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Open thread for show #778

I’m writing this before coffee, so I hope it’s not too riddled with typos or grammatical weirdness. And that’s as much apology as you get.

This is an open thread about yesterday’s program. However, a few points about Eric from Mesa, AZ.

[...]

First, Eric employed a reasoning error, that when I pointed it out, he misunderstood me to be supplying an analogy in a different vein. I was simply illustrating that the following is not correct reasoning:

X causes Y; therefore all Y are caused by X.

Eric asserts that because intelligent beings can design things, all things that seem complex to him must be designed by intelligent beings. He claims you can’t provide examples of complex things—like trees—arising out of nature—but that is because he rejects nature can cause them, even though, from all we can observe, nature does give rise to such things. He admitted a complex thing can cause other complex things, and yet, for some reason, he rejects “nature” as a potential cause. I address this in detail at my older post “Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due.” It’s simply “I can’t believe nature does this—even though by all appearances, it seems like nature does this.”

I used ponds, during the call to try and get Eric to see what is wrong with his logic—that just because people create them does not mean they are only ever formed by intelligences and cannot be naturally occurring. Eric rejects, without reason or evidence, that “naturally occurring” is a category, but then claimed that the pond is unlike the tree, in that god has no clear hand in producing the pond. So, is it Eric’s claim then that nature exists independent of god, and that god only stepped in to produce those things he cannot believe nature can produce? This is the reasoning fallacy “Argument from Incredulity.” I cannot believe it’s possible, therefore it cannot be so.

But you could plug in anything for X or Y, as long as X is at least one known cause of Y. Here is another example:

Intelligent beings can sabotage and maliciously break machinery. Therefore all machinery that breaks is sabotaged, even if not by humans, demonstrating the existence of gremlins. Ah, you might say “but sometimes things break due to worn or defective components.” However, I say it only APPEARS they break by worn or defective components, but I don’t believe a machine can break due to worn or defective components, and so it must be gremlins.

Complex things can be created by intelligent beings. Therefore all complex things are created by intelligent beings—if not people or other animals, then gods. Ah, you might say “but nature gives rise to complex things, like snowflakes and trees,” but I say it only APPEARS it gives rise to complex things, but I don’t believe those things can be naturally occurring, so it must be gods.

Same logic, different things plugged in for X and Y. Intelligent beings dig holes, therefore all holes are the result of intelligence. If they seem naturally occurring holes, then gods made them. It doesn’t matter what you plug in—it’s an argument from incredulity, plain and simple. I can’t believe what I see, or what the evidence suggests, therefore it cannot be true.

The worst thing Eric did, however, was try to claim he was using scientific method as a guide. However, somehow he rejects the reality that no physicist studying universal origins has ever, based on the evidence or examination of the data, to date, come to the conclusion (if what they publish in peer-review is any indication of what they believe is suggested by the evidence) a god is involved in producing a universe. How could they, in fact, when we have no god to examine—when by all accounts, no gods appear to even exist or manifest? If “the science” must lead to god—then my question is, why are the most qualified scientists not supportive of Eric’s “scientific” conclusion? Either scientists are doing science wrong, or Eric is—what should we think? And for that, I have an Atheist Eve.

Science supports you, except when it doesn’t. Your misconceptions about science, combined with faulty reasoning, lead you to convince yourself this is what the science dictates; but if you really wanted to know what conclusions science leads to—it’s very simple—just go and read up on what science has to say about it. In this case, the science of studying the origins of the universe absolutely can, in no reasonable way, be confused with “god did it.” So, as a lay person, if that’s what you think the science indicates—you’re not understanding something.

The most interesting thing to me though is that the very scientific Eric started us out by admitting he was using unscientific definitions for things such as “nothing.” In his last call he stated point blank that he was not going to accept the scientific definition of nothing as explained by Lawrence Krauss:

So, we used his definition of nothing as “nonbeing.” I asked “can nonbeing be?” Cleary it cannot. And Eric agreed. This makes, according to Eric’s definitions, existence, or being, a necessary—an unavoidable—state. In which case, if existence always exists, then what is the need for a creator? If there is always something and never nothing—then there is no need for anything to be “created”—since “being” cannot have ever “not been.” His own reasoning eliminates the need to create an existence—which cannot have ever not been.

He then tried to conflate this with Steady State Theory.

My point was not that this incarnation of matter and energy has “always been,” but that if something always exists, then it might have been in a form previously that led to this form—how could we know that or know otherwise? As Hawking states in his Beginning of Time lecture:

“Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system cannot be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.”

Further, in that same lecture, Hawking explains why, from a scientific standpoint, Eric cannot appeal to any natural laws or general rules about this state of existence—such as his constant appeal to “cause and effect.” We had a physicist in our audience who came up to me after the show to rhetorically ask, “What is this Law of Cause and Effect he kept invoking? Lots of things in physics appear to be uncaused effects.” And someone called in after Eric to point out my objection, virtual particles, went unanswered—although I don’t fault Eric, as I think we had some issues hearing one another over the call lines. I don’t think it went unanswered due to any intent, but just because it probably wasn’t heard. But in his lecture, Hawking sums it up better—and with more knowledge on this issue than I or Eric can claim:

“At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang. The universe will evolve from the Big Bang, completely independently of what it was like before. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang, as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang.”

That is as much as I have. You may discuss any other callers or points as well. But surely Eric’s call would have been the highlight, as he provided a great opportunity to highlight the Argument from Incredulity and Dunning-Kruger Effect, as it applies to someone who thinks they have an understanding of scientific principles.

That’s all I got.

Comments

  1. Pureone says

    I also like to point out/ask if they can name anything humanly produced with one single designer. Impossible.The person who designed the style of the watch did not design/invent the parts of the watch, metallurgy, glass working, etc.

    I then like to use their own reasoning against them and watch as they get flustered.

    “It looks designed, we know that everything designed/humanly produced has more than one designer, therefore there must be many designers.”

    • says

      Another thing that flusters them is to ask what they think a non-God-designed universe would look like. To detect design one must have a frame of reference for non-design. But if God designed everything, where is that frame of reference?

      • tracieh says

        This would especially apply to Eric’s point, because he denies that there can be a state where nothing exists. So, he asserts–whether a god exists or not, there will exist something. And as you note, “What would that be?” is the question.

      • tracieh says

        Also, if intelligence is naturally occurring, then even the things designed by intelligent designers are the result of nature and natural events. But Eric denies these things can naturally occur, despite the fact that only nature is observed to produce them. We have not one example of a god producing anything, but according to Eric gods can be responsible for producing some things (or potentially all things–I’m not sure which he’s asserting, as he seems to bounce back and forth between both ideas).

        • Barefoothiker says

          I had a feeling that all through this, he was angling to assert the permanence of existence is satisfied by the existence of God. I kept waiting for him to spring that, but he never did. I’m not sure what the rebuttal would be… but that’s one of the reasons you guys are doing this show and not me. :)

          • jacobfromlost says

            I think the rebuttal would be that if existence in some form were simply necessary…that in no way resembles what people claim is a god. It’s not necessarily powerful, it’s not necessarily a “first cause” as there would be no need for a “first cause” as such to existence itself, it’s not necessarily intelligent, it’s not necessarily an agent, it’s not necessarily supernatural, etc.

            It also seems to imply that all things that exist as such cannot be created from philosophical “nothing”, that all things in existence are connected at the very least by having existence in common, and that sort of puts a crimp in the usual “god is outside of space/time/the universe” argument, in that the only place left for them to go in such a logical dead end is to claim god is outside of EXISTENCE…

            When they start claiming god exists outside of existence, then we’ll be in Karen Armstrong territory.

          • Rosemary says

            The first causal problem:

            If this person’s version of god (and there is no consensus on what a god is) created something from nothing then there is a paradox. In order to create “something” the entity has to be a “something” itself.

            If not, then we have “nothing” creating “something”. Or else “something” creating “something” from “something else”.

            In other words, the theist concept is a convoluted word game that makes no sense when broken down.

            The second causal problem:

            There is nothing in the argument that mandates that the “something” that created the universe from “nothing” has any of the qualities that the proposer claims are essential characteristics of his particular version of “god”, except for the claim that it had “intent”.

            There is no logical reason to assume that the creating force was singular. If we use our knowledege of how complex things are created on earth then it is logical to assume that the complex universe was created by multiple complex beings.

            The third causal problem:

            Common knowledge (which is all that this argument is based on) implies that the creation of complex things that are created with intent can only be created by something that is more complex. OTOH, patterned things with complex structure, such as snowflakes, are created by simple mindless processes. There is no clear way of differentiating between the two processes except for the fact that mindfully designed things have few redundancies. The universe and earthly biology has many redundant features. This implies that nature was not designed by a mind.

            The fourth causal problem:

            Common knowledge implies that complexity arises from simplicity, not the other way around. Complex creating minds do not leap into existence fully formed: they take many years to develop physically and it takes years of education and experience to complete the process. If time began at the moment of the Big Bang then there was no time available for an infinitely complex mind to develop. This implies that the universe was created by something extremely simple, not something extremely complex.

            The fifth causal problem:

            In the world of science those who study a phenomena in depth come to a near perfect consensus on its qualities and functions. In the world of religion intense study by multiple people leads to increasingly fractured ideas about the qualities and functions of supernatural beings or powers. The fractured versions correspond to the personal characteristics and environmental backgrounds of those making the claims whereas the consensual versions are independent of these things. Common sense dictates that the consensual opinion is more likely to reflect reality than any one subjective opinion. Ergo none of the millions of differing beliefs about the qualities and functions of a supernatural cause of the universe are likely to reflect reality.

    • John Kruger says

      DNA is only a code in that humans have created shorthand for referring to frequently occurring sequences. It is all chemistry and chemical reactions all the way down. I could create a symbol to represent H2O as well, but it would not make water a code.

      • John Kruger says

        Yikes, just listened to the show and Matt made almost the exact point I did. I guess I should wait and listen to the whole thing before commenting to avoid embarrassment.

        As far as codes go, I would say that information requires something that can interpret it. So while things can arise naturally that people can study and interpret and be called information, they are nowhere near the same kind of code as C-Sharp or morse code.

        In essence the whole crazy argument is that codes like C or the like require designers, and DNA is a code so it needs a designer as well. DNA is no more a code than any other regularities in nature, from tidal patterns to when the sun rises and sets. The “code” is only that which is applied by humans.

        • says

          Yes, what he’s defining as “code” is just a demonstration that nature has structure and consistency that can be understood by other things in nature. There, then, appears to be evidence for natural consistency. And if nature gives rise to structure, consistency, and evidently, intelligent beings as well, then what need is there of an intelligence to produce nature?

          While it may be the case that intelligence gave rise to nature, all of the evidence available so far seems to imply the opposite–that nature can give rise to intelligence. We appear to be the product, not the producer. If there is an intelligence that created nature, it has remained, to this day, hidden from detection.

          • gfunk says

            I think Eric showed a serious lack of depth of understanding when he said “nature doesn’t create a book” (paraphrased), when it does. We are part of natural occurrences and our creation of books is just a product of our evolution of communication. It’s just another example of arbitrary barriers that he places on nature, just like “specified complexity.”

      • sharkjack says

        DNA is only a code in that humans have created shorthand for referring to frequently occurring sequences. It is all chemistry and chemical reactions all the way down. I could create a symbol to represent H2O as well, but it would not make water a code.

        No, it’s a code because a sequence of DNA codes for a sequence of amino acids. This isn’t just chemistry (in a strict sense it is, but let me finish), that’s the whole point. there is nothing in the DNA or in the amino acid that causes AUG (or ATG on the coding strand) to code for methionine, that is purely because the tRNA translates the codon with its anticodon and can bind methionine. This is a relationship that can easily be changed in the lab and it goes wrong on occasion in cells too, but since most faulty proteins are immediately taken care of it tends not to show through. Codons are an arbitrary language for amino acid sequences. You can also use DNA to program cell behavior. You can make feedback loops, inverters, AND and OR switches, in any non-arbitrary sense, codons are a code (hence the name). DNA by itself is as much a code as ink on paper or vibrations in the air.

        The idea that a cell just poofed out of it’s components coming randomly together is by the way thought of as just as crazy impossible in biology as in creationism (if not more), but since that is not what we’re curently claiming it’s a red herring.

        the hypothesis that a code can come from nature and more importantly ‘specified complexity’ is demonstrated by showing that it is possible to get replicase RNA from randomly ligated RNA molecules. Since this type of RNA replicates based on the sequence directly, rather than through an arbitrary set of ribozymes(tRNA) I’m fine with not calling that code. It is however what the caller referred to as ‘specified complexity’ as the polymer has a clearly defined function and is complex (though that term becomes so vague that anything can qualify).

        Regardless of the accuracy of the RNA world hypothesis, RNA replicase can occur naturally(In the sense that RNA polymers form naturally and the polimer forming in this case(David P. Bartel and Jack W. Szostak, 1993), was unguided ) and so can many other RNA polymers with specific functions. Being able to efficiently use RNA as a template for DNA and vice versa and being able to catalyze amino acids into enzymes is not outside the realm of possibilities for these RNA molecules that are randomly created and then selected for. To then finally have RNA lose its memory function to DNA and most of its enzymatic function to proteins isn’t that big a leap. So yeah, I’m pretty confident code can come about naturally. It might be that RNA world is not the way it came to be 4.6 billion years ago, but a sufficiency proof was all that was required.

        The article I referred to is “Isolation of New Ribozymes from a Large Pool of Random Sequences”. You can actually read it for free here if you’re interested.
        http://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu/szostakweb/publications/Szostak_pdfs/Bartel_Szostak_Science_93.pdf

        DNA sequences are codes and these sequence contains information and it all occurs naturally. I refuse to let creationists or ID proponents twist the definitions of code and information to the point where this is no longer true.

  2. thaocarranza says

    I just wish the last caller got in first, he seemed to have something more productive in store.

    I understand that is important to try and properly address arguments such as the one Eric was presenting, but for me, the conversation was over after Tracy had established that the proposition was void (pun intended).

    You can’t just talk things into existence, no matter how much mental gymnastics you employ.

    • Adam Westbrook, CT says

      Thank you! That was actually my call. I will try to get back with them next week. It sucks I only had about a minute and a half.

      • fullyladenswallow says

        Yes, Adam. My hope is that you’ll call again next week. I think that aside from some eye-rolling when the word occasionally surfaces, spirituality hasn’t been discussed much on the show and hope that you will have the opportunity. My hope too, is that Tracie might include this as a topic the next time she’s on.
        I’ve only had one discussion (lately) with a friend who doesn’t claim to be religious but “spiritual”. When I questioned her stance she simply replied that one has to have had the “experience” to understand. I asked how that was any different from the religious person who says, “you just have to believe, then you’ll know god”? The reply went something like, “well, it’s not in you. You are in it.” That’s when my woo meter pegged out.

      • says

        If people just want my thoughts on the use of “spiritual” by secular people, I’m against it. I can’t stop them, but it’s damaging in that it lends validity to theistic perspectives.

        Here is where I blogged my main objections:

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2010/06/18/whats-wrong-with-the-term-spiritual/

        And here is an Atheist Eve on the matter:

        http://www.atheist-community.org/atheisteve/?id=91

        Religious/theistic people feel validated when someone uses their jargon. So, when they hear someone say “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” they generally take that to mean the person believes in god or something very god-like, but doesn’t attend church or subscribe to specific doctrines. It’s not unlike Pantheists calling the universe “god.” When a Christian asks “do you believe in god?” and the Pantheist replies “yes,” the theist sees that as someone who agrees, and validates their theistic claims. What good is it that the Pantheist does not, if the theist is unaware of it? Theism is propped up by group reinforcement.And the recent issues happening in the Royal College of Psychiatrists (basically the British version of a Psychiatric Association), demonstrate that getting people to use “spiritual” is a tactic theists actually support and propagate.

        The College currently has an ongoing published debate about whether or not professional, licensed psychiatrists may engage in religious rituals with patients during sessions as part of their professional practice. Clearly this is not psychiatry, and so the less religious professionals are noting that this is the time to refer a patient to a cleric of their choice/affiliation–if they require religious guidance or support. A psychiatrist should not more be praying with a patient than giving a back massage if the patient has a tight neck. He’s not a massage therapist. He’s not a religious cleric. He’s a psychiatrist and should be employing approved psychiatric processes and sticking to his role as a licensed psychiatrist. Is there any doubt? Unfortunately yes.

        Within the College is a SIG–the “Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group.” It is this SIG that is putting up people on the side of “it’s fine to pray with patients,” in the ongoing, published debates on this issue within the College’s Journal and peer group. If you read their site, you will find that the way they define “spiritual” includes just about everyone, and I’d say all social species, not just humans. Basically “spiritual” by their definition is “any social animal.” And they use this in order to promote that, as psychiatrists, since humans are innately spiritual beings, they cannot ignore this psychological need in humans–and, therefore, psychiatry should incorporate religious ritual and practice, to accommodate this universal human, spiritual need.

        It’s a ploy to start getting Christian counseling in the door and begin normalizing is as accepted professional practice.

        This is how religious theists operate though. They throw a bucket of shit at the wall and hope it sticks. When a secular person advocates for use of the word “spiritual,” a bit has stuck. They now have secular people they can point to, in order to claim this isn’t just about religion–but that, in fact, spirituality *is* universal–even to those who aren’t theists or religious.

        • Murray says

          I’m torn on the use of “spiritual”. I agree with Heicart’s comments, but on the other hand I don’t know what better word to use when describing certain cognitive phenomena commonly experienced by people all over the world. For example, the states of mind produced by temporal lobe epilepsy, or psychotropic drugs like psilocybin or DMT, or certain types of meditation, or ecstatic states sometimes experienced during religious meetings.

          I see no reason to attribute any of these things to supernatural causes, but “spiritual” seems like a fitting word to describe what it feels like to experience them. Or, if not “spiritual” then perhaps something like “numinous” or “mystical” – but I think these words share the same negative connotations as “spiritual”. Is there a better word that I’m missing, which could describe this sort of cognitive state without validating the supernatural claims of religions?

          Personally I think part of the problem is that religions currently have the corner on these sorts of experiences, so they are automatically loaded with supernatural connotations that don’t deserve to be there. I think these phenomena are worth talking about because they are a legitimate part of the human experience, but I don’t know what sort of language to use in order to avoid implying any sort of woo.

          I hope I’m making sense.

          • Rosemary says

            The word psychologists use is “transcendental”. It covers the effects of meditation, temporal lobe epilepsy, near death experiences, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, contemplative prayer and even the less motoric aspects of charismatic glossolalia.

            The safest, and least baggage carrying, method of producing these mind improving trances is non-religious forms of meditation. It just takes time and practice. There are also possibilities inherent in transcranial magnetic pulses delivered at appropriate spots. One researcher invented what has been dubbed as the “god helmet”. (Michael Persinger, Lauriston University, Canada.)

          • Murray says

            Hey Rosemary, thanks for the reply. I actually did my undergrad in Psych at UBC, and always wanted to try transcranial magnetic stimulation, but unfortunately never did.

            Anyway, “transcendental” seems like an appropriate word for the type of experience in question, but it’s not exactly free of supernatural connotations either. I think any of the objections one might have about the words “spiritual”, “mystical”, or “numinous” could also be levelled against “transcendental”.

            Having thought about this for a bit, I now think that any of the above words are okay for describing the sort of cognitive experience we’re talking about, because we don’t seem to have any other options in our lexicon. If any of these words make theists feel validated in their beliefs I can’t stop that, and frankly I don’t really care. Irrational beliefs are irrational.

          • JE Hoyes says

            I wouldn’t use a term like spiritual to describe something that ought to be explained using more concrete language. Avoid using “spiritual” when you mean “heightened awareness” or “daydreaming” or “drug-induced, trance” (and so on). Whenever you want to use the term spiritual, mystical, numinous or soul, try to find a more relevant word that works within the given context. And, if someone else uses the word spirit or soul, it’s important to get them to give a concrete definition of what they mean within the context too, otherwise you’re filling In the blanks for them and enabling fuzzy-thinking.

        • fullyladenswallow says

          Thank you for that link Tracie. While I’ve probably not read enough Carl Jung (or about him), what little I have read seems to point to his view (or the act) of weaving spirituality into human experience as being wholesome and necessary for psychological health. I was considering seeking help from a Jungian therapist, not knowing about the spiritual aspect of Jung’s work but now I’m not so sure.

          • mike says

            @Rosemary

            As a poster actually from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, I just want to correct you in that the name of Michael Persinger’s school is Laurentian University!

          • Rosemary says

            Thanks for the correction, Mike. I wrote that bit in a hurry and did not check back to my sources. I got it enough right to enable people to find the guy and his research stuff :-)

      • Rosemary says

        I am so glad you got through. I thought you summarized the scientific objections rather well. As Tracy (or was it Matt) pointed out, in the realm of science (and cosmology is definitely a complex science) we would be stupid to trust non-experts to come up with the Truth.
        To me, the argument stopper is that the beginning of the known universe began at the sub-atomic level. Newtonian physics and “cause and effect” does not operate at this level. This level operates on quantum mechanics where random causeless events happen all the time. This makes the Cosmological argument an Argument from Quantum Ignorance.

        • codemonkey says

          To me, the argument stopper is that the beginning of the known universe began at the sub-atomic level. Newtonian physics and “cause and effect” does not operate at this level. This level operates on quantum mechanics where random causeless events happen all the time. This makes the Cosmological argument an Argument from Quantum Ignorance.

          Forgive me, but I don’t know if I would agree with some of the intent of that. I think you can have cause and effect without having determinism. Quantum mechanics is a good example. By adjusting the parameters of the wave equation, you can change the probability of certain outcomes. I’d call that nondeterministic, probabilistic causation.

          • Rosemary says

            That modification sounds reasonable.

            However, those who use the cosmological argument are not referring to probabilistic determinism. They see it as absolute. For example: “If the world looks designed then it MUST have been produced by an intelligent designer.” They do not admit that it is probable, let alone more probable, that there was no intelligent mind behind it.

  3. senor says

    It was also really frustrating that you went through the effort to get agreement that, according to his defintions and his argument, the universe always existed in some form — but then he eventually switched to say that there must have been some creator. Just the same bs first cause argument rolled up in a bunch of pseudo-intellectual tripe.

    • tracieh says

      Yes, I found this frustrating as well. I don’t know if I expressed this on the air after the call, or only after the show, but all of the “can something come from nothing?” is so much unnecessary fluff. Basically, Eric could simply begin is argument with “complexity requires intelligent design,” and proceed from there. We literally wasted two shows arguing about “nothing” and the attributes of nothing and the implications of his definition of nothing, when it had no bearing on his point, which is that any example of complexity arising in nature is evidence of god. What did all that crap about “something” and “nothing” add to this claim? Not a damn thing.

      • jedimasteryoda says

        It may have been frustrating and intellectually much ado about nothing, but it was refreshing to see you and Matt counter the points. Most of the TAG/presuppositionalist word salad the “sofisticated” theists bandy about is pretty hard to counter, least of all parse with a human sized brain. It was a bit painful to listen to at first, but I think I’ve added a bit more understanding as to why these arguments are fallacious from this episode and your postmortem write up.

        Thanks Tracie!

