Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Coherency of Evolution and Faith - Part II

The following is a comment I made 5/31/2008 to the post "The Coherency of Evolution and Faith"(5/29/2008). It was requested that I make this its own post so as requested ....

Upon reflection on this issue, I believe many related questions must be answered to even envision what the debate should look like so I’m going to ask a few of those questions and leave the first substantive commentary to Mario (or anyone else for that matter). These are in no particular order.

1. Should the debate be under the label of “science”? If you think yes, then why? If you think, no then under what label and why?

2. Can someone please outline an argument for me how Intelligent Design does not fall prey to a regress that concludes with an entity we traditionally define as God?

3. The following is a basic definition that I pulled from Wikipedia (5/30/2008): “In biology, evolution is the process of change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next. The genes that are passed on to an organism's offspring produce the inherited traits that are the basis of evolution. Mutations in genes can produce new or altered traits in individuals, resulting in the appearance of heritable differences between organisms, but new traits also come from the transfer of genes between populations, as in migration, or between species, in horizontal gene transfer. In species that reproduce sexually, new combinations of genes are produced by genetic recombination, which can increase the variation in traits between organisms. Evolution occurs when these heritable differences become more common or rare in a population.”

I used Wikipedia because it seems to be a basic source for basic definitions and nothing in this definition seems out of line with my understanding of the basic tenants of the theory. What more is required for a meaningful debate to take place?

4. If there are 480,000 accredited, University affiliated earth and life scientists working in the United States alone, how many dissenters of the theory constitute a significant amount?

5. If the dissenters of the theory from #4 above make a supernatural conclusion, are they still practicing science?

6. Who has burden of proof and why?

7. If the moral and Biblical implications of evolution (regardless of the observations, inferences, or argument) are intolerable to so many of faith, is reconciliation, debate, coherency, or any other unifying word even possible?

I hope we get some meaningful dialogue to answer these and many more to come. I will try to work out my answers to my own questions … unless Battlestar Galactica is on, of course.

Cheers,
Roger

3 comments:

Jason Epps said...

Roger,

Forgive my being analytical, but before we get into this too deep, I want to make sure I understand exactly what you are asking. If you don't mind, I have a few brief questions regarding your questions...

1. Should the debate be under the label of “science”? If you think yes, then why? If you think, no then under what label and why?

*** How are you defining "science?"

2. Can someone please outline an argument for me how Intelligent Design does not fall prey to a regress that concludes with an entity we traditionally define as God?

*** I think it might be more appropriate for you to first demonstrate why you believe it does fall victim to a regress. You may have done this already on your blog - if so, tell me where and I'll check it out.

3. The following is a basic definition that I pulled from Wikipedia (5/30/2008): “In biology, evolution is the process of change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next. The genes that are passed on to an organism's offspring produce the inherited traits that are the basis of evolution. Mutations in genes can produce new or altered traits in individuals, resulting in the appearance of heritable differences between organisms, but new traits also come from the transfer of genes between populations, as in migration, or between species, in horizontal gene transfer. In species that reproduce sexually, new combinations of genes are produced by genetic recombination, which can increase the variation in traits between organisms. Evolution occurs when these heritable differences become more common or rare in a population.”

I used Wikipedia because it seems to be a basic source for basic definitions and nothing in this definition seems out of line with my understanding of the basic tenants of the theory. What more is required for a meaningful debate to take place?

*** Does this definition go beyond Darwin's understanding in "Origin?" Does this definition suppose that one species can become another? For example, that a fish could, given enough time, become a man?

4. If there are 480,000 accredited, University affiliated earth and life scientists working in the United States alone, how many dissenters of the theory constitute a significant amount?

*** Two questions here: First, what do you mean by "accredited scientist?" Do you mean that they work at an accredited institution? If so, what accrediting body are you referring to? One of the six regional accreditation bodies? Or a science-only accreditation body?

5. If the dissenters of the theory from #4 above make a supernatural conclusion, are they still practicing science?

*** See question #1 above.

6. Who has burden of proof and why?

*** Please clarify - the burden of proof to show that evolution or intelligent design or creation is right, wrong, or that one is science and that one is not?

