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January 20, 2010

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You can brain wash or argue children into embracing your religious views but in the end, only Christ can open their eyes.

We need to stop laboring to pack the churches with tares who believe only at the intellectual level.

Hmm. Dave, I would have said that we need to include intellectual aspects into their beliefs, rather than make commitments strictly on an emotional level.

Last I looked, intellectual comprehension, doctrinal familiarity and biblical literacy were not putting emotional experiences in the backseat, but the inverse.

Dave,

Thank you for plainly stating what most dare not to.

I am always amazed when people are surprised that young adults leave the church. Is that not exactly what one would expect? Are the elect more likely to have elect children than non-elect children? Are God's elect given an extra measure of grace and joy to see all their loved ones also elected to find faith and forgiveness and rebirth?

And I say this as someone that is recognizing himself as a tare. I really doubt that I am amongst the elect. Well, more specifically, I don't think anyone is elect, it's just pretend. But that's another topic, and I don't want to hijack the thread. Just want to be open about where I'm coming from.

Thanks again,
Jim

Want to role-play better than Brett?

In fact, there were only two leaders out of those 80 who gave me real trouble during the exchange. The first, a youth pastor, launched into the moral argument for God’s existence. I tried to take the “morals are determined by society” route, but he calmly pinned me down.

You should have pointed out that society is impossible - inconceivable - without morality. And not just any morality like any flavor of ice cream will do. Don't be locked into his false dichotomy: subjective or objective, where objective = ultimate accountability. A moral system has to meet objective constraints if it is to support a society. You can choose what flavor ice cream to eat but you can't survive on what is not food. There are no societies made of psychopaths.

The second, a deacon and Sunday school teacher, offered a design argument, articulating Michael Behe’s argument from irreducible complexity. I quickly changed topics.

Try responding this way: Behe says if you remove any of the 'parts' from one of his 'IR' systems the system will be useless and provide nothing for natural selection to work on. Therefore, he says, the system couldn't have evolved.

Now, notice the unstated false premise: Behe is assuming that the last step in the system's evolution must have been the addition of one of these 'parts' (in its final form) to the otherwise finalized system. This is certainly one possible final step, but there are thousands and thousands of other possible final steps that Behe ignores (and wants you to ignore).

Each of Behe's 'parts' is actually a protein - a string of thousands of amino acids. The final step in the evolution of the system was a mutation. A mutation can be a substitution, insertion, or deletion of any amino acid anywhere in any of Behe's 'parts'. So the system did not have to pass through the useless completed-minus-one-part stage the argument assumes it had to pass through. And so Behe has not proved it could not have evolved. He has done a good job of identifying one way it probably didn't though! Give the guy a round of applause.

(I pointed out an unstated premise. You could also classify Behe's IR schtick as a straw man argument: evolutionary theory doesn't claim what Behe refutes.)

Now you are better equipped to role-play that Brett.

RonH

than Brett

RonH said: "There are no societies made of psychopaths."

I'm curious how you reconcile that statement with:

    Nazi Germany
    Communist Cambodia under Pol Pot
    Spartan killing of "puny and deformed" babies
    ...
The list goes on.

It seems you've redefined morality as pertaining to "that which supports and is condoned by society."

In which case, since the Californian society voted for Prop 8, do you characterize their choice as morally correct?

ok, someone needs to close the italic tag

Thanks for your great work Brett and all at STR. Speaking as one who first convinced of the truth of Christianity, which removed any comfortable excuses, before secondly grasping the depth of my sin and need for Christ, I see the power of both argument and the need for the Holy Spirit. The first removed any false security for my rebellion against God, but without the latter I was powerless to truly grasp my sin and receive salvation.

>>”You should have pointed out that society is impossible - inconceivable - without morality.”

Right. Then they could say, "that proves nothing".

lacigoloru,

Those places had a minority of psychopaths or practiced only a limited number things that tended to break them down.

It seems you've redefined morality as pertaining to "that which supports and is condoned by society."

More like: something every society must have at some level.

In which case, since the Californian society voted for Prop 8, do you characterize their choice as morally correct?

