Friday, September 18, 2015

Worthy of earnest consideration

On December 5th, 1997, there was a debate that took place on a show called Firing Line. The episode was entitled The Evidence of God, and the participants were quite impressive:

For Intelligent Design:
William F. Buckley Jr.
David Berlinski (interestingly, he is critical of both Evolution and Intelligent Design)
Phillip E. Johnson
Michael J. Behe

For Evolution:
Barry W. Lynn
Eugenie C. Scott
Michael Ruse
Kenneth R. Miller

As of the writing of this blog entry, you can view the entire debate yourself in eight parts here:

Intelligent Design vs Evolution

What struck me the most about the excellent affair, which is well worth a view in its entirety, was something Berlinski (a secular Jew, not a fundamentalist Christian) said at the end of his opening statement:

"If it should come to pass in the fullness of time that we discover that there is no explanation for life, we will have to accept it. If it should come to pass that we discover in the fullness of time that the only explanation for life is that it is a process designed for transcendental purposes by a transcendental figure, we will have to accept that too. And if that should come to pass, I would like to ask, who among us will genuinely feel diminished?"

I keep looking at that statement, and I keep wondering:

What reasonable, rational person, regardless of worldview, could honestly answer "Me"?

And if that is the case, what is all the hubbub and fracas about? Why so much aggression from the militant atheist quarter? Why so much anger, indignation and venom?

I mean truly?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A poster child for myopia

I recently encountered another brick wall posing as a Defender of the Darwinian Faith (or vice versa, I'm not completely sure) with the username "CamW30."

For any out there who have had to endure his stalwart banner waving, I have provided a compendium of quotes gleaned from CamW30's own YouTube Google+ page. In this way, you may be properly informed of his preprocessed polemic. CamW30's posts are here presented in italics; my responses, when they appear, are in normal text.

CamW30's YouTube tagline announces something most ambitious:

Banishing pseudoscience & religious dogma through empirical evidence.

A lofty goal indeed! And to CamW30, a noble pursuit. However, his currently 8 followers are likely not numerous enough to accomplish said goal.

In the channel's introduction we are informed by the following declarations:

I do not make videos, but may in the future.

I am an atheist, but do not force my beliefs on others.

This is an indirect lie, as CamW30 consistently mocks and disdains individuals who believe in God. When faced with this ugly contradiction, CamW30 may conveniently remind us that he hasn't forced atheism in particular on any believers; instead he attempts to enlighten believers in God with derision. As most human beings are not fond of receiving insults, this method is likely doomed to failure.

I do not care what others may believe as long as they do not try to force their beliefs on others & keep those beliefs private.

As indicated by my previous paragraph, real-world forum experience with CamW30 doesn't reflect what he would like us to believe are his maxims. Anyone who doesn't share his worldview can attest to this.

I do promote and defend science, and the scientific method, accepting evolutionary theory as the basis for all of biology.

While CamW30 may actually believe he is promoting and defending science, instead what happens in these threads is a total rejection of any and all ideas or concepts that could possibly contradict Darwinian Evolution, and the precious Tree of Life model. This is not the behavior of someone who champions the scientific method, which itself requires an honest attempt to disprove one's hypothesis.

In the latter portion of the sentence, CamW30 indicates that he accepts evolutionary theory as the basis for all of biology. Someone not paying attention might think this is a valid scientific practice. What this means is that CamW30, and all those who also subscribe to this approach, filter all their scientific data through the expected Tree of Life model proposed by Darwin. This of course has the effect of forcing the offending scientist to make all evidence fit the model... and when it doesn't, as in the Cambrian "Explosion," new ideas are formulated that resolve the conflict to their satisfaction, such as Punctuated Equilibrium.

That individuals like CamW30 can't seem to perceive the myopic nature of this behavior is a puzzling situation, as it is assumed that degreed scientists can supposedly rise above the cognitive-dissonance tendencies of the less-formally-informed masses.

I will not tolerate the promotion of pseudoscience by those trying to justify a faulty worldview

That CamW30 is somewhat bereft of tolerance is quite clear by his invective against anyone foolish enough to waste time engaging him on these matters. While I will not call CamW30's worldview wrong, I also do not recognize it as correct. This daily ideological clash of all interacting human beings seems beyond CamW30's ability to accept or appreciate.

