Saturday, August 29, 2015

Seth Shostak: Just Add Water

Not Even Wrong

In a recent KCBS radio interview about his work for the search for extraterrestrial life, the Center for SETI research Director Seth Shostak repeatedly made claims about the simplicity of life. “Life is just chemistry,” Shostak informed interviewer Jeff Bell. Shostak elaborated that life is merely a collection of big molecules and that “You’re nothing more than that.” This just-add-water view of life is one of the many consequences of evolutionary theory and is so far from science that there is no point in even issuing a rebuttal. It is another example of metaphysics posing as science and making absurd statements with a straight face.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

BioLogos: Fundamentalists Were Wrong About Galileo, So They’re Also Wrong About Darwin

A Flawed History



It is one thing to point out particular conflicts between religion and science, it is quite another to characterize broadly the relationship between religion and science as one of conflict. The former is simply recognizing realities, the latter is the failed view known as the Conflict or Warfare Thesis. Certainly there are some genuine conflicts that arise from certain religious sects or traditions, but historically the relationship between religion and science is far more complicated than simply an on-going conflict. The BioLogos organization is very much concerned with this conflict, but they point out that they are careful to avoid the Warfare Thesis. Unfortunately this claim depends on a carefully crafted definition of the Warfare Thesis.

What is the Warfare Thesis?

The Warfare Thesis is bad history, but ironically too often the Warfare Thesis itself is the victim of bad history. Proponents of the Warfare Thesis are not necessarily atheists as they are sometimes portrayed. Nor do proponents of the Warfare Thesis necessarily see religion and science as mortal enemies, locked in an inevitable and necessary conflict. Like any broad movement the Warfare Thesis occupies a spectrum of views. From Voltaire and Edward Gibbon, to Hume, Kant, Washington Irving, Antoine-Jean Letronne, Thomas H. Huxley, John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and the many twentieth century proponents, the Warfare Thesis has had a wide variety of inputs and influences. Within its ranks one can find theists, agnostics and atheists. A common thread, however, is not the identification of conflict between religion and science so much as between fundamentalist religion and science. The problem lies with those scriptural literalists who can’t, or won’t, understand poetry or nuance in God’s word. Religion, once loosened from the fundamentalist grip, can take on its proper role. One of the Warfare Thesis strongest exponents, Andrew Dickson White, made this quite clear:

My belief is that in the field left to them—their proper field—the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of learning but in the world at large.

This religious sentiment was nowhere better illustrated than in the final scene of Inherit the Wind (click video above) which has the fictional character Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow and played by actor Spencer Tracy) paying respects to his now deceased courtroom opponent, Matthew Harrison Brady (based on William Jennings Bryan and played by actor Fredric March).

Such sentimentalism does not sit well with atheist journalist E. K. Hornbeck (based on H. L. Mencken and played by actor Gene Kelly). Drummond quotes Scripture from memory and laments that “A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away.”

Hornbeck cries foul: “You hypocrite. You fraud. The atheist who believes in God,” but he is easily vanquished by the wiser Drummond who excoriates Hornbeck and his shallow skepticism. Hornbeck retreats from the courtroom while Drummond thoughtfully weighs his law book in one hand and the Bible in the other hand. He places the Good Book on top and victoriously walks out the other door to the rising crescendo of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Inherit the Wind is a classic staging of the Warfare Thesis. The ultimate target of Jerome Lawrence’s and Robert Lee’s script was McCarthyism and its witch hunts, but it was its weapon of choice—the Warfare Thesis—that made the play, and its many stagings and screenings, so popular.

And just as the Warfare Thesis is constructed from a false history, so too is Inherit the Wind based on a fictional retelling of the famous 1925 Monkey Trial. The historical furniture is rearranged to convey a false message of conflict, and yet the script is routinely held up as a cogent and accurate message for today. Such is the power of the enduring Warfare Thesis mythology.

So the Warfare Thesis is not an atheistic mission. Nor is it an attack on all things religious. Rather it is a religious view that seeks a harmonization which avoids the pitfalls of literalism and recognizes the advances of science. That may sound good, but in its attack on fundamentalism it fails to appreciate the complex relationship between religion and science. Religion, for example, can provide useful ideas to science and it can guiding restraints. The influence may or may not be cooperative, but it often is subtle and complicated.

What is BioLogos?

