Bags of Bran


Apologia #6
April 1, 2012, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Apologioi
Curt Ames
Mar 6

to me
Ah, yes, but you COULD research atomic science. It is not a matter of faith simply because it is not understood- because it is something that CAN be understood, if the effort were put into it. Faith, to me, comes in only when the undefinable and/or questionably extant comes into play. Can you fully know the mind of a deity? Then you must have faith. I put it to you that the function of the quarks of an atom are infinitely more comprehensible than the Yahweh or Jehovah of the Bible, and infinitely less faith-requiring.

Now, let’s say for a moment a deity did exist that created things so as to look older than they were, just to mess with people or throw the unrighteous off the path or whatever. Would this deity then be out for the best for all of his creation? Would an omnibenevolent being give its creations a means of questioning its creation only to punish (infinitely, no less) for its use? That’s like giving them enough rope to hang themselves, then building the gallows, holding noose-tying workshops and distributing pamphlets advising sudden-drop neck stretches. Sure, it would be said deity’s prerogative… just as it would be your prerogative to buy an ant farm just so you’ve got something to use a magnifying glass on.  And yes, I know that the going theory is that we messed it up ourselves (or more rightly, for Adam and Eve’s sin, for which the Bible alternately says we should/should not be punished- [Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 24:16]) but something about that particular combination of omnibenevolence and omniscience just fails the sniff test- knowing the outcome of Lucifer’s creation would result in such suffering and going ahead doesn’t jibe with the former, and the other option is the latter. Yeah, the old ‘whence cometh evil’ argument. Feel free to inform me of any other options as I don’t want to set up a false dichotomy.
Naturalism is seeking natural causes for natural phenomena- a basic application of Occam’s razor. The problem with a non-naturalistic viewpoint is that one cannot test for the presence of God, nor put Him into a test tube, nor keep Him out. Therefore in order to be of any use science can ONLY seek extant causes and can really make no statements as to the existence of any sort of supernatural… well, anything. Which is a good thing- I’m glad that, for instance, we don’t think angels push the heavens around. I think the idea of an infinite-yet-finite space beyond what we have been able to comprehend for millennia, and that pushes the boundaries of our knowledge and ability to even visit, is much more exciting than a series of concentric spheres containing the cosmos and rotating around our one teensy weensy little planet.
Hoo boy, am I familiar with Behe. I’m also aware that the idea of specified complexity is a rerun of an earlier theologian, the name of whom escapes me.  Furthermore I’m aware of the thrashing (his testimony during cross examination has been described as ‘devastating’ to his own side) he received in the Dover trial, despite the judge having been mainly appointed by evangelical Christians based on his beliefs, lauded by Geroge W. Bush (pre-Dover, of course) and (consider this extraneous if you will) a staunch Republican who was predicted to side quickly with the Dover school board.  Behe was presented with a stack of 58 peer-reviewed journals, nine books, and “several immunology textbook chapters” on the evolution of the immune system, that he had claimed was irreducibly complex- a stack so high that he could not be seen from the bench- and still maintained that the evidence was insufficient.
Furthermore, most of Behe’s arguments (including but not limited to irreducible complexity) consist of arguments against evolution by incremental change, which as we know proves nothing about his own theory and is a textbook argument from personal incredulity. Logical fallacy double whammy I’m afraid.
Just for fun, I’m going to sidetrack onto irreducible complexity for a moment. For my example I will use a stone-arch, keystone style bridge, which I know is an imperfect analogy since the bridge is clearly designed whereas it is entirely uncertain whether the bacterial flagellum was. But I digress.
In order for a stone arch bridge to be built, you have to start with a supporting structure- usually a wooden arch. As you build up the bridge from either end, the arch is a necessary part of the structure- the whole could be said at this point to be irreducibly complex. Each little bit builds on the last, until you put in the keystone- and pull out the wooden arch. Now, someone who had never seen a stone bridge, who had no concept of how it was built and came along sufficiently late in the game to miss the drag marks where they pulled the wooden arch away, would look at the bridge and be amazed- here is something amazingly complex that had to be created in its full and modern form for it to exist- otherwise it would just be a random jumble of rocks. Perhaps he imagines, like some modern folk do with Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, that the builders had magic powers- but the whole thing was an evolutionary process built on a part that is no longer part of the system, which was no longer necessary. Evolution works the same way! If something was once needed, and then conditions change, then often the energy required to produce the trait is a deselecting factor. Interesting fact: a sixth finger is a dominant trait in humans. The reason we don’t have one is that it is unnecessary, and the energy used to grow it is better used elsewhere during fetal development.
