Comments

  1. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Regarding the design caller. Wow. That was painful all around. I appreciate Matt’s and Martin’s effort to get the caller to try to explain the falsification criteria for his position. IMHO, I think I would have taken a Bayesian approach. Specifically, I have this other competing hypothesis called evolution by natural selection. It also predicts that we would see creatures with parts that all make sense together (“consistent”). How would you tell the difference between a bird created by unguided natural selection and a bird created by a supernatural designer? We’ve got plenty of evidence for unguided natural selection, and basically not a whit of evidence for your designer.

  2. happyperson says

    many problems with the design caller, but one of the main ones is that he takes as his examples the most current ‘models’ of biology, ignoring the whole spectrum of evolutionary history. it’s akin to the person who thinks how amazing it is that we just happen to breathe oxygen or that fish are lucky that they have gills where it seems like they were designed to ‘fit’ their environment, but ignoring processes of natural selection where organisms without the appropriate biology would have died off early on.

  3. xscd says

    Brandon from Round Rock, Texas, has called in at least a few times before. He’s confident and determined, and at least he does’nt hem and haw like some other callers to the extent that you want to throttle them, but he’s very tedious. The hosts (whoever happens to get him next time) might consider cutting him off after his second “I’m getting to that …” (to his point).

    The argument that things are too complicated, too perfectly suited to their function, is tiring to me, and I can already see anti-evolutionists having to carefully word their own argument, instead of saying, “too perfectly adapted to their environmental conditions.” Collections of cells, working together but with individual structures and functions, do indeed create some comple organisms and anatomical features, and that’s what millions of years of genetic variation will do. In addition, a huge number of animals including us humans are much more similar than different, our leg and arm bones being merely monstrously overgrown small fish bones for example, that it seems much more likely that we all sprang from one or more similar organisms that already had ribs, a backbone, bony head plate, similar although less fully specialized internal organs, gills or lungs or both (like Tiktaalik, the real-life “Darwin fish.”)

    Anyway, the argument that “there’s a magic guy in the sky who can do anything” is not really very convincing and sounds like a fallback position, like “I don’t know.”

  4. says

    I’ve heard Matt’s “you’re saying everything is designed” argument before, but letting Brandon try to explain it actually helped me understand it better. One of the frustrating paradoxes of the show; gotta let ’em talk so we can see how stupid they are. Matt and Martin expressed perfectly how the show works and really, how conversation works; we need to allow each other to make points, but make your point, don’t switch to “you interrupted me” when the problem is, you’ve been heard, clarification has been made, you’ve been given more than one chance to come up with additional evidence, and you haven’t.

  5. Narf says

    @1 – 5
    Heh, yeah, that’s always an issue. It takes a few calls with a regular caller, before you can see if they’re actually going to go anywhere with their particular line of … let’s call it “reasoning”, for want of a better word, even if that often seems like an inaccurate term. Hell, you never know, maybe a few creationist watchers will benefit from watching him stumble around and fail to respond to the many issues with the argument from design, when their reasoning probably resembles the caller’s. We hear from people who snapped out of it, all the time.

    Either way, you don’t necessarily want to cut someone off too early. This show is for talking to the theists, after all. If we want to listen to them speak to a bunch of atheists, Jeff Dee hosts a podcast for that.

  6. corwyn says

    As written ‘Satanic’ can modify ‘Book’ just as easily as ‘Children’. ‘Book’ and ‘Big’ would be the adjectives I would object to. “The Satanic Children’s Small Pamphlet of Activities” seems more appropriate.

  7. Narf says

    @7
    Wasn’t there a pamphlet with that title, by the same people who planned the interactive Children’s display of Satan, for that courthouse lawn?

  8. frankgturner says

    @ happy person #3
    Brandon definitely does not seem to comprehend the idea of confirmation bias, though he is demonstrating it very well. He sees lots of wings and their function and assumes they must have been desighned for that function, as if repeated observation is the only way to conduct scientific analysis. At least he is arguing from the point of making observations instead of it being just based on principles. I would almost have said to him, “Ok, what about the millions of wings that did not fly so well that are not only present now (penguins were brought up) but are present in the fossil record? I mean you pick up one watch and you see it has remnants of design, you pick up multiple watches in the same area and maybe they all have remnants of design. NOw what if you are considering a sea full of watches some of which work as watches and many don’t, some of them working to perform different functions. Do you conclude that they were all made to be watches even though many don’t have that function despite APPEARING to have that function?
    .
    Although I would have agreed with him on one standpoint, I think wings were designed…by nature. I think there is a force, more than one, that holds the universe together and allows it to operate the way it does, I call it nature. Why does something being designed mena that it has to have been designed by a sentient being? or on purpose? or to perform a particular function? or to perform the function that you think it does?
    .
    @ xscd #4
    I have listened to him call and despite the determination he seems to always have one characteristic that he can’t seem to shake. He starts with the conclusion and looks at what evidence leads to it rather than looking at the evidence and following it to the conclusion. A common error I notice to get cause and effect backwards.
    .
    and Lausten North # 5
    Based on previous calls, I don’t think Brandon understands what real hard phsyical evidence actually is nor how to analyze or apply it. He obviously does not fully comprehend the scientific method or how to apply it. He makes me think of a cargo cultist who has the ceremonial form of the practice down, but does not fully comprehend the purpose.

  9. Monocle Smile says

    Brandon brought up triangular wheels at some point, but he unwittingly defeated his own argument by doing so. Sure, triangular wheels wouldn’t roll very well, but they could have another function, and as Brandon himself said…”ignorance of the function doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one,” which is just a fancy, dishonest get-out-of-jail-free card. Matt chalked this up to a tautology, and he was exactly right…which is likely why Brandon started whining like a toddler.

  10. happyperson says

    one of brandon’s mistakes was to not be explicit about his points. he kept trying to point out ‘flaws’ in matt’s position making everyone impatient about what brandon’s position was. at one point he just said ‘i’m getting to it’ when asked to state his position while durdling on some irrelevant points. starting off by showing that he had no idea what ‘logical’ means didn’t help either.

  11. happyperson says

    @frankgturner

    right. brandon’s mistake was not that he didn’t use observation per se, but to neglect that observation also includes data that can indirectly reveal things that happened in the past and developmental histories. it’s the same mistake that some creationists make where they insist on people having seen the big bang to be sure that it happened. this same reasoning makes every murder impossible to solve if we ignore forensic evidence.

    re: design. there is not question there is an appearance of design in nature as dawkins points out. the question is what accounts for that (and yes, the answer involves natural mechanisms). I have to dig for the info, but one of the best responses to intelligent design I found is the insect that has wings, but the wings are totally encased inside its shell. what use are those wings if the insect can’t even use them? as brandon said, just because we don’t know what they are for doesn’t mean that they don’t have a function lol!