I do require others to defend their scientific position with empirical evidence.

This, I can attest to, is true. However, the methods by which CamW30 allows anyone to respond are severely constricted to CamW30's worldview... making it quite impossible to respond in a way that CamW30 would ever find satisfactory (if one does not share his worldview). Thus, CamW30 believes he has accomplished a victorious defense of science when others 'fail' to effectively respond within the parameters CamW30 allows.

Before I provide an abridged tour through CamW30's Google+ playground, I will address the single most exasperating aspect of his forum tactics. After all, why read this long blog post if the part you're truly interested in is this:

CamW30's silver bullet seems to be his insistence that ID proponents prove it, prove it, prove it. And just what does CamW30 require as proof? Over and over again, ad nauseum, he bleats some version of, "Show me irrefutable empirical evidence!!!"

I will now topple the house of cards CamW30 thinks is a foundation of stone. I will even break it down to its simplest component, so when CamW30 glibly dismisses it with his typical arrogance, you, the reader, will know that CamW30 is not actually being scientific or even rational, but instead is stubbornly unwilling to consider interpretations of the evidence that are unfriendly to his pet theory.

Q: What is the principle and greatest evidence for Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection?

A: Fossils. Millions of them.

Q: What is a fossil?

A: Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals, plants, and other organisms from the remote past.

Q: What is the connection between fossils and Darwinian Theory?

A: Fossils provide physical evidence of an organism, which is part of a species, which existed in the past, and may or may not still exist today.

Q: Then fossils are irrefutable empirical proof of evolution?

A: They are not.

Q: What?!?!?!

A: Fossils are not irrefutable empirical proof of evolution.

Q: But CamW30, and others like him, insist that they are, and call anyone who disagrees either ignorant or some version of insane.

A: That's because CamW30, and others like him, don't think you'll ever be exposed to what I'm about to tell you.

1) Darwin proposed a treelike connection as a possible explanation of how speciation could result in the variety of species we see today.

2) The tree proposal became the standard for evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, etc.

3) For most researchers in biology, paleontology, and other related disciplines, any new fossil evidence uncovered is automatically cataloged and assigned a position in the tree-of-life that makes the most sense.

4) This has continued from Darwin's day until today, and will likely continue for some time.

Q: Er, uh... so what's wrong with that?

A: If the tree-of-life model for the origin of species is correct, then nothing is wrong with that.

Q: What if Darwin's tree-of-life proposal is incorrect?

A: Well, this is a very unattractive possibility for evolutionary biologists, et al, because it would mean that over one hundred and fifty years of research has been almost entirely devoted to a wrong interpretation of the available physical evidence. This wouldn't negate all work done in that time, but it would force a re-examination of prior assumptions that were potentially leading scientists down a path that actually impedes progress, not assists it.

Q: Come on man, these are really smart people! A mass mistake like that could never happen.

A: Wrong. One excellent example of this phenomenon (smart people clinging onto incorrect ideas) are the herculean efforts over several decades that were necessary to finally convince the science "mainstream" that the universe had a beginning in the "Big Bang," instead of eternally existing in a "Steady State." There were very intelligent scientists in 1927 mocking the idea that originated from Georges Lemaitre, a Catholic priest who also happened to be a professor of physics and an astronomer. Two years later, Edwin Hubble published Hubble's Law. The derision continued for several more decades, until around 1961, when radio source surveys helped to rule out the Steady State theory for most cosmologists.

That was well over thirty years of the "mainstream" cosmologists subjecting the Big Bang theory's proponents to derision and scorn, despite the continuous gathering of evidence that refuted the Steady State theory.

What was the principle objection to the Big Bang theory? Mainstream Steady State scientists found a universe with an identifiable beginning to have "religious" implications they couldn't tolerate. Sound familiar?

Q: I still think evolution is true.

A: That's your prerogative as a free-thinking individual, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, be aware that the practice of pooh-poohing the objections of hundreds of degreed scientists who don't share your opinion does not guarantee you will be correct years from now.