      • codemonkey says

        It’s not worth the time. Such arguments are not even wrong.
        http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

        I know it may be bad form on the air, but in my humble experience, I usually grant the premise of a first cause god, because all of their work is ahead of them. They have to show that miracles exist, prayer works, an afterlife exists, belief in a certain god gets you in, the first cause “god” is not evil, etc.

    • Rosemary says

      One of your last callers summed up the scientific arguments nicely.

      In essence, you cannot use “common sense” arguments to argue about events that occur at the quantum level (the commencement of the EXPANSION of the universe) or prior to Planc time (at the moment of the Big Bang). That is the crucial base level mistake that every philosopher of religion makes.

      Common sense “cause and effect” rules do not apply at the microscopic particle level so you cannot use them to argue about anything that happens at this level.
      The universe was not “created” in any biblical sense. It was not “something” created from “nothing”. It was essentially a matter creating expansion of eternal energy potential: random and senseless.

      Philosophers and religious apologists should not be allowed to use the logic and rules that relate to normal size matter when discussing quantum states.

  4. says

    Eric’s argument boils down to yet another “proof by logic”. He’s used deduction to figure out a possible explanation, but he’s skipping the last step – empirical confirmation.

    It’s easy for one’s deductions to be incorrect/flawed. The empirical confirmation is how we tell whether we did it right.

    He’s weaved together some desperate facts into almost a hypothesis – now, how would we test it?

    • tracieh says

      To me, this ties into his claims of scientific viability. If it were testable and a reasonable hypothesis, I would expect scientists in the field of physics, who specialize in the origins of the universe, to be looking into it right now. I would expect that if data supported this, that there would be some published, peer-reviewed research available with good peer support and feedback. But that isn’t the case, because it’s not a scientifically valid hypothesis, and it is not supported by the evidence, and it can’t be tested. It’s just a hunch of Eric’s derived from scientific incompetence combined with the fallacy, the Argument from Incredulity. That’s what his support rests upon.

    • thaocarranza says

      My point exactly. This type of argument proves right off the bat that the person proposing it has no real evidence, and has to use spaghetti logic to mutilate the reality into accommodating his beliefs.

      Even if you granted him every point he was making, at the end of the day, you would end only with the old “and therefore God”. And nothing more.

      • Rosemary says

        To which the obvious reply is “Whose version of god are we talking about? And what proof do you have that it is anything like yours?

        • rrpostal says

          I call it the “it seems to me” argument. That’s really all they have. They were sitting on the couch and decided it’s all really simple.

          • ericlounsbery says

            When the atheist’s community says I have no argument, what you fail to see is that the argument is so strong it has led to the concept of the multiverse. The reason is because there is so much strong evidence that the cause of our Universe was something which is outside of our Universe (…hmmmm Transcendent) . And whatever would have caused our Universe would need to possess additional characteristics (very powerful, source of our Universe, and intelligence), which pose no problem for the atheist community until we introduce the fact that it apparently possesses intelligence also,…and not just a little, seemingly more than anything or anyone we have ever known. The fact that it had to have intelligence is supported by the positing of panspermia as a cause of life starting here on the earth. Nobel prize winner Francis Crick would argue this stating that life is too complicated for natural law to give rise to it in the time frame proposed. However, moving the origin of life to another planet does not change the fact that NO known natural law ANYWHERE, is recognized as being able to originate specified complexity. However, if any of you atheists happen to find life on another planet where we find natural law its source, I will publicly state I was wrong. Until then, I think you are missing the obvious.

            One quick question for all you atheists: If you had all the POWER needed to create a Universe like ours, would you have enough INTELLIGENCE to do it, or would you need more (cuz you can’t borrow it from this Universe)?

  5. says

    Eric’s call… yeesh. You can’t throw away the scientific definition of “nothing” and then claim up and down that you’re actually using science to make your point. It can’t work that way, you can’t have it both ways. I don’t even understand why he would care, because it doesn’t get him anywhere because he has to then explain where “god” came from.

    DNA as code? The shape of a mountain is a “code” for how the spring melt will run from the peak to the base. The shape of my face is a “code” for how my facial hair will grow.

    I liked the point that “specified complexity” is another way of saying “designed complexity” and assumes what it is trying to demonstrate. I’m going to have to put that in the toolbox.

  6. gfunk says

    My favorite part of this episode:
    Matt: explanation at beginning of show about duplex problems, disclaimer callers may not hear hosts while talking
    Matt: repeatedly and furiously yelling at the caller when he can’t hear him while talking

    I know that you two also warned callers to keep it short and check for responses, but I vote for going straight to “hold” after second “excuse me,” lol

    • Stan says

      It makes me wonder how different the show would be with a phone system that allows the callers to more readily hear the hosts when they interject. I presume that there would be far less contention and far more communication. Not that most of the callers have anything pertinent to contribute.

      I look forward to the day when AE moves into its own studio.

  7. says

    I think, for clarification in the future, that instead of calling it an “Argument from incredulity” you should call it an “Argument from voluntary ignorance”. Incredulity implies that knowledge is not forthcoming through no fault of the incredulous while we can all pretty much agree that such epic imbecility can only be achieved through voluntary means in this day and age.

    • says

      I used the name of the fallacy. Why he is incredulous is not addressed, only that he is. I think it would be more confusing to people if I began inventing proprietary names for pre-existing fallacy labels to try and cover specific nuances. I’m not sure people would know what I was talking about if I invented a fallacy name during a conversation–they’d likely interpret it as an error (I would).

  8. says

    Great post, Tracie. Just a quick note on this point:

    “This makes, according to Eric’s definitions, existence, or being, a necessary—an unavoidable—state. In which case, if existence always exists, then what is the need for a creator?”

    Theists typically believe that God has always existed, some even going so far as saying God is “pure existence itself’ (whatever that means). They believe that God – from his infinite position of existence outside of time – created the physical universe.

    That’s why it wasn’t computing for Eric when you said that there’s no need for a creator if existence has always been: in his mind, an eternally-existing-something definitely does not preclude a creator. In fact, for him, the idea of an eternally-existing-something is necessary for there to be a creator (since the creator he believes in is eternally-existing)

    Of course, as Matt has pointed out several times in other places, “existence” is a temporal condition. If a God “always existed” outside of time, then what does that even mean?

    What’s frustrating is that these theists seem never to have even considered any of these questions. It’s as if they’ve come up with – or, more usually, come across and/or tweaked – some amusing word game that seems to “prove” a belief they want to be true, and they just stop there. They don’t attack their convictions in the slightest: they don’t look for flaws in the argument, they don’t bother to ask if the argument matches reality in any way, shape or form. They just blithely assume, “Everything has a cause, so the universe must have a cause, and the universe is so complex, and complex things are created by minds, so…well golly, the cause of the universe must be a mind…therefore god.”

    • says

      I understand how theists view this concept. It’s not relevant. When we address callers, the main audience is the viewers. It’s rare we make any headway or points with actual theistic believers on the phone.

      >That’s why it wasn’t computing for Eric when you said that there’s no need for a creator if existence has always been: in his mind, an eternally-existing-something definitely does not preclude a creator. In fact, for him, the idea of an eternally-existing-something is necessary for there to be a creator…

      And he must explain why there needs to be a “creator” when existence is a necessary default, according to him. I get he assumes the creator is the default, but all he’s demonstrated is that existence is necessary. However, the question then becomes, rightly so, if existence can’t “not be”–then we don’t need a thing that creates stuff into existence, right? We can’t NOT have existence. It doesn’t require creation in that case.

      He can *say* it’s god that has always existed, but what he did was just demolish any need for god in his “does something come from nothing or something?” question.

      This is why earlier I noted that the entire initial question was a big, fat red herring. It’s irrelevant what existed or did not before this universe existed. His argument actually boils down to “complex stuff exists, therefore god.” It doesn’t matter how material existence came to exist, the fact he thinks some of it is complex requires intelligent design. Ironically, he objected that some other matter was not complex enough to be considered a product of a god, so we seemingly have some things, things Eric considers complex, which are evidence of a divine creation, and other things that exist that would be ridiculous to attribute to the handiwork of an intelligence–such as ponds, lakes (Matt assumed, as they are just big ponds), I would think rocks, oceans, sand, etc. Those things I assume were not divinely created. But I wouldn’t know without Eric here to confirm it. :)

  9. mond says

    It would be interesting to know if the ‘scientific proofs’ that Eric was espousing are the actual reasons why he is a theist. If he phones again or even emails the show it would be good to know.

    It is a question which has been asked to callers in the past.
    It usually turns out that the apologetic presented is not the actual reason why the person believes.
    That begs the question (sic) “If it did not convince you then why should it convince me?”

    I could be barking up the wrong tree and maybe Eric is theist for a intellectual reasons but I doubt it.

    On a side note.
    Red wine on GB and bad grammar and typos without caffeine on the blog….Tracie may be in need of an intervention…

    • says

      >It would be interesting to know if the ‘scientific proofs’ that Eric was espousing are the actual reasons why he is a theist. If he phones again or even emails the show it would be good to know.

      This is not only an excellent suggestion, but something I have advised people to do as well. Wish I’d have remembered this during the call. I think it would have been relevant.

  10. Nate says

    Both times he has called in it seems like he is trying desperately to get certain answers as if he has a script that he has pre-written. Very good job to both of you for not falling for his trick.

    Also, I thought it was funny that he brought up the fact that most people thought he didn’t do well last time, I have feeling his ego has been hurt.

    Last, any argument that starts with “if you go on the internet” has gotta be the biggest fail.

    • gfunk says

      Yeah, that always gets so tedious, especially since the hosts can tell that the caller is trying to lure them into their script. And when the host doesn’t take the bait, it eventually leads to “well, let’s say I do agree, just for the sake of argument, what now?” Downhill from there.

    • mandrellian says

      Yep! Apologists (especially the amateurs) are more tightly scripted than telemarketers (and get a lot more flustered and irritated when you make them deviate). I’ve found it’s a good way to combat them: make them stop and explain/justify every. single. goddamned. thing they claim or assert or invoke or just proclaim as absolutely factual. Once it’s clear you’re not going to just let them bulldoze you with their checklist it’ll quite often get them to “You’re gonna burn!!!” or “Google it!!!” a whole lot quicker – then you can get on with your day :)

  11. Nate says

    After hearing something Matt said I had a thought.

    If causality is temporal and time began with the big bang, does that then mean that not only did the universe not need a cause but could not of had a cause?

    I’m probably missing something here, just a thought though.

    • jacobfromlost says

      I think you are right. People think of time in the everyday, Newtonian sense. We know that sense is wrong (we have nearly 100 years of evidence disproving it).

      It’s kind of like claiming that every point on the earth has a direction “north” of it, and if you were prone to doing so you might say every point “came from” a point north of it.

      And so when someone points out the north pole has no points north of it, you might be prone to say it MUST have a point north of it from which it comes–a “first cause”, if you will. But clearly this is absurd. Everyday, common people can understand that there is no point “north” of the north pole–the north pole is just a consequence of the 3 dimensional shape of the earth, and that “consequence” isn’t a “cause”.

      Likewise, there seems to be a consequence of certain quantum states, etc, that lead to a rapid expansion of space-time, and a universe like ours. But that isn’t a “cause”, because causes only occur in space-time…much the same way a point in space five miles above the north pole has nothing to do with the two-dimensional longitude/latitude framework that determines what the north pole is.

  12. mandrellian says

    This guy bugged the crap out of me – as do most theists who pretend that science backs up their dogma – for the many reasons already stated by Tracie and the other commenters.

    One other thought I had after the call was this: Matt and Tracie aren’t scientists and aren’t physicists, which they told Eric and which he would probably have known from his previous call. Given that, it’s very unlikely that Tracie and Matt arrived at atheism by way of poring over physics papers and concluding no gods existed.

    Now, given that, why does Eric (and the countless other amateur [and some professional] evangelists like him) think that scientific (as they see them) apologetics are some kind of trump card over atheism? And do they think that non-scientist atheists are so ignorant of science – or that atheism is so dependent on science – that all it takes to reconvert a heathen is the right scientific apologetic?

    Really, what the frack was the point of this call? Eric’s understanding of the science he claims proved his god was embarrassingly wrong and warped; though the hosts aren’t scientists they aren’t completely ignorant and can smell (and destroy) pseudoscience when they hear it; the hosts, like most atheists, didn’t arrive at atheism via deep academic study of physics and biology anyway … so what the hell did Eric want? Why are there so many apologists hell-bent on attempting to use science to poke a hole in someone’s atheism big enough to stick a god in? Do they actually believe peoples’ atheism is so completely dependent on science that all they have to do is use science in the right way and they’ll win a soul?

    If that’s the case, it’s very clear they understand neither science nor atheism.

    By the way, I thought apologetics were designed to keep the faith within the faithful, not evangelise nonbelievers. All I’ve ever seen apologetics do to nonbelievers is irritate or amuse them.

    Final point: Eric (as so many do) jumped almost seamlessly from “universe from nothing” to Paley’s Watchmaker analogy for Intelligent Design. If (when) this clown calls back, maybe you should pin him down on that and make him understand that biodiversity and cosmology aren’t the same thing.

    • mond says

      Is faith not the antithesis of an apologetic?
      If you have faith, by definition,you have no need of the proof of your position.
      Someone in need of an apologetic to believe therefore has no faith.
      Yet many theists seem to value faith as a virtue or even necessary but still indulge in apologetics.
      Its a curious contradiction.

      • says

        It is interesting. To explain, most theists don’t employ faith in a fideist fashion. They tend to view their “faith” as being employed at the point where the evidence ends. So, they “weigh” the evidence and then make a decision about what is more probably in their view–that’s the faith, saying “I believe it, even though it’s based on a preponderance of evidence, not solid proof.”

        To an atheist, the question is “why commit to belief if it’s not required and you don’t have sufficient evidence to justify *true*, only *more likely*?” But if you’re a theist who has been threatened with hell or death (losing your shot at eternal life), and told repeatedly, that every person MUST make a decision about this question–the MOST important question in life…this question becomes something that they believe demands a decision. They are actually put under pressure by indoctrination. So, they actually often view it as a court situation where at the end of the evidence you HAVE to decide “yes” or “no” on “is there a god?” They don’t understand or even entertain in most cases that this pressure is invented and that there really is no demand to decide if they believe a god exists or not–any more they have to render a verdict on whether a particular medical treatment still in experimental study will be effective. As Sagan said, you really can wait until there is sufficient evidence to justify an informed decision. When someone pressures or threatens you to decide *right now*…it’s a sign you’re being scammed.

        • Rosemary says

          It really isn’t a choice between “hell” and “death”. Most Christians believe it is a choice between Heaven and Hell. When they try to equate “eternal life” with “eternal life in Heaven” and “death” with “eternal life in Hell” they run into serious logical and semantic problems. Exchanging the term “hell” for the non-biblical concept of “separation from god” does not help.

          In order for the physical pains of Hell or the psychological pains of Separation from (some version of the Abrahamic) God, the personality/soul must be sentient and therefore “alive”. In this case “eternal life” would not be a gift but a sadistic form of torture. There is no choice that provides “eternal death” or “non-existence”.

          As with many of the tenets of the Abrahamic religions, the concepts make no sense when viewed as a whole.

          • says

            I should clarify, some Christians hold to Annihilism, and I’ve been told it’s a growing doctrinal shift. This is what I meant when I said “threatened with hell or death.” It seems mainstream Christians are now starting to think the JW’s were actually correct on this point. I haven’t looked it up to confirm it, but on my Facebook wall, when this discussion came up, people were able to list more congregations of Christians than I was previously aware of, that hold to finite death vs. heaven. So, I now make an effort to include both options. I actually find it funny that the more liberal, kinder/gentler Christianity is one where you *only* deserve to die.

    • says

      >Do they actually believe peoples’ atheism is so completely dependent on science that all they have to do is use science in the right way and they’ll win a soul?

      It’s hard to believe, but yes, this is what they believe. The meme that “atheists worship science” is very well received among theists. I saw a theist call the show and ask continually what the hosts “believe” about universal origins, and if they “believe” Big Bang, and, if not, what do they “believe”? It was incomprehensible to this person–clearly–that someone might have no beliefs in this regard. I certainly have none. If I wanted to form some, I’d go read up on it at a science web site to see what the best evidence available is, and how it’s most competently interpreted. But until I actually feel compelled to find out what happened 13-14 billion years ago, it seems a lot of effort for very little pragmatic impact in my life.

      I get not everyone shares my apathy on that matter. But just to note, the idea that we all *must* have some beliefs about universal origins, and that simply accepting “I don’t know and am not all that interested,” is unacceptable, is incorrect.

      • mandrellian says

        Thanks Tracie. That really does strike me as strange. Probably because, firstly, I’m Australian (where creationist nuttiness finds it hard to gain traction among large numbers of people). The faith I grew up with (not my parents’, it must be said – it was taught at our state schools!) was really quite liberal and IIRC didn’t seem very concerned with questioning biology or cosmology or much in between. Secondly, my dad was a science teacher and nature fiend for 30 years so I grew up in a very different atmosphere to most kids – it was all mountain/beach holidays in the caravan and bushwalking, dad cataloguing flora and preserving wilderness around our property and so forth. It’s not like I was indoctrinated into science, more like marinated in the facts and the process. I still considered myself Christian until about 15, despite the marination!

        I still struggle to understand the reasoning behind people like Eric – not only do they misunderstand atheism and overstate its connection with science (or invent one wholesale), they adopt this one-size-fits-all apologetic stance and use these same science-y arguments on every atheist they talk to regardless of their familiarity with the terms or concepts. As I said, Eric knew you weren’t scientists but still thought he could shatter your atheo-paradigm by bollocking on (again) about “nothing” and the Big Bang and evolution (ignorantly mashing the two together, as creationists nearly always do).

        I’d just like someone to say, if he calls back again, something like: “my atheism is not dependent on scientific disproof of your god or advanced scientific knowledge on my part; it is derived solely from a lack of evidence FOR your god and, for that matter, everyone else’s god. I want evidence FOR your god if I’m to believe it exists, not lame copy-paste attempts at rhetorical “proofs” or even lamer attempts at debunking science that you either don’t understand or sodding well cherry-pick anyway.”

        • says

          Yes, even if Eric could get me to say “Interesting idea–that the universe as it exists necessitates a god,” we’d have *demonstrated* nothing. If all he wants is people to agree with him, and he thinks that validates his claim, then he is leaning on the fallacy Argument from Popularity. Just getting me to agree demonstrates not one bit that a god exists. At some point we have to stop talking about whether or not it’s a valid idea, and get down to “how do we confirm/validate we are correct now?”

          If we can’t, then the discussion is moot. We have an interesting idea we can’t determine is true or not true, and so it’s a useless hypothesis that has no pragmatic impact on anyone’s life. I can’t commit to it as “true” if it’s not demonstrable. So, what do we do after I agree it *seems* like a god is necessary, but we could be wrong? Should I go on with my life making decisions based upon things that *seem* valid in my personal opinion, but cannot be demonstrated to *be* valid? That would be silly–and even potentially dangerous in some situations. A lot of bad claims about healing cures *seem* valid, but aren’t demonstrated to be true. Someone unfamiliar with the full set of data could easily be convinced such ideas are likely–but it would be unwise to lean on them (as cancer cures, for example), without saying to oneself, “Well, just because it makes sense to me, I still need to validate this, if I’m going to base important decisions on it.”

          I certainly wouldn’t base my life on concepts that seem valid to me, but that I can’t validate. Those concepts may exist in my head–and probably do–but I can’t use them as foundations for proceeding with other decisions.

          The only exception to this would be when it’s undeniably required. For example, if I’m in a burning building, and there is a hallway that goes left and right, and I must choose. I may recognize some factors, very preliminary, that make me think “OK, I think left is better than right…” It’s not even a “belief” so much as a guess, though. I can’t say “I believe going left is the safest option.” The best I can muster is “I really have no idea which is safest, but I have to do *something*…and so it’s left due to this scant bit of data that really is no reason to accept *left* as safest, but it’s all i have to go on at this point.”

          That is about the WORST possible scenario in which to have to make a decision–having to decided KNOWING you don’t have sufficient data to do so. And with religion, which is going to be life-altering, it seems unwise and unjustified to decide “god exists is true,” without validation. How could I, in good conscience, base my life upon something that could never be any better than “a guess”? Really, I’m going to live my life according to an an idea I haven’t ever validated and can’t say I have confidence is correct? A hunch is going to drive my existence and my decisions?

          That’s pretty messed up.

          • JE Hoyes says

            Heicart: “…How could I, in good conscience, base my life upon something that could never be any better than “a guess”? Really, I’m going to live my life according to an an idea I haven’t ever validated and can’t say I have confidence is correct? A hunch is going to drive my existence and my decisions? That’s pretty messed up.”

            Sometimes I think that atheists who make the decision to engage with theists and argue about the existence of god are giving some form of validation to the god hypotheses and, more depressingly, are wasting their own life on the god hypotheses, even more than theists (who enjoy the idea of their god). Not saying that you or any other atheist is “basing their life” on god, but this kind of encounter often seems like two people are agreeing to bash their heads against the same non-existent wall. The surreal irony being that the non-existent wall causes more pain to the person who doesn’t believe in its existence than the person who does believe it exists. If you see what I mean.

  13. Aaroninaustralia says

    What Eric doesn’t seem to want to ‘get’ is that his argument is irrelevant. The true question, one that the scientific community is still grappling with, is “Must energy have existed forever, or can it spontaneously come into existence somehow?”

    Theism provides no solution to this question. In fact, the popular theisms don’t even make a decision either way. Verbosely pronouncing that “nothing can exist forever and something can’t come from nothing, therefore something that existed forever popped everything into existence out of nothing” is merely taking up position on the fence. It takes the real problem, slaps consciousness onto the incoherent word salad for no particular reason, and pronounces the resulting mess “Godidit!” Unsurprisingly it fails, while simultaneously preserving the original problem in the pseudo-answer.

    It is a rather comic situation where someone insists that “nothing” must be a state where a whole range of things already exist like time, matter, and the law of cause and effect, so they can crowbar their personal deity into that ‘nothing’ as well. It’s the only way that the whole thing works: that a deity that already existed along with raw materials and the laws of physics proceeded to “create” (or more correctly, shape) “everything” out of “nothing” (or more accurately, raw materials)… resulting in their deity being some sort of Swedish furniture shopper.

    But this doesn’t get anywhere near solving the true problem: did energy exist forever or can it spontaneously come into existence? We can see this any time such a theist is asked to show whether their deity existed forever or whether it popped into existence out of nothing: asking the real problem while (initially at least) humouring them by maintaining the tacked-on “consciousness”. Often they will have serious problems as they attempt further non-answers such as “timelessness”, at which we can argue that if a god can be timeless, then so can energy and thus, why add consciousness in the form of a deity? Ultimately it demonstrates that the theistic position is unsatisfactory, because it’s merely a restatement of the question.

    We see the same Woo restatement of the question in other religions too. Take the Buddhist answer to suffering: that we can be reincarnated as a ‘higher’ being. So people suffered, to be reborn to… suffer, in order to be reborn to suffer? Like the god that existed forever to avoid eternity, the soul that’s reborn to suffer does nothing to solve the question of why people suffer. It merely restates it into a vicious circle.