  12. Narf says

    @12

    it’s the same mistake that some creationists make where they insist on people having seen the big bang to be sure that it happened. this same reasoning makes every murder impossible to solve if we ignore forensic evidence.

    You’re forgetting the many black people who happened to be in the area, who can be used to solve the crime.

    The fact that DNA and other forensic evidence often later demonstrates that they didn’t do it makes my assholish joke an even better metaphor than I had initially intended. Hopefully we’ll get that evidence together before the governor of Texas signs off on the execution order.

  13. frankgturner says

    @happyperson # 12
    From time to time I have described the brain as being like a muscle, where you have to work out different parts of it progressively over time like weight lifting and running in order to have the brute strength and endurance to life hefty ideas and hold them up for a while. It is an interesting analogy because too often I meet people who argue against evolution and when I ask them to describe the problems they have, it becomes obvious that they don’t understand it.
    .
    So why not study it so that you could understand it? Of course if you study it and truly start to understand it you might start to agree with it (I hear from time to time). To which I respond, “Really? I know a few historians who have a strong comprehension of the National Socialism movement in Germany and they didn’t become Nazis.” So why can’t Brandon make an effort to study evolution if he is so against it? There are quite a large range of videos about it online.
    .
    Although I will admit, sometimes I don’t understand something that I have read even having read it many times. We all have to have things explained to us by the right source sometimes in order to get it, but Brandon could at least make more of an effort.

  14. happyperson says

    @fankgturner @19

    the reason is because true open mindedness (being able to step back and assess every position no matter how vile you think it is, being able to say you are wrong, etc.) is an attitude that not many people have. I think this accounts partly for confirmation bias. i think the problem is partly psychological as a result, not a simple lack of research skill. also, if you really want to believe in something, especially something that is emotionally charged as god, it’s very difficult to find the patience to sit down and really take the time to research a subject as complicated and counter-intuitive as evolution.

  15. frankgturner says

    @happyperson # 22
    I would claim that many an individual, including many who are NOT religious, are like what is described in this article. http://www.audreymarlene-lifecoach.com/the-need-to-be-right.html, and Brandon is obviously one of them. Also I could imagine that what is described in that article being correlated with the Dunning Kruger effect and research into that someday may prove to be useful.
    .
    If there is a gene that creates that personality type I would say that we need to find a way to cause it to mutate and shut down or just cut it out of our DNA completely.

  16. LeggoMyLamb says

    Way too much air time dedicated to Brandon (and other select callers within the last several weeks). The “designed” animal parts he was harping on are perfectly explained by the process of natural selection. If aspect x provides any kind of survival advantage, more creatures are able to pass it on to their offspring. I understand that the hosts want to avoid appearing like self-proclaimed scientists, but c’mon TAE….Brandon could have easily been stopped dead in his tracks after 3 minutes!

  17. says

    My goodness, Matt got short with that guy in a hurry. But I guess you have to for people like that. Any time someone starts an argument with “If..” or “Suppose you have…”, you gotta shut that down. One cannot base their entire argument around fictional scenarios deliberately constructed in the argument’s favor. Analogies are not arguments. It is a common tactic among all theologians, charlatans and hustlers, to argue in parables and analogies instead of facts.

    Now, the problem with the Argument from Design is that none of the people advocating it actually understand what design is.

    Any engineer can design an irreducibly complex system. There are contests to design the most irreducibly complex Rube Goldberg device to perform the most intentionally stupid task. So what? An irreducibly complex system – or even a specifically complex one – does not imply an intelligent designer. A designer, maybe, but not a very good one. Complexity is bad. It just means more things can go wrong (and do). The best engineers do not value complexity. They want simplicity and rote, elegant efficiency, with as few variables and unknowns as possible. Basic, effective, and form befitting function. What need does life have for complexity?

    Hell, why is anything even complex to begin with? To assume that the Universe is complex or that there are complex things in it is making a gross, anthropocentric error. What I mean is, because we can make complex things according to us, we assume that other complex things in the Universe must be made with humancentric sensibilities toward complexity in mind. But there is no indication that this is the case. The Universe is under no obligation to validate our anthropocentric notions of how we think it ought to operate.

    Complexity in general isn’t an argument against naturalistic causes. Complexity – especially Intelligent Complexity – implies benevolent patterned consistency that overrides overwhelming statistical improbability, but there’s nothing in the Universe that affirms this. At the subatomic level, everything contains varying quantities of the same elements. There is no mathematical model robust enough to justify the infinite numbers of causes and effects that happened to result in anything existing in its current state. Everything that exists is a product of incalculable odds, and every event in the Universe happens only once.There are no miracles because everything is a miracle.

    We cannot make the distinction of design if we cannot know the method of design, the definition of design, the manner or construction of design, or anything about the designer (up to and including adequate and intimate knowledge of how the designer designs things). To detect design, we must have an understanding of what non-design is. If a designer created everything, then what are we comparing his designs to? If we are not capable of tracking him down or studying his methods, how are we supposed to distinguish Mount Rushmore from an eroded crop of granite, pegmatite and metamorphic rock? (and would we be able to make that distinction if we weren’t human?)

    Moreover, the recognition of design is heavily predicated on the human standard of what design actually means. If design is divorced from the human condition, it becomes impossible to adequately recognize it . Things like SETI, for instance, are theoretically valid only because they apply to extraterrestrial intelligence – that is, because we are living intelligent things ourselves, we have a generalized idea of what to look for when searching for other living intelligent things in the cosmos. But we don’t have any theoretical framework for detecting and validating non-living intelligent non-things that design living intelligent things. What does that even mean?

    Mousetraps, watches, paintings, computers, coke cans or any other kind of analogy are completely inadmissible arguments. Those things need to be designed because they’re made of chemicals and parts that cannot replicate themselves. Life doesn’t need to be designed because it is made of chemicals and parts that do replicate themselves.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    implies benevolent patterned consistency that overrides overwhelming statistical improbability, but there’s nothing in the Universe that affirms this.

    IMHO, it’s not just statistical improbability. I think I’m getting better putting this into words. This is more for my own benefit:

    To determine if something is designed, I use Bayesian reasoning. (Just like everything else.) Let me give an example.