7. If the moral and Biblical implications of evolution (regardless of the observations, inferences, or argument) are intolerable to so many of faith, is reconciliation, debate, coherency, or any other unifying word even possible?

*** Hmm, this is a good question. I'm not exactly sure how I would answer it at this point. I might defer until later on this one.

Later,
J

Ronin said...

J,

For shame Jason, you want to be analytical in a philosophical discussion? That is just plain unforgivable. Just kidding, good questions! I will try to answer as best I can but I do not claim to have all the answers. The purpose of this blog, after all, is to explore questions, difficulties, and dilemmas surrounding the Evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design debate. I will do this in the usual asterisk fashion.

*** How are you defining "science?" From #1 ***

Well, that is the question. I liked Ruse’s definition of science from McLean vs. Arkansas (1982) but Laudan has raised interesting difficulties with that definition that should be addressed. I have not studied much on the issue since my class with Tabery, which is why I wanted Mario to do the initial treatment. If you are going to hold me to something right now, however, I would have say that science should be systematic and not appeal to supernatural causation. As such, the debate should not be under the label of “science” because I feel both I.D. and Creationism appeal to the supernatural and lack a methodology for further research. I know the I.D. position would disagree with my claim that they appeal to the supernatural but that is for Question #2. Lastly, I think it would be acceptable for the debate to be under Philosophy, Sociology, or Education.

*** I think it might be more appropriate for you to first demonstrate why you believe it does fall victim to a regress. You may have done this already on your blog - if so, tell me where and I'll check it out. ***

I did not address earlier so my apologies. I will stick with the light-hearted, flippant theme I started in the original post and hope no one gets offended. Let us say it's discovered that Martians intelligently designed us. Great, who made them? Let’s say Klingons from Uranus intelligently designed the Martians. Great, who made them? The regress comes in when you add “etc.” and follow it back to a first cause. Naturalism or Creationism seems to come squarely back into the picture again. In addition, the I.D. position seems to reject naturalism as a first cause, which entails God somewhere as an ultimate conclusion. As such, how would we know that God did not Intelligently Design us in the first place? To speak of Intelligent Design immediately begs the question of whom or what is the designer. I think for many, Intelligent Design is equivalent to God and is simply a tactic around the Supreme Court ban on the teaching of Creationism in public schools. I am interested in how I.D. can avoid such a regress, as it is very important in the demarcation problem.

*** Does this definition go beyond Darwin's understanding in "Origin?” Does this definition suppose that one species can become another? For example, that a fish could, given enough time, become a man? ***

I’m not sure, what do you think? Mutability sees to be as close to fact as you can get so this begs another question of whether the debate would be an “Origin of Life” or “Biological Process” debate. Creationism and I.D. both seem to be origin of life positions while I think most of the work in evolution points to observations of biological processes. Do some make an origin of life claim concerning evolution? Yep. Is all the work done in evolution concerning such issues and is their unilateral agreement? Nope. “That” evolution is versus “how” evolution is are two separate questions. Where should we start? In regards to transmutability of species, especially such an extreme example as you provided, I’m not quite sure I would claim this completely as a “that” position because even though evidence of between species and genera are not overabundant, sequences between taxa seem to be plentiful thereby making this somewhat of a “that” and “how” position.

*** Two questions here: First, what do you mean by "accredited scientist?” Do you mean that they work at an accredited institution? If so, what accrediting body are you referring to? One of the six regional accreditation bodies? Or a science-only accreditation body? ***

My question was based on the 1995 Gallup Poll estimation that 480,000 earth and life scientists were working in the United States, which included State Colleges, Universities, and Private Institutions. As of 2001, The National Science Foundation estimated that 2,157,300 scientists worked in the United States, which also included State Colleges, Universities, and Private Institutions (See www.nsf.gov). Their estimation was that 24.5% worked in earth and life sciences. This equates to roughly 519,000 scientists working in the United States as of 2001. I am not sure about the accreditation portion of your question as I’m borrowing their words; however, let’s argue that these estimations are higher by 10% making the adjusted numbers of working earth and life scientists 432,000 and 467,100 respectively. Based on the 700 dissenters of the theory (from your post on your site Tough Questions), this works out to be .16% and .14% respectively. Even quadruple that number and you are still under 1% of working earth and life scientists in the United States. I quickly researched these stats so I now there is error associated with my figures but the point is that there many, many more agree with the theory than dissent. The question remains, however, as to what makes a significant amount. What do you think? Again, if you are going to make me answer something then I will have to say that the number of dissenters does not make a significant portion. It is helpful that they bring up difficulties but as I mentioned earlier, work is still being done so I do not think we should throw away those biology texts away just yet.