    Perhaps that’s what happens when a brain is pushed too far to come up with answers with a paucity of information: it makes one up by reflecting the question back to us; turning the question into nothing more than a psychological mirage.

    • says

      Aaron:

      I’m still reading your response, but this caught me, because it struck me later as well:

      “that a deity that already existed along with raw materials and the laws of physics proceeded to “create” (or more correctly, shape) “everything” out of “nothing” (or more accurately, raw materials)… resulting in their deity being some sort of Swedish furniture shopper.”

      I recognized that this is the actual more correct reading of Genesis. The words used for what god made are generally associated in their original form with “fashioned,” not popped into existence out of nothing. Creation ex nihilo was a later apologetic. It did seem that Eric might have been making an argument that matter and energy existed in some form, and god shaped them. I think this hit me when he rejected my “pond” analogy. That was the first time I began to see that he draws a line between what he considers ‘complex’ existence versus noncomplex existence. So, it’s clear to him god created trees, but absurd to compare that to ponds, which clearly do not show signs of intelligent design–and so are the “unfashioned” existence, I would assume?

  14. says

    Dembski argues that it is impossible for “specified complexity” to exist in patterns displayed by configurations formed by unguided processes.

    But we know for certain that very simple, and purely deterministic and mathematical processes (exactly like those we observe in nature, even by the behavior of drip-drops of water from a leaky faucet) can produce infinitely complex configurations — namely Fractals.

    Indeed, mathematical fractals are used to model nature, both living and non-living.

    For example, the exceedingly simple (but not the simplest!) Cellular Automata called ‘Rule 110′ fits the bill for a fully Universal computer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxvxScc6z8g

    So, not only can those very simple natural processes produce infinitely complex configurations, but those configurations can build memories, perform arbitrarily complex calculations and result in decision making as a universal computer. Such as how falling dominoes can perform a calculation:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d1R0zr91Ao

    Readers might also enjoy this destruction of Dembski’s ‘No Free Lunch’:

    https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/nflr3.txt

    • says

      Yes, this was maybe the most unexpected part of the conversation with Eric–that he seemed almost put out that I would suggest he thought gods would be involved in the creation of ponds. I expected him to be asserting god is the “cause” for material existence–all of it, not merely parts of it. I didn’t expect him to object that some material items appear to be created by his god, but others do not show signs of intelligent design or creation. That was odd.

  15. jdog says

    Lounsbery called back? Blah, this was the first episode I haven’t caught live for a long time, too.

    I hope he finds the thread again. He was so much fun last time.

    • HiEv says

      Yeah, he called back. (His last call was show #750, for those who want to see it or read about it.)

      Most annoyingly, Eric kept trying to use his own personal definition of “nothing” in cases where the word was used by other people (John Loftus and others who were using a more standard definition of the word “nothing”) as though that proved something in relation to how he (Eric) used the term. Using the logical fallacy of equivocation will never be convincing to people who know how to see through that trick. Sadly, I’m not even sure if he even realized that he was equivocating. (To Eric: What John Loftus says about “nothing” has absolutely no bearing on what you say about “nothing” if you’re both using different definitions of the term “nothing”. To claim otherwise is dishonest.)

      Also annoyingly, he kept referring to “the law of cause and effect”, which isn’t a law in any standard meaning of the term “law”. He also continued to ignore any attempt in this show (or in the previous discussion linked to above) to point out examples of uncaused effects, such as virtual particles. The “law” of cause and effect is not the basis of science, nor was that accepted as a “law” by the people he was talking to, but he insisted that it was and just steamrolled on with his argument.

      Listening to him “debate” like this was like watching a fly repeatedly flying into a piece of glass, not realizing that the glass is there until it bumps its head into it, then backing up a bit before promptly forgetting the glass there and doggedly flying into it again. It’s amusing, but only until you realize that he’s never going to get it.

  16. jdon says

    On Eric’s something-nothing frippery I felt that Tracie was implying this but didn’t quite say it:

    If we take your internet assembled definition of nothing to not include the physics definition of nothing then all you’re doing is adding the physics definition of nothing to the something group. It doesn’t get expelled or discarded, it’s now just one of the many ‘something’ options.

    But as you say he conflates his ‘something’ with Steady-State-only instead of including a vast array of hypothesis and unknowns.

  17. andrew says

    Oh Eric …

    Arguments from causality/cosmological arguments usually run like this: everything is caused, therefore there must be a first cause.

    To which the obvious answer is, what caused the first cause? Well, they come back, the first cause is causeless. The Kalam (SP?) variant is sophomoric way of hiding that idea in the original premises.

    Either way, of course, they’ve asserted the existence of a thing or things which don’t have causes: what reason, then, to assume that space-time and mass-energy are members of the first set and not the second? And the argument is undone.

    But of course the premises are flawed, as well: we know of plenty of events without causes. Radioactive decay: yes, in general it’s “caused” by nuclear instability, but we can only calculate the probability of a decay event for a given atom over a given length of time. What “causes” it to decay at one moment rather than any other? Aside from induced decay (such as a chain reaction), nothing whatsoever. What causes virtual particle/antiparticular pairs to come into being? Again, nothing–and there is no violation of the laws of physics for particles to come into being spontaneously provided that the net change in energy is zero; if the universe contains sufficient negative energy (such as gravity) to balance out the positive, then there is no particular reason that it could not have arisen from nothing in a similar fashion.

    I highly recommend Stephen Hawking’s book “The Grand Design” for a further exploration of that idea.

  18. says

    Textbook equivocation. Let’s take a statement an atheist made, ignore how they meant the words they used and substitute my own definition then act like it’s a problem for the argument that my definition causes problems.

    • thaocarranza says

      You’re right on the money Ace. Eric’s argument for the existence of God is that things can’t come from nothing – if by nothing you mean no thing – therefore God.

      But the scientists use the physics definition of nothing:

      “Physics

      In physics, the word nothing is not used in any technical sense. A region of space is called a vacuum if it does not contain any matter, though it can contain physical fields. In fact, it is practically impossible to construct a region of space that contains no matter or fields, since gravity cannot be blocked and all objects at a non-zero temperature radiate electromagnetically. However, even if such a region existed, it could still not be referred to as “nothing”, since it has properties and a measurable existence as part of the quantum-mechanical vacuum. Where there is supposedly empty space there are constant quantum fluctuations with particles continually popping into and out of existence. It had long been theorized that space is distinct from a void of nothingness in that space consists of some kind of aether, with luminiferous aether serving as the transmission medium for propagating light waves.”

      Not “no thing”. If I change the definition of nothing to mean “A glass of orange juice” Eric’s proposition will fail the same way the scientists proposition fail when you change it from the physics definition to “no thing”.

      • Rosemary says

        In other words, Eric’s argument fails at it onset because there is not only no evidence that a state of “nothingness”, defined in Eric’s terms, does exist but there is evidence that it could NOT exist.

        In any case, as Tracie has already pointed out, a state of “absence of existence” would also exclude any god concept. If the initial state excludes the object you want to prove is necessary to change this state into something else then you have already excluded a god object as a possibility. The god object would need to be created along with the universe in order to exist. It is was necessary for a god object to come into existence along with the universe then there is no need for a god object to cause the universe.

        This argument fails on philosophical grounds even before we consider that fact that it fails on scientific grounds.

        It would be interesting to see whether Eric could come up with a plausible (if not sufficient) reason why a state of non-existence is a necessary state from which to start a universe.

        • thaocarranza says

          Usually there is also a definition that God stands apart from nature, space and time to go with arguments such as Eric’s.

        • ericlounsbery says

          Rosemary, the evidence is that the Universe had a beginning. As such, a sufficient cause must exist. Such a cause must ultimately be eternal, transcendent, immensely powerful, and intelligent. If not eternal then it came from nothing (which is absurd), transcendent because it existed before and outside of the Universe, immensely powerful because no effect can be greater than its cause, and intelligent because it is the only known cause to produce the kind of high information (specified complexity)found in dna.

          btw…I am still looking forward to you filling in the blanks. :)

          Your Cause:
          Your Evidence:

  19. Bbinbgky says

    On ex-Catholic caller:
    I think for Catholics, it’s about the religious ritual of going, and doing the things they do, not the substance of what is said or the personalities like other denominations. I think people that choose the Catholic religion when they’re not born into it, are attracted by the rituals. It makes them feel better about themselves when they do the rituals. “works”.

    On Eric:
    So much time arguing and trying to make science prove your god, who LIKES SLAVERY! The whole time, I think Matt or Tracie could answer any point with, “Your god likes slavery.” “What? Something from nothing? YOUR GOD LIKES SLAVERY”. [Caller]: “…blah…blah…Universe…blah…blah DNA…” [Hosts]: “Oh yeah. YOUR GOD LIKES SLAVERY. Why do you want to believe in, and try so hard to prove the existence of one god — of many –, that LIKES SLAVERY?! (and is a genocidal….maniac)”.

    • Rosemary says

      If a necessary first cause must be a god (why?) then there is no valid reason to suppose that there is only one god. There is also no reason to suppose that one that likes slavery and slaughtering innocent women, children and cattle is the only one that could perform the supernatural miracle that this argument claims. It could have been a much nicer god, or a much nastier god. There is no way to determine which or how many gods might have created THE universe – this time around.

      • ericlounsbery says

        Rosemary,
        If you are referring to the God of the Bible you clearly need to do more research so you can correct your theology. But that is for another thread. The purpose of this thread is to determine a sufficient cause capable of creating a Universe that displays specified complexity like we see in DNA.

      • Bbinbgky says

        i know. but my point is: why go to such lengths to prove the existence of a god that likes slavery (being just one example of the ridiculous attributes)? it’s a mind-numbing amount of effort spent on the arguments… like trying really hard to date an ax murderer. even if they say ‘yes’, why would you want them to? the ax murderer[slavery] part should prevent one from even trying to date[believe in] them in the first place.

  20. Andrew says

    I just wanted to eviscerate the hell out of Eric with Occam’s Razor.

    He said that God is necessary for complex things to exist, but what he doesn’t realize is that when you assert God, you’re raising a whole bunch of questions. Where did God come from? What is he made of? How exactly did he create everything? Why did he do it? So on and so forth. Even if you were prepared to answer all of those questions, your explanation would be several times MORE complex than the universe of which you’re trying to explain the origin.

    Needless to say, you’d have no evidence to support your answers anyhow.

  21. ericlounsbery says

    Tracieh

    I finally had a break so I could respond to you.

    You wrote,
    “First, Eric employed a reasoning error, that when I pointed it out, he misunderstood me to be supplying an analogy in a different vein. I was simply illustrating that the following is not correct reasoning:

    X causes Y; therefore all Y are caused by X.”

    Then you followed up with a number of examples to prove this was incorrect reasoning. You should know that I agree with your conclusions entirely! But this does not reflect what I said, nor what I believe, nor what I was attempting to prove. Let me attempt to summarize my position more clearly:

    The Principle of Uniformity as I am using it here (and as I used it on the program), states what we all know from experience, and that is that SIMILAR EFFECTS HAVE SIMILAR CAUSES. This principle is the basis/foundation of forensic science. Even though no one may have been present when a victim was shot, using forensic science we can usually gather many accurate facts about what happened. Even as non-scientists we practice this principle when we see a window in our home that has a small round hole about an eighth of inch in diameter. I think if would be fair to say that most of us would guess that a BB or similar object was the cause. However, it may not have been a BB because, like in most cases, most effects could have multiple causes. Some effects have so many possible causes that we may never be certain which one produced the effect. Other effects have fewer causes which narrows our field of possible choices for the cause of a particular effect-but even then we may still have a significant degree of uncertainty. Then there are those much rarer cases where we have certain effects that have only one “known” cause. Always our level of certainty rises dramatically in proportion to the number of causes that can be eliminated from our pool of possiblities. Hopefully, the following example will illustrate this: You find a piece of notebook paper with a portion of a corner missing. Along the edge of the paper where the section is missing there is a brownish/black color that has flaking ash all along the edge. Though you did not see what caused this to happen to the paper, you quickly conclude that “heat” applied to the paper in some fashion was the cause. But then friends suggest that you may be jumping to conclusions and they offer other possible “causes”. Maybe it was painted to look the way it did? Did a chemical reaction cause this effect without heat? So you submit the paper to be tested and the other options are clearly ruled out to not be a sufficient cause to produce that effect. The only cause known that can produce that exact effect is heat. In this case, it is still possible that there is an unknown cause that may be responsible for the effect but yet I suppose most people would feel very satisfied in the conclusion that “heat” was cause of the effect to the paper.

    This should explain why your response to me is riddled with errors. It is because you failed to understand the argument I presented (which may be because of how I presented it. Let me attempt to clear up muddied waters a bit.)

    First of all I would not make the claims you made in your illustrations of ponds and machinery because, like you, I agree the reasoning is faulty. The problem is that when we attempt to find the “cause” of a certain “effect” we must look at EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE cause that could create that effect. For example in the pond scenario we know that people can create ponds, but we also know that natural law can create them (though erosion, earthquakes, meteors, etc…) . So we can probably conclude that one or the other was the cause of most, if not all, ponds that we see. We may even be able to examine the ponds more closely and determine which of the two causes it was for certain. Every cause NOT considered that is sufficient to produce the effect being examined, increases our chance of a wrong conclusion. The same principle would apply to EVERY effect. In trying to come to the most reasonable conclusion as to its cause, we must consider EVERY SINGLE cause that we know or can find that is capable of producing the effect in question. Once we have gathered all known causes we would then seek to eliminate as many as possible. The more we can narrow the possible causes, the more certain we are in coming to our conclusion as to what may have been the actual cause.

    The failure of your tree argument is found in the fact that I never stated that specified complexity cannot produce specified complexity (which is what happens in nature on a very regular basis). I stated that the only known cause to ORIGINATE specified complexity is INTELLIGENCE. So for you to prove the contrary, you must present a case(s) where we find (not ASSUME) that natural law can ORIGINATE specified complexity from something that is NOT already SPECIFIED COMPLEXITY. You cannot use a living cell (which is loaded with specified complexity) or any other existence possessing specified complexity to show how it can produce specified complexity. That is begging the question. You must deal with the ORIGINATION of specified complexity. So consider the planet Mars, …what natural law(s) are capable of producing specified complexity on Mars since it does not exist there? (Nor to the best of our knowledge does it exist anywhere else in the Universe.)

    (For a clearer understanding of what I mean by “specified complexity” see the article found here:
    http://www.leaderu.com/science/thaxton_dna.html This is especially important for you to read if you may believe that things like snowflakes, crystals, etc. should fall into the category of specified complexity.)

    So here is where we are at: I have argued that the origination of specified complexity has only one known cause: INTELLIGENCE. We have definite proof (practically and unlimited number of examples!) that intelligence is a capable cause to originate specified complexity. I think it is fair to hold to this conclusion until someone gives sufficient proof that another cause exists. Please include your evidence if you would like me to consider something other than intelligence to be a sufficient cause capable of originating specified complexity.

    I will deal with additional issues raised here by tracieh and others when I can find the time.

    • michael b says

      Eric: “I have argued that the origination of specified complexity has only one known cause: INTELLIGENCE”

      No you haven’t argued; you’ve asserted.

      Eric: “We have definite proof (practically and unlimited number of examples!) that intelligence is a capable cause to originate specified complexity”

      Not in nature we haven’t.

      Eric: “I think it is fair to hold to this conclusion until someone gives sufficient proof that another cause exists”

      In other words, we cannot think up another reason (or cause); therefore, goddidit!

      Eric: “Please include your evidence if you would like me to consider something other than intelligence to be a sufficient cause capable of originating specified complexity.”

      Please tell me that you recognize this as one massive argument from ignorance.

      • ericlounsbery says

        (Eric: “I have argued that the origination of specified complexity has only one known cause: INTELLIGENCE”

        No you haven’t argued; you’ve asserted.)

        Michael clearly you do not understand the difference between argument and assertion. Typically in debate the difference is that arguments without evidence to support them are referred to as mere assertions. I don’t think any atheist familiar with these terms would claim I was merely making assertions. On the contrary, my point was that intelligence is capable of originating specified complexity. You responding to my claim is sufficient proof of the claim. I also stated that I know of no other cause capable of ORIGINATING specified complexity, and requested any reader who felt they knew of evidence that proved another cause was capable, to state the cause and the evidence to support it.

        (Eric: “We have definite proof (practically and unlimited number of examples!) that intelligence is a capable cause to originate specified complexity”

        Not in nature we haven’t.)

        Michael, I believe it is fair to say that I agree with what I think you are trying to say here. The problem is that you are not backing up far enough in your consideration of this issue. You are saying that nature originates specified complexity without intelligence. However, I think you are making the error I discussed in my first post on this blog. You are claiming that something that is ALREADY specified and complex can produce the same. I agree. But that is not the issue. I think we all agree with that. The question is, on a planet like Mars or Jupiter or earth prior to life being present, what natural laws are a sufficient cause to ORIGINATE specified complexity. If the only cause that can be found to be sufficient is intelligence, then the atheist should consider the implications of that.

        (Eric: “I think it is fair to hold to this conclusion until someone gives sufficient proof that another cause exists”

        In other words, we cannot think up another reason (or cause); therefore, goddidit!)

        Michael, I think you are making at least two errors here:
        1. It seems to me that you are making this conclusion to be a sort of “god of the gaps” conclusion. Which it is not at all, on the contrary, it is a conclusion based on what we DO know, not what we DON’T know.
        2. The conclusion of this premise is NOT that GOD did it. Rather it is simply that, if we encounter specified complexity anywhere, forensic science leads us to only ONE possible cause as to how it originated, and that cause is Intelligence. It DOES NOT tell us there is a God. We must establish other proofs before that conclusion is justified.

        I hope this helps make my position more clearly.

        • michael b says

          Hi Eric,

          I must give you credit for thoughtfully replying to my post. My responses were deliberately short, and I do my best here to respond to your objections to my objections.

          First, I do understand the different between argument and assertion. I used assertion because you have not supported your claims with evidence. Every argument from design that I’ve ever heard or read follow as such:

          IDer: the universe has the appearance of design; therefore, there must have been a designer/intelligent agent.
          Me: No that’s not true, you need evidence to support the existence of a designer/intelligent agent.
          IDer: the evidence is that the universe looks designed.
          Me: No that’s your claim, where’s the evidence.
          …10 minutes later…
          IDer: OK then, how do you think the universe got here.
          Me: I don’t know.
          IDer: Then it had to be a designer/intelligent agent.

          With all due respect, but you’re repeating Ray Comfort’s painting/painter, building/builder, design/designer argument wrapped up in more sophisticated language.

          “… my point was that intelligence is capable of originating specified complexity. You responding to my claim is sufficient proof of the claim. I also stated that I know of no other cause capable of ORIGINATING specified complexity, and requested any reader who felt they knew of evidence that proved another cause was capable, to state the cause and the evidence to support it.”

          My responding to your claim proves your claim? How exactly? Also, because nobody can answer where specified complexity originated (no need for the caps, I see what you’re getting at), is not evidence that intelligence is capable of originating specified complexity (what does generalized complexity look like?) Again, you’re asserting that intelligence is capable of originating specified complexity. This needs to stand on its own and be demonstrated; this is not the default position. Amongst the argument from intelligence/ignorance, you’re also shifting the burden of proof. It’s not enough to say that you can’t show me evidence to the contrary; therefore, my claim has all the proof it needs to be accepted. I’ve been following Russell Glasser’s debate with Stephen Feinstein closely and I defer to Russell’s example of the magical tiara as I think it perfect illustrates why your argument falls flat.

          “You are saying that nature originates specified complexity without intelligence”

          No I am not. I am saying that I do not accept your assertion that intelligence originate specified complexity.

          “The question is, on a planet like Mars or Jupiter or earth prior to life being present, what natural laws are a sufficient cause to ORIGINATE specified complexity. If the only cause that can be found to be sufficient is intelligence, then the atheist should consider the implications of that”

          Not until you can demonstrate how an intelligence can originate specified complexity (hint: start by defining these terms). My atheism has nothing to do with origins or abiogenesis, nor would I ever put forth a hypothesis about what “originated” (or how or why), because at the end of the day, I don’t know (and neither do you).

          “The conclusion of this premise is NOT that GOD did it. Rather it is simply that, if we encounter specified complexity anywhere, forensic science leads us to only ONE possible cause as to how it originated, and that cause is Intelligence. It DOES NOT tell us there is a God.”

          Forensic science does not lead us to the conclusion that in nature (as opposed to the built environment) “The Original” is the effect of the cause “Intelligence”. You, Eric, are leading us to that conclusion. And I think that you’re being dishonest here because your whole point that I got from your call with Matt and Tracy was that you were proving Gods existence, not an undefined Intelligence.

        • Rosemary says

          Eric, the claims you are making are not against the “atheist” position, they are against the international consensus of the best educated scientific researchers in the relevant areas. Before you can convince anyone of your position, including atheists, you must first convince these scientists.

          You have made it clear to those of us who are real scientists that you do not understand how the scientific method works, you are not using the scientific method properly and you have little understanding of cosmology or the mathematics and physics required to understand it. In other words, you have no right to claim that your conclusions regarding the origins of the universe are superior to the conclusions reached by internationally acclaimed experts in the relevant sciences.

          You arguments fail right from the start because they are based on the false premise that the physics of the sub-atomic world are identical to the physics of the supra-atomic world with which you are familiar.

          The expansion of this particular universe began at the sub-atomic level and is therefore functioning under Quantum conditions, not Newtonian conditions. While “cause and effect” works at the Newtonian level (the world from which you derive your “common sense” arguments) it does NOT work at the sub-atomic level. At this level things can, and do, randomly flick in and out of existence without cause and without any propelling intelligence. Mathematical models show how matter could arise from “potential energy” under the right conditions, provided that the sum of this is zero.

          When you have the scientific and mathematical background to understand what they mean by this then, and only then, do you have the knowledge to criticize it. At this point in time you are arguing from specious pseudo science devised and promoted by religious con artists.

          I repeat, this is not an issue for atheists. It is an issue for scientists, regardless of their religious position.

          If the emerging facts run counter to the religious or cultural beliefs of the scientist (as they do for a radical U.S.-based segment Christianity) then the scientist has several choices. He or she can encapsulate the dissonant religious beliefs so that they will not be influenced by what they know of reality; they can modify their religious beliefs so that they appear to be congruent with realit; or they can discard these beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence.

          So far you appear to have chosen a fourth possibility: remain in deliberate ignorance of valid research in the relevant areas and refuse to acquire the academic skills required to understand and assess it. In other words, you are committing the fallacy of Arguing from Ignorance, a fact which only makes you look stupid in front of those who are not ignorant, whether Christian or not. You are an excellent example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect: a sense of superiority and certainty that is not warranted because it is the result of failing to understand enough to realistically assess the actual level of skill and understanding. Ironically, the more a person knows the less certain they become. Like Tracie and Matt, they will tell you that there are things that they do not know.

    • hp9000 says

      Eric, I agree that when we attempt to find the “cause” of a certain “effect” we must look at EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE cause that could create that effect (your words). The problem that I see here is that we know that every single possible cause is a real thing; we have proof of the existence of heat, for example, so we can consider it a possible cause. On the other hand, WE HAVE NO PROOF WHATSOEVER of the existence of any god, so to consider God a possible cause is invalid. We may just as well conclude that the piece of paper that you used for your example was made that way by God, or chewed up by the invisible pink dragon; however, nobody will consider that as a valid explanation, as those things, as far as we know, don’t exist. If there’s ever evidence of their existence, they’ll become part of the pool of possible causes.

