pole.

I think Dawkins is right about there not being a "before" the universe. If the beginning of the universe was also the beginning of time, then there could not have been anything before the universe. Even Bill Craig recognizes this, which is why he prefers to refer to God's existence prior to creation as being "without" the universe rather than "before" the universe. And he frequently quotes Richard J. Gott, et.al. as saying, "It is not meaningful to ask what happened before the big bang; it is somewhat like asking what is north of the north pole" (Richard J. Gott, et.al., "Will the Universe Expand Forever?" Scientific American (March 1976), p. 65.). This certainly doesn't imply any materialist presupposition on Craig's part. It just means that Craig recognizes that if time had a beginning, then there can be no "before time" since "before" is a temporal relation IN time.

Prince...

It seems that Dawkins is always getting "blindsided"! You'd think it would be impossible to blindside him after all He has written and complained about.

He was also "blindsided" by that Australian documentary interview ("From a Frog to a Prince") when asked if he could relate one example of a mutation that could cause an increase in the genetic information. He stuttered and stammered and then gave a completely irrelvant reply. He later scoffed that the question was one that "only a creationist would ask"....as if that settled the matter.

This guy has scoffed amnd mocked creation and ID and proponents to no end...and when push comes to shove...he is left exposed as the "fanantic" ideolog he accuses us of being.

Ah Dawkins, the guy you guys love to hate.

Gives you a way to avoid thinking about evolution, what it means for Adam, and what it means for Jesus.

RonH

The post misunderstands Dawkins' analogy. When you reach the North pole, you can no longer go North because the direction is not defined at that place. When you reach the beginning of the Universe, you cannot go further back in time, because the past is not defined at that point.

Because time is a property of the Universe, asking what happened before the Universe is an ill-posed question. This is what Dawkins was trying to say.

Vic,

I am puzzled by your reference to the question about whether a mutation can result in an increase in the genetic information. Would it make more sense to ask if can the replication of a mutated DNA strand can result in an increase in genetic information.

Let me give a Biblical analogy (though we know analogies are like songs of love: they much describe, they nothing prove). Suppose we have a handwritten Bible. Five handwritten copies of the Bible are prepared one at a time and placed at different repositories. One of the copies turns out to have one transcription error. Then supposed that due to a calamity that the original source manuscript is lost. How much Biblical information do we have now? Five times as much? Almost five times as much? The same amount? Less than what we started with? None?

>>”Because time is a property of the Universe…”

Which obviously, the Big Bang was unconstrained by. Again, that North Pole comment is ridiculous, because Hugh Hewitt was not referring to the idea that God was sitting around having tea before the Big Bang in some other reality. Hewitt was referring to the existence of an uncreated Banger before the universe came into existence.

RonH,

>>Ah Dawkins, the guy you guys love to hate.

We don't hate him. We just think he's wrong. ;)

>>Gives you a way to avoid thinking about evolution, what it means for Adam, and what it means for Jesus.

What do you mean?

Ron,

When Dawkins comes up with a better answer than "one day I think we will have the answer for you", more people may listen to him. But for now I'll take the Bill O'Riley approach and answer that with, "well, when you figure it out come talk to me and maybe I'll listen"...

Nathaniel,

We share a common ancestor with the other primates. This leaves no place for Adam. That puts Jesus out of a job. Sorry.

Prince,
You don't say what the question was. Probably something like What caused the big bang? or How did life start?

Dawkins says: I don't know.

What's the problem?

RonH

RonH wrote:

"We share a common ancestor with the other primates."

You state this as if it's known fact and we all accept it. Problem is, such a fantastic notion has yet to be proven true. The question is, why do you believe it's true?

Melinda >> People don't believe because of lack of evidence, as Romans 1 explains, but because of their sin and rebellion.

So what can Dawkins do to correct his views? How can he fix his problem? Is he not waiting upon the mercy of the Christian God to save Dawkins from his sins?

RonH,

>>We share a common ancestor with the other primates. This leaves no place for Adam. That puts Jesus out of a job. Sorry.

