Re: Stereotypes and reputations

From: <tpi.hormel@comcast.net>
Date: Fri Aug 05 2005 - 11:40:49 EDT

Cornelius Hunter:
>Tim:
>It seems your reasons for rejecting creation are not very
>strong, and amount to a trivial testing of God, along the
>lines of the Bernoulli-Kant argument that God would not
>create a pattern.

Not really. First, I don't consider the case *for* creation to be terribly strong. In part, that's because I'm comfortable putting things in the "I don't know" bucket. For me, this leaves the 'for creation' bucket is pretty empty . Another major reason for ignoring creation also has to do with whether it is a necessary explanation. In my experience, invoking *poof* as an explanation for physical phenomena is about the least practical thing you want to do in science. The shortcomings of invoking miraculour events are huge.

I was explaining why some popular formulations of creation (particularly, some formulated by a particular subgroup of Christians) probably don't enjoy a lot of support. As I mentioned previously, an uncharacterized supernatural being can do anything. However, the being described in Genesis as interpreted by many Christians has a particular modus operandi. Some Christians find the description to not be "evolution-friendly". The young-earth interpretation appears to be particularly unsupported by available evidence. Deities *may* be able to do anything, but what does that *mean* in practical, accessible terms? If anything can happen, what can you know about anything?

Me:
>> Against multiple, unrelated creation events:
>> * Very strong similarities among organisms (Organisms appear related).
Cornelius:
>God can create organisms that share similarities.

I am not saying that God couldn't. We have no idea what a supernatural being would or wouldn't do. But we don't see separate, distinct biochemistries. Ergo, the creation of specific, unrelated organisms does not appear to have happened. Does it appear to you that organisms share more common properties than strictly necessary for an unbounded deity? Could God have created organisms that look distinct and separate? Yes. Did he? Apparently not. That's the data.

A bundle of responses to address:
Cornelius:
> Imagine if there were not very strong similarities among organisms.
> Then we could say:
>* No strong similarities among organisms (Organisms appear unrelated as if
>produced by blind natural laws).
Me:
>> * Appearance of new organisms in the stratigraphic record
>> follows a pattern that generally correlates with relationships
>> traced by cladistics.
Cornelius:
>And if this were not the case, we could say :
>* Appearance of new organisms in the stratigraphic record
> follows no pattern, as if produced by multiple OOL events.
[...Rearranged...]
Me:
>> * Boundaries between species are often unclear.
Cornelius:
>And if otherwise:
>* Boundaries between species are huge (as if created by multiple
>OOL events)

As Sober and many other philosophers of science have noted, you can always add one more hypothesis to a bundle to 'fix' the apparent problems of a theory (I'm borrowing Sober's imagery of theories being tested in bundles of other hypotheses -- You can never test a theory in isolation; there are always auxiliary ideas that may modified the expected outcome). This is why you can't convince someone who is dead-set on an idea. They'll always add something else and the worst case, in my opinion, is invoking the G-bomb: An agent that has no definable or classifiable characteristics. You'll never alter the views of someone who invokes a mechanism with no boundary conditions. Personally, I'm not interested in discussions with or about such potentially irrational ideologues. It becomes a stereotypical caricature. But for most others, at some point the modifications get to be too much (but YMMV). For you, Cornelius, it appears that there can be 'too much'. That demonstrates that reject
 ion is possible and serves as a reminder that thresholds clearly vary between people.

Some could say all the things you mention, but I don't think common descent would have gotten as far or be as widely accepted if that was the case. Such scenarios may not convince everyone to drop common descent notions, but the exercise is not about reaching 100% agreement.

Me:
>> * No physical trace of a potential creator found (e.g. secondary
>> artifacts).
Cornelius:
>The DNA code is not a "secondary artifact"?

I'd better explain what I mean by secondary artifact: an independent, orthogonal observation that allows you to place an agent "at the scene". Here's an example: You find a obsidian rock with a sharp, tool-like edge. It is embedded in stratum that dates to a period when no humans were known to be in the area. Was the rock edge created by a human? First you need to know whether humans were present. Secondary artifacts like fire rings and bones with tool markings associated with the same stratum help place a human presence at the period and location of the sharpened rock. This indicates that humans were present that *could* have created the shard and lend credence to the possibility that the shard was fabricated by humans.

In this sense, DNA is not a secondary artifact. Whether some "intelligence" directly created or modified genetic material is what we are trying to evaluate and so we cannot take the existence of the genetic code as evidence of intelligent intervention. That would be begging the question; We simply don't know whether it is an artifact of intelligent intervention. In this case, what we lack is independent evidence that a genetic engineer was present at the time (i.e. no obelisks, tablets, supernatural 'fire rings' & etc. that would demonstrate a presence). This is not to say that an intelligent designer had to leave some unrelated evidence of its existence behind, only that we haven't recognized any. But clearly, bona fide evidence (buried rocket ship perhaps?) that a designer was at the scene would bolster design claims.

For me, I see this discussion going over long, and well-trodden ground for this list and the former asa-evolution list (as well as numerous other venues). Please take the last word if you would like, Cornelius.

Regards,
Tim I
Received on Fri Aug 5 11:41:37 2005

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