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Is Bill Gates a believer in intelligent design?

In an interview given to Rolling Stone magazine, Bill Gates reveals himself susceptible to that fatuous argument from incredulity, that just because he doesn’t understand how the complexity of the world came about, it must imply that there is a god, which is basically the intelligent design argument.

Q: Do you believe in God?

A: I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view [laughs]. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.

“Generated by random numbers?” It looks like he has no idea of how the laws of nature work.

Of course, there is no reason to think that Gates has any special insight into this question but given that he appears on lists of well-known atheists or at least is an agnostic, these comments seem to contradict that.

Comments

  1. doublereed says

    I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.

    I mean, this part in particular is how he’s basically just dancing around without actually answering the question. That’s agnosticism in a nutshell. A sort of “believe whatever you want, I’m not going to judge” mentality.

    The argument from incredulity seems more to justify other people’s positions, not his own. When I read that, I hear agnostic all the way.

  2. Jim H. says

    Prof. Singham, I’m a bit disappointed with this entry. I think it’s a huge stretch to equate the universe’s creation by a deity with intelligent design, the latter of which is usually specifically an anti-evolution viewpoint vis-a-vis the origins of mankind. The headline for this post seems a bit sensational.

  3. Trebuchet says

    I use Bill’s software. Some of that appears to have been generated by random numbers.

  4. says

    Once again, American popular culture conflates “got rich” with “is knowledgeable about everything!”
    Gates did OK with the programming and did very well building a business out of it and amassing a great big fortune. Why does that make him likely to be any more educated about science and religion than anyone else?

  5. Chris J says

    Ugh, this is starting to become a peeve of mine. Saying science has “no explanation” or “no idea” about something when you really mean it doesn’t have a full picture or a final answer. We just had that announcement about finding evidence of gravity waves from the big bank, which provides important evidence for the inflationary model. That isn’t nothing. We have a pretty dang good model for the way life has developed (maybe not as much on how it originated as far as I know) backed up by observation and evidence.

    Saying “there’s no scientific explanation” as to how the world came about is doing a huge disservice to all the things we do know, or at least have a better-than-guesswork theory about (colloquial usage).

  6. doublereed says

    @7 Marcus

    Because I think it makes sense to believe in God is what an agnostic would say?

    Uh. Yes. Have you never met an agnostic? That’s exactly the sort of thing they say. They don’t want to answer the question of whether or not THEY believe in God. So they speak in vagueries of what ‘could make sense to believe.’

    I’m really confused why you think this is anything interesting. He doesn’t care about the God question and hasn’t bothered with any sort of critical thought toward it. Like the majority of people, the whole God thing is not a concern for him.

  7. says

    Have you never met an agnostic? That’s exactly the sort of thing they say

    But that is making a statement about the existence of god, namely that it’s plausible. Indeed “it makes sense” is positively approving.

    I’ve met agnostics but I don’t generally waste time on them because they’re not intellectually honest. So, seriously, if that’s a typical agnostic position, it’s too foolish to deserve ridicule.

    He doesn’t care about the God question and hasn’t bothered with any sort of critical thought toward it

    That’s not true. He thinks “it makes sense” That is a position. It’s a really fucking goofy position, but it’s a position.

  8. colnago80 says

    It should be pointed out that the Gates foundation, at least at one time, provided funding to the Dishonesty Institute in Seattle, supposedly for transportation studies.

  9. doublereed says

    I didn’t say he didn’t have a position. I said he didn’t give it any critical thought. Like the majority of people. The difference being is that he grew up secular, so he continued being secular. Just like when people grow up whatever religious they continue being whatever religious.

    Most secular people don’t particularly care about the whole God question, whether they are personally religious or not. I think you’ve been spending too much time in skeptic/atheist circles.

    And if you don’t “waste time” on agnostics then don’t be all incredulous when I say that that is what agnostics say. Sheesh.

  10. says

    And if you don’t “waste time” on agnostics then don’t be all incredulous when I say that that is what agnostics say. Sheesh.

    I’m incredulous. Go (eyeroll) at someone else.

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    Anyone who uses MS Windows or Word knows that Bill Gates has little use for intelligent design at any level.

  12. deepak shetty says

    @doublereed
    Uh. Yes. Have you never met an agnostic? That’s exactly the sort of thing they say.
    Huh. Not this agnostic.

    They don’t want to answer the question of whether or not THEY believe in God.
    Alright, Ill bite. Tell me what questions to ask and tell me which answer means what.

    @Marcus
    but I don’t generally waste time on them because they’re not intellectually honest
    Ok – thanks for letting me know.

  13. John Morales says

    I find it more plausible that he is a deist than an agnostic, on the basis of that last quoted sentence.

    [OT]

    Pierce, MS Windows and Word were designed to make a shit-ton of money, and they did. ;)

  14. doublereed says

    To break it down further:

    The first part of his answer is just a rejection of dogmatic religion. Straightforward. The second part is just accommodating bits to religion. The whole answer is ultimately just dodging the question.