Again, while I do not agree that we share a common ancestor with apes, I'm not sure how that affects Adam and Jesus. Could you be more detailed, please?

Jim T,

>>So what can Dawkins do to correct his views? How can he fix his problem? Is he not waiting upon the mercy of the Christian God to save Dawkins from his sins?

What's your point?

>>"Dawkins says: I don't know.
What's the problem?"

RonH,

I’d say there is a problem (unless you’re naturally satisfied with not knowing things in general.) RonH meet problem, problem meet RonH.

RonH,

Evolution does not preclude a special creation of Adam. In Genesis 1:20 and 1:24, when God tells the waters and the earth to bring forth life, an evolutionary process is suggested. But Man is created directly by God from base materials, which could have had existing ape DNA as a base with a few other things thrown in, a la Jurassic Park.

Nathaniel [to me]>> What's your point?

I don't have a point, I have questions. That's why I used question marks!

Jim T,

Normally, you ask a question, and then, when you get an answer, you respond to it. By the way you asked your question, it seemed like you were making a rhetorical point (meaning you already knew the answer). So instead of answering the question, I asked for clarification.

But since that's not what you were doing...the answer is Dawkins is not waiting for anybody. Dawkins has all the knowledge he needs to accept God, but because he is in rebellion against God, he suppresses that knowledge. So God's mercy is necessary for Dawkins to accept God. Now, that doesn't mean that Dawkins couldn't accept that the God of the Bible exists. There are many who do, and they are still in rebellion against God. Even still, nothing that happens, happens outside the will of God.

Speaking of the error Hewitt makes in closing, Prager acknowledges his faith is “a leap of faith” in his column today. I know he is Jewish – still interesting.

If Dawkins is criticizing people for asking what came "before" the Big Bang (and time itself), he's just being nitpicky with words.

Yes, perhaps the Big Bang defines the extent of time -- just as the North Pole defines the extent of northness (but only on the Earth -- northness can be extended into space: North Star, anyone?) -- but that doesn't satisfactorily answer the question about whether there is anything beyond, outside or other than space-time.

Ron,

"I don't know" and "What's the problem?" are the answers that seem to follow tough questions ask to people such as Dawkins and yourself. I find myself being embarassed for you. To always have to conclude a statement like that has to be humiliating... I believe I would grow tierd of that endless chase. Dawkins is very smart and should know better but as the Bible states, The Creation that God has made will baffle the smartest of humans...

KWM wrote...

"I’d say there is a problem (unless you’re naturally satisfied with not knowing things in general.)"

Here are some useful quotes from Richard Feynman.

"Some people say, "How can you live without knowing?" I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing. That is easy. How you get to know is what I want to know."

"I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs, and different degrees of certainty about different things, but I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and in many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about a little, but if I can’t figure it out, then I go to something else. But I don’t have to know an answer.

Pete wrote...

"You state (common ancestry) as if it's known fact and we all accept it. Problem is, such a fantastic notion has yet to be proven true. The question is, why do you believe it's true?"

Nothing is ever proven in science. Instead, we test hypotheses in an effort to prove that they are false. So, the question is not "why do you believe it's true"? The question for Pete, et al., is "why do you believe common ancestry is false"?

Gotta love Scientist... Just can't wait to try and prove something else wrong! Science is cool, don't get me wrong. It's very fasinating! I just think some Scientist try to push it into to many subjects, i.e. Supernatural where it doesn't belong...

Johnnie.....

Dawkins likes to suggest (as most evolutinists do) that the causes of evolution are mutations and natural selection. However NEITHER of these allows for an INCREASE in genetic potential (more fit).

Mutations are real...but they never ever ever ADD new enzyme sequence information that will allow the organism to become more "fit". Take bacteria resistance to antibiotics that can develope for instance. The new strain of bacteria that is resistant most certainly is able to survive that particular antibiotic...but it does so ONLY because part of its genetic base has been DEACTIVATED...not added to. The new organism is actually LESS viable than the original organism...since it now has LESS DNA ....even though it has survived this one antibiotic.

In order for mutations to lead to a new species etc....new genetic information must be added to its genome...not subtracted.

