Bags of Bran

Apologia #7
April 1, 2012, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Apologioi
Curt Ames
Mar 6

to me
That’s an interesting viewpoint. I suppose when you have to supply evidence, Behe would be at a disadvantage- and that was his downfall, that they were in a forum where ‘evidence’ was very strictly defined, and rhetoric and emotional appeals didn’t count.

No, the fact that a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. But it is just possible that the fact that it is demonstrably true has caused all the people who have studied the matter to come out with similar opinions. I look at it this way, and forgive me if it is overly simplistic- if I have legal problems, I won’t call a fireman, and if my house is burning I won’t call the corner butcher.  Very much the same, if I need to know something scientific that I don’t have time and inclination to learn about it myself, I will talk to a scientist- and no, I wouldn’t automatically accept their viewpoint (argument from authority!) but would want some independent verification. In the same vein, if I wanted help on a particular translation from the book of the Bible or an account of why such-and-such gospel didn’t make it into the ‘final edition,’ I’d probably find the most educated theologian I could and would trust their opinion much more than someone who had spent their life learning to sew soccer balls and thought the whole thing was a farce anyway.
 Think of that terrible show, Who wants to smack Regis Philben, err you know the one. When someone uses an ‘ask the audience’ lifeline, it’s not the consensus of the audience that makes the answer true, it’s the truth of the answer that informs their actions- and the higher the percentage of a single answer, the more confident you can be in selecting that particular answer. And that’s IF you know nothing about the question to begin with. If you’ve studied the problem enough to see which way all the arrows point, and then get a 97% majority from the audience, there’s a good chance you’d be losing out on money to not listen to them.
Truth, dear brother, is much more valuable than money.
“Why” is a great question- and I have a great answer. In a world where the ‘why’ isn’t given, then each of us must find his or her own ‘why.’ It’s not necessary to postulate a questionably-extant being as a reason that matter has physical form. That’s kind of a ‘God of the gaps’ thing, which people have been doing for millennia. They didn’t understand thunderstorms, and imagining that an anthropomorphic being was in charge made them feel like they had some sort of control- they could talk to the guy in charge and ask him to not zap them. There have been countless examples of groups coming up with plausible-to-them explanations for natural phenomenon by sticking a deity into the hole in their knowledge. What if mankind, what if science itself had been complacent with these answers? What it Copernicus had bowed to the pressure from the Church and been like, ‘Hey, you know what guys, I’m sorry, yeah it all spins around us after all’ and we had to wait for the next guy to stand up?
Speaking of Copernicus, do you think that there was a period after the majority had begun to accept the Heliocentric idea, where a minority clung to the original idea despite ample, ever-growing evidence to the contrary? What do you think their arguments sounded like?
Anyway, the problem with putting God into the gaps in our knowledge is that every time our understanding of the universe grows, God shrinks! Seems kind of rude to put an all-powerful creator in an ever-shrinking box.
I don’t think, as you’ve said, that ‘numbers and particulars exclude universals.’ I think there is a perfectly acceptable way to reconcile the two, even if I don’t fit myself into that camp. Behe himself is an old-earth creationist, and many, many people trust science to tell them the ‘what’ and religion to tell them the ‘why.’ I think it alienates people when you have to choose one or the other, especially when the evidence is so overwhelmingly strong. One of my favorite quotes from an evolutionary scientist is, “Even if we didn’t have the fossil record to go on, even if all we had was observation and DNA evidence, there would be ample evidence to believe in Darwinian evolution. The fossil record is just icing on the cake.” (Paraphrased but very close to the original.)
This brings me to the whole micro-versus-macro-evolution. This is kind of cringe-inducing to be honest- because there is no difference. “Macro” evolution is simply ‘micro’ evolution at work over time. The whole concept is incremental change- steps of ‘micro’ that over time add up to ‘macro.’ It’s a false dichotomy.
Nobody is saying that a cat should have puppies (often quoted as something that would ‘prove’ evolution true by people who, it would seem, either drastically misunderstand or are deliberately obfuscating what evolution has to say. This event would actually be a death knell for the theory!)- the changes are often so small as to be nearly invisible. However, large environmental changes often create such huge selective pressures that things like the Cambrian Explosion happen really quickly in comparison to the geological time scale. Each of us (humans) has approximately four random mutations in our genetics that is not accounted for by the original material (mom and dad). The rate of these mutations is incredibly constant over time and is actually used as a means of tracking generational changes.
For fun if you get a chance, look up Endogenous Retroviruses.
I disagree that a search for truth must necessarily be religious in nature and that in particular mine is such. I think (correct me if I am wrong) that part of your worldview at least tends to frame things in a religious context, and the concept of a different kind of scaffolding, a different means of understanding, is slightly alien and is more easily comprehended within your own framework.
 I don’t think religion has a monopoly on personal growth, self-searching, or a quest for the essential nature of the universe (or at least a reasonably close approximation, as close as this emergent property of a brain we call a ‘mind’ will allow us to get) and I don’t think attempting to label it as such is very helpful. It could in a way be interpreted as ‘spiritual’ in the loosest sense of the word (I take it to mean things that have a profound connection with our sense of self and our relationship with the universe) and could be said to involve what I metaphorically refer to as a ‘soul’ (the deeper sense of self, beyond our physical form and actions).
My experience on the train ride in the Highlands met my definition of ‘Spiritual’ because it struck me to the very core of my being, leaving me absolutely dumbfounded and in awe of the beauty of existence and with a greater and deeper sense of my place in existence. Something within me just said ‘yes, yes, this is it!’ and that is the best I can explain it. I think that experience is probably what all of mankind’s dabbling with mind-affecting substances (from Soma to Salvia) was about, trying to reach that- and let me tell you, nothing touches it. Not even close.
I welcome changes to my worldview, Chris. I don’t expect you to spend your time studying so as just to convince me, but welcome any evidence to challenge my paradigm.  I do, however, have strict standards for what constitutes ‘evidence’ and it happens to be about the same as what a reputable legal court would require.
Finding common ground is the only way to truly make any progress, at least that’s what Mrs. Osinski taught me (who, by the way, subscribed to the ‘science as What, religion as Why’ school of thought).  I can think of a few things offhand:
1. The physical reality in which we find ourselves can reasonably be assumed to exist, since all evidence seems to point in that direction, and it is ultimately fruitless to wander aimlessly through arguments to the contrary.
2. I think, therefore I am- the fact that I am capable of thought is proof enough, to me, of my own existence within whatever reality I actually happen to be.
3. The question of the existence of a thing is closed-end, yes-or-no proposition, whether or not you must have faith in order to believe.
I would also like to add:
4. The world could have been created five minutes ago, with our memories intact, and we wouldn’t know the difference.
I don’t know why I think that point is significant- maybe because the main reason it stands up to scrutiny is that it is unverifiable.
Anyway, I as well have much to do at this point. Keep your head on straight, and let me know if you need me to clarify anything or even just find something else to talk about.
Oh, also: The decay of radioactive material has been shown to be about one of the most constant things in the universe- we’ve tried heat, electromagnetic fields, other sources of radiation, and any number of other methods, and it hasn’t changed a bit. In fact, one of the things (besides pressure) keeping the Earth molten is radioactive material decaying in the core- turns out it produces a lot of heat- and if the rate were sped up the mantle and crust would turn to soup, while if it were slowed there wouldn’t be enough heat to sustain life on Earth. And we’re not talking ice age cold here, we’re talking Kelvin cold.
Christopher Ames
Mar 7