    @16 Deepak Shetty

    Do you believe in God?

  15. doublereed says

    And whatever your answer to “Do you believe in God?” is, the followup will be “why do you call yourself an agnostic and not an atheist?” By all means, explain your position.

  16. Randy Lee says

    Mano writes, “Of course, there is no reason to think that Gates has any special insight into this question but given that he appears on lists of well-known atheists or at least is an agnostic, these comments seem to contradict that.”

    Gates isn’t the only purportedly “well-known atheist” to make contradictory statements, many of which are much clearer than those of Gates. The video cited below reveals several of these so-called atheists to actually be otherwise. The portion of the video concerning this particular issue begins at 17:30. The beginning portion of the video reveals both the absurdities and weaknesses in the evolutionary claims made by noted atheists in the course of interviews conducted with them, as they attempt to explain the beginning of life, the very issue with which Gates wrestles..

    Now I personally do not believe in any of the religions of the world but I am not ready to become an atheist, especially in light of how easily the religious producers of this video reveal the claims of numerous atheists to be as equally irrational as the religious claims of the producers. For instance, the fact that claims made for macro-evolution are based upon equal assertions of faith causes me to openly question the genesis of the material realm, always remaining willing to admit that I do not know rather than exercise faith in the pseudo-scientific model of evolution just because it is politically correct..

  17. deepak shetty says

    Do you believe in God?
    Hmm do you believe in Obama? (but before you answer think about if I am asking whether you believe he is a force for change, whether he is the same old politician , whether he is a kenyan muslim atheist or whether he exists?)

    if you are asking do I believe he exists – I dont know.
    If you are asking whether I follow any ritual or worship a God – No – but even if God exists I might not.
    If you are asking something totally different then please rephrase

    Ill also note that in your response you have not answered what I asked. So Ill ask it again
    Tell me what questions to ask (for Does God exists) and tell me which answer means what.

  18. doublereed says

    I have no idea what your question is asking, so I don’t know how to answer it. You want me to tell you which questions to ask? What? Questions for what? I’m not asking a multiple choice question or anything. Give any answer you like.

    I’m just asking whether you believe God exists. What do you mean you don’t know? Do you mind elaborating? What exactly do you believe?

  19. Pierce R. Butler says

    Randy Lee @ # 20: … the fact that claims made for macro-evolution are based upon equal assertions of faith …

    From that sentence, I’m not sure whether you misunderstand the meaning of the word “faith” or the word “fact” – but it’s at least one of them.

  20. Randy Lee says

    Pierce, what observable facts or evidence do you have to support the idea that macro-evolution has occurred? In the absence of observable facts or evidence claims for macro-evolution are faith-based. So just what scientific method do you suggest was employed to conclude that macro-evolution is based upon either facts or evidence?

    The scientific method is defined a number of different ways by the following sources.

    scientific method, noun
    a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested. Origin: 1850–55 Dictionary.com Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.

    World English Dictionary
    scientific method — n a method of investigation in which a problem is first identified and observations, experiments, or other relevant data are then used to construct or test hypotheses that purport to solve it
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
    2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
    Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009

    Medical Dictionary
    scientific method sci·en·tif·ic method – n.
    The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis.
    The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Cultural Dictionary
    scientific method definition — An orderly technique of investigation that is supposed to account for scientific progress. The method consists of the following steps: (1) Careful observations of nature. (2) Deduction of natural laws. (3) Formation of hypotheses — generalizations of those laws to previously unobserved phenomena. (4) Experimental or observational testing of the validity of the predictions thus made. Actually, scientific discoveries rarely occur in this idealized, wholly rational, and orderly fashion.
    The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
    Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    So Pierce, do you have another accepted definition of the scientific method that you believe will make the acceptance of the idea of macro-evolution scientificly sound and acceptable without having to rely on faith?

  21. John Morales says

    [meta]

    It amuses me when discussions about god(s) bring up science denialists such as Randy Lee.

    deepak shetty @21:

    if you are asking do I believe he exists – I dont know.

    Well then, you’re an atheist (that is, not a theist).

    (So, so simple, really)

  22. Randy Lee says

    John writes, “It amuses me when discussions about god(s) bring up science denialists such as Randy Lee.”

    John, no one here denies science, or the scientific method when it is applied properly. I am denying that macro evolution, i.e. change of kinds as Darwin put it, has ever been observable within the context of the scientific method or otherwise.

    If you think differently go back and answer my questions I put to Pierce. I’m sure he won’t mind a little help.

  23. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee

    Here’s evidence of the common ancestry of apes and humans. That is to say that apes and humans descended from a common ancestor, which is macro-evolution in action.

    http://goo.gl/Q5v3rE

  24. doublereed says

    Aw. I was trying to talk to Mr. Shetty and see if he agrees with Mr. Gates. Then Randy Lee comes in here bombasting his hilarious irreverent nonsense gumming everything up. Sadface.