      • ericlounsbery says

        The question of God in regard to this premise is irrelevant at this point hp9000. God is not even the subject of the premise. Nor is the premise intended to prove God, though I believe the conclusion of this premise, IF TRUE, can be used to in conjunction with other truths to reveal that God exists. But again, your argument at this point is irrelevant. The only claims being made by this premise are that intelligence is a sufficient cause for originating specified complexity, and that until shown otherwise, it is the ONLY known cause we should attribute to the origination of such complexity. If you have evidence to the contrary please share it with us.

        • hp9000 says

          Eric, I think that you’re bringing up the issue of complexity and intelligence only as a stepping stone to say in perhaps different words that the universe is complex, therefore it required an intelligent creator and that creator is God. Stop moving the goalposts by now trying to make your argument into something about complexity. You brought up the John Loftus book, etc. to talk about God. Otherwise, if your call to the show was only to talk about intelligence and complexity, I think you called the wrong show.

          I have trouble following your reasoning, one moment you argue for the existence of a god and the next you say this: “The conclusion of this premise is NOT that GOD did it. Rather it is simply that, if we encounter specified complexity anywhere, forensic science leads us to only ONE possible cause as to how it originated, and that cause is Intelligence. It DOES NOT tell us there is a God. We must establish other proofs before that conclusion is justified.” Which is exactly the point everybody and their dog is trying to make, that there’s no proof to conclude that a God originated anything. Congratulations, you’ve become an atheist!

        • Rosemary says

          “Intelligence is a sufficient cause for originating specified complexity, and that until shown otherwise, it is the ONLY known cause we should attribute to the origination of such complexity.”

          All the evidence that we have points to the fact that biological complexity is required to exist before intelligence can exist. We have absolutely no evidence of an intelligence that can exist in the absence of biological complexity.

          The only intelligence for which we have evidence is the result of complex neural interactions in a biological entity known as a brain (cerebrum) or central nervous system (CNS).

          We have no proof that intentional intelligence can exist apart from the matured biological brain of a complex self-replicating biological organism that is the result of eons of environmentally selected evolutionary processes.

          We have no proof that a state of anything occurred before the expansion of the universe.

          It is therefore entirely fanciful to posit the existence of a non-replicating disembodied non-biological brainless mind of extreme complexity that existed in some state and some place before the advent of time, space and matter, especially when this ephemeral entity is claimed to be able to cause, manipulate and affect matter. All the evidence that we have points to the conclusion that such a unique and incredible thing exists only in the minds of complex biological beings.

          Since the probability of a such a brainless mind existing in reality is extremely low, considering that there is no compelling evidence that it does exist or even that it could exist, we must conclude that anything in nature that looks as if it might have been created by a mindful entity has not, in fact, been created by any such thing.

    • mond says

      Attempted to try and understand Eric’s word salad response, but its the same old same old. Just made my head hurt. Even looked at the link which was gonna explain specified complexity but life is too short, so I’m out.

    • JoshL says

      Eric,

      I’m sorry to say, but specified complexity is not regarded as science to the VAST majority of scientists in related fields. There are very few who regard it as science, basically those working as proponents of intelligent design in think-tanks. So thusly, I fear we are at an impasse and can’t continue the conversation unless you right here right now in your own words argue for the validity of it. Because if all we are going to do is link to things, I will give you a link to a refutation of it and the problems with it.

      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

      Read that all the way through and thoroughly address the problems. If you are unwilling, I can’t see how you can in good conscious expect people to read through anything you link to that we have no idea if you even understand in the slightest.

      And just for clarity, what exactly do you think is too specifically complex to have been done by physics and chemistry? The formation of stars? elements? planets? Galaxies? chemicals? strings of chemicals? long strings of chemicals? long strings of chemicals that replicate? Where are you saying a creator had to jump in the mix?

    • HiEv says

      “The Principle of Uniformity as I am using it here (and as I used it on the program), states what we all know from experience, and that is that SIMILAR EFFECTS HAVE SIMILAR CAUSES. This principle is the basis/foundation of forensic science.”

      First of all, as far as I can tell, you are the only one who uses the term “principle of uniformity” that way. I really wish you wouldn’t make up your own terms. (You are the “Psychedelic Pope“, right?)

      Furthermore, similar effects do not always have similar causes, and that belief is not the basis/foundation for forensic science. For example, the symptom of a fever (the effect) may be caused due to injury, a birth defect, a genetic problem, an infection (bacterial, fungal, viral, or parasitic), a poison (chemical or radiation), auto-immune problems, or many other dissimilar causes. This applies to all of science. Yes, similar effects may have similar causes, but assuming that this is always the case will blind you to cases where that kind of thinking is completely wrong.

      If you still really believe that it is the basis/foundation for forensic science, I challenge you to provide a good scientific source that makes the same assertion (i.e. not creationist or other pseudoscience literature).

      This “similar effects have similar causes” claim appears to be the foundation of your argument, and as such it’s a completely inadequate one, since it’s based on assumptions and self-blinding to other options. Discussion of the rest of your argument is unnecessary, since it is dependent on this unscientific claim.

  22. Irritated Atheist says

    Eric was merely repeating some common creationists misconception, but he was articulate and polite.

    Matt on the other hand was exceptionally rude, even more so than usual. At 21:20 he sounds like a 9-year-old whining for sweets at the check-out line, simply pathetic.

    In what way does this behaviour advance the conversation? Or is this just the way Matt gets the most fun out of the show?

    • jdog says

      You mean the bit where Eric kept serving up word salad even though Matt had an objection from the getgo? Followed a few minutes later by Matt letting Eric interrupt him when Matt was making a point?

      • Irritated Atheist says

        I’m stunned. Are you actually in the process of defending Matt’s whining?

        If a colleague would behave like that in a meeting, I would slowly back away from him, and that is in no way an exaggeration. That was truly pitiful.

        Eric was no “serving word salad”, he was in the process of explaining his motivations for the debate, after Matt’s words, “The question is: Why?”

        Again, here is what happens: Matt asks a question, Eric replys to the question, Matt starts whining.

        • Rosemary says

          This wasn’t a collegiate meeting of intellectual equals with a shared knowledge base: it was a public access show about atheism hosted by Matt and Tracie, and Eric was a self-invited guest who clearly did not have a shared knowledge base.

          It is true that Matt does not suffer fools gladly, especially when they provide evidence that they are deliberately ignorant. I heard evidence of frustration from both Matt and Tracie but no whinning from either of them.

          I suggest you get your intellectual ears cleaned out. :-)

        • Rosemary says

          Moreover, your avatar does not link to anything. This strongly suggests that at least half of your User Name does not reflect reality. You have all the hallmarks of a Christian Troll.
          Thank you for providing evidence that a belief in the Christian god leads to deceitful behavior.

  23. says

    Eric:

    Define “specified complexity” and explain how it differs from regular ol’ complexity.

    We have plenty of examples of blind natural forces producing complexity (the formation of snowflakes, for example) and order (the orbits of planets, for example), so I’d be curious to know how you recognize “specified complexity” and specifically distinguish it from other kinds of complexity.

    The term “specified” seems to be begging the question by assuming what you’re trying to prove: that this complexity is, indeed, “specified” by someone or something (presumably a god). I’m asking how you distinguish specified complexity and how you know it’s actually specified.

    • ericlounsbery says

      Los

      please see the link in my post. I believe it will clearly explain what I mean by “specified complexity”.

      thanks.

      Eric

      • Dontpee-on-leg-andtellrain says

        “Specified complexity” is a made up concept by William Dembski and the web link is to his Discovery Institute friend the infamous author of “Pandas and People”. So in other words we’ve got a “sciency” sounding concept that is not used except by creationists to imply that something is specified, i.e. created.

        “Irreducible complexity” is another ID created bogus concept which gets at the same thing. The very term “Intelligent Design” is yet another euphemism to manipulate and deceive the public that ID is not good old fashioned biblical creationism.

        Here’s what specified complexity, irreducible complexity, and ID amount to: “This thing is too complex, I can’t figure out how it could have formed. Golly, it’s so COMPLEX! Instead of saying goddidit I’ll toss some new word salad, presto!: Specified complexity, irreducible complexity. Gee that sounds smart and like I’ve contributed a new and compelling idea rather than the re-warmed creationism that it is.

        • Rosemary says

          There is a lot of unnecessary complexity or just plain unintelligent design in nature. If these things were designed by an “intelligent creator” then the adjective appears to be somewhat of a misnomer. Of course, Creationist cherry-pick their examples and avoid dealing with the huge number of exceptions. Just what you would expect from pseudo science.

      • says

        Eric writes: “please see the link in my post. I believe it will clearly explain what I mean by ‘specified complexity’.”

        You mean that load of tosh that claims that DNA is a “different kind of order” than a snowflake because it is “a code”?

        As Matt briefly mentioned during your last call, DNA is not a literal code (i.e. a “message” sent from one mind to another) – or at least there’s no reason to think that it’s one. It’s a series of chemical reactions, in which certain combinations yield certain results. DNA is no more a “code” than “H2O” is a code.

        Now, you can claim that this series of chemical reactions was “specified” by something intelligent, but unless you can demonstrate that, you don’t have any good reason to accept that that is true.

    • jdog says

      He just means “designed complexity” to distinguish it from “undesigned complexity”.

      We’re still waiting for him to offer a convincing argument as to why the complexity he thinks is designed must have been designed, especially given that the actual consensus of current scientific thought in these fields is that anyone touting “designed/specified complexity” is either completely full of it or doesn’t have the faintest idea what they’re talking about (or both).

      Welcome back, Eric. I see your arguments haven’t gotten any better. You still appear to be interpreting modern discoveries through the lens of 19th century scientific thought. I’m happy to see you’ve finally come to your senses about “nothing”, though!

      Although that brings up an interesting point. Since your original “7 proofs” for God’s existence started out with the assertion about nothing, this means you must have revised your proofs, right? What’s your opening assertion now?

  24. ericlounsbery says

    You wrote:
    “First, I do understand the different between argument and assertion. I used assertion because you have not supported your claims with evidence. Every argument from design that I’ve ever heard or read follow as such:

    IDer: the universe has the appearance of design; therefore, there must have been a designer/intelligent agent.”

    First of all when you say “Every argument” that you have ever heard follows this pattern, I would contend you have completely failed to see or understand my argument because it does NOT follow this pattern. To say I have offered no evidence also reveals that you must not understand what specified complexity (SC) is. Every single book ever written serves as proof that intelligence can produce SC. Every invention, every building, every computer, every computer program, and trillions of other works designed by intelligent beings serve as proof that it(intelligence) is a sufficient cause to produce the effect(SC). Any denial that this proof exists in a degree too great to even fathom, simply shows a complete misunderstanding of the concept, or a willful ignorance of it. I am literally astounded at the mass of responses that either reject this self-evident truth, or simply ignore everything I said and move the discussion to concepts that I am not even considering! My points are simple:

    *An every growing mountain of evidence reveals that intelligence is a sufficient cause capable of originating specified complexity.
    *Therefore unless evidence of another cause can be shown to be capable of originating specified complexity, it is reasonable to hold that the source of such complexity can be traced back to an initial intelligent source.

    Michael if you disagree with me please simply refute what I have said in the two points.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    • says

      Can you explain the difference between specified and unspecified complexity, if only to establish that the concept isn’t merely an invented creationist red herring? And you realize you cannot simply draw a comparison between things we know, empirically, to be artifacts produced by thinking beings (like inventions, buildings, computers, etc.), and things we do not know to have been created by such beings, like universes, and declare your comparison to be a “self-evident truth,” right? This, in case you’re confused, is why everyone’s complaining that you’re presenting assertions in lieu of arguments. I mean, it sounds like all you’ve got going on is Paley’s Watchmaker all over again.

    • Irritated Atheist says

      Your “Therefore” is fallacious. We understand very well how books, buildings and computer programs are created, and they have little in common with trees and fish.

      With your reasoning, pulsars are surely the work of intelligent beings, since all other radio sources of this regularity are. You might know that the first pulsar found was nicknamed “LGM-1″, for “Little Green Men”. It later turned out the the specified complexity in pulsars has a natural explanation.

    • John Phillips, FCD says

      If you are using Dumbski’s definition of specified complexity, then please give me examples of something that has specified complexity and how can I tell that something exhibits specified complexity. All we have had from Dumbski is word salad and evidence free assertion in some books and we are still waiting for him to tell us how to recognise specified complexity in nature or even irreducible complexity. Especially as every example he has claimed to date has been shown false. Read the Dover trial transcript for examples and what happened to Behe there, oh, and from which Dumbski, along with others also listed as defence expert witnesses, ran away from at a rate of knots.

    • mike says

      @Eric

      While I would agree every building, computer, watch etc. has been built from intelligence, and every example we have comes from an intelligence, we have no examples of plants/animals coming from such an intelligence. Every example of a plant/animal we have here on Earth has formed naturally.
      It is interesting that you point out Mars and Jupiter as being lifeless, why didn’t your “intelligence” create life there? If an intelligence created everything, including the rules, surely it could have put life elsewhere, or is it because those planets never had the right conditions for life to occur naturally like here on Earth?!

      Really, Eric, you took the watchmaker nonsense and dressed it up with fancier words–fail

    • Rosemary says

      There is no doubt that biological intelligence can create focused (or apparently focused) complexity. There is no dispute about that.

      1. What is disputed is that biological intelligence is the only thing that can create such complexity.

      2. What is also disputed is that the complexity that occurs in nature and the cosmos is intelligently designed.

      1 – You have been provided with several examples of natural complexity that occurs by chance, with or without non-intentional shaping by the environment. Snowflakes, water drops, for example.

      2 – There are lots of examples of complex but stupid design in nature. Junk DNA, useless and often dangerous organs, broken genes, mass extinctions of most of the world’s species, failure to naturally discard (natural abortion) all forms of defective replication (mongolism slips through the body’s usual culling process), many instances of completely unnecessary complexity and redundancy (nerves detouring up and down the giraffe neck), eyes that are inside out (human) compared to better designs in other species (octopus).

      3. These dis-confirming facts must be placed within the context of the extremely unlikely occurrence of an intelligent purposeful mind that breaks all the rules that exist in our known reality for the development of such minds.

      In order to argue that natural complexity was the result of a preexisting intelligent purposeful mind we have to assert that this mind is bodiless, undeveloped, unchanged by any experience that it has (and therefore incapable of learning), non-replicating, pre-programed (by what?), conscious in the absence of a biological hypothalamus and anterior parietal neural cortex, and capable of manipulating matter while not manifesting as matter itself. We have zero evidence that a thing that breaks so many known requirements for a purposeful intelligence could exist in reality. If there is no evidence that little green men can exist then it is irrational to posit them as a possible cause of anything.

      • ericlounsbery says

        Rosemary,

        As a scientist you must certainly agree that the order of a crystal/snowflake/water droplet cannot even come close to the high complex order of the simplest living cell. I do not disagree that natural law/chance can account for random complexity or simple order. However what it cannot account for is the origination of order that has a high information content.

        “Molecules characterized by specified complexity make up living things. These molecules are, most notably, DNA and protein. By contrast, nonliving things fall into one of two categories. They are either unspecified and random (like lumps of granite and mixtures of random nucleotides), or they are specified but simple (like snowflakes and crystals). A crystal fails to qualify as living because it lacks complexity. A chain of random nucleotides fails to qualify because it lacks specificity.{17} No nonliving things (except DNA and protein in living things, human artifacts and written language) have specified complexity.

        For a long time biologists overlooked the distinction between two kinds of order (simple, periodic order versus specified complexity). Only recently have they appreciated that the distinguishing feature of living systems is not order but specified complexity.{18} The sequence of nucleotides in DNA, or of amino acids in a protein, is not a repetitive order like a crystal. Instead it is like the letters in a written message. A message is not composed of a sequence of letters repeated over and over. It is not, in other words, the first kind of order.

        Indeed, the letters that make up a message are in a sense random. There is nothing inherent in the letters “g-i-f-t” that tells us the word means “present.” In fact, in German the same sequence of letters means “poison.” In French the series is meaningless. If you came across a series of letters written in the Greek alphabet and didn’t know Greek, you wouldn’t be able to read it. Nor would you be able to tell if the letters formed Greek words or were just groupings of random letters. There is no detectable difference.

        What distinguishes a language is that certain random groupings of letters have come to symbolize meanings according to a given symbol convention. Nothing distinguishes the sequence a-n-d from n-a-d or n-d-a for a person who doesn’t know any English. Within the English language, however, the sequence a-n-d is very specific, and carries a particular meaning.{19}

        There is no detectable difference between the sequence of nucleotides in E. coli DNA and a random sequence of nucleotides.{20} Yet within the E. coli cells, the sequence of “letters” of its DNA is very specific. Only that particular sequence is capable of biological function.

        The discovery that life in its essence is information inscribed on DNA has greatly narrowed the question of life’s origin. It has become the question of the origin of information. We now know there is no connection at all between the origin of order and the origin of specified complexity. There is no connection between orderly repeating patterns and the specified complexity in protein and DNA. We cannot draw an analogy, as many do, between the formation of a crystal and the origin of life. We cannot argue that since natural forces can account for the crystal, then they can account for the structure of living things. The order we find in crystals and snowflakes is not analogous to the specified complexity we find in living things.{21}

        Are we not back to a more sophisticated form of the argument from design? With the insights from information theory we need no longer argue from order in a general sense. Order with low information content (the first kind) does arise by natural processes. However, there is no convincing experimental evidence that order with high information content (the second kind or specified complexity) can arise by natural processes. Indeed, the only evidence we have in the present is that it takes intelligence to produce the second kind of order.”

        The above is taken from the article found at:
        http://www.leaderu.com/science/thaxton_dna.html

        • thaocarranza says

          My question: Was this paper you linked peer-reviewed and it’s contents accepted as actual science by the scientific community? Was the article also published on an actual scientific journal? If not, it’s as good as bible verses to me.

          • Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

            “This paper was presented as part of the conference, Jesus Christ: God and Man, an international conference in Dallas, Texas, November 13-16, 1986. Dr. Thaxton was then Director of Research, The Julian Center, P.O. Box 400, Julian, CA 92036.”

            That’ll be a no, then.

    • jdog says

      [i]*An every growing mountain of evidence reveals that intelligence is a sufficient cause capable of originating specified complexity.[/i]

      Your definition of “specified complexity” is “designed by an intelligence”. So, your argument is “intelligence is the cause of intelligent design”. We agree with that.

      What we disagree with is your assertion that the naturally-occuring things that modern scientific thought considers to be “unspecified complexity”/undesigned are actually “specified complexity”/designed. This is what you need to successfully demonstrate. Saying that science agrees with you, when it clearly doesn’t, doesn’t help your case.

      • HiEv says

        An excellent summary of the problems with so-called “specified complexity”.

        Without addressing those problems it’s basically a circular argument. It’s just saying, “We know it’s designed because of the specified complexity. And we know it has specified complexity because we insist that it must have been designed, because all things with specified complexity have to have been designed.”

        Not exactly a sound argument there.

  25. codemonkey says

    @ericlounsbery
    I’m just curious if you have any argument past this: what reasons you have to conclude miracles are real, prayer works, there is an afterlife, belief in Jesus gets you in, god is not evil, etc. Do you? Or is this just a huge waste of time arguing whether or not there is a first cause which you arbitrarily labeled “god”?

  26. Roman says

    1. That body plans are supposedly designed in no way proves god. You can always imagine some intergalactic company making living things as we make cars, for example.
    2. There is no other option but eternal existence of existence. Since nothing cannot produce anything, but we have Universe, we have stuff, therefore we live in a such eternal existence. The need for creator or “original creator” eliminates with that.
    3. Virtual particles are a hypothesis. A model to explain certain observations. It is not a fact we can observe and verify.

    • says

      I’ve often said the same thing. Primacy of existence metaphysics is favored by Occam’s Razor, and it avoids all this “something from nothing” tedium.

      And our bodies are actually not especially well designed. Our knees bend the wrong way for optimal locomotion. Our arteries clog with plaques, and so do our brains. Our spines — well, let’s not even get started on the myriad back problems people suffer. A woman’s birth canal is too small to admit the infant without severe pain to the woman and, many times, life-threatening risks to both woman and child. The optics in our eyes are installed backwards. Our minds have an alarming tendency to process information incorrectly, leading to delusions and even mental illness. People really are a mess, and look pretty much exactly as you would expect beings who were the product of millions of years of evolution’s trials and errors to look — not like the divinely designed creation of a supernatural, perfect lifegiver.

  27. michael b says

    Eric.

    I think that Martin provides a sufficient response to your claims about specified complexity; however, I would like to respond, so my apologies for perhaps repeating some things that have been said by others.

    OK. Specified complexity…it’s a clever attempt to promote ID, not unlike irreducible complexity. Like irreducible complexity, SC basically states that nature itself (or evolution) cannot account or explain the complexity (the effect) that we find in nature; therefore, an intelligence must be the cause. For Behe, the “proof” is irreducible complexity; for Demski (and you) the “proof” is specified complexity. IC uses biology, SC uses math. It’s another gross misunderstanding of the establish science replaced with pseudoscience. Like many others before me have stated (and much more eloquently), I would grant you (for the sake of argument) that evolution (or natural causes) is too improbable to explain complexity THAT WE FIND IN NATURE, you still need to explain how an intelligence caused (and let’s just call it what it is; that is, creation) the original (life, molecules, atoms, or whatever). SC works out the mathematical improbability that nature is the cause, then makes the illogical leap that this is the proof that demonstrates that it was an intelligence. Again, like all ID arguments (including yours), it relies on one concept being false (or improbable) to “prove” a second concept being true. That is not science, nor is it sound reasoning.

    Finally, I get your argument that we have thousands upon thousands of examples of specified complexity that are not the result of natural processes. You state,

    “Every single book ever written serves as proof that intelligence can produce SC. Every invention, every building, every computer, every computer program, and trillions of other works designed by intelligent beings serve as proof that it(intelligence) is a sufficient cause to produce the effect(SC). Any denial that this proof exists in a degree too great to even fathom, simply shows a complete misunderstanding of the concept, or a willful ignorance of it.”

    But Eric, and like others have tried to point out to you, please tell me you understand that these are part of the human built environment (humans are the intelligence and the products are demonstrably human designed and built). There are no examples of your SC definition in nature that cannot be explained by natural forces. I’m not ignorant of the concept; I simply reject your assertion that because we recognize complexity/design in the built environment and that the natural environment has the appearance of design (calling is SC doesn’t change your meaning) that we can conclude that the built and natural environment must necessarily be the result of the same processes. And to suggest as you did in an earlier post that because we cannot account for the “original” that we must accept that your (and other IDers) explanation is possible (or it seems what you’re trying to say is that it’s not only possible, but the most plausible until a better explanation is provided). Again, that’s not science, nor is it sound reasoning. If you can explain how an intelligence (and you need to describe that intelligence) caused the original effect, I will consider it a possible explanation, but SC does not explain how. SC states:

    1. nature couldn’t do it (ignorance of the science),
    2. here’s some math behind the assertion (a quick google search uncovers the problems behind the math);
    3. therefore, an intelligence did it (i.e. goddidit).