Hi Joe:

Those quotes are very convenient for Feynman. When you can’t find the answer that pleases you, you can always just go without knowing. In addition to not knowing, it’s also convenient to express to others that you are totally comfortable with not knowing. That way you can publically safe face.


KWM,

It's not convenient. It's just the reality of the limits of the human condition. One can be pleased or not pleased, depending on one's personality. I think that Feynman's point is that it is better to say "I don't know", then it is to allow the fear of not knowing drive one to create comfortable, but wrong, answers.

Joe,

From your definition of Science, it seems that you would agree that Science is limited in scope. If Science is limited, how do we test things like reason, empiricism, or skepticism? In other words, is there anything we can be sure of? If there isn't, how can we justify acting in ways inconsistent with reality?

Vic,

Your statements about mutations are inaccurate.

Joe writes:
"Nothing is ever proven in science. Instead, we test hypotheses in an effort to prove that they are false. So, the question is not "why do you believe it's true"? The question for Pete, et al., is "why do you believe common ancestry is false"?

Because I haven't been shown evidence that clearly supports common ancestry. Rather, I see evidence which many people interpret as evidence of common ancestry, but that can always be interpreted another way.

That being the case, the question remains, why does RonH (and you, too, if you believe it) believe that common ancestry is true? Where is the evidence and why is your interpretation of that evidence necessarily the only reasonable interpretation?

"Is there anything we can be sure of?"

No, but we can have a high degree of confidence in things. There are hundred things that we do each day based on our understanding of how the natural world works. We can't be absolutely certain that we are correct in our conclusions about how the world works, but we act as if our conclusions are correct. We test our conclusions a hundred times a day, we just don't realize that this is what we are doing. And generally speaking, we are "justified" in our conclusions because we usually get through our day relatively unharmed.

"I haven't been shown evidence that clearly supports common ancestry."

Maybe you aren't looking hard enough. In any event, this is not the same thing as finding evidence that common ancestry is false and/or finding evidence that disproves the hypothesis. You haven't explains why the hypothesis is false.

Ok, so the justification that we have for living in absolute uncertainty (we may be relatively certain of some things, but ultimately we are uncertain of everything) is survival. Would that be an accurate sum of your view? If it is, how can you be certain that getting through the day unharmed is a good way to justify our uncertainty?

Joe

It would seem to me that the burden of proof rests with those who make the absolute claim for common ancestry. That being the case, can you please provide such evidence?

Maybe you're not looking hard enough Joe...

After all, Science will only allow you to look so far anyway...

Nathaniel,

I have to admit that I'm getting lost in the words, and I'm not sure what you mean or what you're asking.

But in case this answers the question, let me say "getting through the day unharmed" doesn't "justify" uncertainty. Getting through the day unharmed is evidence that we can test and understand the world, even though we are always uncertain. It's evidence that things like "reason" and "empiricism" work reasonably well, despite the the imperfections.

Sims,

"It would seem to me that the burden of proof rests with those who make the absolute claim for common ancestry."

No, the burden on those that make the claim is that the claim be testable. And it is. At this point, the next step is to test the hypothesis with the goal of disproving the hypothesis. So,how or why is the common ancestry of apes and humans disproved? The claim has been made that common ancestry is a "fantastic notion". Ok, support this claim.

But if you insist on postive evidence, start here.

http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/09/fun-with-homini.html

Then consider the data from Chromosome 2 and ERVs.

Panda's Thumb? You've gotta be kidding. Joe, Sims is right… the burden of proof rests on your side. If you can't provide sufficient evidence for which there is clearly only one reasonable interpretation, then I should not be convinced that common ancestry is true.

Joe,

I guess I'm trying to point out that your really limits your ability to define things like reason, empiricism, skepticism, morality, etc. because it's all ultimately subjective. You're uncertain of God, but you're certain enough to take the next breath. A flying spaghetti monster in the sky is as reasonable to believe as gravity because our method of proving something exists is ultimately subjective.

Nathaniel,
In Genesis, God creates Adam. Adam does not evolve. Adam has no mother and no father. There is nothing and nobody like Adam.