  25. Rob Grigjanis says

    Randy Lee has a point. I hereby reject the notion that Earth is about 1.5×10^8 km from the sun. If the bastards think I’m going to dig up transit of Venus data, or radiometric whatsis, and do my own calculamatin’, they have another thing coming.

  26. says

    My favorite example is the “Tree of Life web project”.

    Go to any level of the tree and you see a list of citations at the bottom.
    Here is the root of the tree. http://tolweb.org/Life_on_Earth/1

    The observable facts are contained in the papers. The work of cdesign proponentsists is considerable, but if they want to be taken seriously they need to actually show why the work that supports the current view is wrong.

  27. deepak shetty says

    @doublereed
    I have no idea what your question is asking, so I don’t know how to answer it.
    You have a position on Does God exist – What questions did you ask – what answers did you have – how did you know what answer means what – what assumptions did you have – how did you validate those assumptions? (Please do not reply with why Jesus or Mohammed are improbable – The question is related to God)

    @John morales
    Well then, you’re an atheist (that is, not a theist).
    Hmm yes I suppose for you there is America and there is the rest of the world right?
    Im not a theist , Im not a deist , Im not a spirtualist , Im not an atheist

  28. Randy Lee says

    @ colnago80
    At 1:16 of te link you posted Miller states that “everybody in this room is missing two chromosomes”. But that conclusion is only true when compared to the number of chromosomes of the chimp, gorilla, and the orangutan. Miller’s speculation that a common ancestor exists because of the similarities between these species and humans, is just that, mere speculation. There is no observabable or testable evidence or facts to establish this claim.

    For the sake of argument, if God created every species then the common ancestor/origin of all woud be God, and the fact that all species possess chromosomes in differing amounts, more or less than others, could serve as the basis of the speculative claim that God began with chromosomes and shaped creation using varying combinations of the same. But such a claim is also speculation which no one could prove.
    .
    On the video I posted above it does appear that some evolutionists do attempt to claim that humans are evolved “fish”, but nevertheless still remain fish. By this logic, it could be argued that we are virusus, or bacteria, or whatever other combination of chromosomes with which one might speculatively choose to identify i an attempt to bolster the evolutionary model..

    For a more detailed and scientific refutation of Miller’s claims, check out:

    http://creation.com/chromosome-2-fusion-1

    and

    http://creation.com/chromosome-2-fusion-2

  29. Randy Lee says

    @ John Morales
    Whether you like it or not the jury is still out on the issue of creationism v evolution. And your links fail to convince me otherwise. The links I posted on number 36 clearly show that many in the scientific community is not convinced yet either. No one still arguing about the laws of gravity. When the scientific method is successful with respect to the issue of evolution the argument will also cease..

  30. Nihilismus says

    @ Randy Lee

    Even with the examples of definitions of the scientific method you provided, so-called “macro”-evolution is supported. If evolution were true, we would expect not just outward similarities of different species located in closer areas, but similarities in their underlying genetic structure. We would expect to see a line of slightly varying fossils that lead up to existing species, with the different fossils located in different sedimentary layers that we know from geology took millions of years to be deposited. We would see genetic similarities between two species that might not look anything alike and expect to be able to find a fossil that shows their common ancestor — and expect to find it in the areas of overlap where we know both species migrated.

    We thus can have a hypothesis and “test” for it by looking for what we expected. If we find what we expected to find, then our hypothesis has been supported. Thus, even though one might not see that evolution is happening from just staring at nature (because of the time scales involved), we can still scientifically test for it by thinking about what we would expect to find if evolution were true (and what would be unlikely if creation were true), and look for it.

    Evolution predicts why we would see a line of fossils gradually converging in appearance to a modern species but separated by rock layers that took millions of years to form. We have seen this, and thus, evolution is supported. The only way creationism can explain this is that, although all the species were created together, sheer coincidence trapped one species in one layer, another slightly different species in another lawyer, yet another slightly different species in the next layer, and so on. Or you could take the nonsensical view that God put the fossils in such precise locations to test us, using our own God-given critical thinking gifts against us.

    But aside from this “predict what we would find and look for it” form of scientific testing, we actually can observe evolution in the lab. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_evolution. If you were to claim this is just “micro”-evolution, know that micro-evolution essentially concedes macro-evolution when given enough time. If small changes are possible, then over time, more and more small changes are possible, and the two endpoint species will not only be very different in appearance, they will not be able to interbreed. For natural examples of this phenomenon, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species.

  31. John Morales says

    [OT]

    deepak shetty:

    Hmm yes I suppose for you there is America and there is the rest of the world right?
    Im not a theist , Im not a deist , Im not a spirtualist , Im not an atheist

    A subset of a set and its complement constitute the whole set, not just for me, but for you too.

    You can label yourself however you wish, but unless you believe in the existence of at least one god, you’re an atheist.