    If and when I find what appears to be an IBM laptop computer in orbit around Jupiter, I am going to conclude that humans or intelligent aliens put it there. I do so on this basis:

    First, like any good Bayesian, I identify all of the plausible hypotheses. IMHO, an important part of that first step is also taking inventory of how much I don’t know. Given recent advances in physics, I feel pretty confident that I have sufficient inventory of the relevant forces and causes at work.

    Now compare this to creationists who say that natural causes cannot have done it, and thus life was designed. I think I’m sitting much better than the creationists before Darwin because I know much more, and know better what I don’t know. The creationists of old were very bad at recognizing how much they didn’t know.

    So, I identify plausible hypotheses, or causal explanations of how that IBM laptop came to be in orbit around Jupiter. I’ll divide the hypotheses into “put there by intelligent creatures which arose from abiogenesis and evolution by natural selection” and “other”. I know “other” includes stuff like random collisions of debris during planetary formation. I believe that I have a sufficient inventory of other causes like big bang theory, stellar formation, accretion, planetary formation, etc., that none of these are plausible. The only plausible hypothesis is the intelligent creature hypothesis.

    Aside: Ok, technically speaking, there is a non-zero chance of that IBM laptop being made by the known non-intelligent processes. During planet formation, a bazillion little asteroid impacts might have happened just right to dope the silicon chips in just the right way, etc. However, I think it safe to say that by examining the likelihood of these events, we should expect to see less than 1 such thing per entire observable universe. Thus my conclusive that it was put there by intelligent material creatures is only a probabilistic, tentative conclusion, like any other scientific conclusion.

    Similarly, maybe there’s some process out there that dopes silicon in just the right way. That would make me wrong. But again, I think I have good enough evidence that the possibility of existence of such processes is very small. Again, making my conclusion probabilistic and tentative, like any other scientific conclusion.

    Now, IMHO this is where the creationists really go off the rails when they try to argue that life was designed. The creationists include all of the usual stuff, like big bang theory, stellar formation, random collisions. Then they add another hypothesis with near-absolutely zero basis in their background evidence – their invisible magic sky father.

    First, if creationists before Darwin add that hypothesis, they should add all equally implausible implausible batshit crazy hypotheses, but they don’t. For example, maybe it was intelligent material aliens caught in a repeating timeloop which created life on Earth. (Further, modern creationists also ignore perfectly good alternatives like abiogenesis plus natural selection.)

    Second, the creationists didn’t properly apply the likelihood of invisible magic sky fathers from their background evidence. Their priors are way too high, way out of accord with the available evidence. When you take the background evidence into account, invisible magic sky fathers become quite improbable too, arguably about as improbable as the likelihood of a million random asteroid collisions which happen to properly dope silicon to create a facsimile of an IBM laptop.

    tl;dr I am using the same basic form of argument of creationists, but IMHO in my case the premises are supported by evidence, and in the creationists case the premises are not supported by evidence.

  19. blue says

    @emlightenmentliberal, you don’t need to faff around with all that. Just wait and watch and see if it can reproduce itself. If it does, then you know it probably evolved, because you just saw a mechanism for evolution. If it doesn’t, then either it was designed or you haven’t seen it reproduce yet.

    And now I’m offf to panic over von Neumann machines.

  20. Robert Delaney says

    Just FYI for any hosts who might read this:

    This week’s episode seems as if it may have been uploaded to iTunes incorrectly.
    I always listen to the podcast, so I thought it was weird when I didn’t have a new one listed (I have AXP set to auto download).

    I finally wound up searching for it manually in the iTunes story and sure enough it was there – so I downloaded it just now.
    When I look at it in my phone the date is shown as “December 31, 2000,” which means it wasn’t flagged as a new show (which is why my phone didn’t download it automatically).

    Just a heads up.

  21. VeNOO says

    Just a small detail. Am I mistaken or Matt said that Einstein had only high school education? Actually before his “miracle year” (1905, when he published his famous papers on photoelectricity, brownian motion and special relativity) he finished Zürich Polytechnic in 1900, published several papers on thermodynamics and got his PhD just in the beginning of 1905. So when he wrote THOSE papers he was in no way an outsider for academic community but simply unsuccessful in getting position.

  22. Sunday Afternoon says

    @Robert Delaney (#29):

    I’m set up like you for auto iTunes download and also didn’t get the new episode. Thanks for the pointer for how to get it manually.

  23. says

    Please stop blocking comments on the ‘The Atheist Experience’ (TAE) Archive videos. Quit hiding, ducking, etc. Let the words flow. Let People get their feelings hurt. It’s part of the process. People get changed in these ‘discussions’. Stop damming the river, please! As much as I love the show, I really dislike the ham-fisted way the show so often goes. Doesn’t anybody there care about precision, timing, gradual potting up, segues, etc? It doesn’t seem that way. Yeah, I realize it’s not your equipment, that you have to share it with many others. Been there. Houston has much the same type of set up. I hope you’ll come up with a clever way of getting wealthy Atheists on the line to better support the ACA. So many common folk have been financially drained by the GOP and their Bastardly [sic] plans. If you don’t, then please change and accept major donations for better pieces of equipment you can use for the show. Whatever you have right now (2014) is not as nice/convenient/well working as it should be. We’re still getting mainly poor audio. Not cool. Yes, I realize that cellphone and line calls can be on different ends of the capacitance scale, but you oughta have a gadget that deals with it well. Why don’t you?? I’m pretty sure that wealthy Atheists would get a kick out of the knowledge that you’re using their gift mic/seat/table/modem/light/etc. right there on the screen. I encourage buttonholing the wealthy god-free. They’ve got extra money, now that they don’t tithe. That tithe money should go to the ACA! Admittedly, this video was done back in 2009…but you’d just gotten in new equipment that they’d worked on installing for months! Why didn’t they set it up much more suitably for you? Don’t they understand that you’re a biggie? You’re a force to be treated decently, not poorly, as it appears the ACA’s ‘TAE’ has. I’ve lost count of how many of the shows have either bad lighting or bad audio. It shouldn’t be that way after all this time. I hope big changes are coming regarding this. There should be a permanent ACA studio. You have a powerful, important message. It shouldn’t come all crackly and dim to The People, as it so often does. ARgh! This show – the lighting was poor. The audio still pales in comparison to the audio you regularly had at Dillahunty Intercontinental Studios. I’m glad Jeff had the control room change the background from the hellacious red. What’s what with them in the control room? Don’t they understand that it would be best to project confidence/coolness/tolerance/etc?? I suspect at least one of the control room regulars is actually an undercover sabotaging bible-thumper. Why else would the shows be so continually shaky, sound and light wise? What you’re doing is important. You’re changing minds! Bad equipment should not be part of the mix anymore. A good crew checks the equipment well long before stage time. Somebody needs to get on the stick about this. How big is the ACA? Have you set up a security group? Are you alert for sabotage? I’m concerned. I want to see a ‘TAE’ show that both looks and sounds right. After so many years, you all are very over due. I have to wonder if the Director is blind or severely sight challenged. Why would he/she allow the hosts to sit in near darkness (as the viewers see it)? I wouldn’t have allowed that for a second! It’s called teleVision for a reason, folks. I suspect somebody(s) in the control room needs to find a different aspect of the ACA to serve. Rant over. Good journey

  24. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @danlewis
    If you expect anyone to read that, use paragraph breaks. There for a reason.