    • codemonkey says

      Annoys me to no end when people say “complexity, therefore design”. I have my own little version which no one else seems to share.

      If I saw a watch on a beach, I would conclude it’s designed because I know of no natural process that could form it, and because I have a rather exhaustive list of possible natural processes at work.

      If I found a teacup in orbit somewhere in the solar system, I would again conclude it’s designed. Accretion and stellar formation do not form teacups. There is no natural process that could put it there, and I have a rather exhaustive list.

      How you distinguish design from non-design is primarily a question of whether a natural process could have done it, do you have an exhaustive list of such processes, and secondly whether this is similar to known cultural artifacts.

      Dan Dennett demonstrates this well here:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_9w8JougLQ&feature=player_detailpage#t=187s

      If I saw either the sculpture or the natural rock formation, I would be quite credulous to design, though of course I would still look for natural causes. (Also, the complexity of a circle of rocks vs a functioning watch is incomparable.)

      Is my proposed distinguishing criteria reliable? Maybe not. Before humanity knew about the process of evolution by natural selection, this distinguishing criteria would have incorrectly concluded design.

      Can this process apply to the creation of the universe? Not really, no. We don’t know the physics of universe creation, so we cannot tell if natural processes can account for it or not.

      • says

        The other funny thing about the Watchmaker Argument and other design arguments inspired by it that no one seems to notice is that when you see a watch on a beach and think, “Ah, this couldn’t be accidental, it must be the product of design!” then what are you comparing it to? Obviously, given the context of the argument, it’s the beach.

        According to Paley’s own argument, watches prove beaches aren’t designed.

        • jdog says

          I always manage to forget about this when I’m responding to someone who uses a teleological argument. I wish I didn’t, it’s really the best response.

    • ericlounsbery says

      Michael, lets make this easy and put an end to such lengthy debates. I believe SCIENCE has show only one cause capable of originating order that has a high information content (specified complexity) in it like that found in dna, you and all your atheists friends mock this conclusion. So now is your chance to prove me wrong. Give me another cause sufficient to do the same. The evidence you give must show the originating of specified complexity from something that is not already ordered complexity. If you do so then all I have said fails. Simple huh?

      My position can be simply stated in this manner:

      Cause capable of originating specified complexity: INTELLIGENCE

      Evidence proving it is a sufficient cause:
      *Every book ever written.
      *Every computer
      *Every computer program
      *etc……………

      So please simply fill in the following:

      Your Cause:
      Your Evidence:

      Simple huh?

      • Rosemary says

        Real science does not agree with you. Therefore you are appealing to pseudo science.

        Posters on this thread have provided you with multiple examples of various kinds of complexity that are not caused by “intelligence” or “intent”. All you have to do is READ and UNDERSTAND. There is nothing more to it. Your case is blown.

        • ericlounsbery says

          My case is blown??? Hmmmmm… I did not notice the blanks filled in Rosemary. Maybe you could do it.

          Your Cause:
          Your Evidence:

          • Rosemary says

            You were referred to the material that has been written on this site which fills in your “blanks”. As you state, you did not “notice” them. I think that neatly sums up your problem.

            You have a severe case of cognitive tunnel vision that makes sure that your brain fails to register any material that you cannot twist to fit your pre-indoctrinated religious beliefs.

          • Dontpee-on-leg-andtellrain says

            Wow, more Charles Thaxton links. This guy is not even a scientist and you cite his work as “the real science”. Not that I’m impressed with an argument from authority but if this is the best (and other Discovery Institute members seemingly as the only source) you literally have zero scientific sources. Sure these guys may have degrees in a scientific field but that does not make them scientists. Where is their peer reviewed work in the relevant field?

            What? They don’t have any published works? Oh, I see. They write books sold to the public on Amazon? Neat.

          • Rosemary says

            The paper is 20 years out of date. It fails to show either knowledge or understanding of the modern theories of evolution or of advances in the relevant underpinning sciences. There are no references to any recent peer reviewed work in these areas.

            The author deliberately misquotes a passage from Charles Darwin: a tactic that is a hallmark of the con artists that devised the Creationist/Intelligent Design dogma.

            The main author (Charles B. Thaxton) has an out of date PhD in chemistry and post-doctoral studies in the history of science. He has no recognized expertise in any of the branches of science that are relevant to the scientific explanations of how evolution works to create new species by modification and descent.

            He is the author of “Of Pandas and People”, the book that was thoroughly discredited and ruled to be “religion” and “not science” in the Dover trail.

            This is definitely NOT science. If you believe that it is then you have been deluded by anti-evolution con artists. You would do well to read some REAL science for a change.

        • ericlounsbery says

          You are exactly correct and all the evidence supports my claim. I am still waiting for any other evidence that might clearly point in another direction. The fact that natural law cannot originate specified complexity sure seems to be supported by the fact that with a zillion other places in the universe where it could have done so, it has not!

      • JoshL says

        Eric,

        Since my comment seems to have gotten lost to you, I’ll share quickly again. Specified complexity is not science. If you can just link to something and expect us to just believe you, here I’ll do the same.

        http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

        Refute everything in there, then make your case to us that specified complexity is science. I really don’t think you understand it and are just parroting the work of I.D. proponents.

        • ericlounsbery says

          I honestly cannot believe that I am having to argue this point! How silly! Josh have you seriously even thought this through for a moment??? Science is based on testing and experiment. How can anyone for a second argue that intelligence cannot originate specified complexity?? I don’t mean to sound rude but it seems childish to argue something that is so clear. So the next logical question is, “Do we have another natural cause (law) that is capable of ORIGINATING specified complexity??” I don’t know of any and I have repeatedly asked for anyone in this blog to show evidence that another cause exists. And to the best of my knowledge the same laws at work on this planet are at work everywhere else in the Universe yet natural law has produced no specified complexity on any other planet. This is EXACTLY what you would expect from my worldview and EXACTLY the opposite of what I think you would expect from an atheist’s point of view.

          Eric Lounsbery

      • michael b says

        Good Grief (with apologies to Jeff Dee)

        I’ll keep this short Eric:

        “I believe SCIENCE has show only one cause capable of originating order that has a high information content (specified complexity) in it like that found in dna”.

        Yes, you believe that science has, but it hasn’t. Specified Complexity (like it’s counterpart, Irreducible Complexity) is not science.

        “Give me another cause sufficient to do the same. The evidence you give must show the originating of specified complexity from something that is not already ordered complexity. If you do so then all I have said fails.”

        Again, you do not seem to understand how science works. I do not need to provide another cause to prove you wrong. All that you have said fail because you’re arguing from ignorance. Again, you’re claiming that the assertion of an Intelligent cause is valid because I cannot provide you with a reasonable alternative. The assertions behind specified complexity must stand on its own and you have not demonstrated this. All you’ve done is given examples of cultural artifacts (book, computers, computer code, etc.) where we can DEMONSTRATE the processes involved in producing these artifacts. You continue to make the illogical leap that this must also necessarily apply to those things that we recognize in the natural world.

        Do you recognize the difference between cultural artifacts, and natural phenomena? A simple yes or no answer will suffice.

        And finally:
        “So please simply fill in the following:
        Your Cause:” I don’t have one
        “Your Evidence:” I don’t have a cause; therefore, I submit no evidence.

        This does not make anything you’ve presented valid. This is Argument from Ignorance. Science does not work like this.

      • codemonkey says

        Michael, lets make this easy and put an end to such lengthy debates. I believe SCIENCE has show only one cause capable of originating order that has a high information content (specified complexity) in it like that found in dna, you and all your atheists friends mock this conclusion. So now is your chance to prove me wrong. Give me another cause sufficient to do the same. The evidence you give must show the originating of specified complexity from something that is not already ordered complexity. If you do so then all I have said fails. Simple huh?

        I assume you’re talking about Shannon information theory. Thus, imagine a virtual DNA strand to which we apply a stand-in for natural selection by favoring certain qualities of the DNA strand. We then let it replicate, favoring certain strands. Repeat this for a while, and graph the Shannon information content. You will see the Shannon information measure increase over time. If you stop the selection and continue to let it replicate, you will see that the Shannon information measure drastically decrease until about noise.

        If you’re not talking about Shannon information theory, you first have to present your particular measure of information, with enough specification that we can apply it to stuff and get an output number (- the number is the number of bits or equivalent measure).

  28. Rothron says

    If the guy believes that trees have “specified complexity”, why all the mucking about with the origin of the universe when “proof by tree” is all he requires?

  29. azgeo says

    Aw, not another caller making my state look dumb! When’s the last time we had an atheist call from AZ? I can’t remember one. I’d call, but I wouldn’t want to bore the hosts and the audience with an excuse question.

    Great rebuttal though. I always forget, which one of you is “heicart”? I know Martin and Matt post under their own names. Russell is Kazim and I’m assuming tracieh is Tracie…. So, Jen? Anyways, it’s not important.

    One great thing about living in Arizona is that I got to study Geology at the wonderful School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, where I actually got to attend a colloquium where Dr Krauss gave that same presentation. It was quite an honor.

    There are many progressives and intellectuals in Arizona. It’s just too bad that the most embarrassing and brain-dead segments of the far right hold sway over our politics and our public image.

      • azgeo says

        Nice to hear. I’m in West Phoenix myself. I’ve lived here all my life, although I’d like to move in the next few years. How about yourself, if you don’t mind me asking?

        There are some skeptical and atheist organizations in the Valley, but they’re all on the east side, and the one at ASU is overstocked with Libertarians (or at least it was three years ago). I don’t feel lonely though. I work for a library where the staff are mostly quite liberal and at least half the people in my department are atheists.The redistricting brought us out of Linda Gray’s district (she’s the one who said “The world’s been here 6000 years, it’ll be fine without environmental legislation) and into Robert Meza’s (D).

        Say, if you live in Tucson have you ever been to the Pima Air & Space Museum? It is quite excellent for anyone with an interest in space or aviation.

    • ericlounsbery says

      AZGEO, would you agree with me that your “creators” are matter, time, energy, and chance? All of those things exist in what seems to be practically unlimited amounts throughout the Universe, why did your creators limit their creation of specified complexity to one planet? And since we know your creators had a beginning, what caused them?

      My creator is eternal and anything eternal would not need a cause otherwise it could not be eternal. My creator chose to create life on one planet for His own purpose.

      I look forward to your answers AZGEO. And since you won’t make AZ people look foolish, I trust your answers will be good. :)

      • Rosemary says

        There you go again: trying to put words in people mouths that do not reflect what they believe and have concluded from the evidence.

        According to the real scientists, potential energy and/or gravity are eternal and intrinsic to whatever it was that exploded and expanded into a universe. “Creation” is not the correct term to use to describe this beginning. In this scenario, the commencement of time and space did not need anything other than random chance and a kind of “bounce” that separated positive and negative potentials and created matter as the result. We do not know (and will probably never know) if there was any other universe prior to this event or whether there are other coexisting universes somewhere or somewhen. There is no proof that anything other than the potential for energy and/or gravity is eternal or that anything at all could exist prior to the commencement of time and space at the Big Bang. This includes anything that you would call “god”, unless you want to redefine “god” to mean something like a couple of oppositely charged potential energy particles.

        Your “creator” is neither proven nor probable, given what we know of the first few moments of the universe expansion.
        There is absolutely no valid evidence to support your claim to “know” that a particular form of “god” exists or what it has, can or will do. Nada. All you are doing is asserting things without proof. That is anti-scientific.

        There is no good reason to suppose that earth is the only place that contains what you call “specified complexity”. The more earth-like planets that we find, the higher the probability that there is some form of life somewhere else in the universe. There may be billions of planets that contain life forms.

        The minute you assert that a creator with an “eternal mind” created the universe your argument dissolves into a fantasy based on a series of notions for which you have zero proof.

        1. There is a single Eternal Mind that has no form, body, substance or reproductive ability. (Why stop at one?)
        2. This singular Mind existed before existence was possible. (Then, be definition, it cannot exist.)
        3. This singular Mind created the universe in the instant before space and time began. (No such instant could occur.)
        4. This eternal Mind has no matter but can manipulate matter. (By what process is this possible? Magic?)
        5 This Eternal Mind has at least the major characteristics of your indoctrinated version of “god”. (The chances of your version being correct are one divided by the millions of people with contradictory ideas and the properties or existence of the supernatural: that is, effectively zilch.)
        6. This Eternal Mind has choices about what it can do but no ability to change over time. (This means that it cannot learn or have its mind changed by prayer.)
        7. This Eternal Mind is utterly selfish and only does things for its own pleasure, amusement and purpose. (Humans are just toys that it can play with. This god is either immature or suffers from a personality disorder.)

        There is no rational reason to suppose that such a Super Mind exists, but if it did, it would be not be worthy of respect.

      • azgeo says

        I have no interest in “debating” a fool whose only desire is to try to convert me and not to listen honestly. I have never seen reason to believe in a god, while my belief in a naturalistic origin to the universe is based on mountains of data and the work of thousands of brilliant minds which I have been privileged to examine.

        Even if I felt you were interested in a legitimate dialogue, it’s unlikely you would understand most of the points I would bring up. It took me years of schooling and more years of personal study to learn the things I know about science. It is not my responsibility to educate you, and so I leave you in the hands of others who have more patience for the willfully ignorant.

        Rosemary’s response was quite excellent. Read it.

          • azgeo says

            Glad to hear it! Your response really covered all the bases, but I usually refuse to “debate” theists anyway. I have a comparison I like to use to explain why I this is:

            Imagine that you encountered someone from ancient Greece who travelled forward in time 2300 years or so. That Greek comes up to you and insists that lightning bolts are the javelins of Zeus and earthquakes are Atlas sneezing or something. In order to bring him to an understanding of these subjects, you’d have to explain hundreds of years of science about weather, electricity, plate tectonics, gravity and orbital mechanics. Now, if he was legitimately curious you’d gladly explain these things. But image that you start telling him this and he rejects it entirely. He claims that modern science knows nothing about the universe, and that Zeus and Atlas were proved millennia ago and are supported by mountains of evidence. He refuses to listen and just keeps arguing. Now imagine you meet hundreds or thousands of people with the same outdated ideas, the same smug ignorance, and the same complete refusal to even consider the evidence. Now you can see why I’m unlikely to waste my time on theists, or woomeisters, or conspiricists.

  30. ericlounsbery says

    My case is blown??? Hmmmmm… I did not notice the blanks filled in Rosemary. Maybe you could do it.

    Your Cause:
    Your Evidence:

    • says

      Eric, the thing I think you’re missing is the way truth works. I don’t mean that to be flippant, and I apologize for not being able to think of a more polite way to say it.

      What I mean is that truth is not uncovered by saying “if you can’t think of a better answer, my answer must be true”. In the 15th century, a healer might have said that disease was caused by imbalance of bodily humours. If that healer had said to his contemporaries, “if you can’t think of a better answer, the Bodily Humour Theory of Disease must be true”. His contemporaries in those days (before technologies, better techniques, and better mathematical models had allowed a better understanding of epidemiology) would not have been able to think of a better answer. That does not make the healer’s assertions any more true. In time, the better answer was found. The truth value of the “Bodily Humour Theory of Disease” did not at that point go from true to false. It remained as false as it had been before. The truth value just became known at that point.

      All that said, there are other problems with your “specified complexity” argument. The biggest is that you’ve created this category that’s meant to examine the origin of things, but you’re lumping together into this strained category things that are known to be created by purely manufactured processes with things that are known to be created by purely natural processes. In fact, the things that make up this category appear to have nothing in common except for the fact that they seem to have a lot of small moving parts (and even that isn’t held constant).

      • ericlounsbery says

        “Eric, the thing I think you’re missing is the way truth works. I don’t mean that to be flippant, and I apologize for not being able to think of a more polite way to say it.”

        I understand you were not being flippant, but thanks. :)

        “What I mean is that truth is not uncovered by saying “if you can’t think of a better answer, my answer must be true””

        Ethan I agree with you on this point. The difference is that they were “assuming” the four humors were the cause. Their case would have been established had science revealed the same thing. The problem is, it did not. So the cause was not the source of the effect. However, it my case, science can confirm that intelligence is a sufficient cause. And with all our advancements in science, I am simply saying that it still has uncovered only one cause capable or originating the effect of specified complexity. I have however left opportunity in another response for anyone to offer another cause as well as the supporting evidence.

        • says

          To continue with the disease analogy, however, the Germ Theory became accepted because of its truth value. But as we know today, it is not the only etiology of disease. There are plenty of illnesses caused by, for instance, genetics. So the “sufficiency” of Germ Theory is true, but once we learned more, we discovered that it was not a sufficient explanation for all disease, illness, and disorder. “Sufficiency”, as Matt said on the air, “is not sufficient.”

          But this “sufficiency” question is really a distraction. The bigger problem with your argument still must be addressed: The “specified complexity” category that lies at the heart of your argument is based on a pretty weak analogy.

          Thanks for understanding that I wasn’t trying to be inconsiderate. Conversations online tend to go off the rails too quickly, and this is one that I think is worth keeping on the rails.

          • ericlounsbery says

            Would it not be true, Ethan, that what I have said would still apply? After all, if I understand your point, the cause attributed to the disease was NOT actually the cause. Proposed causes (Germ Theory) could be eliminated by evidence which shows a more likely cause. Therefore if another cause capable of originating specified complexity could be found (like genetics was found as a cause along side of Germ theory) then we would have to see if either could be eliminated or if one could be found more likely to be the actual cause.

            thx

        • thaocarranza says

          “However, it my case, science can confirm that intelligence is a sufficient cause.”

          Provide the source where you have derived this assertion from.

          • ericlounsbery says

            thao though science can confirm it, it is self-evident from the your very request. You have intelligence. Using your intelligence you were able to arrange a significant number of letters in a organized arrangement that was high in information. That is proof that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate specified complexity.

          • says

            I have intelligence. I take a bag full of gravel and dump in out into a pile. Therefore, this is proof that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate piles of gravel.

            What it does not prove is that intelligence is the sole sufficient cause to originate piles of gravel.

          • thaocarranza says

            You’re either a prankster or a person who is completely ignorant of the scientific process.

            I asked you to point me in the direction of the scientific source for your assertion:
            “science can confirm that intelligence is a sufficient cause”.

            I didn’t ask what you think is sufficient or not sufficient.

            It’s pretty straight forward: where is the scientific publication that backs up your claims that “science can confirm that intelligence is a sufficient cause” ?

            Really Eric, this seems like some kind of joke.

          • thaocarranza says

            And it’s Théo. Not sure what’s going on with my name being shown as “thao”. Maybe it proofs that intelligence is necessary to provide quality web services. :D

          • codemonkey says

            As soon as you said “self-evident”, you left science and went somewhere else. Nothing in science is self-evident. Everything in science is falsifiable.

      • michael b says

        Well said ethanmyerson.

        I think that there are 3 points that Eric continues to miss:

        1. We understand his assertions despite his insistence that we’re missing the point.

        We reject his assertions because:

        2. The processes (Intelligence) that we can demonstrate to produce cultural artifacts (books, computers, computer code, etc.) do not apply to natural phenomena simply because we identify complexity in the things that we classify into these two broad categories.

        3. Just because we cannot provide an explanation to the cause of the “original” in the natural world does not validate the Specified Complexity assertion.

        • ericlounsbery says

          Michael

          Thank you for at least being honest enough to state that you can’t offer an explanation (CAUSE) for the origination of specified complexity. I have proven that intelligence is a sufficient cause, and apparently the only known sufficient cause. So I think that clearly makes my argument stronger than yours since you admit you have no cause to offer. So hopefully you see that the EVIDENCE not just EMOTION points to an intelligent first cause. thx

          Eric Lounsbery

          • mike says

            You haven’t proven a thing. You make up some stupid term like “specified complexity” and say that intelligence is the cause. Well specified complexity does not equal “life” and we have no intelligence that create life. Life started on Earth over 3 billion years ago.(Thats a length of time one cannot comprehend)

            Everything you are asserting can be explained by the Natural Law

  31. ericlounsbery says

    Martin Wagner says:
    September 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    I have intelligence. I take a bag full of gravel and dump in out into a pile. Therefore, this is proof that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate piles of gravel.

    What it does not prove is that intelligence is the sole sufficient cause to originate piles of gravel.

    ???? I AGREE! We also know that natural law can originate the same pile of gravel. So we may not conclude without additional evidence what the source was. But if that gravel was poured into piles that spelled out “MARTIN WAGNER IS A VERY SMART MAN THAT LIKES TO PLAY IN THE DIRT” I doubt anyone would think that natural processes were a sufficient cause for that effect.

    So if you reject that intelligence was the cause for the origination of specified complexity then simply propose what you believe is ANOTHER sufficient cause and the evidence to support that.

    • codemonkey says

      @eric

      So if you reject that intelligence was the cause for the origination of specified complexity then simply propose what you believe is ANOTHER sufficient cause and the evidence to support that.

      And again, we have done experiments which show that simple blind selection on virtual DNA strands plus replication does indeed raise the Shannon information measure of the population of virtual DNA strands over time. I can try to find the source if you want, but it should be readily apparent that this is true.

      If you don’t like Shannon information theory, then you have to propose another concrete measure of information which can be applied to DNA strands which produces an output measure, such as the number of bits or other equivalent measure.

      “Specified complexity” is simply a pseudo-science buzzword which has no method to measure information content, unlike Shannon information which can.

      • codemonkey says

        Well, I used the wrong technical terms. I was quoting what I remember from a PZ Myers talk. I said “Shannon”, when the paper in question probably used “Kolmogorov-Chaitin” to measure the information of the virtual DNA strands.

        For a basic primer (which I found useful and reminded me of stuff that I should already know from my degree, but didn’t take those electives), see:
        http://www.talkorigins.org/origins/postmonth/feb01.html

    • says

      And you’re doing Paley’s Watchmaker all over again. I would conclude that gravel spelling out a sentence would have been placed there by a person, because we can know, empirically, that people can spell words with gravel piles, while in nature gravel piles do not usually do that. Watches prove beaches weren’t designed.

      But let’s take the gravel example a step further. You’re overlooking the fact that humans are pattern seeking creatures. We see animals in the clouds, and yet it would be a stretch to argue that some divine cloudspinner is up there molding clouds into animal shapes for our entertainment. I personally have perceived letters and distinct shapes in things like gravel piles, rock formations, and cracks in the sidewalk. So have many people.

      This is where creationists trip up, in that every pattern they perceive is deemed to be the result of deliberate purpose. There’s a very basic mistake of confusing order (which is entailed by the nature of existence itself) with purposeful design, which is where the creationist red herring of “specified complexity” comes from. The phrase implies there is such a thing as unspecified complexity, for which you’ve provided no examples unless I missed them elsewhere in the thread. It also doesn’t seem to account for the idea that a thing can be complex, and complex in what appear to be extremely specific ways, and yet this complexity can be accounted for by natural processes. The “specified” part is where seeing the animal in the clouds comes in. Because it gives the appearance of being designed by an intellect for a purpose, the assumption is simply made that it was and can only have been so designed.

      It also puts you back in the embarrassing position of having to explain (usually through a sea of special pleading fallacies) who designed the designer.