As promised, the following nuggets can be found at CamW30's Google+ treasure trove of scientific wisdom:

I wish there were a conspiracy against christianity in the US.

I watch this and think, "Are creationists deluded, or are they really that stupid?"

As for the South American populations having antibiotic resistant bacteria in their guts... so what?

Juby is an idiot, he sure doesn't have the training in pharmacology to be able to understand the implications of the papers that he is quoting from.

Sorry Juby, you are an idiot trying to justify a failed worldview.

Can you give us even one piece of empirical evidence for creationism?

Asking for evidence for "creationism" is not a legitimate question, it is a straw man. Intelligent Design, which CamW30 thinks is "creationism" in disguise, was initiated from legitimate questions raised by degreed scientists regarding physical facts that don't fit the Darwinian model.

It's about f***ing time that Dr. Oz is getting his comeuppance. How about we go one step further and remove the homeopathic and naturopathic snake oil from community pharmacies. [expletive censorship mine]

It is time to shut down Stephen Meyer and Discovery Institute.

You're just another teenage troll who tries to act big, but comes off as just another dime-a dozen homeschooled religious troll trying to justify a failed worldview.

Losers like you are scared little boys who have no life prospects and use this medium to try to feel big.

Looking in a mirror might give CamW30 a similar revelation.

Time to go away and let the adults have actual discussions. You bore me pathetic one.

This just shows what a disingenuous scumbag that you are.

If you cannot provide empirical evidence for your hypotheses, then STFU.

Yeah, the bible isn't misogynistic at all. What a f***ing douche bag! Fundamentalist creatards are so slimy. [expletive censorship mine]

Who really cares what a uneducated redneck bigot thinks. The world will be a better place once you are dead and gone. There will be no tears at your passing.

You are just an illiterate waste of space. You make me sick, you and your delusional worldview. Goodbye, cretan!

I spend my life helping people with serious mental afflictions live a better and more productive life than they would have without my work.

Indeed! I must accept his proclamation in good faith, as I have not witnessed his good work myself. However, in light of CamW30's demeanor with those he disagrees with in YouTube forums, I might suggest it is possible that not every individual he "helps" is living a better and more productive life as a result.

Slimy religious guy is slimy.

Republicans, if they ever get back into office (and can get away with it), will be requiring that every LGTB person to wear pink triangles, so as not to fool the children.

Let me guess... you are a fundamentalist christian who is uncomfortable with his sexuality.

F***, f***, F***! Why do creatards not understand that the Big Bang was not an explosion in space and time, it was an unfolding of space and time. [expletive censorship mine]

Free Will? I see that you are wearing your ignorance of another topic as a badge of honour.

Evolutionary theory has nothing to say about the origin of life.

CamW30 is clearly being disingenuous here. It is evolutionary theory which allows a Darwinian to be an "intellectually fulfilled atheist," in the words of Richard Dawkins. The evolutionary model for life, allegedly not being directed by a mind but instead random chance, directly implies that the origin of life had to be accidental and mindless.

Of course evolutionary theory is not based on common sense, it is based upon empirical evidence.

Not quite... it is based on one particular interpretation of the physical evidence, but the only interpretation allowed in CamW30's worldview.

This is not how science works; one must follow where the evidence leads, not make a claim and then look for supporting evidence.

So how is science working when contradictory evidence somehow still magically supports Darwin's theory?


This endless demand, which is CamW30's presumed master stroke, is pointless, as key elements of Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection also fall by the same sword. That CamW30 prefers to pooh-pooh the objections out of hand does not negate their real-world validity in the arena of critical thinking.

The police don't arrest people for no reason.

CamW30's black-and-white thinking becomes more clear the more one reads his posts.

I love how you creation scientists just make up stuff!

As for "observed" science, that is another non-scientific concept., another creationist canard.

I guess that religionists are use to playing make-believe, huh?

If life were designed, then your designer was stoned out of his head. If this is the best your god can do, he must have been at the bottom of his class in design school.

Ramzpaul; although I hate to give that big of a f***tard any exposure. [expletive censorship mine]

No, do you? Or are you still pulling this crap out of your butt?

When did Dembski become an expert in biology? His degree in biology is from which University?