    Second, the likely response from the show is: Your concern is noted.

  25. Narf says

    @32 – danlewis
    We had this discussion many posts back, Dan. YouTube comment sections are usually incoherent disasters. The simple act of requiring that people come to a blog and comment here is a sort of screening process. It cleans up a lot of the trolling and makes it more likely that we can have a discussion with the theists who are actually worth talking to. People who make it all the way to an atheist blog are more likely to be worth talking to.

    As for the quality of the audio and such, TAE is filmed at a public-access studio. There’s a certain degree to which they’re constrained by that. They’ve had some audio engineers pitch in suggestions, and the response from the crew was that they aren’t allowed to screw around with the equipment to that degree.

    They’re recording Non Prophets Radio out of their official ACA building. They have free control over things there. They apparently aren’t set up to the point of being able to film TAE there, though. I’m not sure what their future plans are for that.

  26. says

    #32

    Disclaimer: I am not a member of the show, or in any way affiliated. These are the bits of information I’ve picked up as this topic comes up regularly.

    I hope you’ll come up with a clever way of getting wealthy Atheists on the line to better support the ACA. So many common folk have been financially drained by the GOP and their Bastardly [sic] plans. If you don’t, then please change and accept major donations for better pieces of equipment you can use for the show.

    Even if they had the money, they’re not allowed to change the equipment. Over the years, many much many people have suggested that they get caller ID. They can’t.

    They’re setting up their own studio, but it doesn’t have many of the benefits that a cable show does. They’re riding it out until the cable studio finally, inevitably, closes.

    but you’d just gotten in new equipment that they’d worked on installing for months! Why didn’t they set it up much more suitably for you? Don’t they understand that you’re a biggie? You’re a force to be treated decently, not poorly, as it appears the ACA’s ‘TAE’ has.

    There’s no financial incentive for the studio to care. Given the wall-to-wall religious programming that’s on the other Austin public access channels, it’s more likely that they’d rather see them go, as there’s a must more pervasive preference for religion in the area, than atheism.

    There should be a permanent ACA studio.

    They’re working on it, and actually, is up and running.

    The audio still pales in comparison to the audio you regularly had at Dillahunty Intercontinental Studios.

    The nature is also different. One of the big problems is the echo from the speaker that plays the audio from the phone line. Sitting around a table with headphones, they didn’t have that problem. If the available equipment, that they’re required to use, doesn’t support cancelling out the feedback, there’s not much they can do (except headphones, maybe).

    I’m glad Jeff had the control room change the background from the hellacious red. What’s what with them in the control room?

    They have different aesthetic preferences than you? When it comes to design, everyone has an opinion, and they’re all apparently right.

    I suspect at least one of the control room regulars is actually an undercover sabotaging bible-thumper.

    That would be very difficult to pull off. The control room has multiple people who are each familiar with the equipment. If something goes wrong, they typically know the source. It’d be a matter of time before this saboteur’s actions would be noticed. They’ve been doing this for 17 (or so) years.

    Why else would the shows be so continually shaky, sound and light wise?

    Because the studio is shoddy and they can only do so much to fix it? They’re going to war with the army they have, not the army they wish for.

    A good crew checks the equipment well long before stage time.

    You think they haven’t thought of this? They do check it… every show. That doesn’t guarantee that no problems will arise. They do a test call before every show.

    Also keep in mind the scheduling of the studio. They may not have much time to prepare. Other people use the studios too. They usually are in a rush to clean up and clear out after each show ends. Additionally, the settings/setup are usually modified by other shows before AE.

    Somebody needs to get on the stick about this.

    They have. It has had limited effect.

    Have you set up a security group? Are you alert for sabotage?

    … really?

    I have to wonder if the Director is blind or severely sight challenged.

    … or limited in what can be done to fix it. I remember there was one show where the lights were burned out. All they could do is report it.

    Why would he/she allow the hosts to sit in near darkness (as the viewers see it)? I wouldn’t have allowed that for a second!

    And you would have promptly gotten the show kicked out for violating its terms and conditions with the studio.

  27. Narf says

    Heh heh heh heh heh. Yeah, one missed /.

    Wait, it looks like you missed a closing tag altogether. If it was a closing tag that you turned into an opening tag, they would be an extra two deep, after that point. They’re only one extra deep.

    Anyway, Preview is your friend, any time you’re doing a post of any significant complexity. 😀

  28. Anne C. Hanna says

    The sad thing about Brandon’s arguments is that there are people whose *job* it is to determine whether found objects of unknown provenance were created or altered by the deliberate actions of an intelligent creature. Those people are called archaeologists. When they study the very earliest human and hominid sites, they have a very challenging task, because the signs of human intervention in some candidate tools, adornments, and deliberate burials are subtle almost to the point of pareidolia. Determining whether a hole was drilled in a shell by a human stringing it for jewelry or by a parasitic worm looking for lunch, or whether a piece of ochre was carved for ceremonial purposes or just happened to be scratched up by the way it broke off its source rock, is not a trivial endeavor, and it requires careful analysis of a lot of factors, such as (in no particular order):

    1) whether humans are known to have inhabited the site during the relevant time period, or, failing that, whether, given other knowledge about the spread of the human species, humans could plausibly have inhabited the site and might have reasons to do so,
    2) whether humans could possibly have made the alterations we see to the object, given what we know, or can reasonably infer, about human technology in general and the technology of that era/area in particular,
    3) whether there is a plausible motivation, based on what we know of humans in general or the humans of that era/area in particular, for the object to have been modified in the fashion we see, and
    4) whether there are plausible mechanisms not involving an intelligent actor which could account for the modifications we see.