to Curt


I heard Michelle was sick: hope the home cures work. I never knew anyone to decline because of homemade noodles and TLC, but mine is a limited sample and not peer-reviewed. 😉

I was wrong: decay rates do not increase with temperature and pressure. Forgive me: I spoke in ignorance.

Solvency rates of daughter products change with temperature and pressure however, especially if they are gaseous.

Specifically with K-Ar: If K originally comprised 2.5% of a 1 kg igneous rock (which would be a lot of K ), then K40 would comprise about 1/10,000 of that K. So that would be .0025 gram, or 2.5 mg out of 1kg. Of that 2.5 mg, that which decays will produce two different daughter materials in a “branching ratio” (which is given a value based on certain factors such as the date provided by Uranium-Lead tests, potential environmental contamination of the sample, etc) : Calcium (88-92%) and Argon (8-12%). After a quarter of the K40 decays, one would, assuming uniformity, expect there to be .625 mg of daughter material in a 1 kg rock. Of this, .05-.075 mg would be Argon 40. Isolating .075 mg of Argon 40 from 1kg of, say, feldspar, may or may not be a fool’s errand, but it does involve an awful lot of “hopefully” thinking.

Hopefully we know exactly how much K was originally in the rock, and that the ratio of K to K40 accords precisely with the model being used. Hopefully no K leached out or in through the grain of the rock over, say, 550 million years. Hopefully no Ar leached in or out over those 550 million years either, which is especially tricky because it’s a gas, and the earth’s crust is full of the stuff. Your best bet is to use an igneous rock that was never heated again after it was formed, such as feldspar, though cooling rates and crystalline structure affect the concentration of gases trapped in the rock. If the rock ever saw groundwater, K and Ar are both very soluble, so hopefully the rock never got wet, or that it was absolutely water-tight over those millions of years(and some types qualify here). And hopefully every precaution is taken to prevent the introduction of atmospheric Argon throughout the testing process (I have no reason to doubt that every precaution is taken here in a well-conducted experiment). And lastly, hopefully over those unfathomable ages no heating of the rock occurred which caused Argon to escape!

I only had time to look at this particular dating method in a cursory method, and there is much that I don’t understand, but there is enough “hope” in this model that I can only see “faith.” If, as the author says, it only works on a few types of rock, and only under a tightly prescribed set of circumstances, is this conclusive? Who decides those circumstances? What if God capriciously moved or removed Argon around? Maybe K-Ar dating actually works on the rocks that give numbers which point to the earth being older than it appears! Or younger!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.


The source I used was


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