A society can do/promote some things that tend cause it to break down. It just can't do too many.

The animal kingdom has a few instincts, but certainly not a developed system of morality. They attack each other, eat each other, show no mercy to their pray, hold no trials for them, don't pursue justice or create charities, or anything. They seem to be surviving just fine. We don't need a system of morality to survive.

I agree Amy. I also think, even if what RonH claims about morality were true, it doesn’t advance the argument.

So which insect should we emulate? Guess it doesn"t matter?

And whoops--I meant "prey," obviously. Trying to do too many things at once here. :-)

I've been trying to reconcile the relativists with the objectivists for a while (I've read Greg's "Relativism: feet planted ..." book -- loved it) I'm curious if others agree with this perspective:

Relativists assume no God (not a new concept) as a premise, and so define morality as an artifact of complex systems. It's not an objective, immaterial entity like math or logic. Rather, as RonH claims, morality refers to observed aggregate behaviors that support society's existence.

Objectivists assume God's existence as a premise and claim that a subset of observed human behaviors reflect immutable, God-ordained principles.

By starting with two different premises, the two groups use the same word (morality) for two fundamentally different notions: relativists define morality as advantageous aggregate behavior; objectivists define it as unchanging principles reflecting God's innate nature.

And then, using different definitions, we debate two fundamentally different notions, and often talk past one another on this (and other) blogs.

Is that a fair summation?

Man i'm not even Christian anymore and even I said a prayer for Nikhil.

If i was a 19 year old Christian again, I would have never touched a book.

On a side note this method:

"I tried to take the “morals are determined by society” route"

is really not nearly as credible as it used to be - given the advances in everything from anthropology, genetics, behaviorism, evolutionary psychology, to neural imaging.

the act of 'experiencing the oughts' has a largely genetic component.

Amy,

Some animals build shelters but none build apartment buildings. Some use tools but they don't have power drills. I think their capacity for moral behavior is in line with their cognitive abilities taking into account the extent their niche in ecology is social.

There's plenty to read on the subject. Check it out.

PI,

The objective/subjective dichotomy you offer is a false one. We don't have the same latitude with moral issues that we have with, say, ice cream flavors. Not even a society can be arbitrary. It can't decide: stealing is ok in our culture. That would be like you deciding sawdust was food.

RonH

>>I think their capacity for moral behavior is in line with their cognitive abilities taking into account the extent their niche in ecology is social.

Regardless, the fact is they live just fine, so it isn't necessary for survival.

Stealing is okay in animal cultures, and they survive. Just because we're smart doesn't mean that morality is necessary for survival as a species, since we see that so many species survive without it. They steal and live. So could we. So what if "society" breaks down? Societal survival is not necessary for species survival, so why develop the society in the first place?

Amy,

>> Stealing is okay in animal culture

tell that to the penguine moms who join together to stop another penguine mom from stealing an egg. (a la 'March of the Penguins')

are they 'acting on extinct'

or

are they 'experiencing moral oughts'

You couldn't PROVE a penguin experiences moral oughts of course.

But you can't prove Amy does either.

Oh, I can prove I do. I have direct access to my thoughts, and I've experienced "ought."

Pi, my only dispute is that whether you're talking about relative morality or objective morality, morality isn't defined by how people in fact behave; rather, it's defined by how people OUGHT to be have.

Amy,

ya exactly.

but unfortunately, YOU are the only one who can do so.

As for us, we'll never know.

ToNy, are you honestly having serious doubts about whether or not other people experience "ought"?

Amy,

Evolution is not about "species survival" or about what's best for a species as a whole. Instead, it's about individual survival.

And, yes, there are "animal cultures" in which "stealing" is not "OK". In some species, in fact, individuals that "steal" are less successful than individuals that participate in cooperative exchanges.

"Why develop the society in the first place"?

In the case of humans, the survival rate for individuals is usually higher within "societies" than outside of societies.

Sam,

>> ToNy, are you honestly having serious doubts about whether or not other people experience "ought"?

I'm having serious doubts about WHICH brains are capable of experiencing "oughts"?