This is what happens when you have a society that is scientifically illiterate.

There is absolutely no doubt within the scientific community to the reality of evolutionary theory.There is also no doubt that the entire mainstream science community rejects intelligent design:

Those both are, of course, complete and utter lies unless you refuse to look at the "irrefutable empirical" evidence with a critical eye.

Speaking of crackpots; I just found a guy who claims to have discovered the "real intelligent design".

Umm... genes that produce the nose did not appear ex nihilo, they have been shown to come from genes in other organisms. And yes, you are crazy.

This shows that people with high IQs can be stupid, depending upon their preconceived ideas, and their vested interest in the subject matter. F***ing bafflegab. [expletive censorship mine]

Another opportunity for CamW30 to look closer in the mirror.

"Lack of transitional forms"?... then quote mining Ernst Mayer... Casey, you are so slimy.

So, you are denigrating Roman Catholics, but you back up your claims using the Jewish bible... weird.

There are just so many of those stories in the bible: Mary saying she is a virgin but is pregnant (& she is believed!), As mentioned, Lot's daughters f***ing dad, Tamar f***s her father-in-law, Dinah's "rape" by Shechem. Oh what?... oh... HORR-OR stories... never mind. [expletive censorship mine]

All Meyer uses is words like "could", "maybe", "possibly".

Indeed; you will also find those kinds of words sprinkled liberally throughout "mainstream" texts regarding the favored mechanisms of Darwinian evolution.

Common sense is the reason we developed the scientific method. Common sense, when applied to nature is often wrong.

An interesting combination of cherry-picked relevance for common sense.

There are no mainstream biologists studying intelligent design.

Another lying result of CamW30's subjective filter, as anyone from the mainstream who studies Intelligent Design automatically gets moved to the fringe by CamW30.

Is it me or do fundamentalists have trouble with analogies? Why is it that they avoid the obvious? All they have to do is show empirical evidence that the designer exists. If they could do that there would be no atheists.

That paragraph is misguided on several fronts:
1) Empirically, "fundamentalists" have no more trouble with analogies than atheists.
2) "Fundamentalists" don't avoid the obvious any more than CamW30.
3) The evidence that reality has a designer is readily apparent to everyone anecdotally, and the formal theory itself is accessible to anyone willing to open a book or read an article by the degreed scientists who have discovered the evidence. What CamW30 really means is all they have to do is show empirical evidence for God... which is deliberately impossible to do by material means. CamW30 believes if he conflates a designer with a god, then the issue will be confused enough to discredit the theories of legitimate scientists.
4) I still hold that God could literally sit down next to CamW30 in some earthly form, and instead of accepting the physical evidence in the same way he accepts the paradigm of Darwinian speciation, CamW30 would instead seek psychiatric assistance. Thus CamW30 will remain "willfully ignorant" (to quote him), despite overwhelming evidence presented.

Nineteen papers in 5 years? Umm... where are all these researchers rushing to jump on the ID bandwagon?

First of all, nineteen peer-reviewed papers is more than zero, the number that CamW30 would prefer. But because nineteen papers are not zero papers, CamW30 resorts to asking why all the rest of the "mainstream" researchers aren't doing the same work.

An unreasonable question at best, since:
1) All researchers don't research all theories. Being human, they have specific interests they wish to serve.
2) Most researchers want to survive in the research world, so they avoid rocking the boat by pursuing research that has been publicly vilified and privately punished by academic institutions in multiple cases across the country.
3) That nineteen papers were even published in such an antagonistic atmosphere displays the courage of those researching and those publishing the papers, when current conventional wisdom calls an otherwise intelligent person an idiot for being more skeptical than his or her peers.

Evolutionary molecular genetics is the killer scientific discipline disproving creationism

Not quite, although its popular hypotheses certainly seem to indicate as much.

You just have to prove, with empirical evidence, that a designer exists. Just saying that one does is not evidence, nor does it name a designer. Intelligent design will not be considered a science until it can do the above.

Again, CamW30 calls out ID by saying it can't be a science unless there is empirical evidence of a designer. By empirical, one assumes that it is something that can be tested in a laboratory. This is the typical bait-and-switch used on unsuspecting readers. Demanding empirical evidence also causes Darwinian theory to come up short, because fossil evidence, DNA evidence, molecular evidence, microbiological evidence, etc., are all subject to interpretation.