    Similar sorts of questions arise in paleontology, e.g. when one wants to identify the cause of death of a particular fossilized animal (human predator vs. non-human predator vs. natural disaster/disease/old age). Sometimes it’s pretty hard to tell, and the only answers we can get are tentative ones.

    And then at the other end of the spectrum, we have things like the claims that the Egyptians couldn’t have built the pyramids, or that the Tiwanaku couldn’t have built Pumapunku, because their technology wasn’t advanced enough, so it must’ve been aliens. Again, careful analysis of the details of the objects’ construction and other knowledge about the source cultures can be used to resolve these issues, without invoking the supernatural or the extraterrestrial.

    Looking at the criteria used in academic discussions of finds at both ends of the spectrum might be very edifying for Brandon.

  29. Narf says

    @39 – Anne C. Hanna
    Yeah, and when we have that much trouble just discerning whether something was intentionally crafted by humans or effected by natural processes or unthinking animals, how much more far-fetched is it to claim that you can determine design in the entirety of the universe, without even having something undesigned as a a point of reference, using the simplistic standards of a creationist? It boggles my mind how anyone could think that the argument from design is convincing, even those who have been indoctrinated into Christianity or something similar.

  30. Robert Delaney says

    @Sunday Afternoon (#31):

    Just a heads up, it looks like this week’s show has the same iTunes issue as this episode, so your phone won’t autodownload it.

    Search for it manually and you should find it no problem.

  31. Anne C. Hanna says

    Narf @40, agreed.

    Even a hypothetical xenoarchaeologist studying candidate artifacts found on another planet would have an easier time determining design than a creationist. Because in that case you can still use inferences like, “I know that there’s at least one kind of evolved, intelligent, spacefaring species in the universe (humans) that chose to come to this planet, so it’s plausible that there could be another,” and, “I know the kinds of things humans are capable of doing with our technology and are interested in doing with it, so I can make some not-totally-pulled-out-of-my-ass guesses about what another evolved, intelligent, spacefaring species might be able to do and be interested in doing.” We’ve got points of reference for that kind of comparison — things on our planet that we know we didn’t mess with, and things on our planet that we know we did mess with. But for an omni* deity that supposedly made everything we can ever possibly encounter and whose plans are by definition too great for our feeble human minds to fathom? We’ve got nuthin’.

  32. Narf says

    Actually, I can almost understand the more deistic anthropic-argument … not the omni-max god, but a distant first-cause. It’s just as logically vapid and useless as the young-earth creationist one, but it doesn’t strike me as being quite as intellectually dishonest, until William Lane Craig gets his greasy paws on it.

    What we recognize as design is the elegance … regularity and relative simplicity of accomplishing the function/purpose. The universe, looked at on the macro level, fits this description a little better at least. Of course it’s still an unjustified leap, only even suggested because of the theistic gods that we made up thousands of years ago, and it does an absolutely shit job of explaining anything.

    But when you zoom in to the level of biology, claiming design is just insane. Biological organisms are a cluster-fuck of inefficiency. We’re an absolute bodge-job, indicating the work of something like, as George Carlin put it, an office temp with a bad attitude.

    But even the deistic believers can’t justify a damned thing. I’ve never heard a coherent answer for what the proposal actually gets us, in terms of explanatory power. I don’t even see how it makes for a good security blanket, since a deistic god doesn’t get you a soul or an afterlife, without glomming on a bunch of unjustified shit borrowed from a religion like Christianity. I don’t see why they bother.

  33. Anne C. Hanna says

    Narf, yeah, deism is *merely* useless. It posits an uncaused first cause to get out of saying, “I don’t know,” while providing no guidance for any further investigations into the reality or nature of that supposed first cause. So it still shuts down inquiry, but at least it makes a lot fewer silly claims than the average theism.

    But even granting that it’s not as fraught with, “Why would a deity that’s supposedly omni* and cares about our flourishing make us with such crappy spines?” types of questions as theism, I still don’t see how it’s really all that reasonable to identify even just the physical laws of the universe as being deistically designed.

    I mean, if I start up a zillion different cellular automata at random and then only show you one of the rare ones that makes interesting, complicated, unpredictable patterns and not all the ones that just go “white row, black row, white row, black row” for all of eternity, and other such boring junk, sure, it’s easy to look at the one example I provided you and be in awe of how cleverly I designed such a simple ruleset to give such complex and interesting results. But of course, I didn’t really design anything at all, I just cherrypicked a randomly-generated result that did what I wanted. Similarly, since universes with “white row, black row” physics don’t produce creatures capable of having arguments about design, all such arguments will take place in universes which have effectively been “cherrypicked” to have physics which produces “interesting” results. So a universe where we can argue about design is by necessity one which fits the lame-ass deistic criteria for “appearing” designed.

    The problem is that deists haven’t, so far as I’ve seen, provided any mechanism for differentiating the naturalistic and deistic versions of such an “apparently” designed universe from each other, given that we’re stuck *inside* that universe with no access to the deity. And this is for the same reason that creationist theists can’t provide a good mechanism for detecting *their* version of design: we have no known-designed and known-undesigned universe-like objects to compare our universe to, no independent reason to believe that the designer exists (since we have never directly detected it or any other similar entity), nothing even remotely resembling reliable and consistent information about the designer’s capabilities or goals. In short, we have none of the tools that we’d use to identify even relatively ordinary objects such as ancient human artifacts or hypothetical xeno-artifacts as designed. And yet they want to make an even *more* extraordinary design claim than would ordinarily be defended using such tools.

    And then, on top of that, deists, just like theists, want to flip the way the design argument is actually used by the professionals who study real-world design. Archaeologists don’t infer that humans exist because they find artifacts. Archaeologists go into a dig *knowing* that humans exist, because they are and have met humans. The only inference they draw from finds of purported artifacts is that humans, something they already know exists, happened to be present in a particular place at a particular time. Even a xeno-archaeologist discovering the first alien artifacts ever seen would go into that discovery knowing that intelligent, evolved life exists in the universe, because they *are* an example of intelligent, evolved life. So they’d be proposing the apparent artifacts as evidence of a new *type* of life, a new set of circumstances under which life evolved, perhaps even a new set of technologies developed by life. But they would not be making up the idea of intelligent, evolved, artifact-producing life out of whole cloth. (Hell, even believers in fringey stuff like “ancient astronauts” are being relatively conservative in this sense.)

    Yet deists and theists both want to tell us that finding a universe, a type of thing which we have never seen created, which we have no idea how it *could* be created, and for which no even remotely comparable contrasting objects are available, is sufficient evidence all by itself to demonstrate the existence of a universe-creating pixie, another type of thing which we have never encountered and which we have no other particular reason to believe exists. An archaeologist who tried to pull that kind of maneuver would be laughed out of academia.