BioLogos is many things, but regarding the religion and science, BioLogos is concerned about conflicts. And not just any conflicts. President Deborah Haarsma recently reiterated BioLogos’ long-standing concern with Christians who do not accept the fact of evolution. Meanwhile Senior Editor Jim Stump expresses concern that design advocates are misleading people in areas such as climate change and vaccines.

These are all classic Warfare Thesis topics. They are politically, economically and metaphysically laden areas where the science is easily influenced by non scientific factors. Consider vaccines, for example, a topic that comes right out of Andrew Dickson White’s work. The facts are that vaccines provide varying levels of immunity at the very remote risk of injury. The details vary with the vaccine but, in general, patients are faced with a risk-reward tradeoff for which there is no scientific formula. Unfortunately the whole area has become politically charged and accurate statistics can be difficult to obtain. Even the mention of risk, which is a scientific fact, is too often met with disdain. It is the height of scientism—a spin-off of the Warfare Thesis—to argue that science dictates the answer. This is a human decision.

One of BioLogos’ arguments for its position is that it is following in the tradition of Copernicus and Galileo who advocated heliocentrism against scriptural opposition. Is it not obvious that Christians were right to alter their interpretation of biblical verses suggesting geocentrism, such as Psalm 104:5, Joshua 10:12-13 and Ecclesiastes 1:5.

The answer, of course, is “yes.” And for most such a modification was not difficult since it was doctrinally inconsequential. Indeed, most of Galileo’s opposition had little or no problem with such modifications and the scriptural questions were not high on his list of disputes he had to deal with.

Furthermore, when the perspective of those verses is understood (or as we say in science, the “reference frame”), there is no contradiction with heliocentrism. Galileo had plenty of political opposition, and he created much of it with his overbearing personality, but in his favor he had empirical evidences that were fairly suggestive of heliocentrism.

This is not analogous to today’s Warfare Thesis situation. The science does not at all suggest that the species arose spontaneously. We can argue over how unlikely this is, but BioLogos argues it is a fact. And as with all evolutionists, their confidence comes from the metaphysics, not the science. There are many proofs of evolution, but there is no scientific argument that supports the evolutionist’s claim that evolution is a fact. That is not my opinion, that is a fact of the literature.

Likewise, to compare the politically-charged man-made global warming theory with Galileo and heliocentrism is an insult to the great scientist and the theory he championed. Thoughtful commentators such as Matt Ridley have explained the non scientific influences on AGW, but the myth of certainty persists. This is not to say AGW is not true, perhaps it is. But we are far from knowing what its proponents proclaim as undeniable truth, and that is the point. The truth claims reveal that it isn’t about the science.

I tried to explain these issues at the BioLogos website. The website’s rule is the comments are closed after four days of inactivity. In this case, however, the evolutionists suddenly changed the rule and closed the discussion after a criticism of my points.

BioLogos is certainly on target to argue that scientific findings need to be acknowledged and recognized. And BioLogos obviously rejects the over-the-top atheistic versions of the Warfare Thesis. But that doesn’t change the fact that BioLogos’ support for non scientific mandates falls right into the Warfare Thesis tradition.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Evolutionists Have a Brand New Theory

The Philosopher is Dead, Long Live the Philosopher

For a theory that is supposed to be scientific, and therefore not teleological, evolution certainly does have its share of Aristotelian commitments. In fact, the Philosopher seems to be present at every turn in evolutionary thought. Consider the latest thinking from evolutionists—a brand new theory formulated to replace the last brand new theory which, not surprisingly, failed just as badly as the previous theories. The new one is called the extended evolutionary synthesis. First there was evolution. Then there was the evolutionary synthesis. Now there is the extended evolutionary synthesis. Well at least this one affords evolutionists a three-letter acronym. Here is how evolutionists describe it (as usual, watch for the infinitive form):

the EES regards the genome as a sub-system of the cell designed by evolution to sense and respond to the signals that impinge on it. Organisms are not built from genetic ‘instructions’ alone, but rather self-assemble using a broad variety of inter-dependent resources. Even where there is a history of selection for plasticity, the constructive development perspective entails that prior selection underdetermines the phenotypic response to the environment.