    • larosita says

      Eric,

      If we found piles of gravel that spellled : “MARTIN WAGNER IS A VERY SMART MAN THAT LIKES TO PLAY IN THE DIRT” we would know, from our vast experience of what humans beings can and cannot do, that this was not designed by nature but by a human who could read and write in modern English and who was at least familiar with the existence of Martin Wagner. We have a great deal of valid confirmatory evidence that humans exist and do things like this.

      We would not conclude that a god had done this because we do not have any tangible evidence of the actual existence of such mythical creatures or tangible evidence that anything other than a human being with the stated characteristics could produce such an effect.

      One of the major problems with your theory (devised by people with no reputable education in science) is that it makes up a definition for “god” and simply imputes characteristics and abitlities to it. There is no valid evidence that a god exists, especially one that it is anything like the one you and your cronies believe exists. Besides, there are many many thousands of incompatible definitions of supernatural beings. Even if one existed the odds that it would be your version is remote.

      On the other hand, we do have overwhelming tangible evidence that nature exists. We also know of several credible mechanisms by which what you choose to call “specified complexity” can arise without the need for the agency of any of earth’s animals or any other form of intelligence. Those who have valid credentials in the relevant sciences can provide overwhelming evidence of how nature can or might do these things. Darwin is acknowledged as the first person who supplied a detailed explanation of who this happens for earthly life, and possibly for any other type of life that we may eventually find in the universe. Since the publication of “The origen of the species” the elementary explanation of modification by descent has been expanded and improved by many other branches of science, especially genetics and hemotology. The science of abiogenesis has come up with several plausible mechanisms by which life itself can have originated on earth without any need of mindful intent or direction.

      The only people who dispute these common internationally accepted explanations belong to a zealous, but very small band of religiously motivated individuals who have little grasp or knowledge of the relevant sciences and no wish to obtain it. They try to impose their ignorant version of the generation and development of the universe and life on earth by picking small holes in scientific areas in which they are incompetent and then claiming that this is sufficient to prove their alternative explanation. They provide no valid evidence or any testable theory of how the universe and eartly life actually came to exist. This is neither logical or scientific. Ergo, people who believe in the unsupported hypothesis that the universe and everything in it was created by an incredibly complex intelligent mind that conforms to their conception of a diety are arguing from a position of scientific ignorance and material incompetence.

      Come back when you can support your contentions with a viable testable theory plus valid evidence to support it. Merely attempting to pick holes in subjects which you do not have the competence to understand or assess will not suffice.

  32. says

    “Would it not be true, Ethan, that what I have said would still apply? After all, if I understand your point, the cause attributed to the disease was NOT actually the cause. Proposed causes (Germ Theory) could be eliminated by evidence which shows a more likely cause. Therefore if another cause capable of originating specified complexity could be found (like genetics was found as a cause along side of Germ theory) then we would have to see if either could be eliminated or if one could be found more likely to be the actual cause”

    Yes, absolutely. That’s the ongoing process of science. But nowhere in that process do the participants say, “OK – unless you can show me another proposition, the one we have is true.” And further, you don’t see practitioners of science extending their conclusions by weak analogy to places where they don’t belong. Again, I may be misunderstanding you, but it looks to me like that’s what you’re doing.

    The problem is that “the origin of specified complexity”, as I’ve understood your definition, is a bit of a nonsense thing to try to find. Just so I understand you, we’re looking for the thing (entity, concept, force) that is able to “originate” specified complexity, which is a category that contains books, mollusks, cells, cellphones, plants, and humans, and does not contain gravel and beaches.

    Incidentally, you keep stating that it is intelligence that created books, computers, and computer programs, but it is not. It is intelligent agents. And in fact, it’s a very specific subset of intelligent agents. It’s humans and humans alone who have done that*. Should we further instantiate your argument that all mollusks, trees, humans, and hummingbirds are the product of man? After all, it is man who has created the only examples of “specified complexity” that you’ve given.

    ===

    * I’m willing to include the artificial intelligence agents that have created books, music and algorithms as human adjuncts, or not, but we can have that sidebar conversation later.

      • larosita says

        You are correct :-)

        However, telling which ones are man-made (with intent) and which are made by nature (with no intent) is not as easy as it looks. You should have no trouble identifying the photos of ancient houses as man-made, but you might have quite a bit of trouble figuring out what else is man-made in that collection.

    • ericlounsbery says

      Sorry. I don’t have a facebook so I cannot answer your question. If you can send a different link I will do my best to respond.

      thx

      Eric Lounsbery

  33. John says

    Will Man Move Forward or Backwards? Will man create peace or create more chaos? for as I watch from my tiny little spot on this tiny little planet among billions and billions of other planets in the universe I start to wonder what the future holds for mankind. I see mankind divided like a bunch of fools…. they argue on just about everything, for many have no clue if mankind continues to remain at war with itself that man will face great sorrow in the end.

    All of mankind’s gods will NEVER come for the help of fragile man, they need to accept that magical beings are not coming to aid us with their super magic skills, for science and people are what we have to move forward, and perhaps in the future man will realize we are not alone in the massive universe that’s full of wonder that makes any man’s jaw drop to the ground, but in till then we are left to fight for our-self’s, so why wait for the gods or a god and goddesses any longer? man needed help a long time ago and yet they remain as silent as one can get….they’re all man made. all these current gods will die with time……they will indeed.

    To all who read this keep your eyes and ears open, for we never know what discoveries await us. religions and magical gods will be pushed further back in the trash can as long as science advances and knowledge increases….it’s harsh….but so be it.

    I commend all the non-believers that speak up in some way or form.

    Peace!

  34. ullrichfischer says

    This is one of your better episodes. Quite often, I have to skip past your phone calls when the bonehead you are being patient with is just too persistently and egregiously stupid for me to put up with. Eric, on the other hand, despite being completely ignorant of the concepts of probability, deep time, and evolution, at least has some ability to string logical thoughts together. I liked Matt’s distinction between sufficient and necessary causes. It occurs to me that the same argument Eric was making to “prove” God did it could just as well “prove” that the universe we experience is an elaborate computer simulation being watched over by the equivalent of a teenage boy in a higher level of reality… maybe one of those assholes who enjoy burning ants with a magnifying glass on a sunny day. The other point which might be raised with the Erics of this world is that they should try playing Conway’s Game of Life so they can get a practical grasp of how complexity can arise from simple initial conditions and simple rules of evolution.

    While I agree with Tracy and Matt that there are things we can’t (yet and possibly not ever) know about the origin of our observable universe, I disagree that we can’t prove (at least beyond a reasonable doubt) the God(s) as defined by all the religions which have one (or more) is either logically impossible, or if some more sophisticated theologians have tweaked their definitions to remove the logical inconsistencies, so hugely improbable as to be proven not to exist beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Yahweh may have been credible, despite having the same character flaws as those which make the tin-pot dictators of ancient and modern times such intolerable assholes, as the creator of the tiny Ptolemaic Geocentric Universe, but now that we know that the observable (and observed) universe is so vastly larger and more magnificent than that, it becomes less and less believable that it was all thrown together in a few days by a jealous God who was desperately concerned about the sexual proclivities and mythologies of such infinitesimal specs of dust as we are in his creation.

    Now that we have computers capable of simulating complexity, it becomes more and more credible that all the complexity in the universe evolved from simple initial conditions and rules. Where those conditions and rules came from, neither Eric, nor I, nor anyone else knows and that’s ok. None of the laws of nature suggest that we need to or even can know everything about everything.

    Perhaps the most telling criticism of magical thinking is “Now What?” If you believe that there are invisible and unknowable spirits arbitrarily intervening in our world, and that it is all based on magic, what is the point of scientific inquiry or any constructive activity? You might as well crawl back into a cave and spend the rest of your (short) life praying.

    • Rosemary says

      Exactly.

      All of the changes that have made life better for humans have stemmed from scientific research and manual labor. Prayer has done nothing but make people feel emotionally and temporarily better about their plight or the plights of others. It has consistently failed in comparison with actual physical effort.

      The entire discipline of medicine is involved in correcting and compensating for the poor design of humans and the problems humans face when confronted by other creatures that appear designed to destroy them or make life miserable for them. Other scientific disciplines help humans overcome their design inadequacies in relation to earthly environments that are better suited to other forms of life (in the sea, for example) or to no life at all (magma).

      In other words, the evidence suggests that biology is poorly designed and requires intelligent humans to fix or compensate for it. No supernatural force has shown any clear inclination or ability to correct the errors.

      • ericlounsbery says

        Regarding prayer: I agree with you for the most part. But if you knew the God of the Bible you would know why that is the case. You would also know that it should be expected because prayers are not answered simply because they are offered, no more than monopoly money is accepted at Walmart just because it is offered.

        Regarding design: You cannot tell if the design of something is perfect unless you known the intent the designer had when designing it. Secondly, I will reject theism the day you or any other atheist can design and manufacture a human body better than the one designed by God. Isn’t it something that what you seem so confident originated without intelligence, you nor your atheists community cannot create with intelligence? Hmmmmm…..

        • JE Hoyes says

          Since the planet’s surface is mostly covered with water, humans would be better designed if they had gills. Perhaps gills and lungs to cover land-sea eventualities. And wings, wings would be ace. If I had designed humans I would have made sure they were impervious to disease and could fly. So, an all-powerful, intelligent designer would certainly have given us gills and wings. Along with night vision. But, if the god from the bible created humans, he would only have to give them knees on which to beg for his forgiveness and kneel down in pointless devotion. I possess more than knees, therefore god doesn’t exist.

          • ericlounsbery says

            J E Hoyes,

            Notice how you fail to understand the comment I wrote that you are responding to? First you cannot design anything close to what exists because you have no idea how to design a living cell. Secondly, you fail to understand that the quality of the design is directly related to the PURPOSES for which the designer made His creation. Unless you know his mind, which you clearly do not, then you have no idea if it was the best design for His purposes. And even above that, a less than optimum design does not change the fact that it was designed. Was a Yugo designed? Of course it was, yet who would say it was the best design possible. Yet it may have been the best possible design for what the creators of it had intended to accomplish: the ability to sell a new car at a price point lower than any other car on the market!

            Eric Lounsbery

  35. ericlounsbery says

    So I am a fool? So the fool is the one who says that the source of the complexity we see in the world came from a more intelligent cause than himself since he has no idea how to create such highly complex systems; the fool is the one who believes men are morally culpable for their actions (since as a naturalist you cannot believe such a thing); the fool assigns the same cause to the origination of specified complexity both when he does and doesn’t know the source, instead of rejecting the cause because it may point in a direction he may not like; the fool follows the only man evidence has ever shown to have risen from the dead?? Hmmmm…I will gladly be the fool!

    • JoshL says

      Eric,

      I’m just curious if you recognize that the vast majority of scientists in related fields to not see specified complexity as science.

      http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf

      Can you read through this paper and respond to the criticisms of specified complexity? It appears to me that you are just parroting ID proponents like William Dembski without being able to explain the scientific evidence for specified complexity or site studies or research papers published in scientific journals for something you want us to believe. As far as I’m concerned, until you cross this hurdle, you are just floundering around in your own word salad.

    • JE Hoyes says

      According to the bible (king James), Jesus wasn’t the only person to rise from the dead. Of course, the bible is a compendium of apocryphal stories, so it hardly stands as evidence of anything other than man’s ability to weave a good tale of derring-do into a known landscape.One might just as well cite the Mahabharata and Ramayana as proof of reincarnation. Or the doings of Joseph Smith or Mohammed as proof that angels exist.

      • ericlounsbery says

        J E. your comparisons here show a clear ignorance of what separates the Bible from any other religious work on the planet. I don’t say that in a condescending way, but rather I say if from a position of being able to defend the uniqueness of the Bible compared to any other writings on planet earth. And the uniqueness of the Bible in regards to what I am speaking, is chiefly related to the immense amount of evidence that proves it to be the Word of God.

        • JE Hoyes says

          ericlounsbery said: “…the uniqueness of the Bible compared to any other writings on planet earth… in regards to what I am speaking, is chiefly related to the immense amount of evidence that proves it to be the Word of God.”

          In all these many centuries nobody has ever proved that a god exists, not of any kind. So even if you and your army think that a particular book is the word of a god, this doesn’t make it so. The bible isn’t any more unique than the Bhagavad Gita. Personally, I would suggest we keep looking for the mechanisms involved in our universal existence. Just saying god created it because it says so in a book compiled of scraps, adds nothing to the search for knowledge. Worse still, such closed-off thinking is detrimental to the understanding of our world and universe. If a creative mechanism exists, your best hope of understanding it and “knowing god” as it were, is through scientific endeavour, not by reading ancient apocrypha and grimoire. Fun though that might be, it ain’t truly productive.

          • ericlounsbery says

            For you to say that,” The bible isn’t any more unique than the Bhagavad Gita.” shows that you obviously know little to nothing about the Bible. Secondly, you said, “Just saying god created it because it says so in a book compiled of scraps, adds nothing to the search for knowledge.”…I agree completely, but I am not sure why you bring that up because that is not what I did, nor is it my approach to truth. I seek truth much like an judge in court room. I let each side make there case. However, I remind them that in a court room, what you believe, feel, think, etc….does not matter. It is what you can prove. I could easily prove Christianity in a courtroom, yet ask any Buddhist,Hindu,Mormon,etc..if they can proof what they believe. They know that can’t. Instead they say they believe what they do APART from evidence. Whereas I believe what I do BECAUSE OF THE EVIDENCE.

          • larosita says

            Ericlounsbery said:
            = =I seek truth much like an judge in court room. I let each side make there case. However, I remind them that in a court room, what you believe, feel, think, etc….does not matter. It is what you can prove. I could easily prove Christianity in a courtroom,= =

            No. You do not seek truth like a judge in a courtroom. Courtrooms require admissible evidence and there are strict rules for that. Almost all of what you have provided on this forum is not of a high enough evidentiary standard to be admitted as valid evidence in a court of law.

            = =The main Text Book.= =

            You could not use anything that is written in any version of the Christian Bible (Protestant, Catholic, Coptic) because it’s hearsay or, worse, multiple level hearsay (that is someone’s memory of hearsay of hearsay of hearsay).

            What appears to be written at first hand is mostly assertions without valid proof. Subjective feelings and visions are not admissible, personal recollection is not admissible unless the person can be cross-examined, and even then, human memory is known to be very unreliable, especially when retold several times.

            The contents of the New Testament are not corroborated by any independent historians. There is a forged account (Josephus) and there are accounts that state what some Christians believed at the time, but no direct evidence of any of the gospel events.

            The earliest writer, Paul, never met Jesus of Nazareth and is strangely silent about his earthly life or ministry. Paul only writes what he has received from visions that have sufficient commitant factors (recurrence, loss of muscle strength, temporary blindness, religiosity, conversion behavior) to qualify for a probable case of focal epilepsy of the frontal lobes.

            All the gospels were written several generations after Jesus of Nazareth is supposed to have lived and died. Mark was written first and stopped at the death of Jesus. The resurrection story and the commission to preach the gospel to non-Jews was added by other writers at a later date. The accounts “according to” Matthew and Luke plagiarize Mark.

            There is archeological evidence that the town of Bethlehem in Judea (as “prophesied” in some old testament writings) did not exist at that time. There was no Roman census of the type described. Herod was not ruling Israel at the time.

            The stories in the Old Testament are even more likely to be fiction. Main stream archeologist’s state that the further back in time the Old Testament goes the less likely it is to be based on even partial fact. The Exodus from Egypt is believed to have never happened. There is zero evidence of large numbers of Jews in Egypt during the stated times. There is zero evidence of Jews wandering around the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years. If the stories were true then we would expect to find lots of evidence, not just a little, and certainly not zilch. The evidence indicates that the Jews branched off from the Canaanites. Artifacts place them in the area inhabited by this group for some considerable time. There is no time for a sizeable number of them to have been captured and transported to Egypt.

            Many of the stories are inconsistent with the archeologically based historical facts. For example, the walls of Jericho were flattened several hundred years before Joshua was supposed to have done it.

            The books are internally inconsistent, and so on and on. It would definitely not be accepted as sound, or even valid, evidence in a court of law.

            = = Philosophical arguments for ancient philosophers and their modernized equivalents = =

            These have been thoroughly debunked and the details are taught to students of international level introductory philosophy classes.

            There is no tangible evidence that supports the conjectures, claims and assumptions of these theological philosophers. Things that are imagined or conjectured are not acceptable in a court of law unless they are confirmed by physical evidence. There is none. Furthermore, the evidence is not sufficiently compelling to lead humans who have studied the material to an unforced universal consensus on the characteristics of the god you claim exists external to indoctrinated imagination.

            Testimony of people who think they have observed miracles wrought by their particular version of god would not be accepted in court without independent impartial external verification that meets the rigorous requirements of scientific investigations. There is none.

            = = Prior legal precedence = =

            Previous courts of law have determined that Creationism is an un-falsifiable religious claim and not a falsifiable scientific hypothesis or well-supported theory. They determined that the proponents are relatively ignorant of the scientific theories they seek to undermine. These courts also determined that the proponents of these claims were untrustworthy and, in several prominent cases, deliberate liars who were convicted and legally punished for fraud and perjury.

            In all cases where religious beliefs have been pitted against scientific conclusions, the religious beliefs have failed to be supported and the scientific case has been convincingly confirmed. There has never been a case where a consensus scientific conclusion has been discarded and replaced by a religious belief unless that replacement has been brutally enforced by religious authorities.

            The Bible is not a science text book and those who try to interpret it as such are not practicing real science.

            = = Summary = =

            Your case would be thrown out of court in five minutes on the grounds that no admissible evidence had been tabled.

    • jdog says

      “So I am a fool?”

      Yes.

      “So the fool is the one who says that the source of the complexity we see in the world came from a more intelligent cause than himself since he has no idea how to create such highly complex systems;”

      Ask any biologist. We have a lot of ideas on how life arose and came to the point that it’s at now and the testing we’ve done leads us to the conclusion that we’re probably right.

      “the fool is the one who believes men are morally culpable for their actions (since as a naturalist you cannot believe such a thing);”

      If you mean “culpable” as “responsible” and “men” as “people”, then many of us actually agree with you and we’ll thank you not to assume you know our positions better than we do. We just don’t believe a god has any part of the process; we believe we’re morally responsible to each other, because there are real world consequences for doing so.

      “the fool assigns the same cause to the origination of specified complexity both when he does and doesn’t know the source, instead of rejecting the cause because it may point in a direction he may not like;

      Once again, you still haven’t proven that life is “specified complexity”. How many times must we tell you that this is both the single weakest and most necessary point of your argument?

      “the fool follows the only man evidence has ever shown to have risen from the dead??”

      You forgot about Lazarus. Also, the anthology of myths you call the bible isn’t evidence.

      “Hmmmm…I will gladly be the fool!”

      As a pastor, you have a vested survival interest in continuing to perpetuate this nonsense. Your very livelihood depends on it. Could you at least acknowledge that this makes you subject to an incredible amount of psychological bias in favor of your position?

      • ericlounsbery says

        I am not a pastor and have not been one for years, so my livelihood does not depend on my ability to defend my position. Secondly, for you to write that I have to prove that “life” is specified complexity is childish of you jdog. I could understand it if I was responding to someone who had never considered this issue before, but that is not you. You are very intelligent and very familiar with science, yet I have to wonder if you choose to argue just so you don’t have to follow where you know the evidence might lead. But that is ok, jdog, if you want to believe that natural law can produce life go ahead, I suppose next you will tell me you never heard of Louis Pasteur.

        • jdog says

          Your definition of “specified complexity” is (in a nutshell) “designed by an intelligence”, as I understand it. I have considered this issue and I see no good evidence that life was designed by an intelligence.

          You are seeking to prove that life was designed by an intelligence, so yes, you do have to prove that life is specified complexity. That’s the assertion that you are making. I do recall now that you didn’t understand that the person making the claim has the burden of proof. We can revisit that briefly, if you still don’t get it.

          However, these continual attempts at circumlocution make me wonder if you have any evidence at all to support your argument.

          • ericlounsbery says

            Jdog, I have to prove life is specified complexity???? Are you serious??? I have the burden of proof?? Let me ask you Jdog, what is MORE specified and complex than LIFE???? Until you can answer that I don’t think there is any need to respond to your purposely mindless questions.

          • says

            For the 20th time:

            Please provide an example of unspecified complexity, as well as an explanation of what you think a non-God-designed universe might look like.

          • jdog says

            Please correct me if I’m wrong on this, but it just occurred to me that you appear to view the assertion “life is specified complexity” as a self-evident claim. Is this the case? Because I assure you, it is not self-evident to anyone who believes in evolution (including myself). It might help if you think of the theory of evolution as “unspecified complexity” or (perhaps more correctly) as “aspecified complexity”.

            Is life complex? Sure. Is it specified (ie designed by an intelligence)? I have seen no good evidence to support that idea; it is not self-evident. This is why evidence needs to be provided.

            You’ve mentioned several times in various replies here that you have a mountain of evidence for your assertion, but when asked to provide some, you only reply with denigration and excuses.

          • larosita says

            @ericlounsbery

            Yes, you DO have to provide reasonable proof of your claims.

            At this point, we cannot accept your basic premises because they are grossly inconsistent with what real scientists know about life on earth. You must first provide valid and incontrovertible evidence of an invisible disembodied intelligent designer and then outline and fully demonstrate a method by which this disembodied entity could produce life forms that look as if they evolved haphazardly from one proto-cell. Until you can do that we have no reasonable alternative but to accept the overwhelmingly supported scenario explained by the modern theories of developmental evolution (which are even more coherent than the original Darwinian one).

            The better a person’s science education, the less biology looks as it it were competently and benevolently designed, and the more it appears to have been haphazardly designed to fulfil only the function of successful reproduction. With a few modern exceptions, human inventions have not been designed to be self-replicating but if they were, then they might be better designed than nature’s offerings.

            Biological life is not as streamlined as machines and inventions designed by humans. Unlike human inventions, biological designs contain material which is broken, redundant, detrimental or irrelevant to the purpose for which it appears to have been developed.

            The development of life is no longer the sole preserve of nature. Humans have already developed new (artificially produced) life forms and modified old ones. The first synthetic bacterium was developed by Craig Venter’s laboratory in 2010. http://www.livescience.com/6486-live-organism-synthetic-genome-created.html

            The early experiments in abiogensis (the development of life from inert substances) simply provided evidence that it was possible to produce self-replicating chemistry from inert material and provided a range of plausible and tested methods for producing the other components that make up a simple replicating life form and a method by which simple RNA can carry the first genetic messages and then evolve into the more complex DNA protein. We are now at the point where we have designd and manufactured cells that replicate, evolve and clump together in colonies (the first step to forming multi-cellular life forms.)

            The more we learn of the genetic code, the more sophisticated our computers and the better our laboratory techniques, the easier it is to design and develop simple life forms that are designed with the needs of humans in mind and easier it becomes to modify complex life forms to remove the flaws without creating new problems.

    • codemonkey says

      the fool is the one who believes men are morally culpable for their actions (since as a naturalist you cannot believe such a thing);

      Here, you seem to be implicitly making an argument for objective morality. I declare that the onus is on you to present that argument, and and onus is on you to explain how the argument would fall apart in a hypothetical universe without objective morality. Aka how you could falsify your claim. If you can’t do that, then your claim is tautological (e.g. true by definition), vacuous (e.g. empty), and likely equivocation (more on that later if you actually make the argument).