    (“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”)

  32. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee @ #36

    You obviously didn’t listen very carefully to Prof. Miller’s presentation. The point is that, if the proposal that the great apes and humans have a common ancestry is true, then the missing pair of chromosomes in the human line must be accounted for. Thus, common ancestry makes a prediction, namely that somewhere after the ape line split off from the hominid line, two of the ancestral chromosomes must have fused together in the hominid line. Thus there is a prediction that one of the hominid chromosomes should have 2 telomeres in the middle where they don’t belong and 2 centromeres. And guess what, human chromosome 2 has two telomeres in the middle and 2 centromeres, just as common descent predicts. They can be identified with ape chromosomes 12 and 13. And I would also point out that Ken Miller, a devout Roman Catholic, is no atheist.

    Re Randy Lee @ #37

    Whether you like it or not the jury is still out on the issue of creationism vs evolution.

    Whether you like it or not, in the scientific community, the jury is no more out on common descent then it is on the issue of heliocentrism, the shape of the earth, or whether pi = 3. Science is not a democracy. Non scientists don’t get a vote.

  33. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee @ #36

    Another piece of evidence for the common ancestry of humans and the other great apes is the fact that, almost alone amongst the mammals, they have a broken gene for producing vitamin C. If the other species of great apes and humans were all separately created, and are thus unrelated, as evolution deniers insist, that’s an amazing coincidence. Of course, common descent provides an explanation, namely that the gene was broken before the lines leading to the apes and humans split from the common ancestor.

  34. Randy Lee says

    colnago80 writes:

    “Science is not a democracy. Non scientists don’t get a vote.

    I agree. Not a democracy. Scientists are just a group of educated individuals making educated guesses which are oftentimes refuted by other scientists making alternative educated guesses.

    The fact that you and Miller uses the term “if” when referring to the point ” if the proposal that the great apes and humans have a common ancestry is true,” , is quite telling as to whether Miller, yourself, or anyone else really knows. Edu-ma-cated guesses are not facts. And your ready acceptance of these edu-ma-cated guesses proves that you also exercise faith in the guesses of either other humans or yourself.

    Furthrmore the conclusions that persons such as you and Miller reach as a result of analyzing data, and regurgitating your guesses surrounding the same, remain conclusions, always subject to re-assessment.

    Finally, all of your speculations fail to make those conclusions rise to the level of fact. The data may be pointed to as fact but the evolutionary conclusions based upon that data remain in dispute within the scientific community. I am pleased that we agree that science is not based upon the conclusions of a democracy, aren’t you?

  35. Rob Grigjanis says

    Randy Lee: There will always be fundamentalists whose beliefs forbid them from accepting certain scientific results, no matter the evidence. Does that describe you? Is your ‘skepticism’ faith-based?

  36. Randy Lee says

    Rob Grigjanis writes:
    “Randy Lee: There will always be fundamentalists whose beliefs forbid them from accepting certain scientific results, no matter the evidence. Does that describe you? Is your ‘skepticism’ faith-based?”

    Rob, my skepticism is agnosticly based. With regard to the issue of creation v evolution, I think in possibilities as opposed to conclusions, as the latter is extremely egotistical and arrogant, especially from our subjective human perspective. Care to avoid such arrogance must be taken whether we are examining the dogmas of various religions or those of politically correct members of the scientific community.

  37. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee @ #42

    The fact that you and Miller uses the term “if” when referring to the point ” if the proposal that the great apes and humans have a common ancestry is true,” , is quite telling as to whether Miller, yourself, or anyone else really knows.

    I think the problem that ole Randy is laboring under is the notion of “proof” in science. In science, there is no such thing as “proof”. “Proof” is a concept in symbolic logic and mathematics. In science, there is only evidence that supports a proposition or evidence that refutes it. In the case at hand, the proposition is that humans and apes had a common ancestor. One piece of evidence for this proposition is the presence of telomeres where they don’t belong in human chromosome 2 and the presence of two centromeres therein. Another piece of evidence is the broken gene for producing vitamin C in the great apes and humans. However, neither of these pieces of evidence “proves” that common descent of humans and apes is true. The point is, as Prof. Miller puts it, if the fusion point were not found, the theory of common descent has some explaining to do.

    A scientific theory must have the following elements. It must be explanatory; it must be predictive, it must, at least in principal, be falsifiable. Not being a biologist, I would prefer to illustrate this concept from my own field of expertise, namely physics. An example of this proposal is the Special Theory of Relativity.
    The theory explains the result of the Michelson/Morley experiment; the theory predicts the phenomena of time dilation, which was confirmed when the invention of the synchrotron allowed the production of fast muons which were seen to have longer mean lifetimes then slow muons; if time dilation had not been observed, that would have constituted a falsification of the theory.

  38. Rob Grigjanis says

    Randy: So, you accept ‘evidence’ presented in a dishonestly edited video by an evangelist who is a proven liar/distorter, but dismiss conclusions based on the abundance of evidence for macro-evolution presented in this thread and elsewhere, as ‘arrogant’ and ‘dogmatic’. Do you see the inconsistency?