*** Please clarify - the burden of proof to show that evolution or intelligent design or creation is right, wrong, or that one is science and that one is not? ***

I will comment on this question later on this week when I have more time to give it sufficient treatment.

Keep the questions coming but don’t be afraid to throw in some answers of your own. My intention for this debate is to attempt to address all concerns, thoughts, ideas, and arguments so we can sort through the mess and, hopefully, get closer to the truth of both sides.

Thanks again for the questions and beware those Klingons!

Best Wishes,
Roger

Jason Epps said...

Ok buddy - I know you're gonna have some fun with this one. Here goes!

For shame Jason, you want to be analytical in a philosophical discussion? That is just plain unforgivable.

*** Yes, yes – I’m beginning to see that those of us who believe in the existence of a knowable objective truth may be frowned upon for asking questions that seek to discern such truth! LOL!

Just kidding, good questions! I will try to answer as best I can but I do not claim to have all the answers. The purpose of this blog, after all, is to explore questions, difficulties, and dilemmas surrounding the Evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design debate. I will do this in the usual asterisk fashion.

Well, that is the question. I liked Ruse’s definition of science from McLean vs. Arkansas (1982) but Laudan has raised interesting difficulties with that definition that should be addressed. I have not studied much on the issue since my class with Tabery, which is why I wanted Mario to do the initial treatment. If you are going to hold me to something right now, however, I would have say that science should be systematic and not appeal to supernatural causation.

*** The most up to date scientific theory points to the idea that the universe had a definite beginning. This same theory posits that at some point, there was nothing. Nothing then somehow exploded and became something. Why is it that this belief, a belief that clearly implies the created order’s being created via something outside of itself, is considered science when it is plainly not either naturalistic nor empirically observed? Plainly speaking, this is why religion and science, once you carry them back far enough, are both based upon faith. At some point, you must believe a theory that you cannot empirically “prove.”

As such, the debate should not be under the label of “science” because I feel both I.D. and Creationism appeal to the supernatural and lack a methodology for further research. I know the I.D. position would disagree with my claim that they appeal to the supernatural but that is for Question #2. Lastly, I think it would be acceptable for the debate to be under Philosophy, Sociology, or Education.

*** If this is the case, then “science” as you define it should possibly be under the same heading because it, just as religion, is based upon ultimate foundations that cannot be empirically verified. And again, current mainstream science appeals to the supernatural just as much as creation science does. If it did not, it would have no foundation upon which to rest its evolutionary conclusions (See above).

I did not address earlier so my apologies. I will stick with the light-hearted, flippant theme I started in the original post and hope no one gets offended. Let us say it's discovered that Martians intelligently designed us. Great, who made them? Let’s say Klingons from Uranus intelligently designed the Martians. Great, who made them? The regress comes in when you add “etc.” and follow it back to a first cause. Naturalism or Creationism seems to come squarely back into the picture again. In addition, the I.D. position seems to reject naturalism as a first cause, which entails God somewhere as an ultimate conclusion. As such, how would we know that God did not Intelligently Design us in the first place? To speak of Intelligent Design immediately begs the question of whom or what is the designer. I think for many, Intelligent Design is equivalent to God and is simply a tactic around the Supreme Court ban on the teaching of Creationism in public schools. I am interested in how I.D. can avoid such a regress, as it is very important in the demarcation problem.

*** A regress presupposes that the ultimate Intelligent Designer is subject to the natural order that He 1) created and 2) exists outside of. This is illogical. God created the physical order of things – and order that includes reason, logic, time, space, and laws. The idea that a creation must have a Creator is valid – in the order that God created. But it makes little sense to suppose that He Himself is subject to rules that He created for a reality wherein He Himself does not primarily “reside.”