  34. pedrotimoteo says

    If I were you, I’d have called the design guy on the fact that he was following a script. You could see how he repeated his questions when he didn’t have the answer he expected, or how he’d say “so you guys believe…” when he wanted to move on.

  35. Billbo says

    The question of how intelligent you are is very important. Humans all have different capabilities both physical and mental. I have found that many people are below a level of mental activity that is capable of following a simple logical argument. To many people belief equates to truth, often because they cannot reason well enough so they rely on feelings to make decisions. Arguing with these people is obviously pointless. The problem is that they will argue with you because from their point of view you are (doing) the same as them. I look at the squirrel burying nuts in the back yard and wonder how it decided to bury them in that particular spot. The squirrel looks at me and wonders where I buried my nuts.

  36. Fahim says

    11:52 of the video:

    The caller is wrong. An aerodynamic wing shaped rock will still produce lift. You can use giant aerodynamic slabs of rock as wings if you want to. The problem will be structural and propulsive power requirement issue due to added weight. It will still produce lift. Now, if the lift will be enough….that depends on other factors.

  37. Fahim says

    Another problem at 13:47 “If you put an engine on a stick it wouldn’t fly….”

    Wrong again. Unless you don’t count rockets and all other things we propel through space/air that gets from point A to B without making contact with ground.

  38. edmond says

    The design guy Brandon needs to keep in mind… “design” requires a designer, and the designer must have a PURPOSE for his design. He has a REASON for setting out to design something to do a what it does. We designed airplanes (and their wings) because we wanted to travel great distances very quickly. So in that context… what is the designer’s purpose for designing flighted animals? If the designer is to be labled “God”, then (to paraphrase Kirk) what does God need with a bird? Does God REQUIRE some animals to be airborne? What was his motivation behind including the “design elements” that he selected?

    When we consider that evolution and natural selection are the “designers”, it is easier to understand that nature makes its “designs” at random. Some work very well, and are kept. Many worked very badly, and were discarded. Life’s only need is to consume and spread. That is the “motivation” behind its “design”. Whatever furthers that goal will be propagated by nature. Anything else (and there has been plenty) is filtered out as failure. This would be the WORST way for an intelligence to deliberately strive for successful design.

  39. Narf says

    @49 – Fahim
    Hell, for that matter, won’t some fighter jets fly for a while with the wings shot off, as long as the guidance fins are still intact? You’re still pretty much fucked, long-term, since they aren’t designed with that in mind, but the engines on some of those things are stupidly powerful for their mass.

    @50 – edmond

    The design guy Brandon needs to keep in mind… “design” requires a designer, and the designer must have a PURPOSE for his design. He has a REASON for setting out to design something to do a what it does. We designed airplanes (and their wings) because we wanted to travel great distances very quickly. So in that context… what is the designer’s purpose for designing flighted animals?

    Eh, I’m not entirely onboard with that argument, since you could have a clueless, whimsical deity who is just screwing around with neither aim nor competence. I’d still call the end results designed, even if there was a being like that at the drawing board.

    It’s still potentially useful, rhetorically speaking, since most Christians wouldn’t be happy with that kind of description of the being they worship. It’s something more along the lines of what people will ponder while stoned. You should just be aware that it’s full of holes, as a purely logical argument, and not try to defend it as being a solid logical argument.

  40. corwyn says

    As usual with this logical arguments, they don’t intend them to apply to their deity.

    Asking “So this universal premise/principle you are proposing, does it apply to your god as well?” quickly brings the hemming and hawing, and special pleading.

    Since your god is complex, it must be designed, who designed it?

  41. Narf says

    Well yeah, that’s my point. The objections I mentioned can be brought up by the random, fuzzy, new-agey theists … that or stoners discussing their deep thoughts, while stoned. For an actual Christian, it would take someone dishonest, like William Lane Craig, who can flip between a deistic god-concept and a theistic, Christian one without batting an eye or acknowledging that he has done so. Craig or Steele might try to weasel around it, but most won’t.

    Anyway, edmond’s argument isn’t really a logical one. It’s more of a consider-this-and-see-where-it-leads-your-thoughts sort of argument that might help bring some of the people on the fence more in our direction. It won’t do any good against a devout believer.

  42. frankgturner says

    @Narf # 53
    I say it is all about motivation. WLC’s motivation is obviously to make money through supporters. I have read stuff of his that sounds pro-creationist one moment then claims by WLC that it is embarrassing that so many Americans believe that the earth is 6000 years old. WLC thinks like a politician, where it is important how popular your views are, not if they are factually correct in a demonstrable form. He talks out of both sides of his mouth. Honesty, true intellectual honesty, is about factual correctness and demonstrable proof being more important than whether your views are popular.
    .
    And in simultaneous response to corwyn in # 52 (it ties in here) of course they hem and haw about what it is applied to. Edmond wants what steele wants which is what WLC, Hovind, StB, etc. wants, an irrefutable argument. They want an argument that they can’t ever loose (i.e.: un-falsifiable). Steele even said so directly at one point. Of course, if you can never really loose, then you never really win either. I am often reminded of the episode of the Twilight zone where the guy goes to what he thinks is heaven because he always wins at the casinos that he visits and realizes how boring it is as he NEVER looses.
    .
    It is just indicative of their insecurity, which seems to drive and motivate them, yet they never realize the irony of it. Frankly if God and the afterlife were like what WLC seems to indicate I would be bored out of my mind.

  43. Narf says

    Well, Craig is definitely a creationist, just not a young-earth one. I’m a bit surprised that he makes that much of a concession to science … except that I think I see his strategy in that he thinks that he improves the persuasive force of all of the crap that he gloms onto the current scientific understanding of the universe, if he sells it alongside his weak understanding of the scientific material.

    Given his adoption of Luther’s bit about the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit and the ministerial application of reason and logic, he would be just as “justified” going full-on young-earth. Perhaps he does what he does with his acceptance of the scientific understanding of chronology because it makes him more of a novelty within the American-evangelical community. That makes him a more important figure for his particular position, due to scarcity.

    To look at your initial statement about him, I would almost say that the money is secondary … an important secondary, but still subservient to his primary reward. I get a feeling off of him that being important and influential is the even greater drive, and getting lots of money is just a happy correlation with the acquisition of his primary goal. Plus, he seems to enjoy being perceived by some as the intellectual one, within a demographic that isn’t exactly known for such.