Designed by evolution? To sense and respond? Organisms self-assemble? This isn’t science, this is absurdity.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Warfare Thesis and BioLogos

Hindsight is 20/20

Today professor Ted Davis, historian and Fellow at the BioLogos Foundation, explains why BioLogos does not promote the Warfare Thesis. Davis explains that just because the Warfare Thesis (the claim that Christianity often conflicts with and opposes scientific advances) is wrong doesn’t mean there aren’t real conflicts here and there. Davis points to geocentrism and the young-earth beliefs as examples of legitimate conflicts between religion and science. Davis’ point is that while the overarching model of Warfare between religion and science is flawed, there certainly are particular conflicts. So while we need to clarify the failure of the Warfare Thesis, we must not over compensate. We must not reject any and all conflicts as unreal:

My first goal in writing for BioLogos is to get the history right, in all of its complexity. If we want to overthrow the Warfare Thesis (and all of my work is aimed at doing just that), we can’t be replacing it with an equally inaccurate, sanitized view of things.

It was precisely this error that I fell into when I claimed that BioLogos promotes the Warfare Thesis, according to Davis. Davis says that I have a “Misunderstanding of the History of Science and Religion.” After all, BioLogos’ position today is comparable to Galileo’s position four centuries ago when he advocated heliocentrism.

Davis makes many good points, not the least of which is that the history of the interaction between science and religion is a complicated one. The Warfare Thesis is obviously flawed, but nonetheless there certainly have been, and remain today, areas of conflict. That is an important point that I have made many, many times. It is central to this blog and the recent posts (here, here and here) about BioLogos make this very point. Therefore it is a bit perplexing that Davis can, nonetheless, find what would be a sophomoric mistake:

What he fails to understand—or at least, what he fails to tell his readers—is that we historians continue to think there are some instances of genuine conflict between science and religion

Of course there is genuine conflict between science and religion. But how did Davis miss my telling my readers about it? For instance, one post explains that “Evolution was never about the science, but rather is motivated and justified by, yes, religious beliefs. That is abundantly documented, from Leibniz to Darwin to Coyne.” Another post gives this explanation:

evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. … In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously.

If that isn’t conflict between science and religion then what is?

But Davis seeks to defend the BioLogos evolutionists and clear BioLogos of the Warfare Thesis. One way to do this is to label any such criticism as a na├»ve misunderstanding—a failure to understand genuine conflicts. To identify BioLogos with the Warfare Thesis is to deny the existence of any legitimate conflicts between religion and science, because BioLogos is doing nothing more than pointing those out.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. BioLogos is not merely pointing out some particular, current examples of religious resistance to science. Instead, BioLogos fits precisely into, yes, the Warfare Thesis.

BioLogos advocates the spontaneous origins of the world (i.e., evolution according to chance plus natural law), claims that this evolutionary conviction is a compelling, empirical scientific conclusion, and then accuses skeptical Christians of using their religion to oppose science. This is precisely the argument of the Warfare Thesis. And like earlier Warfare Thesis proponents, they (i) appeal to Galileo, as though that brings some justification and (ii) seek a “harmonization” in which today’s Epicureanism determines the facts, and skepticism is demoted to mere feeling and faith. Where it counts, this is no different than yesterday’s Warfare Thesis.

But in fact evolutionary thought is soaking in religious influence. Theological proofs are what motivate and justify evolutionary thought—they are at its foundation. Evolutionists, from the seventeenth century to today, have made that abundantly clear. And they use the Warfare Thesis claim the high ground of science and blame the other guy for what they do.

It is easy to look back to centuries past and see the error of those who have come before. It is more difficult to see that same error today. But we must if we are to educate ourselves and avoid such recurring errors. As a previous post explained:

So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.

The Warfare Thesis is not merely something from long ago. It is not a problem from the past that we have now fixed. It is inherent in our modern day Epicureanism, and it won’t go away until we recognize it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Here is How BioLogos Promotes the Warfare Thesis

Just Like Huxley and White

The “Warfare Thesis” is an overly simplistic and downright mythological view of the relationship between religion and science. It models the relationship as one of conflict, with religion dogmatically resisting science’s inconvenient findings, such as evolution, while science objectively pursues the truth. But the Warfare Thesis is not opposed to religion. Early exponents such as Thomas H. Huxley and Andrew Dickson White were often friends with religion. Huxley was sympathetic to the Church of England and White spoke well of Christianity. Far from wishing to injure Christianity, White wrote that he hoped to promote it; at least, his favored version of Christianity. White's target were those “mediaeval conceptions of Christianity.” Once this “dogmatic theology” is excised all would be well:

My belief is that in the field left to them—their proper field—the clergy will more and more, as they cease to struggle against scientific methods and conclusions, do work even nobler and more beautiful than anything they have heretofore done. And this is saying much. My conviction is that Science, though it has evidently conquered Dogmatic Theology based on biblical texts and ancient modes of thought, will go hand in hand with Religion; and that, although theological control will continue to diminish, Religion, as seen in the recognition of “a Power in the universe, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness,” and in the love of God and of our neighbor, will steadily grow stronger and stronger, not only in the American institutions of learning but in the world at large.