For fun, take out a pencil and circle the brains you think experience oughts.

Amy
Tony
Sam
Swanscombe Man
Omo 2
Jebel Irhoud 4
Tabun C1
Klasies River Caves
Krapina
Skhul IX
Qafzeh VI
La Ferrassie 1
La Quina 5
Mt. Circeo 1
Saccopastore 1
Gibraltar 1
Shanidar 1
Amud 1
La Chapelle-aux-Saints 1
Mungo Man
Le Moustier
Neanderthal 1
Jebel Qafzeh 6
NG 6
Hofmeyr Skull
Peştera cu Oase
Yamashita-Cho Man
Cro-Magnon 1
Combe Capelle
Predmost 3
Bubbles the chimp
Kanzi the gorilla
the mom in "March of the Penguins"

Amy,

Regardless, the fact is they live just fine, so it [moral behavior] isn't necessary for survival.

Yes, there are other ways to make a living. But being moral allows us to be social which gives us access to the many benefits of being social. When you are sick or have a bad day hunting someone brings you food, for example.

Chimps sanction theft:

http://www.pnas.org/content/104/34/13537.full

RonH

"Evolution is not about "species survival" or about what's best for a species as a whole. Instead, it's about individual survival."

That's debatable. Richard Dawkins and Stephen J. Gould debated for years about whether it's about the survival of the species or survival of the gene.

and ernst mayr.

the answer is probably a balance of both

Thanks, Brett, for posting your teaching adventure out east. Good going with the devil's advocate dialogue. I think the more training and response opportunities we have like tha are great.

Now, as for the discussion about moral objectivism and the way cultures interact as an argument, I tend to take a different route.

We can't prove Christianity, let alone the existance of God through morals alone. Moral truth is written on our heart (general revelation). Romans 1:20 shows how Paul draws an argument in part from the natural knowledge of God. But, then the apostle grounds it in the concreteness of Christ Jesus, who saves us and is our righteousness, the fulfiller of the Law--moral, etc. (Rom. 1:16-17, 3:21; and 1 Cor. 1:30.

As John Warwick Montgomery points out, one can only argue the existance of God through the evidence of founded history as in a court room. So, you start with the person and work of Christ Jesus. You go to the veracity and provenness of His resurrection and His miracles. The eyewitness testimony and the provenness of Holy Scripture (manuscript evidence) sets up the discussion toward clear absolute truth.

Then, you bring the use of philosophy and moral categories in when you tear down others arguments. Personally, I enjoy turning deconstructionism on its head.

So, if I were in Brett's place as he discussed in the post, I'd tear down folks' arguments through the playing of devil's advocate and then build the truth up from there. After all, isn't that the way our Lord brings us to repent of our sin? His Law convicts us. Then, He returns us to His Word through His Gospel, wherein He gives us the assurance of the forgiveness of our sin. in Christ Jesus Himself.

I may be wrong, but I don't remember many debates between Gould and Dawkins on the subject of group selection. That is, I don't remember Gould taking the position that individuals act for the good of the species or the good of the populations as a whole (this is not to be confused with kin selection). I'm pretty sure that Gould thought that "species survival" was an emergent property of the independent survival of either individuals or kin groups within a given population. As I recall, what Gould and Dawkins argued about was the pace of evolutionary change.


heres a pretty good summary:

"Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, conceives of evolution as a struggle between gene lineages; Gould, who wrote Wonderful Life and Rocks of Ages, sees it as a struggle between organisms."

'Dawkins vs Gould: Survival of the Fittest'

Hi Joe,

Gould faced the facts of the fossil record in a way Dawkins has not. From Gould's perspective, (essentially) one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg.

In a sense, this conclusion should not shock us at all, because this is exactly what the fossil record shows. However, the fact that Gould tried to hold onto the validity of macro-evolutionary theory in light of this admission proves the wisdom of the bible perfectly.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”(Ps 53:1)

The general idea is you have a replicator - something that reproduces itself, but with variation. The fitter individuals (by definition) on average leave more offspring and therefore increase their relative numbers in the population.