Anyway, back to Behe. His Intelligent Design hypothesis has another flaw- say the designer was NOT God. Where did this designer come from? It would have had to have been created- or evolved by natural means. Doesn’t seem too useful as it all comes down once again to one of the two original options!
It is interesting to note that even his own Lehigh university distances itself from him in terms of his beliefs on evolution- not because of the religious connotations but because, in their words, it “has no basis in science.”
No, I don’t think Behe has anything more to offer me at this point. Thanks, though.
I think you may find that I’ve exposed myself to an awful lot of opposing viewpoints, and to be honest have always found them lacking in some way or another. One thing that has never been adequately explained is how the evolutionary progression of plants as laid down in the fossil record (turns out plants fossilize much better than animals, and tended to be more numerous) is explained by Noarkian geology. I’ve heard the whole ‘swift of wing and foot’ argument for animals, but am I to believe that every species of flowering plant as well as countless types of trees and other plants pulled up root and ran from the flood waters? That’s… well, that’s just silly.
Finally, I must say that you’re not the first well-intentioned person to try to convince me that my worldview is as based in faith as anyone else’s. I find the idea fascinating, but patently false.  Dig deep enough, and you CAN learn how the atoms in your chair hold you up, as well as how the sun works, how the planets and galaxies stay ‘up there’ without falling on our heads, and how something as beautifully complex as the human eye came to exist by gradual change. It’s no more a matter of faith than my belief that this laptop was manufactured by human hands and not winked into existence by Seamus the Angry Leprechaun. (He’s a jerk and would not have given me near this much RAM.) Using a remote control is not an act of faith, even if you don’t understand how it works- if only because the experiment is repeatable as long as you’ve got good batteries and a functional TV to point it at.
Anywho, I’m glad I could make you think. Hopefully this provides you with some more food for thought.  I’m open to hearing any evidence for the opposite viewpoint and will gladly change my mind if confronted with such- without having to resort to the Ray Comfort-style, moving-the-goalpost, ‘that’s not evidence, lalalalalalalala’ denial that has caused me so much costernation in my previous interactions with people from the other side of the aisle.
Thanks for your time! And I’m about to read your update!
Much love, Curt
P.S. if you want an account of how the eye, flagellum, or bombardier beetle could have evolved by gradual steps I’ll be glad to furnish one!
Chris Ames
Mar 6

to Curt
I don’t think Behe could get a fair trial. They could have backed up a dump truck full of journal articles that all say the same thing and buried him with them. I could point to an entire nation full of people at one point in history who defined “person” in such a way that it excluded Jews. We don’t want to go with “consensus” as a test of truth here.

If you are satisfied that you’ve exhausted the “what,” or that the “what” is exhaustible, are you ready to turn the corner to the “why?” If there is a “what,” and we cannot agree that our sets of rules for interpreting the “what” are binding on one another, we’re stuck.

We can not interpret the evidence in the same way. You have numbers and particulars, I have unity and personality. I think unity and personality explains the numbers and particulars; you think the numbers and particulars exclude universals. I suppose I could dig deep in the literature, put life on hold, and argue at all these points where you have taken pains to become informed. I commend your deep reading, but I insist that such a pursuit is religious in nature. You are after an explanation to unify your particular beliefs in believable particulars. You have found one, and I could not convince you otherwise by holding up rocks and showing you the things of which your worldview consists. You have those things arranged a certain way, and (metaphysically speaking) don’t take kindly to people coming along and messing with those things. Fair enough: I can’t match your mastery of science, so I won’t try.
There is more, but I ought to go to work.
your head-spinning brother,
chris

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