In other words, rightly understood science and religion should divide along the fact-faith split. Science gives us facts while religion gives us faith and feelings. This was the implicit message of the closing scene of Inherit The Wind which had Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracy) clutching a Bible after demolishing William Jennings Bryan’s (Fredric March) belief that the Bible gives us facts, as well as faith. The message was not to reject religion, but to keep it in its place. Of course Darrow was not a Christian, and he never defeated Bryan. But the Warfare Thesis never was about truth.

So while the Warfare Thesis speaks of conflict between science and religion, it also seeks harmony between science and religion. The difference is in the religion. Religion needs to accommodate science’s new truths and restrict itself to faith and feelings. That will lead to harmony but otherwise there is conflict.

Nowhere is this more evident today than at BioLogos where, for example in a recent post, President Deborah Haarsma expressed concern that Bethel College has decided that its faculty ought not to be advocating the view that God used evolution to create the first humans. The concern at BioLogos is that such a decision “effectively sets faith commitments in opposition to clear scientific evidence [for the evolution of humans] in God’s creation.”

This is the Warfare Thesis. Religion is in conflict with “science” and that is a problem.

But of course elsewhere BioLogos calls for harmony as they invite “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation,” and provide “5 Reasons the Church Should Embrace Science.”

This too is the Warfare Thesis. Religion is in conflict with “science” and the solution is to acquiesce and retreat to the realm of faith and feelings.

The Warfare Thesis is based on the erroneous equating of evolution as empirical science. Evolution was never about the science, but rather is motivated and justified by, yes, religious beliefs. That is abundantly documented, from Leibniz to Darwin to Coyne. The claim that science has arrived at Epicureanism is simply absurd. The fact is, Epicureanism has arrived at Epicureanism. Evolutionary thought is thoroughly ensconced in metaphysics. There are no scientific proofs for the spontaneous origin of the species, they are theological and philosophical.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jim Stump: “I almost felt sorry for design advocates”

F6 Thinking

In his recent review of Benjamin Jantzen’s Introduction to Design Arguments (Cambridge University Press, 2014), evolutionist Jim Stump finds much to agree with because, as Stump argues, design arguments are both bad science and bad religion. For example, Michael Behe argues that evolution is challenged by the irreducible complexity of biological structures, but “almost all” biologists think Behe’s examples don’t hold water. The problem is Behe is implicitly appealing to a caricature of how evolution works that views complexity arising all at once. “In reality,” the ex Bethel professor explains, “natural selection operates on combinations of traits, not merely on isolated structures. Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water. Contrary to the ID claim about irreducible complexity, you don’t have to get the whole thing at once.”

Furthermore, even if Behe is right, he can merely conclude that design is the best explanation available. The history of science is full of best explanations that were later rejected because a previously unconceived explanation arose. Therefore Behe’s claim is considerably weakened. Stump finds Jantzen’s analyses to be cogent and by the end “almost felt sorry for design advocates as the soft underbelly of their arguments was exposed.”

Unfortunately what the philosopher demonstrates here is not a helpful and insightful commentary on design arguments but rather the usual sequence of evolutionary misrepresentations.

It begins with Stump's appeal to authority. This is a common evolutionary argument, but the fact that a majority of scientists accept an idea means very little. Certainly expert opinion is an important factor and needs to be considered, but the reasons for that consensus also need to be understood. The history of science is full of examples of new ideas that accurately described and explained natural phenomena, yet were summarily rejected by experts. Scientists are people with a range of nonscientific, as well as scientific influences. Social, career, and funding influences are easy to underestimate. There can be tremendous pressures on a scientist that have little to do with the evidence at hand. This certainly is true in evolutionary circles, where the pressure to conform is intense.

Next, Behe does not appeal to a caricature of how evolution works as Stump describes. In his development of the problem of irreducible complexity, Behe specifically addresses the adaptation of pre existing structures. Indeed, Stump’s representation of ID as claiming that with evolution you must “get the whole thing at once” is itself a caricature.