This truth is unattractive to CamW30 and others like him, because it means their worldview is not the only rational approach to reality.

I've never conflated ID with YEC, I just say that by definition it is not a science.

That is a lie, and one need only read a few posts by CamW30 before one encounters the contradiction. Stipulating that YEC and basic Creationism are different is a useless dodge, when the connection drawn is the same.

Evolutionary theory shows that the appearance of design is just that, an appearance.

That is an opinion, not an objective fact.

The mechanisms of evolution, such as natural selection, have been shown that it is an appearance only.

Nonsense, they've shown nothing of the kind, because the "mechanisms" must be assumed to exist for them to allegedly "show" anything. In other words, the mechanisms of evolution by natural selection are only a concept that can be applied to the physical evidence, they are not empirical evidence. The only empirical evidence is physical evidence, and the physical evidence is open to interpretation, whether CamW30 thinks so or not.

Macroevolution is just microevolution plus time. Please provide a scientific explanation why this is not so.

The scientific explanation of why it is allegedly true is nothing more than the statement itself, or in other words, Darwinists state confidently that macroevolution is the same as microevolution, but over greater periods of time. They have nothing more than their own assumptions to back that statement, no "empirical evidence" that CamW30 is so thirsty for. To ask for a scientific explanation against something when there is no actual scientific explanation for something, is ridiculous.

To the factual statement that ID is different from creationism, CamW30 responds with:

That is splitting hairs; goddunnit is goddunnit. Therefore you must prove a god exists.

It is only splitting hairs to someone who either doesn't understand the theory of Intelligent Design, or who deliberately refuses to investigate past the false assumption that ID is merely masked creationism. Then to leap to a non-sequitur like asking for proof that God exists is just one more trick CamW30 uses to fool himself as well as others.

To the factual statement that reasoning about the past is different than doing experiments in a lab, CamW30 responds with:

That's funny, palaeontology and archeology do it.

No, they do not. Both of those disciplines must rely on interpretation of the physical evidence to arrive at their current conclusions. Dating methods are not experimentation; furthermore, most of them contradict each other regarding how old an object is.

The History of Science is an Arts subject,...

In the context of this statement, CamW30 is making a deliberate ploy to confuse the History of Science with Historical Science, two entirely different concepts. Historical Science is the attempt to extrapolate past events from physical evidence, sometimes coupled with documented information from a particular time period if it is available.

If ID is a science, it must be proven using the scientific method.

Is that so? And how is Darwinian Evolution proven with the scientific method? Please explain for everyone just how millions of fossils are utilized in the scientific method, which requires a procedure to attempt falsification. How can you falsify an interpretation? You can't, which is the lame reason why CamW30 mistakenly thinks his opinion is impervious to refutation.

Stephen Meyer says the evidence for ID is compelling, but CamW30 says:

...[Meyer] never gives it.

This is a ridiculous lie. There are many books out there that present much compelling evidence for ID, but for CamW30, who can't fathom anything beyond his materialist (aka physicalist) worldview, the compelling evidence is just a bunch of ignorant poppycock.

...Meyer tries to conflate [genetic code] with computer code. ... The genetic code is more like a recipe.

Oh is that so? Stop the presses, we need to get this into tomorrow's Wall Street Journal: CamW30 has special information that allows him to understand the functions of DNA in a way that lays all other theories to rest. The headline will read: CamW30 opinion is FACT.

The gene is not being read like a language at all.

Well, that's an interpretation that works for CamW30, but it contradicts the opinion of Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project, which was finished ahead of time under his leadership. But according to CamW30, Francis Collins must be off his rocker, since his interpretation of DNA's structure isn't what works for CamW30, a 50-something former pharmacy consultant who fancies himself a 21st century Thomas Henry Huxley.

I think that's quite enough. Including more would be an unnecessary beating of a dead horse and an even greater waste of my time.

As a final note I will direct your attention to the top of CamW30's Google+ page: we see a graphic that asks, "Are You Kind?"

An interesting question from an apparently uncharitable individual.