The individual us usually thought of as the replicator. Dawkins popularized (but did not originate) the idea of the gene as replicator. Groups struggle for third place in the discussion.

The math works the same whatever the replicator. Which is the more important replicator depends on the aspect of natural history you are looking at.

RonH

"From Gould's perspective, (essentially) one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg."

Umm, no, this was not Gould's perspective.

"In a sense, this conclusion should not shock us at all, because this is exactly what the fossil record shows."

Not really.

JW,

One other thing. I'm confused by the association of the Gould's acceptance of what you call "macroevolution" with "the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Could you explain?

Joe,
You've contradicted John twice. OK, I think he's wrong too. But, rather than simply contradict John, let's give him the benefit of a doubt:

John,
Please give us some evidence for the two assertions you've made that Joe has contradicted. (He said Um, no... and Not really.)

RonH

Fair enough.

Joe wrote:
"....this was not Gould's perspective".

If you mean it wasn't originally his theory, you are right. However, it was clearly his perspective. It wasn't Gould who first proposed the "hopeful monster's" theory, but Richard Goldschmidt.

However Gould (in contrast to Dawkins) has expounded on this idea with the development of "punctuated equilibrium" (PE) in conjunction with Niles Eldridge.

Darwin (and Dawkins) hold to the idea that evolution occurred gradually over a vast amount of time. As the fossil record contradicts this idea, Gould tried to deal with the evidence we have, rather then making an argument from lack of evidence as Dawkins does.

Gould (and Eldridge) proposed P.E. which accounts for the fact that higher forms of life appeared suddenly and fully formed.

If you're paying close attention, you'll notice this is the same thing Creationists have been claiming!

The foolishness of Gould's PE theory resides in the stubbornness to maintain an evolutionary framework given the clear testimony of the fossil record. Rather then abandon macro-evolutionary theory for the fraud it is, one has to propose miraculous events like the "hopeful monster" theory. Essentially believing in a supernatural event without a Supernatural agent to accomplish this event!

JW,

You said, "from Gould's perspective, (essentially) one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg."

PE does not say that "one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg." So, how is this "Gould's perspective"? What is the evidence that this is Gould's perspective? Is there anything that Gould said that would lead you to believe that Gould thought that "one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg"?

Do all higher forms of life really appear "suddenly and fully formed"? I'm not so sure about that.


Sorry about not putting this in the previous post, but I'm still curious about the fool says there is no God thing. Do you think that one can accept "macroevolution" and also think that there is a God?

John Willis,
You said:

Gould (and Eldridge) proposed P.E. which accounts for the fact that higher forms of life appeared suddenly and fully formed.

What do you mean by 'higher'? What appeared 'suddenly and fully formed'?

RonH

Joe,

My comment is a paraphrase of Dr. Steven Stanley's opinion of Gould's theory of PE.

Joe wrote:
"Do all higher forms of life really appear "suddenly and fully formed"? I'm not so sure about that."

Why?

Joe wrote:

"Sorry about not putting this in the previous post, but I'm still curious about the fool says there is no God thing. Do you think that one can accept "macroevolution" and also think that there is a God? "

What do you mean by "macroevolution" and what do you mean by "God"?

RonH,

'Higher', meaning plant and animal life. 'Fully formed' meaning these forms of life present themselves in the fossil record without transitional forms. The record consists entirely of gaps.

How many transitional fossils do you think there are?

Regards,
John

"My comment is a paraphrase of Dr. Steven Stanley's opinion of Gould's theory of PE."

A paraphrase of an opinion doesn't seem very useful to me. I take it then that you have no evidence that Gould actually held the position that "one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg". Do you really think that PE says that "one day for no reason at all a bird hatched from a dinosaur egg"?

"What do you mean by "macroevolution" and what do you mean by "God"?"

Actually, since you are the one who first used the terms, I think that you're probably the one who needs to define these terms. You are the one making a connection between acceptance of macroevolution (your term) and the Bible verse about fools and God. I'm trying to figure out why you've made a connection between acceptance of this scientific idea and fools and God. Does accepting macroevolution make one a fool who says that there is no God? Could you explain what you meant by the original comment?