  44. frankgturner says

    Well Narf keep in mind that a politician makes money by having influence among their constituents. So if you think like a poltician (which WLC most certainly does much of the time), influence and money go hand in hand. Maybe one is not subserviant or secondary to the other.
    .
    And the whole application of Luther’s self authenticating holy spirit crap makes sense among a field known for people who are insecure and “need to be right” and need absolute certainty of themselves. Luther basically had an inferiority complex and his method of coping was basically by being egocentric, which is pretty basically what WLC and his constituents do. Funny that WLC is “the intellectual one” in his field and is the best argument apologists have, and even that is a pretty weak argument.
    .
    I don’t think of WLC so much as a creationist per se, but he definitely recognizes that a lot of his constituents are creationists and he does not want to loose them as followers. He is kind of between a rock and a hard place when it comes to creationists because creationists basically say that they can ignore factual information that is demonstrated right before their eyes because of what God tells them through scripture, i.e.: factual evidence must be subservient to something supernatural. That is basically creationists (think Sye Ten Bruggencate) applying Craig’s own reasoning, From what I can see, all the “self authenticating witness of the holy spirit” bullshit is just “do as I say not as I do” argument but backwards, “do as I do but only apply it to what I say.” It is hypocrisy and bigotry but a lot more subtle.

  45. Andres Villarreal says

    I would like to see a more precise use of the work “logical” from Matt, who is a genius in the careful and appropriate use of terms.
    The concept of “logical” is a philosophical argument that has, for the most part, migrated to mathematics. The best known logical argument is “all swans are white, this bird is a swan, therefore it is white”. This argument, just as “2+2=4”, has its truth value derived from mathematics, and as such it has no value in “real” life. In this example, nobody has ever seen all the swans in the planet, therefore the premise is already impossible to evaluate.
    In the case of “are airplanes wings logical?” this question is as inane as “are airplane wings happy?” or “are airplane wings good?”.
    One alternative question could be “are airplane designers occasionally using logical inference to do their design?” and the answer would be “who cares?”

  46. Narf says

    I guess. I think of William Lane Craig as more in the same vein with Ted Haggard, John Hagee, and other political animals. The only difference is that those two assholes are trying to corrupt our political process, while WLC is going for our educational system.

    I think you’re being a little too narrow in your definition of creationism. The old-Earth creationists more or less claim that the Big Bang was the tool that God used to create the universe, or something to that effect. They usually insist upon a lot of further fiddling, after the primary creation event, insisting that God guided our evolution or something. It’s still creationism, just less contradictory with observed reality. They just stick a bunch of unnecessary crap onto the side of the scientific findings, rather than simply corrupting science, as the young-Earthers do.

  47. frankgturner says

    @Narf # 58
    If one is going to be broad with one’s definition of creationism, one might as well consider Kenneth Miller a creationist. Then again I have heard Miller say some things that sound a bit like god guided evolution . Though Miller did point out publicly to a political figure that it made sense that we evolved from apes given that we are still apes.
    .
    I think I like what you say there about how one can believe in a form of creationism that is just lesss contradictory with observed reality. I once heard WLC admire the evidence behind evolution but then point out that Adam and Eve must literally have occurred given that it is written in a “literary voice” that indicate that the author intended for it to be read literally.
    .
    I would think that it more comes down to thinking like a scientist (who would generally be more porne to being politically liberal anyway) vs. thinking like a politician (in this case a conservative one). In politics you want to push a particular party line because it is popular and a lot of conservative minded evangelicals find dogmatic interpretation of the Bible to be comforting so an evangelical thinking like a politician is going to push that line. Among scientists the popularity of the view does not matter so much as empirical evidence to back it up regardless of how popular or unpopular the conclusion that you draw from that evidence might be in the long run.

  48. frankgturner says

    Oh and the whole self authenticating holy spirit crap is definitely political. I doubt that one could EVER get that past a peer reviewed scientific journal. Frankly I think PhD scientists should refuse to debate WC until he got his self authenticating holy spirit principle published in an accredited scientific journal (and I mean as more than just some side letter but that would be pretty funny to see it published as a letter to the editor just to see it trashed).

  49. Narf says

    I dunno, if Kenneth Miller tries to stick a guiding intelligence onto biological evolution, then I might call him an old-Earth creationist, yes. Self-identified Old-Earthers more or less accept biological evolution as-is and just stick useless bits to the dashboard … hang a lucky rabbit-foot from the rear-view mirror …

    The clincher on whether or not I would call him a creationist would depend upon his feelings about abiogenesis. If he doesn’t think that abiogenesis is a thing, then he’s definitely a creationist. There are lots of theists who accept evolution but reject abiogenesis, and Miller might be one of them. I don’t know enough about the details of his position.

    And like you said in your second paragraph, a literal Garden of Eden would obviously make him a creationist as well. I don’t think he’s that silly, though.

    I spoke to a local seminary student quite a bit … a bit of a sad case, being that he was (and I assume still is, for the time being at least) ex-gay. I could see occasionally, in the way he looked at me from time to time, that … no, you’re still gay, man. I can’t directly help you with that, but I know a few guys who would think you’re cute as hell, and I could hook you up with them.

    Anyway, my point … when I first met him, he was the sort who accepts evolution but thinks there must have been a literal Garden of Eden. Even after talking to him several times though, I could never get a coherent explanation for what he even meant by that. I guess he eventually realized that he was basically making it up as he went, since several months later, he was more or less at a young-Earth position. And how did he determine that evolution is untrue and the Earth is only a few thousands years old? I didn’t get a clear answer on that either, but strangely, I doubt that it was a result of an objective examination of the evidence.

    Oh and the whole self authenticating holy spirit crap is definitely political.

    Now who’s using overly-broad definitions? 😛 I think I know what you mean, though. I was using political in the purely governmental sense, but I can see how you might perceive the self-authenticating crap as political, in the broader sense.

    I’m still not entirely sure I would classify it as such, since I don’t know that it rates above the level of con-job, but I can see how you could think of it as such.