Furthermore Stump’s view that “natural selection operates on combinations of traits” is nothing more than the usual Aristotelianism dressed up in Darwinian language. Natural selection doesn’t “operate” on anything. And Stump’s credulous explanation of how “Half-developed wings won’t help an insect fly, but they might help it do other things that contribute to its survival, like skim across the surface of water” is simply a just-so story. There is no scientific evidence that this ever actually occurred in history, and it adds enormous serendipity to evolutionary theory. Does that make it impossible? Of course not. But that’s not the point.

The final critique of Behe is that he can only present design as the best explanation and is therefore vulnerable to the problem of unconceived explanations. Is not Behe’s claim considerably weakened?

This coming from an evolutionist is hypocritical for contrastive thinking is foundational to evolutionary thought. If Behe’s claim is considerably weakened then evolution is demolished.

Stump concludes with the usual Leibnizian / Kantian appeal to naturalism. Reminiscent of the final scene in Inherit the Wind which has the victorious Spencer Tracy clutching a Bible, we are told that the divine hand is evident in the created order, not in the failures of nature:

We see God’s hand throughout the created order not because science can’t explain nature, but because it can. The Designer’s mark is not in systems that don’t work quite right and need tinkering; those are signs of imperfection.

If naturalism fails, then nature fails. And if nature fails, then the Creator has failed. It’s the seventeenth century all over again.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Here’s What’s Going on With BioLogos

The Importance of the Warfare Thesis

Deborah Haarsma was professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College and is currently the President of BioLogos. Both of these Christian organizations promote evolutionary theory (Calvin statement, BioLogos statement). That is not surprising since evolution derives, at least in modern times, from theologians and philosophers in the church. To be sure, evolutionary thinking is obvious in ancient Epicureanism, but its resurgence in the seventeenth century was almost exclusively the work of Christian thinkers. Descartes, Malebranche, Cudworth, Ray, Burnet, Leibniz and Wolfe are good examples of how widespread was the movement within Christian thought, and of how varied were the arguments for a strictly naturalistic origins narrative. These Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans agreed that the world must have arisen by natural causes. The common theme was that the arguments were theological and philosophical (i.e., metaphysical rather than scientific). These mandates for naturalism increased and by the nineteenth century were the received truths for progressives. This was the culture Charles Darwin was born into and his book applied these arguments for naturalism to the problem of the origins of the species. Darwin’s thought—from his early notebooks, to Origins, to his later works and autobiography—was thoroughly metaphysical. God must have created via law not miracle and, ever since Darwin, Christians have embraced this belief just as strongly as the pre Darwin Christians had promoted it. Deborah Haarsma is, therefore, a contemporary representative of a long and distinguished intellectual history. But there is one major difference between today’s evolutionists and their forerunners from centuries past.

In the eighteenth century, and even more so in the nineteenth century, evolutionary thought increasingly sought to enlist science to support its thesis of naturalism. In the eighteenth century Bernoulli, Buffon, Kant and Laplace constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the solar system. In the nineteenth century Lamarck, Wallace and Darwin constructed naturalistic theories to explain the origin of the species. While these thinkers and their works rested on the metaphysical foundation that had been laid for them, this genre took on a patina of empiricism. Lengthy, meandering, passages describing scientific observations seemed to lend the authority of science, even if the brief conclusions that followed were steeped in metaphysics.

Thus began the claim that a naturalistic origins is the obvious and unavoidable result of objective scientific inquiry. In fact, from a strictly scientific perspective, a naturalistic origins fares no better than a perpetual motion machine. The clear message of science, then and now, is that the world did not likely arise spontaneously. But science, as has been said, is theology’s hand maiden and the empirical evidence is notoriously vulnerable to manipulation and clever presentation.

To aid in this presentation, evolutionary thinkers also constructed a false history known today as the Conflict or Warfare Thesis. It can be traced back to Voltaire and his mythological reconstruction of the Galileo Affair, but it gathered strength in the nineteenth century. The idea is that science and religion are in conflict as science churns out new, occasionally inconvenient, truths while religion retreats and resists where it can.

So according to the Warfare Thesis, there is a conflict for Christians who are unwilling to bend their interpretation of Scripture. Their religious faith is in conflict with science.

Historians have understood for the better part of a century now that this Warfare Thesis is a false history. It was constructed by evolutionists to frame the origins debate in their favor. In fact the conflict is the exactly the opposite—it is between the metaphysical foundation of evolutionary thought and science. That metaphysical foundation of naturalism is unyielding and unbending, and it makes no sense on the science. It is the evolutionists who have a conflict between their religious beliefs and science. The Warfare Thesis is an attempt to turn the tables and turn the attention away from the obvious problems with evolutionary thought.