I’m not sure, what do you think? Mutability sees to be as close to fact as you can get

*** Is it? When has “mutability” been observed? Variation within species has certainly been observed, but when has “transmutation?” In other words, when have we seen one species become a completely different species? If we haven’t then why refer to this as science? If you can’t observe it in the present, in a lab for example, doesn’t that case to be science? Or does that line of reasoning apply only to those who believe in God?

so this begs another question of whether the debate would be an “Origin of Life” or “Biological Process” debate.

*** This is an excellent point, and I would be interested to see how many evolutionists would adhere to the recent finding that the universe had a beginning.

Creationism and I.D. both seem to be origin of life positions while I think most of the work in evolution points to observations of biological processes. Do some make an origin of life claim concerning evolution? Yep. Is all the work done in evolution concerning such issues and is their unilateral agreement? Nope. “That” evolution is versus “how” evolution is are two separate questions.

*** I could be wrong about this, but I have observed two things thus far: 1) In what we’ve read of Darwin so far, there seems to be little claims made on his behalf concerning ultimate origin of life; 2) In what I’ve seen (and yes, my experience is, of course limited just as all of our experiences are limited) from modern-day popular evolutionists, adherent to the theory now by and large do not separate the origin of life claim from the biological claim. This is a problem.

Where should we start? In regards to transmutability of species, especially such an extreme example as you provided, I’m not quite sure I would claim this completely as a “that” position because even though evidence of between species and genera are not overabundant, sequences between taxa seem to be plentiful thereby making this somewhat of a “that” and “how” position.

*** There is still no observable evidence for transmutability. I would challenge anyone reading this blog to produce it. If you can’t produce it, then you have to concede that there is a significant measure of “faith” that is involved in accepting evolution – as much as it might hurt to admit it :0)

My question was based on the 1995 Gallup Poll estimation that 480,000 earth and life scientists were working in the United States, which included State Colleges, Universities, and Private Institutions. As of 2001, The National Science Foundation estimated that 2,157,300 scientists worked in the United States, which also included State Colleges, Universities, and Private Institutions (See www.nsf.gov). Their estimation was that 24.5% worked in earth and life sciences. This equates to roughly 519,000 scientists working in the United States as of 2001. I am not sure about the accreditation portion of your question as I’m borrowing their words; however, let’s argue that these estimations are higher by 10% making the adjusted numbers of working earth and life scientists 432,000 and 467,100 respectively. Based on the 700 dissenters of the theory (from your post on your site Tough Questions), this works out to be .16% and .14% respectively. Even quadruple that number and you are still under 1% of working earth and life scientists in the United States. I quickly researched these stats so I now there is error associated with my figures but the point is that there many, many more agree with the theory than dissent.

*** Not necessarily. These are two different studies. You are committing a fallacy by combining the two to draw a conclusion. With your background in statistics, you are well-aware that this isn’t kosher. Your conclusion implies that the 700 dissenting scientists are the ONLY scientists who disagree of question the “absoluteness” of evolutionary theory. It is certainly well within the realm of possibility that there are others who would dissent, but have not for multiple reasons (fear of losing job, did not know about the list of dissenters, etc.). To say that only .16% of scientists disagree with evolution is a statement based on a comprehensive study that has not been done.

The question remains, however, as to what makes a significant amount. What do you think? Again, if you are going to make me answer something then I will have to say that the number of dissenters does not make a significant portion.

*** Majority has absolutely nothing to do with truth. History has taught us this. Most people thought Galileo was an idiot – but guess what? The overwhelming majority was overwhelmingly wrong. 

It is helpful that they bring up difficulties but as I mentioned earlier, work is still being done so I do not think we should throw away those biology texts away just yet.

*** Let’s not throw them away – let’s just make sure they are treating their subjects with epistemological integrity.

I will comment on this question later on this week when I have more time to give it sufficient treatment.

*** Cool.

Keep the questions coming but don’t be afraid to throw in some answers of your own. My intention for this debate is to attempt to address all concerns, thoughts, ideas, and arguments so we can sort through the mess and, hopefully, get closer to the truth of both sides.

Thanks again for the questions and beware those Klingons!

*** I will – and you beware of Cylons – those who masquerade as rational humans but are not. LOL!

Later dude,
J