  50. frankgturner says

    @Narf # 61
    Actually given that Miller is largely a bacteriological molecular biologist and has done lectures regarding his students on fossil evidence of evolution, I doubt very much that he rejects abiogenesis.
    .
    And yes I was using political in a very broad sense as I was referring to how WLC thinks. I point out that he thinks like a politician and not a scientist. Let me describe something that will get at what I mean here.
    .
    I don’t like to use the word “truth” very often as I think it is too broad and that there is more than one type of “truth.” For example, I think the phrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is true and was conceptualized before even the old testament, much less Jesus. It is good advice, but it is not measurable and is highly subject to interpretation. Though that phrase is true, I don’t think of it as true in the sense of it being factually correct . When I discuss things being factually correct I expect them to be empirical, measurable, repeatable. If we had time machines and could record events, like my hand having 5 fingers, that would be true in the sense of being factually correct.
    .
    Thinking like a scientist has to do with interpretation of factually correct events. All factually correct events are taken into account whether they support a hypothesis or not. Thinking like a politician, whether it be for government means or not, has to do with convincing people that you are interpreting things correctly regardless of whether things are factually correct or not. In a sense, WLC thinks that he can imagine facts into existence. That’s essentially what politicians do, act so confident of something that they get people to believe in something that is demonstrably factually incorrect and get those people to believe that it is factually correct.
    .
    Politicians often get people to feel that things can only be true in an emotional sense and be good advice if they are factually correct. That is really funny as you could not have a parable or a metaphor if things could only have meaning by being factually correct.
    .
    Does that make sense?

  51. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf
    Miller argues that miracles happen and his god intervenes in the space “allowed” by quantum indeterminacy. That’s a baby step away from full-on solipsism. It’s the ultimate god of the gaps argument, and the ultimate unfalsifiable garage dragon.

    Except Miller is still wrong. Either quantum mechanics behaves as-if it was pure random statistical distributions, or his god occasionally nudges the outcome of quantum events to be something different than pure random statistical distributions. Miller cannot have it both ways, and if the god does indeed make it functionally different than pure random statistical distributions, then by definition this is detectable (in principle). He just moved the goalposts to be exceptionally hard to falsify now, but it’s still falsifiable in principle.

  52. frankgturner says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal
    Thanks for clarifying that. Except despite being wrong and not being able to have it both ways, I still respect Miller more than I do apologists like WLC. In principle it does not sound like Miller is not setting up a “I must be right” argument. When the ideas are more important than the person and their ego, that is what is critical to me. Funny how numerous Xtians, evangelicals particularly, make a big stink about practicing humility and not being egocentric then go about doing just that.
    .
    Maybe despite Miller’s “ultimate god of the gaps argument,” maybe his idea of god isn’t just an extension of himself and his ego like it is with people like WLC.

  53. corwyn says

    Miller argues that miracles happen and his god intervenes in the space “allowed” by quantum indeterminacy.

    This is either self-contradictory, or he is using a different definition of ‘miracle’ than I. If we could recognize something as miraculous then it can’t fit into the statistical nature of quantum indeterminacy. So he couldn’t claim to he thinks miracles happen. Either he can notice them happening, OR they are happening in a statistically completely random way, can’t be both at the same time.

    If he merely means that his deity interferes in the occasional collapse of a quantum superposition, that can still be unfalsifiable, presuming that the deity makes sure that other quantum collapses happen in such a way as to make ALL statistical measures remain invariant. Tricky, but presumably possible for a omnipotent deity. But, by definition, there is no way he could possibly know this. Either we can notice the actions of a deity, or there is no *possible* reason to think that one exists.

  54. hasnain says

    Absurdity of Atheism
    If abiogenesis (spontaneous creation without specific design) can be admitted under such conditions of regularity, then purposeful generation and definitely balanced creation can be the result of error ad perplexity, since these two are opposed to abiogenesis.

    Such a statement is highly absurd that order and rectitude should come about without a Creator, and disorder and impropriety of design and fate should suppose a Creator. He is an ignoramus who says this, because anything produced without design will never be exact and proportioned, while disorder and contrariness cannot co-exist with orderly design. Allah (swt) is far above what the heretics say.

    http://www.al-islam.org/tradition-of-mufaddal-pearls-of-wisdom-from-imam-jafar-as-sadiq

  55. Narf says

    Uh, Hasnain, your whole post is complete nonsense.

    First off, spontaneous creation has nothing to do with abiogenesis. Abiogenesis has to do with the arrangement of previously-existing matter into self-replicating patterns.

    Before you post ridiculous statements from some Imam who probably has no concept of science, try talking to a physicist or chemist, next time. They deal with instances of spontaneously ordering of matter, every day in the lab. Before you try to say anything about science, do some freaking science; don’t quote some religious nut.

  56. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @hasnain
    I’m still waiting on how you know the creator is the god of Islam instead of the god of the aliens on the planet Rigel 7.

    Arguments for a first-cause god are worthless. I can name a different god hypothesis for every star in the observable universe by taking the Koran and the associated history, and replacing “Earth” with “planet around that star” and “humans” with “aliens on that planet”. That’s a trillion trillion mutually incompatible god hypotheses, and thus mere evidence for some god is effectively not evidence for any particular one. Basic Bayesian reasoning.

    Come back when you get some evidence for the god you actually believe in, not some first cause god.

  57. corwyn says

    So is your god “produced without design [and so] will never be exact and proportioned” or did something else design him?

  58. Narf says

    @68 – EL

    Come back when you get some evidence for the god you actually believe in, not some first cause god.

    And for that matter, Hasnain, come back when you have evidence for some first cause god, not a blatant argument from ignorance.

    And the way you jumped to abiogenesis, I assume you have no problems with biological evolution as described by the modern scientific theory? I know that evangelical Muslims traditionally have some problems with common ancestry for all life, including humans.

    I’m getting the vague feeling that you’re going after abiogenesis because it’s the less-solid chunk of human origins science, being a fairly recent field of study, as far as that sort of thing goes. The truth is that a lot of the field is still fairly speculative, and a lot of work remains to be done. Unlike you, we’re willing to admit that and not jump to the first dogmatically-informed position that matches our childhood brainwashing.

    If you accept evolution but have a problem with abiogenesis, I can’t help but feel that you’re going for some sort of god-of-the-gaps argument. If you reject biological evolution, then why are you screwing around with abiogenesis, rather than going after the more solid scientific theory?

  59. corwyn says

    @70 = Narf

    And what, exactly, will one do on the day that scientists manage to produce life in a lab? When they do it merely by mimicking the natural conditions at the beginning of the Earth? Will that prove one’s god false? If so, then enjoy one’s faith while one can. If not, then abiogenesis can not be proof of one’s god.

  60. Narf says

    I don’t think they’ll run out of tiny nooks in which to hide their god, in at least the next several hundred years.

    Failing that, flat-out denial is always an option. That’s what we mostly get from the fundamentalists, right now. They assert that evolution has never been observed in the lab, often accompanied by an acceptance of micro-evolution, somehow. That one still doesn’t make any sense to me.