    From the first link;

    Comfort came to me asking for the evidence for evolution. The way it went is that he would a) ask for evidence, b) I would give him an example (like the research on sticklebacks or bacteria), c) Comfort would raise an irrelevant objection (they’re still fish! They’re still bacteria!), and d) I would explain why his objection was invalid, and how his expectations of the nature of the evidence were wrong. Somehow, though, in the movie (d) always ended up on the cutting room floor, so that he could announce in all of his promotional materials and in the movie itself that I was unable to provide any evidence for evolution.

    I’m skeptical of your agnosticism.

  39. Randy Lee says

    colnago80 writes, “I think the problem that ole Randy is laboring under is the notion of “proof” in science. In science, there is no such thing as “proof”. “Proof” is a concept in symbolic logic and mathematics. In science, there is only evidence that supports a proposition or evidence that refutes it.”

    Thank You for this fine admission to my position. As you admit in regards to the purported theory of a common ancestor, there is no “proof” to establish it. This is because there are no facts to serve as a basis of such proof. In the absence of such facts, we cannot KNOW, and therefore those who accept the theory of a common ancestor, i.e. change of kinds, as fact, BELIEVE so without proof, based solely on speculative concusions derived from factual suggestive data. Therefore the proponent of the theory of a common ancestor proposes said theory based upon their speculative belief, i.e. faith.

    The existence of the underlying data used to support the speculation of a common ancestor is only proof of the existence of data, but not proof of any speculations based thereon. Believe on, little ones. Without your faith, the theory, the dogma, will not survive.

  40. Randy Lee says

    Rob Grigjanis writes: ” So, you accept ‘evidence’ presented in a dishonestly edited video by an evangelist who is a proven liar/distorter….”

    What evidence do you thnik I am accepting from Comforts video? As I expressed when I posted the video, i was pointing out “how easily the religious producers of this video reveal the claims of numerous atheists to be as equally irrational as the religious claims of the producers. For instance, the fact that claims made for macro-evolution are based upon equal assertions of faith causes me to openly question the genesis of the material realm, always remaining willing to admit that I do not know rather than exercise faith in the pseudo-scientific model of evolution just because it is politically correct.”

    If Comfort engaged in selective editing in an attempt to conceal “observable evidence” of a “change of kinds” as expressed by Darwin, then I would certainly condemn that or any other unethical editing. If however, none of the participants, including PC Myers, were able to present Comfort with observable evidence that Darwinian evolution is true then they failed in the same way that those on this thread have failed to present any such evidence to me.

    But to be fair, Comfort was seeking (as am I) observable evidence that the Darwinian evolution model claiming “a change of kinds”, ie. common ancestry, is TRUE. As I pointed out to colnago80 at #48, we are without such proof, as he also confessed in his attempt to excuse the scientific community from the standard of proof..

    Again, this is because there are no facts to serve as a basis of such proof. In the absence of such facts, we cannot KNOW, and therefore those who accept the theory of a common ancestor, i.e. change of kinds, as fact, BELIEVE so without proof, based solely on speculative concusions derived from factual suggestive data. Therefore the proponent of the theory of a common ancestor proposes said theory based upon their speculative belief, i.e. faith.

    BTW, in your field of physics, can you pont to any facet where conclusions are allowed to masquerade as fact?

    Agnosticly yours.

  41. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee @ #48

    The existence of the underlying data used to support the speculation of a common ancestor is only proof of the existence of data, but not proof of any speculations based thereon.

    Excuse me, the theory of common ancestors of apes and humans is not speculation, any more then Newton’s Laws of Motion are speculation. It’s really very simple, the theory of common descent for apes and humans predicts the existence of a fusion point in the human genome. When the human genome was decoded, such a fusion point was found. A prediction was made, and was found to be correct. That’s evidence. The fact that the gene for producing vitamin C is broken in the great apes and humans is evidence of common descent. Do you have a better explanation? If so, let’s hear it.

  42. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee

    Let’s put this another way. The theory of Common Descent of apes and humans makes a prediction, namely that one pair of human chromosomes will have a pair of telomeres in the middle where they don’t belong. The Special Theory of Relativity makes a prediction that slow muons and pi mesons (the mesotrons referred to in the link @ #47) will have shorter mean lifetimes then fast muons and pi mesons. Both are confirmed. Pray tell what the difference is between these two examples.

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    Randy, when you say ‘observable evidence’, what do you mean? The fossil record is observable, as is genetic evidence. As is the Cosmic Microwave Background, for that matter. No doubt you think conclusions based on that are arrogant and dogmatic as well. Is this just your version of the creationist “were you there?” nonsense?

  44. deepak shetty says

    @John Morales
    but unless you believe in the existence of at least one god, you’re an atheist.
    Im sure in the world you live in you only have true/false – but most people would acknowledge that NULL is a different thing altogether. If you even just take atheism there are those who are content to say “No evidence for God” and those who say “No God!” .
    Do you believe in the existence of aliens? Do you have any evidence? Why would you not accept “I do not know if aliens exist” as completely different from Yes , they do! or No they don’t!.