  36. codemonkey says

    @ericlounsbery
    I’m still waiting for an acknowledgment about the experiment which showed that virtual DNA strands when undergoing replication and blind selection do have the information content increase over time, and when the blind selection is removed then the information content decreases quite rapidly.

    I’m much more interested in your arguments of how we know there’s an afterlife, belief gets you in, god is not evil, prayer works, etc. Discussing whether there is a first cause, which you arbitrarily label god, isn’t very interesting, nor does it really affect my life.

    • ericlounsbery says

      I don’t think I have argued against the point you are making here. I am aware that something that already possesses specified complexity can, produce the same and possibly even a greater degree of it. My point is that natural law cannot originate it. So nature reproducing specified complexity does not void my argument here in the slightest. What would void it is if we saw natural law create specified complexity from something that was not already possessing specified complexity.

      Eric Lounsbery

      • codemonkey says

        @eric

        Ok. Be clear now. Are you stating that there must be an intelligent cause to big bang theory, or are you stating that there must have been an intelligence which created the first DNA strand and/or the first cell?

        From where I’m sitting, there is plenty of good evidence that it’s plausible the first cell formed by random chance. Google has plenty of experiments and conjecture.

        Even if we didn’t have this evidence, saying “I don’t know, thus god must have done it” is a bullshit argument. It’s been demonstrated bullshit time and time again. Before, thunder was a god throwing a hammer. Now we know the natural science behind it. Before, the sun was a big ball of fire pulled by a god on a chariot. Now we know the natural science behind it. “I don’t know, thus god” is a completely bullshit argument.

        As for the first cause argument. I don’t care. I really don’t. Let me know how you know that the first cause is not evil, that there is an afterlife, belief that the first cause’s name is Jesus and praying to him gets you in the afterlife, prayer works, etc. The mere existence of a first cause is irrelevant. Whether it is true or not will not change how I behave at all.

        Finally, note that if you cannot provide a specific means which may demonstrate that you are wrong, then I and everyone else stopped caring 5 minutes ago.

        For example, I know that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. In short, I know this because of spectroscopy which shows that other stars are just like our sun, because of the use of standard candles, specifically type Ia supernova, to know the distance to far away objects, and because of relativity and lorentz transformations to understand red shifting. These together entail a big bang which happened about 13.7 billion years ago. If you could demonstrate any link in that chain of reasoning wrong with the introduction of new evidence, then I would change my mind.

        You need something equivalent. You need to ask yourself “What if I’m wrong, and how would I know it?”. That is called critical thinking. Once you figure that out, let us know the specifics of how we might know if you’re wrong. If you can’t do that, none of us care at all.

  37. troopdawg says

    eeeegadss. Please tell a caller who off the bat says “i’ve got three quick points I want to slip in here but first” to just narrow it down to the best 30 seconds he’s got PERIOD. after the first caller wasting sooooo much time with a nonsense nothing argument. would have liked to see more calls taken from the bad ass host combo.

  38. ericlounsbery says

    Rosemary says:
    September 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    The paper is 20 years out of date. It fails to show either knowledge or understanding of the modern theories of evolution or of advances in the relevant underpinning sciences. There are no references to any recent peer reviewed work in these areas.

    Rosemary if it is so out of date then you ought to have no problem listing another source besides intelligence that is capable of originating specified complexity. Please state the cause(s) for me ok? thx.

    Eric Lounsbery

    • larosita says

      @Eric Clownsberry

      You keep asking: What other source besides intelligence is capable of originating specified complexity

      The reason you are getting nothing that you consider to be an answer to your question is that you do not recognize the responses that you are getting as “answers”.

      We have pointed out on multiple occasions that it is a stupid question and therefore there cannot be a sensible answer. We have supplied you with reasons why it is a stupid question.. We have provided you with links to material that proves that it is a stupid question. For any reasonable person that should be sufficient to stop them from continuing to ask the question as if it made sense. The fact that you continue to do so proves that you are completely incapable of adjusting your thinking to accommodate reality. I doubt that you have what it takes to change that unfortunate cognitive deficiency.

      I repeat, “specified complexity” is an invalid construct that was dreamed up by pseudo scientists. It has been thoroghaly trounced, both in scientific literature and in courts of law. Anyone who continues to cling to the delusion that it makes any sense sense shows themselves to be either very poorly educated or a very poor scholar. There is therefore no good reason why anyone here should consider you to be worthy of anything more than rolled eyes and face palms.

      In the following posts I will supply (or re-supply) resource material that definitively destroys Demski’s speciously presented pseudo-science, not because I believe that you are likely to read it, or that you have the capacity to understand it if you do, but because the other readers on this site will probably manage to do both. This should help them to re-educate those who have been deliberately mis-educated by shysters like yourself.

      • ericlounsbery says

        Clownsberry???? LOL LOL Wow!! How mature!

        Well all of your posts might hold weight if you were debating William Dembski. Sounds like you have a personal issue with him. Maybe you should call him and discuss it. In the meantime let me say it is a great tactic when you are powerless to defend against an argument to call the question/argument “stupid”! However, let me remind you of the mountain of evidence supporting my claim and the necessity of your side trying desperately to redirect the discussion. My claim is simply that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate a system containing a high amount of specific information — and that natural law + chance is NOT capable of ORIGINATING such complex information. So to respond by quoting anything from Dembski that refers to any system that already possesses high complex specificity and how it might gain or lose information, is not even pertinent to this discussion. Forget about Dembski for now, and simply deal with my argument. To overthrow what I have claimed all you need to do is show where natural law + chance produces highly complex information (specified complexity) from something that is not already containing such. I cannot wait to read your response and see how you attempt to misdirect the task at hand again. I am beginning to think you might have a career in politics with your skill at avoiding dealing with the questions asked you. Every place in the entire Universe works to support my claim that natural law + chance cannot produce high information like seen in DNA. The Law of Cause and Effect seem to clearly show the origin of such things to be something that must possess intelligence. It must be scary to think you built your whole worldview on a theory that both your heart and the evidence seems to clearly contradict.

        Eric Lounsbery

        • larosita says

          Ericlounsbery:

          = =“Forget about Dembski for now, and simply deal with my argument. “= =

          It is not your argument. The originator of the argument that “specified complexity implies intelligent design” is Demski, not you. It has been well demonstrated on this forum that Demski’s argument has been soundly defeated. Your less sophisticated version [that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate a system containing a high amount of specific information, and that natural law + chance is not capable of originating such complex information.] is even less tenable.

          Simply repeating, like a broken record playing in a deaf man’s basement, that your (=Demski’s) argument is supported by a “mountain of evidence”, the “law or cause and effect”, “every place in the universe”, good science and valid logic will not make it so. It just confirms that you are a poor scholar, have difficulty reading and comprehending real science and are easily duped by con artists that appear to support your indoctrinated religious beliefs or whatever it is that makes you feel deliciously superior to the people who live in the real world.

          = = all you need to do is show where natural law + chance produces highly complex information= =

          This has been already been done, several times. You have either not read the material or not understood it.

          The evidence that “your” (Demski’s) argument is exploded by the application of real science, mathematics and logic is strewn all over these pages. If you cannot understand enough of it to see that it totally invalidates your line of reasoning, that is your problem. The rest of us can.

          You are asking all the wrong questions. You should be asking why it is that Demski’s argument (or your simplistic version of it) has only convinced a very small minority of (mostly American) Christians. When you have figured that out then you can ask why there is almost perfect rejection of the Demski hypothesis by scientists working in the relevant fields (biology, bio-chemistry, genetics, palentology, hemotology, medical science, astro-physics, archeology, and many more) and why almost the only scientists that appear to be convinced by your line of reasoning are poorly educated by comparison or are working in unrelated fields (engineering, economics, physical chemistry, space science). The exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

          • ericlounsbery says

            Dembski’s argument? Hmmmm…that argument was proposed by Dr. Norman Geisler long before it ever appeared in Dembski’s work:

            “When Skeptics Ask” by Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks 1990 pgs. 14-15

            “Also, the greater the design, the greater the designer. Beavers make log dams, but they have never constructed anything like Hoover Dam. Likewise, a thousand monkeys sitting at typewriters would never write Hamlet. But Shakespeare did it on the first try. The more complex the design, the greater the intelligence required to produce it. History of the Argument from Design
            “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well” ( Ps. 139:13–14 ). Responding to the birth of
            the Enlightenment and the scientific method, William Paley (1743–1805) insisted that if someone found a watch in an empty field, he would rightly conclude that there had been a watchmaker because of the obvious design. The same must be said of the design found in nature. The skeptic David Hume even stated the argument in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, as have several others. However, there have been at least as many objectors to it as there have been proponents of it. The classic exponent was William Paley, and the most noted opponent was David Hume. We ought to mention here that there is a difference between simple patterns and complex design. Snowflakes or quartz crystals have simple patterns repeated over and over, but have completely natural causes. On the other hand, we don’t find sentences written in stone unless some intelligent being wrote them. That doesn’t happen naturally. The difference is that snowflakes and crystals have a simple repeated pattern. But language communicates complex information, not just the same thing over and over. Complex information occurs when the natural elements are given boundary conditions. So when a rockhound sees small round rocks in a stream, it doesn’t surprise him because
            natural erosion rounds them that way. But when he finds an arrowhead he realizes that some intelligent being has deliberately altered the natural form of the rock. He sees
            complexity here that cannot be explained by natural forces. Now the design that we are talking about in this argument is complex design, not simple patterns; the more complex that design is, the greater the intelligence required to produce it. That’s where the next premise comes in. The design we see m the universe is complex. The universe is a very intricate system of forces that work together for the mutual benefit of the whole. Life is a very complex development. A single DNA molecule, the building block of all life, carries the same amount of information as one volume of an encyclopedia. No one seeing an encyclopedia lying in the forest would hesitate to think that it had an intelligent cause; so when we find a living creature
            composed of millions of DNA-based cells, we ought to assume that it likewise has an intelligent cause. Even clearer is the fact that some of these living creatures are intelligent
            themselves Even Carl Sagan admits: The information content of the human brain expressed in bits is probably comparable to
            the total number of connections among neurons—about a hundred trillion14 bits. If written out in English, say, that information would fill some twenty million volumes, as many as in the world’s largest libraries. The equivalent of twenty million books is inside the heads of every one of us. The brain is a very big place in a very small space. The neurochemistry of the brain is astonishingly busy, the circuitry of a machine more
            wonderful than any devised by humans. 4 Some have objected to this argument on the basis of chance. They claim that when the dice are rolled any combination could happen. However, this is not very convincing for several reasons. First, the design argument is not really an argument from chance but from design, which we know from repeated observation to have an intelligent cause. Second, science is based on repeated observation, not on chance. So this objection to the design argument is not scientific. Finally, even if it were a chance (probability) argument, the chances are a lot higher that there is a designer. One scientist figured the odds for a one-cell animal to emerge by pure chance at 1 in 104000. The odds for an infinitely more
            complex human being to emerge by chance are too high to calculate! The only reasonable conclusion is that there is a great Designer behind the design in the world.”

            So I think that proves you wrong about it being Dembski’s argument. Secondly, why don’t you show me where my question was answered anywhere here in this forum since you seem so sure it has been? Once again, I think you will find yourself proven wrong.
            thx
            Eric Lounsbery

        • jdog says

          In the meantime let me say it is a great tactic when you are powerless to defend against an argument to call the question/argument “stupid”! However, let me remind you of the mountain of evidence supporting my claim and the necessity of your side trying desperately to redirect the discussion.

          That’s an interesting statement, because when I asked you to present this evidence, you responded by calling my questions “mindless” and refusing to present the evidence.

    • larosita says

      From the current Wikipedia entry for Specified Complexity. You will find the supporting reference material listed on that site:

      The soundness of Dembski’s concept of specified complexity and the validity of arguments based on this concept are widely disputed. A frequent criticism (see Elsberry and Shallit) is that Dembski has used the terms “complexity”, “information” and “improbability” interchangeably. These numbers measure properties of things of different types: Complexity measures how hard it is to describe an object (such as a bitstring), information measures how close to uniform a random probability distribution is and improbability measures how unlikely an event is given a probability distribution.
      When Dembski’s mathematical claims on specific complexity are interpreted to make them meaningful and conform to minimal standards of mathematical usage, they usually turn out to be false. Dembski often sidesteps these criticisms by responding that he is not “in the business of offering a strict mathematical proof for the inability of material mechanisms to generate specified complexity”. On page 150 of No Free Lunch he claims he can demonstrate his thesis mathematically: “In this section I will present an in-principle mathematical argument for why natural causes are incapable of generating complex specified information.” Others have pointed out that a crucial calculation on page 297 of No Free Lunch is off by a factor of approximately 1065.
      Dembski’s calculations show how a simple smooth function cannot gain information. He therefore concludes that there must be a designer to obtain CSI. However, natural selection has a branching mapping from one to many (replication) followed by pruning mapping of the many back down to a few (selection). When information is replicated, some copies can be differently modified while others remain the same, allowing information to increase. These increasing and reductional mappings were not modeled by Dembski. In other words, Dembski’s calculations do not model birth and death. This basic flaw in his modeling renders all of Dembski’s subsequent calculations and reasoning in No Free Lunch irrelevant because his basic model does not reflect reality. Since the basis of No Free Lunch relies on this flawed argument, the entire thesis of the book collapses.
      According to Martin Nowak, a Harvard professor of mathematics and evolutionary biology “We cannot calculate the probability that an eye came about. We don’t have the information to make the calculation”.
      Dembski’s critics note that specified complexity, as originally defined by Leslie Orgel, is precisely what Darwinian evolution is supposed to create. Critics maintain that Dembski uses “complex” as most people would use “absurdly improbable”. They also claim that his argument is circular: CSI cannot occur naturally because Dembski has defined it thus. They argue that to successfully demonstrate the existence of CSI, it would be necessary to show that some biological feature undoubtedly has an extremely low probability of occurring by any natural means whatsoever, something which Dembski and others have almost never attempted to do. Such calculations depend on the accurate assessment of numerous contributing probabilities, the determination of which is often necessarily subjective. Hence, CSI can at most provide a “very high probability”, but not absolute certainty.
      Another criticism refers to the problem of “arbitrary but specific outcomes”. For example, if a coin is tossed randomly 1000 times, the probability of any particular outcome occurring is roughly one in 10300. For any particular specific outcome of the coin-tossing process, the a priori probability that this pattern occurred is thus one in 10300, which is astronomically smaller than Dembski’s universal probability bound of one in 10150. Yet we know that the post hoc probability of its happening is exactly one, since we observed it happening. This is similar to the observation that it is unlikely that any given person will win a lottery, but, eventually, a lottery will have a winner; to argue that it is very unlikely that any one player would win is not the same as proving that there is the same chance that no one will win. Similarly, it has been argued that “a space of possibilities is merely being explored, and we, as pattern-seeking animals, are merely imposing patterns, and therefore targets, after the fact.”
      Apart from such theoretical considerations, critics cite reports of evidence of the kind of evolutionary “spontanteous generation” that Dembski claims is too improbable to occur naturally. For example, in 1982, B.G. Hall published research demonstrating that after removing a gene that allows sugar digestion in certain bacteria, those bacteria, when grown in media rich in sugar, rapidly evolve new sugar-digesting enzymes to replace those removed. Another widely cited example is the discovery of nylon eating bacteria that produce enzymes only useful for digesting synthetic materials that did not exist prior to the invention of nylon in 1935.
      Other commentators have noted that evolution through selection is frequently used to design certain electronic, aeronautic and automotive systems which are considered problems too complex for human “intelligent designers”. This contradicts the argument that an intelligent designer is required for the most complex systems. Such evolutionary techniques can lead to designs that are difficult to understand or evaluate since no human understands which trade-offs were made in the evolutionary process, something which mimics our poor understanding of biological systems.
      Dembski’s book No Free Lunch was criticised for not addressing the work of researchers who use computer simulations to investigate artificial life. According to Jeffrey Shallit:
      The field of artificial life evidently poses a significant challenge to Dembski’s claims about the failure of evolutionary algorithms to generate complexity. Indeed, artificial life researchers regularly find their simulations of evolution producing the sorts of novelties and increased complexity that Dembski claims are impossible.

    • larosita says

      From : http://www.ccrnp.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/dembski/specified.complexity.html
      - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
      Dembski claimed that he could prove his thesis mathematically:
      = = “In this section I will present an in-principle mathematical argument for why natural causes are incapable of generating complex specified information.” (page 150) = =

      He shows that pure random chance cannot create information, and he shows how a simple smooth function (such as y = x2) cannot gain information. (Information could be lost by a function that cannot be mapped back uniquely: y = sine(x).) He concludes that there must be a designer to obtain CSI. However, natural selection has a branching mapping from one to many (replication) followed by pruning mapping of the many back down to a few (selection). These increasing and reductional mappings were not modeled by Dembski. In other words, Dembski “forgot” to model birth and death! It is amazing to see him spin pages and pages of math which are irrelevant because of these “oversights”. Dembski’s entire book, No Free Lunch, relies on this flawed argument, so the entire thesis of the book collapses.

    • larosita says

      From: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf
      - – - – - – -

      As we will show, Dembski’s work is riddled with inconsistencies, equivocation, flawed use of mathematics, poor scholarship, and misrepresentation of others’ results. As a result, we believe few if any of Dembski’s conclusions can be sustained.- –

      We then turn to one of Dembski’s major tools, “complex specified information”, arguing that he uses the term inconsistently and misrepresents the concepts of other authors as being equivalent. We criticize Dembski’s concept of “information” and “specification”. We then address his “Law of Conservation of Information”, showing that the claim has significant mathematical flaws. We then discuss Dembski’s attack on evolutionary computation, showing his claims are unfounded. Finally, we issue a series of challenges to those who would continue to pursue intelligent design. – -The appendix contains an alternate account of specification and a suggested replacement for CSI.

    • larosita says

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5HMArXVjns

      Dembski has an MS (stats) and a PhD (phil) from the Univ of Illinois at Chicago, an M.Div (theology) from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in math from the Univ of Chicago. So it seems that he is smart enough to know that his test is flawed.
      If you look at 4:12 you can see a lot of mathematical symbols that scare the average person. I think Dembski is counting on the mathematical ignorance of his audience – they will be impressed but not understand. Real mathematicians are not impressed.

    • larosita says

      http://www.pcts.org/journal/young2002a.html

      Many years ago, I read this advice to a young physicist desperate to get his or her work cited as frequently as possible: Publish a paper that makes a subtle misuse of the second law of thermodynamics. Then everyone will rush to correct you and in the process cite your paper. The mathematician William Dembski has taken this advice to heart and, apparently, made a career of it.
      Specifically, Dembski tries to use information theory to prove that biological systems must have had an intelligent designer. [Dembski, 1999; Behe et al., 2000] A major problem with Dembski’s argument is that its fundamental premise – that natural processes cannot increase information beyond a certain limit – is flatly wrong and precisely equivalent to a not-so-subtle misuse of the second law.
      Let us accept for argument’s sake Dembski’s proposition that we routinely identify design by looking for specified complexity. I do not agree with his critics that he errs by deciding after the fact what is specified. That is precisely what we do when we look for extraterrestrial intelligence (or will do if we think we’ve found it).
      Detecting specification after the fact is little more than looking for nonrandom complexity. Nonrandom complexity is a weaker criterion than specified complexity, but it is adequate for detecting design and I will show below that there is no practical difference between nonrandom complexity and Dembski’s criterion. [For other criticisms of Dembski's work, see especially Fitelson et al., 1999; Korthof, 2001; Perakh, 2001; Wein, 2001. For the Argument from Design in general, see Young, 2001a.]
      Specified or nonrandom complexity is, however, a reliable indicator of design only when we have no reason to suspect that the nonrandom complexity has appeared naturally, that is, only if we think that natural processes cannot bring about such complexity. More to the point, if natural processes can create a large quantity of information, then specified or nonrandom complexity is not a reliable indicator of design. – - – - – - -

  39. ericlounsbery says

    azgeo says:
    September 16, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Glad to hear it! Your response really covered all the bases, but I usually refuse to “debate” theists anyway. I have a comparison I like to use to explain why I this is:

    Imagine that you encountered someone from ancient Greece who travelled forward in time 2300 years or so. That Greek comes up to you and insists that lightning bolts are the javelins of Zeus and earthquakes are Atlas sneezing or something. In order to bring him to an understanding of these subjects, you’d have to explain hundreds of years of science about weather, electricity, plate tectonics, gravity and orbital mechanics. Now, if he was legitimately curious you’d gladly explain these things. But image that you start telling him this and he rejects it entirely. He claims that modern science knows nothing about the universe, and that Zeus and Atlas were proved millennia ago and are supported by mountains of evidence. He refuses to listen and just keeps arguing. Now imagine you meet hundreds or thousands of people with the same outdated ideas, the same smug ignorance, and the same complete refusal to even consider the evidence. Now you can see why I’m unlikely to waste my time on theists, or woomeisters, or conspiricists.

    That would be a great response if it even came close to applying to anything I have argued here azgeo. But unfortunately it does not, but maybe you have another good argument that would apply?

    Eric Lounsbery

  40. ericlounsbery says

    Clownsberry???? LOL LOL Wow!! How mature!

    Well all of your posts might hold weight if you were debating William Dembski. Sounds like you have a personal issue with him. Maybe you should call him and discuss it. In the meantime let me say it is a great tactic when you are powerless to defend against an argument to call the question/argument “stupid”! However, let me remind you of the mountain of evidence supporting my claim and the necessity of your side trying desperately to redirect the discussion. My claim is simply that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate a system containing a high amount of specific information — and that natural law + chance is NOT capable of ORIGINATING such complex information. So to respond by quoting anything from Dembski that refers to any system that already possesses high complex specificity and how it might gain or lose information, is not even pertinent to this discussion. Forget about Dembski for now, and simply deal with my argument. To overthrow what I have claimed all you need to do is show where natural law + chance produces highly complex information (specified complexity) from something that is not already containing such. I cannot wait to read your response and see how you attempt to misdirect the task at hand again. I am beginning to think you might have a career in politics with your skill at avoiding dealing with the questions asked you. Every place in the entire Universe works to support my claim that natural law + chance cannot produce high information like seen in DNA. The Law of Cause and Effect seem to clearly show the origin of such things to be something that must possess intelligence. It must be scary to think you built your whole worldview on a theory that both your heart and the evidence seems to clearly contradict.

    Eric Lounsbery

  41. larosita says

    @ericlounsbery

    The concept of “specified complexity” comes from Demski, not Normal Giesler, and not you. Philosophers and scientists have soundly defeated it.
    http://www.antievolution.org/people/dembski_wa/sc_resp_wre.html

    The argument from Giesler was also not dreamed up by you. Nor is it based on good logic.
    http://www.realgospel.org/articles/norman-geislers-chosen-but-free—arminianism-warmed-over

    The views of whoever wrote the Psalm that you quote did not originate with you. Nor are they commensurate with modern scientific knowledge. The Bible is full of scientific errors.
    http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/science/long.html

    You did not dream up Paley’s watchmaker argument. That, too, has been demolished by a long line of thinkers, including Hume. Just repeating these arguments here does not make them any more logical. It only shows that you do not know, do not understand or cannot recall why they are illogical. That is poor scholarship. http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA100.html
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB300.html

    Hint: adults and older children know the difference between what human intelligence invents and what unintelligent nature invents because they have accumulated copious examples of both. They know that a complicated bird’s nest or beehive is not the result of human intelligence or the result of an invisible force, either. If they know enough science, they will know that these things are built by genetically stored instincts that have slowly evolved over millennia, and that they are continuing to evolve.