If evolution is true, the first man (however he might be arbitrarily chosen or identified) had a mother and a father. And, they were very much like him as were his ancestors going back for many many generations. This first man, then, was not Adam. Nothing like him.

If Adam never lived then he didn't bring sin into the world. Now some people take their Bible ala carte and might say Adam was metaphorical but not around here (at STR). So if Adam is out But Adam brought sin into the world. So sin is out. If sin is out, Jesus is unneeded.

You guys need Adam and he's toast.

Pete,

The things that make me most confident of the common ancestry of the primates, including us, are:

1) human chromosome 2
2) shared endogenous retroviruses
3) shared defects in vitamin C genes

They all point to common descent.
RonH

Nathaniel,

"It's all ultimately subjective."

Lots of things are subjective. They can still be defined and described. I don't really see a problem here.

If you think that the FSM is as reasonable to believe as gravity, then think that you miss the distinction that the FSM is basically untestable while gravity can be evaluated by methods available to humans.

Pete,

I see that you utterly failed to interact with or comment on the evidence itself. Your comment about Panda's Thumb ignores the evidence presented at the site. Never mind your personal opinion of the site, what about the evidence at the site? Where is the disproof of common ancestry? Where is the support for the claim of "fantastic notion"? All I see is scoffing without an argument.

I was asked to provide evidence for common ancestry. I did so. From your comments, you seem to be acknowledge that I have provided evidence for common ancestry, because now you've moved the goal posts and want evidence "for which there is clearly only *one* reasonable interpretation". I take it from this that common ancestry is *a* reasonable interpretation of the evidence. Whether or not it leaves the door open for other interpretations is a different matter.

Joe, nice try. But I explained earlier that the interpretation of the evidence was key. No moving goalposts. Panda's Thumb is not a place to get a fair discussion of evidence for evolution.

See, what you've just acknowledged is that there IS more than one interpretation of the evidence for common ancestry and that you really have no way of demonstrating why the interpretation you've accepted is really the most reasonable interpretation.

So what is it? Homology? Ida? What is this evidence that you find so compelling? And is it really evidence of one species becoming something entirely different, or is it really just evidence of what we all accept anyway, a minor variation within species like the shapes of finch beaks changing? Where's the beef, Joe?

Pete,

Panda's Thumb is presenting data. I put the link there to show you the data. You can find this data in many places besides Panda's Thumb. You haven't even attempted to interact with the data. You have not attempt to show why the Panda's Thumb interpretation is incorrect or disproved. You claim Panda's Thumb is "not fair", but you offer no evidence to support the conclusion that the interpretation of the data is wrong.

You have failed to show why this is not positive evidence for common ancestry. This is what you asked for, and this is what you were given. How is this not positive evidence for common ancestry?

Interact with the data. Then interact with the data from Chromosome 2 and ERVs. You're asking "what is it?", but you have failed to respond to what you've been given so far.

In short, you have failed to even attempt to show why common ancestry is a "fantastic notion". You can not back up your claim.

"You really have no way of demonstrating why the interpretation you've accepted is really the most reasonable interpretation."

And you have utterly failed to show me why the interpretation I've accepted is not reasonable or is a "fantastic notion", independent of whether or not there are other interpretations. Therefore, I assume that you now understand that my interpretation is reasonable.

Are there other possible interpretations? Of course. I can literally think of a hundred different truly fantastical interpretations. Every culture on Earth with a creation myth can give you a different interpretation of the data based on that culture's "worldview", right?.

But the question is, can you test those interpretations. It's not about whether they are "reasonable" or not, whatever that means. Instead, the key question is..."if a given interpretation is wrong, how can we know or prove that it's wrong?" How can we get rid of bad interpretations? That's the difference between scientific interpretations and fantasy.

"Or is it really just evidence of what we all accept anyway, a minor variation within species".

Define species. And do you think that "minor variation" could allow a single "cat" species to give rise to all of the cat species in the Family Felidae?

Joe says...

How so, Joe?
Try to name 3 beneficial mutations. You will find that mutations are usually named for the diseases they cause....hardly a beneficial trait....

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