  45. Randy Lee says

    colnago80 writes: “Excuse me, the theory of common ancestors of apes and humans is not speculation, any more then Newton’s Laws of Motion are speculation.”

    This is where you err my friend. Newton’s Laws are not speculation and can be proven mathematically. There are no LAWS when it comes to the subject of Darwinian evolution, i.e. common descent. The conclusive analysis of the data is all speculation .

    colnago80 continues, “It’s really very simple, the theory of common descent for apes and humans predicts the existence of a fusion point in the human genome. When the human genome was decoded, such a fusion point was found. A prediction was made, and was found to be correct. That’s evidence. The fact that the gene for producing vitamin C is broken in the great apes and humans is evidence of common descent. Do you have a better explanation? If so, let’s hear it.”

    You have admitted to understanding the difference between evidence and proof and you even admit this at #45, “However, neither of these pieces of evidence “proves” that common descent of humans and apes is true.”

    So having admitted that there is no evidence to prove common descent to be TRUE, why do you want me to offer speculation to counter your speculation which is based upon suggestive data?

    Can’t you see that this sort of data evidence in and of it self is incapable of generating a conclusion without the subjective analysis of the observer? Newton’s Laws require no such subject analysis.

    Why do you suppose your subjective conclusion of common descent is anything other than “speculation” when you admit it is not proven to be TRUE? Especially when, you admitted, that proof in regards to this issue does not even exist?

  46. Mano Singham says

    @Randy,

    I am jumping into this discussion because your statement that “Newton’s Laws are not speculation and can be proven mathematically” is simply wrong. The laws of science are not proven mathematically, they are inductive generalizations that become accepted as the consensus view by knowledgeable experts in the field because they are the most consistent with the evidence. This understanding of the nature of scientific laws is long-standing and uncontroversial.

  47. Randy Lee says

    Rob Grigjanis writes: “Randy, when you say ‘observable evidence’, what do you mean? The fossil record is observable, as is genetic evidence. As is the Cosmic Microwave Background, for that matter. No doubt you think conclusions based on that are arrogant and dogmatic as well. Is this just your version of the creationist “were you there?” nonsense?”

    Observable evidence to me, in the context of this discussion, is the sort of evidence that can be analysed and used as proof for a change of kinds as Darwin theorized.

    The fossil record has not produced any observable evidence of this nature in spite of the fact that layer after layer of earth has been sifted for such a fossil record. Suppositions have been theorized based upon the fossil record, but therre is a good deal of dispute as to the validity of these claims in light of the fact that they are both subjective and speculative.
    The same is true with respect to the genetic evidence. Genetic evidence is evidence of genetic evidence. It may or may not constitute proof of a certain evolutionary conclusion, such as Darwin’s “change of kinds”. So far no one has presented that caliber of evidence.

    The subjective conclusons of the observer of evidence does not make the theory any more TRUE than the subjective experiences of religious believers make their particular dogma TRUE. Without proof, to take the other position is arrogant and dogmatic.

    And if one is to accept a theory based upon subjective conclusions of suggestive data, then why no apply that same standard to the theory of the existence of God?
    Now Rob, you are free to believe in the theory of common descent in the absence of proof in the same manner that the religious converts are free to believe in the theory of God, if you so choose. But let’s not try to claim your belief/position isn’t based in faith when the fact is that the theory you have chosen to believe is altogether faith-based upon suggestive data and subjective conclusions in the same way that those of the religious convert are..

  48. Rob Grigjanis says

    Randy: Read what Mano wrote @55. You have no idea what you’re talking about as regards science, or how it works.

  49. John Morales says

    deepak shetty @53:

    Im sure in the world you live in you only have true/false – but most people would acknowledge that NULL is a different thing altogether. If you even just take atheism there are those who are content to say “No evidence for God” and those who say “No God!” .

    I’m not unfamiliar with the concept of trivalent logic (NULL is a placeholder so one can operate without complete knowledge of the truth-status of variables), but you should be aware that atheism is a privative definition relating to belief. The reason for the lack of belief in some supernatural entity that can alter reality at will is irrelevant — it’s the lack of belief itself that is relevant — and you’ve already stated you lack such belief.

    Do you believe in the existence of aliens? Do you have any evidence? Why would you not accept “I do not know if aliens exist” as completely different from Yes , they do! or No they don’t!.

    Sure, I believe in the existence of aliens, though I don’t know that they actually do exist.
    The evidence is the universe in which we exist and the acceptance of the mediocrity principle; there is no good reason to believe that Earth is so unique that nowhere else has life arisen.