    The Carl Sagan quote is irrelevant and does not support the creationist viewpoint. Geisler does not understand how to properly use and interpret statistics. Neither do you.
    http://www.fsteiger.blogspot.com/2005/04/creationist-statistics.html

    Therefore, we have established that you are merely repeating what you have read without properly evaluating it.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

    We have not established that it makes good sense. It does not.

    The modern theories of evolution (modification by descent) explain how life becomes increasingly complex over time without the need or an external “designer”. Predictions based on these theories have been multiply confirmed. Scientists from around the world who have studied the subject have reached a near-unanimous consensus on the generalities and many of the specifics of how this works.

    The creationist view of the origins of life requires the existence of something fantastic for which there is no objective evidence: an invisible, non-material, bodiless, brainless entity that has a mind, a human-like personality and the ability to form intent and act on it in the material world. Proponents do not provide any detailed mechanism for how such creation could happen or provide any testable predictions that would support or disconfirm the claims. There is no consensus among world theists about how or whether this happens. Creationism is a minority theist view confined mainly to the Middle East (Muslim) and the United States of America.

  42. ericlounsbery says

    “Martin Wagner says:
    September 20, 2012 at 5:15 am

    For the 20th time:

    Please provide an example of unspecified complexity, as well as an explanation of what you think a non-God-designed universe might look like.”
    .
    .
    .
    Exam of Unspecified Complexity: take all the tiles of Scrabble game and shake them up and throw across the table.

    What would a non-God-designed universe look like: I don’t think I could say what it would look like, but we might venture a guess what it could look like. Without an intelligent creator it would be a Universe that portrays ONLY characteristics that are the effects of Natural Law. So it would probably look much like our Universe without the earth. But even then, if it was created/had a beginning,it would also have to have an Eternal, Transcendent, Incredibly powerful cause.

    eric lounsbery

    • jdog says

      Now make it so that some parts of the table are more conducive to the presence of certain letters and some parts less so, then throw the tiles several million times and you’ve got a very basic analogy for how evolution works.

      The presence of our planet and everything in it _is_ an effect of natural laws. We went over the creation thing months ago; you’re operating from an archaic view of the scientific method. Causality is only known to be a factor in Newtonian physics, which couldn’t possibly have applied prior to the existence of space-time.

      I also noticed your reply to someone else about how you could prove Christianity in a courtroom. Given the track record of creationism/intelligent design/specified complexity court cases (hint: Christianity has lost every time), I think it’s fairly obvious that you personally wouldn’t stand a chance. If you were to make your case as dishonestly as you have here, you’d be lucky to not be charged with perjury.

    • says

      So what is it about the earth that portrays characteristics that go against natural law? In explaining this, you will have to demonstrate, citing evidence backed up by legitimate scientific research, and not merely assert (because such things simply look that way to you), that there is anything on the earth that can only be explained by non-natural laws, that cannot possibly be explained by recourse to natural laws.

      • ericlounsbery says

        Are you kidding me right now ????? Certainily you are not going to be so foolish as to make such a claim without knowing that you are going to appear to be so willfully ignorant that you should be embarrassed. But that is your call Martin. Every point I have made refers soley to NATURAL LAW!!!! Every point has a mountain of evidence. Martin, go ahead and tell me the natural law that we see originate life????? Tell me the natural law that can originate specified complexity?? Show me where it is happening in the real world??? You know as well as I do that the only cause we know capable of doing that is intelligence. So go live in your make believe world where something can come from nothing without a cause, and mindlessness can produce far more than intelligence. Then stand on your podium and preach the gospel of Martin.

        I am sure you will have plenty of like minded atheists sitting in the pews saying amen! So be it, but in the end your own heart will rebuke you for such willful ignorance.

        • says

          Your attempt to shift the burden of proof is noted, Eric. But this:

          Every point I have made refers soley to NATURAL LAW!!!! Every point has a mountain of evidence.

          …is not true, because in the past you have said this:

          natural law + chance is NOT capable of ORIGINATING such complex information.

          …which means you are arguing for something other than natural law, specifically, the Christian God, who is, as I understand it from believers, supernatural. Unless you are now saying God is not supernatural.

          The explanation you offered for what you think a non-God-designed universe would look like is that it would be exactly like the universe we have now, with the exclusion of the Earth. (Though I see no reason why a God couldn’t be responsible for that kind of universe as well, meaning you have not yet presented God as a scientifically falsifiable concept.) You were thus asked to demonstrate what about the Earth requires anything other than natural law, and you replied by petulantly demanding that I prove no other-than-natural laws could exist. This is a very transparent attempt to shift the burden and avoid meeting your own, and particularly senseless given that in the same breath you proclaim the existence of “mountains of evidence” backing you up. So why not just provide those citations instead of lashing out in reply? Is it that this is a mountain range in your mind, and you don’t actually have the citations to provide? I think it probably is.

          In any event, you are more than proving yourself to be a dishonest broker in this discussion, because you are…
          • continuing to insist that there are “mountains of evidence” to back up your views without ever providing citations from scientific peer-reviewed literature.
          • ignoring the people with legitimate scientific backgrounds and education who keep telling you that terms like “specified complexity” are unscientific concepts invented by creationists to invent controversies where none actually exist in the field. (Indeed the very idea of “specified complexity” is a perfect illustration of Dawkins’ criticism that creationists are stuck on the “cliff-side” of “Mount Improbable.” Looking only at complex life as it exists today, they fail to take into account that its origins were the simplest of organic molecules, hardly impossible to account for naturally.)
          • as others have pointed out, doing nothing more than recycling the God of the Gaps concept, taking apparent lacunae in scientific knowledge as vindication for theistic belief.

          I don’t think any actual biologists and chemists would consider the idea of life from purely natural processes to be all that extraordinary an occurrence, especially considering the prevalence of organic molecules in the universe. While abiogenesis is still an ongoing field of study, at least it is a field of study, and not just a bunch of scientific illiterates smugly sitting around going “Nuh-uh! God!” You, on the other hand, are insisting that natural processes alone could not have accounted for life in any way. You have said this explicitly and repeatedly, and this then gives you a burden of proof that you must now meet.

  43. says

    Eric has concisely described his position and challenge

    “My claim is simply that intelligence is a sufficient cause to originate a system containing a high amount of specific information — and that natural law + chance is NOT capable of ORIGINATING such complex information. So to respond by quoting anything from Dembski that refers to any system that already possesses high complex specificity and how it might gain or lose information, is not even pertinent to this discussion. Forget about Dembski for now, and simply deal with my argument. To overthrow what I have claimed all you need to do is show where natural law + chance produces highly complex information (specified complexity) from something that is not already containing such”

    and as he feels this challenge has never been answered, he is justified in believing that the origin of the complex information held in the DNA of living organisms must have come from some intelligent and powerful being because there are no examples of complex information coming into being except from complex life forms.

    Firstly, I think anybody that uses the term “specified complexity” has to be an idiot or a fraudster as it is an appallingly loaded and unscientific term posing as being scientific. It effectively references a specification and by implication, a specifier. It has to be one of the worst efforts of the creationist lobby to introduce a piece of terminology into scientific discourse. Anybody trying to make the point Eric makes sincerely would have used a term such as “highly complex information” or some such and eschewed such a revolting and brazenly stupid piece of creationist terminology.

    But anyway, let’s pretend that Eric used the term “highly complex information” instead, and see if we can rebut his challenge. I am going to define complex information as some thing or things that is stored such that it can be read by some system at some arbitrary time in the future. ( So such things as signals, such as nerve impulses, hormones released by one organ intended to be received by another and similar such things, I am not including in the definition, although these things do communicate information around a biological system )

    1) We can’t rebut the challenge by citing anything non-living, such as a snowflake or amazing pieces of geology contorted into wonderful artworks because, although there may be structure, there is no complex information present, as per the definition I gave above.

    2) Apparently we can’t rebut the challenge by citing anything that already contains complex information, such as a tree which has DNA, because Eric is happy that things with complex information can create other things with complex information, so as well as trees creating other trees, humans create libraries etc, in fact he believes objects with complex information can only be created by other objects with complex information.

    3) So what Eric is looking for is a natural process where something that has no complex information creates directly or indirectly something with complex information. He is, in effect, asking to be shown an example of biological life emerging from non-living, chemical components. Well that is a tricky thing to show because we don’t know how that happened yet, and if it did happen in the natural world today in a chemical soup somewhere, one can be pretty sure that an existing bit of life with 3.5 billion years of evolutionary practice would swoop down on it and gobble it up. And of course the chemical soup propitious to the emergence of life no longer exists because life of the last 3.5 billion years has eaten it all and changed the environment radically by pumping oxygen into it and made it chemically oxidising whereas before it was chemically reducing. Computer simulations have shown the emergence of complex information from simple beginnings, once one creates replicating entities which vary as they replicate, and some form of selection process, but presumably these simulations which closely model the behaviour of DNA and populations don’t impress Eric.

    So, our ignorance of how life first evolved is Eric’s fundamental piece of evidence as to why he believes there has to be an intelligent creator. This is known as the argument from ignorance or God of the gaps, and if Eric had been living in 16th century Italy alongside Galileo, he would, no doubt, have been telling him that our lack of understanding of the heavens was proof of God and that Galileo shouldn’t be investigating a natural explanation.

    Eric is an idiot.

    • ericlounsbery says

      Wow! Let me say it again! Wow! Finally an atheist that actually gets the point I am making (even if he thinks I am an idiot, at least he states my position accurately and even fairly!!). Mr Interactive, …a thousand “thank you”s for doing so! Even if your conclusion is not supportive, your effort certainly deserves a response. So here it is,

      You wrote: ..”and as he feels this challenge has never been answered, he is justified in believing that the origin of the complex information held in the DNA of living organisms must have come from some intelligent and powerful being because there are no examples of complex information coming into being except from complex life forms.”

      First let me say thank you in admitting I was justified to hold this position. Secondly I think it follows that to so tightly and assuredly hold to the position that natural law is capable of originating such information is UNJUSTIFIED in light of the fact that we have not a shred of direct evidence that it can. I think the unsoundness of holding such a position is hidden by the fact that those holding it tend to think of high information systems originating spontaneously here on planet earth (even though that never happens)where such systems already abound. Yet, if you were to imagine yourself on another planet where no specified complexity exists already, then if you were to ask yourself: Is there any known natural laws that could somehow organize the machinery necessary to create even the simplest living cell? I am willing to bet that even if we sent a thousand of our brightest scientists to such a planet/star and provided them with food, and told them to use only what is found naturally on the planet they would be utterly at a loss to create what the atheist’s think came into existence without intelligent intervention. Imagine if you were dropped of on a planet and told to make it look like earth! You, that possess intelligence, would have no idea where to start “creating” what you think natural law was capable of accomplishing without intelligence! Seriously, do you even begin to understand the enormity of the task that would be in front of you?

      Then you wrote,
      “Firstly, I think anybody that uses the term “specified complexity” has to be an idiot or a fraudster as it is an appallingly loaded and unscientific term posing as being scientific. It effectively references a specification and by implication, a specifier. ”

      I agree and disagree. It ONLY implies a specifier IF and ONLY if we are justified in holding that intelligence is a sufficient cause to produce the effect of the origination of high information systems,AND(I stress the word AND) if we can find no other sufficient cause upon extensive and continuing efforts to do so. I think both of those criteria have been met, and that to date we are still left with only one known sufficient cause. And apparently you agree.

      Then in closing you said,
      “So, our ignorance of how life first evolved is Eric’s fundamental piece of evidence as to why he believes there has to be an intelligent creator. This is known as the argument from ignorance or God of the gaps, and if Eric had been living in 16th century Italy alongside Galileo, he would, no doubt, have been telling him that our lack of understanding of the heavens was proof of God and that Galileo shouldn’t be investigating a natural explanation.”

      In writing this you seem to be ignoring the obvious difference between the two scenarios, but just so you know, if they were identical comparisons I would agree with you, but here are just a few of the extremely significant differences:

      1. My position is NOT based on what I do NOT know. I KNOW and so do you, and every other atheist, that intelligence can originate high information systems. I, personally know of no other cause that has demonstrated the ability to produce that effect. So, based on these facts, in assigning a cause to such an effect that I didn’t see originate, I believe it to be reasonable to assign an intelligent cause (even though I admit that whatever that intelligent cause is, cannot be ascertained without significant additional information)as the source of the effect. Keep in mind that an intelligent cause does NOT prove a God. It points to one thing and one thing only – AN INTELLIGENT CAUSE.

      2. The people in Galileo’s day had no testable experiment that pointed to ANY cause known to create the effect of our solar system. So to assign a cause with no proof that such a cause was sufficient is presumptuous at the least. They did not go to the science lab and say ok, here is a God and let’s watch him create a solar system. I, on the other hand, have for all essential purposes followed that path (experimental) and shown that the cause I am proposing can create the said effect. I AGREE with you completely that they offered the ‘god of the gaps theory’. Even if they had produced a God that could create a solar system, it would not mean that he created ours. It would only show him to be a “possible cause”. If no other cause could be found, that would certainly raise the probability that he may have done it. But we also know that natural law is a sufficient cause to also produce that effect. So further examination would have to be done to determine which one was actually the cause, or if there was another possible known cause, it should also be considered as a possibility.

      So here is the result of all this, it actually puts the atheist in the position of putting forth the “god of the gaps” theory for THEIR argument. After all you are BOLDLY declaring that natural law can do what we have NEVER seen it do! How is this anything but an argument from ignorance???? But the difference here is that you are even more foolish that those in Galileo’s day because they didn’t even have a known cause to consider, you have a cause that you know can produce the effect and REFUSE to even consider it. So instead you argue ENTIRELY from ignorance saying that natural law is capable of doing something we have ZERO evidence that it can do!! I have a cause and evidence, you have a cause and a theory with no evidence, and with such YOU conclude that I am an IDIOT!! Amazing!!!

      Nevertheless, thanks again for stating my case more accurately than anyone else here has done.

      • says

        Eric, you’re being called an idiot because you think that “I, personally know of no other cause etc etc…” is the kind of substantive argument that validates drawing a scientifically sound conclusion about a truth claim. The simple fact is you’re far from finishing the work you need to do to justify your position. Here is how it breaks down.

        • The universe exists.
        • It exists as the result of a) natural processes, b) an “intelligent creator” aka a god. (There is a c option, but we’ll ignore that for now.
        • Lacking a definite answer to the question of how the universe came about, we can at the very least say that a) natural laws are known to exist, and b) a transcendent universe-creating intelligence is not known to exist, and is at best speculative.
        • Moreover, though we know that intelligence (defined for the sake of this discussion as being at least human-level intelligence, i.e., the ability to reason, think abstractly, and create something from conceptual origins) can create complex information systems, there is no reason to assume that only intelligence can create such things. There are numerous very complex constructs in nature (e.g. ice crystals in snowflakes) that show no evidence of deliberate construction by an intelligent agency, and are in fact the products of natural laws doing what they do.
        • Therefore, positing an intelligent creator for the universe presents those arguing for such a creator with a burden of proof.
        • Challenge: To determine if creative intelligence is the cause of our universe, present the idea of an intelligent universe-creator as a scientifically falsifiable concept. What would a non-intelligently designed universe look like? What would be its laws? What natural laws might the creator be subject to, and would those laws influence the natural laws the creator bestowed upon his created universe (which raises the question of why those laws were chosen and not others)? Or would his created universe be subject to the same natural laws the creator is subject to (meaning that those natural laws were in place prior to the creator’s existence, raising the question of where those came from, and propelling everything in the direction of infinite regress)?

        This is where you’re stuck. (The example you gave did not successfully resist falsification.) Instead you’re doing it this way: “I personally can think of nothing other than intelligence that produces complex systems. Therefore, unless you prove me wrong, intelligence created the universe.” And from this, you go on, in a spectacular display of absurdity, to insist that we’re the ones presenting a “God of the gaps” argument from ignorance.

        The fail, it is an epic thing.

        So no matter how much you project your argument’s shortcomings onto us, Eric, it is, in fact, you who are arguing from ignorance. What we want is for people, like yourself, who propose things that are not known to exist as the necessary cause of the universe to present sound arguments and evidence for that proposition. You’ve been trying to do that, and people have been pointing out in the comments (in a manner kind of like peer review, you might say) where your arguments have been going wrong, but instead of listening and refining your arguments with better evidence, you’ve been doubling down and introducing ideas that have already been debunked as unscientific (like Dembski’s invented “specified complexity”) in the hopes they’ll aid you. They’re not.

        This is why people are dissing you. You just don’t know what you’re doing like you think you do.

      • codemonkey says

        @eric

        First let me say thank you in admitting I was justified to hold this position. Secondly I think it follows that to so tightly and assuredly hold to the position that natural law is capable of originating such information is UNJUSTIFIED in light of the fact that we have not a shred of direct evidence that it can

        Again, we have done experiments in the lab where we measure the information content of virtual DNA strands allowed to replicate with mutation, with and without a selection force. With a selection force, the information content increases, and as soon as you remove the selection force, the information content rapidly plummets. The argument that “we don’t have a shred of evidence that random mutation + genetic inheritance + natural selection can produce information” is patently silly, and we have plenty of evidence that mutation + inheritance + selection does produce information. I’ve said this like 5 times now in the thread, and I don’t think you’ve responded to this simple demonstrable fact.

  44. ericlounsbery says

    Why would I respond to a scenario that has utterly nothing to do with ANYTHING I have said? I have no cause to argue against the experiments you have given. I trust you are accurate in the results. But again, it does not pertain to my argument. I think you should read MrInteractives comment and my response to him. It should at least help clear up your misunderstanding.

    • codemonkey says

      @eric

      Ok, so agree that common ancestry is true, and you agree that natural selection is the primary cause of positive, beneficial mutations in evolution, right? Good.

      You still aren’t clear in your claim. Do you dispute that abiogenesis can happen via natural law? Or are you just on some “first cause” shtick?

    • larosita says

      It seems to me, Eric, that the reason why you don’t understand why we don’t buy your argument is that you don’t have a good enough understanding of how evolution works to produce speciation and complexity.

      Codemonkey provided you with one of the many things that confirm and support the basic theory of evolution by descent and yet you cannot see he implications of this for your argument. What WE see is that this experiment shows that all that is needed for complexity to arise naturally is a very basic strand of DNA and an environment that favors some of its naturally occurring (random) variations more than others. The rest follows, including the increase in DNA information and complexity.

      You could be tempted, as Creationists have, that the initial bare minimum DNA strand cannot occur naturally because it contains complex proteins that cannot “occur by chance alone”. As others have already pointed out, it has already been demonstrated (by computer modelling, chemical experimentation, etc.) that the process can begin with the much simpler RNA which, by the process of environmental shaping and a lot of time, eventually becomes DNA.

      We have already shown that RNA can arise naturally, given the very different environment that existed in earth’s antiquity. We have also shown, by a whole string of related experiments, that every single piece of initial “complexity” required to form the first proto-cell can arise from inert substances in this ancient environment. The implications (in case you cannot see them) is that it is perfectly possible for proto-life to arise from inert substances, given changing environments and lots of time. There is no need of a supernatural “intelligence” to start or guide the process.

      Once you have arrived at the first replicating cell (after going through the processes that cause replication chemistry, cell wall development and multi-cell clumping) the natural processes of evolutionary change by selection and descent give rise to increasing complexity.

      What may not be clear to you is that the borderline between “life” and “non-life” is just as blurry as the borderline between “plant” and “animal” or “non-human ape” and “human ape”. There are numerous examples of fuzzy intermediate stages where scientists, and even creationists, cannot reliably place examples in one class or the other. For example, are viruses “life” or “non-life”? Is “Lucy” a “human” or a “non-human”? Is a paramecium a “plant” or an “animal”? Are lab produced replicating chemical cell clumps that modify their characteristics after several generations instances of “life” or “non-life”.

      When does the level of complexity move from “snowflake” level to “irreducible” by your standards? At what point in this gradual and inexorable process do you think that you need to introduce an “intelligent mind”?

      • codemonkey says

        Yes, thank you. Well said. Even after all of this, I’m still not sure if Eric is saying common descent via natural selection is false, or if abiogenesis requires magic, or if the big bang event / start of the universe requires magic. I wish Eric would clarify which is his position. I’ve asked several times.

        • larosita says

          Codemonkey, as you have noticed, Eric has been frustratingly vague throughout the entirety of the conversation with us.

          While we supply him with examples and links to material that expands them, he resorts to simply asserting that there is “mountains of evidence” for his argument without actually providing any evidence that seems convincing to us.

          I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

          1. Eric does not understand, or is largely ignorant of the mathematics, logic, scientific subjects and methodology that he is necessarily arguing against. He lacks sufficient knowledge of these areas to accurately assess his actual level of skill (the Duning-Kruger effect. I think he genuinely believes that he is being “scientific” in his approach.

          2. Eric is following a “script” that he has obtained or modified from one of more Christian apologists. He does not know what to do when we don’t respond the way this script says we “should” respond.

          The script is clearly not devised by people with much education in science, mathematics and computer modelling techniques and it is ill-suited for arguing with anyone who does have this knowledge. In such cases, all the script can do is descend into ad hominem attacks (we are all “fools” and/or have had our hearts deliberately hardened by the Old Testament version of god) and well-poisoning (we are all atheists so we cannot be trusted to determine the truth; we have been indoctrinated by the scientific “religion”.) I give Eric credit for keeping most of these face-saving methods of cognitive dissonance reduction to an overt minimum.

          I think he is genuinely nonplussed that arguments and “evidence” that seem very convincing to him are seen as deficient by others, especially if they are reasonably well educated. I think he genuinely believes that there is a massive content-specific conspiracy perpetrated by all the scientists educated in areas that fail to support his arguments – and only those areas.

          The whole interchange reminds me of what happens when two people who are at different levels of Piaget’s cognitive development stages interact. The three year old is convinced that the moon follows him where-ever he goes because the evidence he is processing seems to make that very clear. The four year old thinks that there is more water in a tall thin glass than there is in a short fat glass because it is obvious that the level in the tall thin glass is higher. The seven year old thinks that a long thin pound of clay is lighter than a pound of clay in the shape of a ball.

          It’s like the adult in this video who spends ages trying to solve a simple mathematical problem with a whole range of unnecessary arithmetical manipulations because it seems complex to her. To most other adults, and about half the word’s children, her performance is (sadly) hilarious. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qhm7-LEBznk

  45. franks says

    I can’t believe I just read this entire thing. I pulled one interesting quote:

    “My position is NOT based on what I do NOT know . I KNOW and so do you, and every other atheist, that intelligence can originate high information systems. I, personally know of no other cause that has demonstrated the ability to produce that effect. “(Bolding my own)

    But hey, this is a great resource for debunking claims about specified complexity! Very thorough.

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