Why are you sure that higher forms of life appear suddenly and fully formed, and therefore, they are the product of supernatural action? What about all of the vertebrate fossils with intermediate characteristics? Can you tell me which vertebrate life forms are the products of a supernatural act? When were the various forms created? How were they created and how do you know that their creation was supernatural?

Hi Joe,

I think we're talking past each other now. I'd be happy to give you an honest answer to any of your questions, but I can't do that effectively until I understand what you mean by terms like 'macro evolution' and 'God'.

When I use the term macro-evolution I mean the extrapolation of microevolution over vast periods of time + chance. When I say God, I mean the Creator God as described in the bible.

Regards,
John

Joe,

I also asked you a question about your comment about the fossil record. Maybe you missed it. Here it is again:

Joe wrote:
"Do all higher forms of life really appear "suddenly and fully formed"? I'm not so sure about that."

My question is - Why?

Thanks,
John

John,
So that would be multi-cellular life?
Is that what you mean? The Cambrian explosion?

Transitional fossils? What do you mean? How about defining it.

I don't mean to just answer questions with questions. I just want to make sure I'm answering the question you are asking.

RonH

"When I use the term macro-evolution I mean the extrapolation of microevolution over vast periods of time + chance. When I say God, I mean the Creator God as described in the bible."

May I ask what prevents "microevolution" from producing "macro" changes over time? Where's the "rule" in the natural world that says that this can't happen?

Ok, so macroevolution would include the evolution of, say, mammals from reptiles, yes? And I understand "God" to mean the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.

So, back to the original question.

Why does Gould's acceptance of macro-evolution prove the wisdom of the Bible that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God"?

You've tied acceptance of macroevolution to a "fool's" statement that there is no God as if there is some connection. Why have you made this connection? Is this a general principle that says you can't accept macroevolution and believe in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God? Or is it meant to only apply to Gould?

Why am I not so sure about the statement that the fossil record shows that all higher forms of life suddenly appeared fully formed? Well, because many higher life forms have a fossil lineage that strongly suggests that these forms did not appear suddenly and fully formed. This is particularly so for vertebrate lineages.

Now, my question.

Why are you sure that higher forms of life appear suddenly and fully formed, and therefore, they are the product of supernatural action? Where's the evidence? What about all of the vertebrate fossils with intermediate characteristics? Can you tell me which vertebrate life forms are the products of a supernatural act? When were the various forms created? How were they created and how do you know that their creation was supernatural?

Hi RonH,

I guess you feel this is a trick question given your point of view? If you're a strong believer of macro evolutionary theory, then I would suspect you would maintain all fossils are transitional - right?

However merely defining words doesn't help the macro crowd deal with the 500 lb gorilla skeleton in the room - which is that the fossil record is composed entirely of gaps.

Of the 250 million cataloged fossils of some 250,000 known species, a fraction of them are held up as "transitional" between the known species. That fraction continues to grow smaller because we find more fossils that fall into pre-existing groups then can even be argued as transitional.

Further, many fossils held up as transitional, in fact are latter found out to be frauds, or actually fall into pre-existing groups.

And finally, if we do not approach the fossil record looking for transitional fossils we would not find them. Therefore, we can effectively conclude transitional fossils are not transitional at all.

If we do not approach the fossil record with the lock step assumption that God cannot exist, no matter what the fossils say, we are free to follow the evidence where it leads.

Unfortunately for Gould, this realization led to his development of PE theory, instead of the plain truth - creation requires a Creator.

Regards,
John

JW,

How do you know "that the fossil record is composed entirely of gaps" when you have no definition of what would count as filling the gap? Without a definition or criteria for "transitional fossil", how can we know if these fossils exist or not?

Can you define "transitional fossil? What is this thing that you seem to think does not exist? It's not a trick question, it's fundamental to the discussion.

I see that you have again assumed that biologists and paleontologists always approach the fossil record with the "assumption that God can not exist". This is simply not true. Plenty of Christian biologists and paleontologists approach the fossil record with the belief that God exists, and yet, they still follow the evidence to the conclusion that the biological world is the product of evolution.

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