  50. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee

    To expand on Prof. Singham’s comment, Newton assumed that the gravitational force between two objects was inversely proportional to the square of their separation. This is an assumption, just like common descent or time dilation are assumptions. There is no proof of this assumption. However, the validity of the assumption is shown by it’s prediction that the orbits of the planets in the Solar System would be ellipses, which was what is observed, just like the validity of common descent and time dilation is validated by experimental observations. In fact, Newton developed his laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravitation on a dare. See attached link to a presentation by Neil Tyson.

    http://goo.gl/uEPcJ

  51. Randy Lee says

    Mano Singham writes: “@Randy, I am jumping in to this discussion because your statement that “Newton’s Laws are not speculation and can be proven mathematically” is simply wrong. The laws of science are not proven mathematically, they are inductive generalizations that become accepted as the consensus view by knowledgeable experts in the field because they are the most consistent with the evidence. This understanding of the nature of scientific is long-standing and uncontroversial.”

    Mano, Maybe I should have been more precise. Newtons Laws are definitely reducible to mathematical formulae able to be applied in a manner that expresses the constant nature of the very law itself. Scientific theory and scientific law however are two separate things as I was trying to help colnago80 at # 54 to better uderstand . From an article entitled “What is a Law in Science? Definition of Scientific Law”, published at Live Science.com we find the following:

    “While scientific theories and laws are both based on hypotheses, a scientific theory is an explanation of the observed phenomenon, while a scientific law is a description of an observed phenomenon.

    Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, for example, describe the motions of planets but do not provide an explanation for their movements.

    Both scientific laws and theories are supported by a large body of empirical data; both help unify a particular field of scientific study; and both are widely accepted by the vast majority of scientists within a discipline.

    While a scientific theory can become a scientific law, it does not happen often and each process has a revered and separate purpose as part of the scientific method. A common misconception is that a theory becomes a law after a certain amount of data has accumulated. That is not the case.

    Scientific laws are typically applied to a specific discipline such as biology, physics or chemistry. Since it requires years and even decades of accumulating knowledge, few scientific laws transcend more than one field of science.

    While scientific law is generally associated with the natural sciences, there are some scientific laws that apply to the social sciences such as archeology, economics and linguistics.

    Many scientific laws can be boiled down to a mathematical equation. For example, Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation states: F=Gm1m2/d2, where F is the force of gravity, G is a constant (the Gravitational Constant) that can be measured, m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects, and d is the distance between them.

    Some disciplines, such as physics and chemistry, have many laws because a large number of the principles behind these sciences can be related as mathematical equations. Comparatively, biology has fewer laws and more theories because there are many aspects of this field of science that cannot be broken down in mathematical terms.”

    So as we see, Newtons Laws are reducible to mathmatical proofs, while biological theories such as evolution have oftentimes not been reduced to mathematical formula. Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation.. For this reason scientific laws do not fall in the category of speculation, whereas theoretical “explanations of phenomena” oftentimes do, as in the case of the theory of common descent..

  52. colnago80 says

    So as we see, Newtons Laws are reducible to mathematical proofs, while biological theories such as evolution have oftentimes not been reduced to mathematical formula. Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation.. For this reason scientific laws do not fall in the category of speculation, whereas theoretical “explanations of phenomena” oftentimes do, as in the case of the theory of common descent..

    Excuse me, the observation that the gravitational attraction between 2 bodies is proportional to the inverse square of their separation, is an assumption. This cannot be mathematically proved. It has never been mathematically proved and never will be mathematically proved. It is taken to be correct because calculations based on the assumption agree with the observation that planetary orbits are ellipses. By the way, the reason why the inverse square law of gravity is called a law is because it is described by a single equation. Thus, quantum electrodynamics is not a law as it is a set of equations. In fact, from a pure mathematical point of view, quantum electrodynamics is a preposterous theory which is only justified by the results, namely it allows computation of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron which agrees with experimental observations to 10 significant digits (that’s to 1 part in 10 billion).

    You know, you have quite a crust trying to engage in a debate with Prof. Singham, who teaches physics at a university for a living. You are in way over your head.

  53. Randy Lee says

    colnago80 wrote at #50 “Excuse me, the theory of common ancestors of apes and humans is not speculation, any more then Newton’s Laws of Motion are speculation. It’s really very simple”

    Now at #61 colnago80 writes, “Excuse me, the observation that the gravitational attraction between 2 bodies is proportional to the inverse square of their separation, is an assumption.”

    So it’s like this if you want to take the position that Newton’s law is an assumption, a speculation, and that the theory of common descent is not speculation “anymore than Newtons Laws” that you now assert to be an assumption, then so be it. Ultimately what I wanted you to admit all along was that the theory of common descent was in the category of speculations…
    It’s pointless to argue with you concerning Newtons Law, as that was a collateral issue to the truth and provability of the theory of common descent, to which you have failed to exhibit.

  54. Mano Singham says

    @Randy #60,

    While I have little disagreement with the quoted text, I think my disagreement is with your use of the word ‘proof’ and the last paragraph.

    Many (but not all) of the laws and theories in science (and especially in physics) can be written in the form of mathematical equations. Although the laws are arrived at inductively, those formulae can then be manipulated deductively to apply to specific situations and compared with data. That process can be used as a test of the law or theory but it is not a ‘proof’ of the law or the theory. Notice that the passage you quoted does not use the word ‘proof’ anywhere because that is not how science is viewed. If “Newton’s Laws are not speculation and can be proven mathematically” as you state in #54, then how could it not be true, as we know since Einstein to be the case?

    Now let’s take your last paragraph:

    So as we see, Newtons Laws are reducible to mathmatical proofs, while biological theories such as evolution have oftentimes not been reduced to mathematical formula. Laws differ from scientific theories in that they do not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: they are merely distillations of the results of repeated observation.. For this reason scientific laws do not fall in the category of speculation, whereas theoretical “explanations of phenomena” oftentimes do, as in the case of the theory of common descent.

    The fact that some scientific laws can be more easily expressed in mathematical terms than others is true but I fail to see the relevance for the merit of the laws. For example, the Third Law of Thermodynamics is expressed in words not equations but that does not make it any less powerful. The law of conservation of baryon numbers is applied by just adding up integers, a trivial exercise. But that fact does not make the law any less credible.

    The idea that scientific laws do not fall into the category of speculation is true only if you are using the word ‘speculation’ to signify some sort of unsupported guess. Scientific laws and scientific theories are both creations of the human imagination that are susceptible to testing. The issue is not what one calls something but how well it is supported by evidence.

    The theory of descent from common ancestors seems to be so well established that one would be hard pressed to find professional biology researchers who would doubt it, outside of those who have some sort of religious antipathy towards the idea. In addition, the entire field of population genetics that was developed by Fowler, Wright, and Haldane put natural selection onto a mathematical footing and their success played a significant role in convincing people of the merits of the theory of evolution.

  55. Randy Lee says

    Rob Grigjanis writes: “Randy: Read what Mano wrote @55. You have no idea what you’re talking about as regards science, or how it works.”

    If as the Prof. writes in #55, laws of science are merely inductive generalizations that become accepted as the consensus view by knowledgeable experts in the field because they are the most consistent with the evidence, then we are in a world of chit..

    Laws by their very nature are immutable constant principles, and if the scientific community doesn’t understand this basic truth, and are willing to interchange and loosely throw the term “Law” around as if it is synonymous with either “theory” or “expert consensus”, then it’s not surprising that so many lay people are being led by their reliance on the scientific community.to believe that the theory of common ancestry is true.

    If something is presented as true, or as law, long enough it becomes fashionable.

  56. John Morales says

    Sure, Randy Lee: the observed process of biological evolution (iterated reproduction subject to mutation and selection) can be modeled mathematically. No magic is needed, unlike the goddist conceit.

    In passing, it is quite telling how you obliviously segued from the “the pseudo-scientific model of evolution” to “the scientific community is not convinced yet either” to “it’s not surprising that so many lay people are being led by their reliance on the scientific community”.

    (Not quite as amusing as your lecturing a professional scientist on the scientific method, of course)

  57. Randy Lee says

    What can I say John/ …. life not that easy for some of us as we proceed on our evolutionary path.

  58. colnago80 says

    Re Randy Lee

    Let’s examine one of the fundamental conservation laws in physics, namely conservation of angular momentum. It can be shown mathematically that conservation of angular momentum is equivalent to the mathematical statement that the laws of physics are invariant under static coordinate rotations. In other words, the orientation of the 3 dimensional spacial coordinate system does not affect the results of any experiment. Sounds like a mathematical proof right? Well, invariance under static coordinate rotations is an assumption which cannot be proven mathematically. In fact, it is possible that some experiment performed in the future could prove it to be only an approximate law.

    Up until 60 years ago, it was thought that the laws of physics were invariant under coordinate inversion, which is to say that it was thought that it made no difference whether one made observations in a right handed coordinate system or a left handed coordinate system. The fact that convention has chosen right handed coordinate systems is a consequence of the known fact that some 90% of the human population is right handed. This is known as the law of parity. Well guess what, in the 1950s, physicists Lee and Yang proposed that weak interactions violated parity. Experiments conducted by physicist Chien-Shiung Wu (known as Madame Wu) verified the proposal of Lee and Yang, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their contribution. Unfortunately, Madame Wu was left out, a travesty of justice. Thus, the choice of a left handed coordinate system or a right handed coordinate system, which seems completely arbitrary from a mathematical perspective is nothing of the sort in physics.

  59. John Morales says

    [meta + OT]

    deepak shetty, I note you have not (yet) responded to my #58.

    (Silence signifies assent)

    -

    I have responded to your enquiry by stating I believe that aliens exist though I acknowledge that I don’t know that they do exist; given your question was presumably thematically anologic, I take it you are agnostic about their existence (that is, you cannot commit to any belief about that proposition, even provisionally) in the same manner as you claim to be agnostic about the existence of at least one god.

     

    (Were I to be provocative, I would ask you whether you are agnostic about Santa Claus :) )

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