Evolutionists say that their skeptics suffer from bad religion and bad science. In fact, the metaphysical foundation of naturalism is not biblical (in spite of the fact that it comes from Christians), and evolutionary theory is not scientific. Science does not indicate that the world spontaneously arose.

But the Warfare Thesis continues. In spite of its obvious failure and falsehood, it is too powerful to resist. A few years ago when Haarsma became President of BioLogos she called for respectful discourse. I took that opportunity to voice my concern that BioLogos was reliant on the Warfare Thesis. Not only was there no reply, but BioLogos has continued to promote the false Warfare Thesis. Haarsma’s article from two weeks ago, on the resignation of Bethel College professor Jim Stump, is an example:

Yet we are concerned that a decision like this effectively sets faith commitments in opposition to clear scientific evidence in God’s creation. We would like to see Christian colleges encouraging their scholars to engage the scientific evidence that humans evolved, and acknowledge that this can be done without letting go of biblical authority. … We are also concerned that Christian college students, especially those who feel called to scientific careers, will see policies like this as a sign of conflict between Christianity and science and feel forced to make an unnecessary choice between them. … We love the Bible and we make the case for evolutionary creation: that God used the natural process of evolution to create all of life’s diverse forms, including humans, as supported by abundant genetic and fossil evidence. This position is in harmony with the teachings of the Bible and Christian doctrine. For example, there are multiple ways that the biblical accounts of Adam and Eve can be understood in the context of this scientific evidence, including as real historical people. And even though God used the natural mechanisms of evolution to create humans, he also made us spiritual beings and established a unique relationship with us by endowing humans with his image.

Clear scientific evidence for evolution? Abundant genetic and fossil evidence for evolution? Yes, the scientific evidence is clear, and the genetic and fossil evidence is abundant, but it does not support evolution. Not even remotely.

Of course Scripture can have different interpretations. But the science leaves no such wiggle room. It does not prove, indicate or suggest that the species arose spontaneously, as a consequence of natural laws and processes. That is a metaphysical mandate that is in conflict with the science.

So whereas the seventeenth and eighteenth century evolutionists were clear about their metaphysical assumptions and how those assumptions mandated naturalism, today’s evolutionists obfuscate their message with the Warfare Thesis. They make the same non biblical, theological and philosophical arguments for evolution in their apologetic literature. But then argue that their proofs are scientific, not metaphysical, and claim their skeptics are the ones with the bad science and bad religion.

Too often evolutionists today present a contradictory message. Religion drives science, and it matters.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Here is Matt Ridley’s Must Read Article on Climate Science

A Most Dangerous Door

One of the standard defenses of evolution—the Epicurean idea that the world arose spontaneously—is that science is a self-correcting, feedback process and, as such, will always lead to the truth. This is such an ignorant claim it is difficult to know where to begin in rebutting it. First of all, at its best science is a process that takes as input a set of observations and produces as output some generalizations, sometimes called models or hypotheses or theories or laws, about how nature works. A scientist might observe the planetary motions in the sky and hypothesize that the planets travel in elliptical orbits about the Sun. Or a scientist might observe the movement of objects and theorize that the product of the mass and acceleration of an object equals the force applied to it. These are valuable theories that condense a vast amount of observations into simple and useful formulas that can predict future events. But for every one of these successes there are hundreds of failures. Sometimes these failures are rooted out only after decades or centuries of contentious debate with proponents who are convinced they’ve got it right. Indeed, there is no guarantee of a timely resolution of scientific failures. There is no guarantee of a resolution, period. Every engineering student knows that feedback loops do not guarantee accuracy—they don’t even guarantee stability.

Even at its best, science is not guaranteed to produce truth because of some real or imagined feedback process. And the story gets worse in practice because of the many nonscientific influences at work. Scientists have religious, philosophical and political biases as much as anyone else, and too often they are under pressure to conform. Bucking the trend doesn’t usually win the funding grant.

Yet the Warfare Thesis, the myth that in its objective search for truth science is opposed by religion, has persisted and has fueled a strong trend of scientism—the view of science as dispassionate truth giver. It was constructed and promoted by evolutionists to frame the debate in their favor, and it worked.

So the idea that evolution is true because science “says so,” and after all science can’t be wrong, continues to enjoy broad traction. It is for these reasons that Matt Ridley’s brilliant article in Quadrant Online is important. Ridley begins:

For much of my life I have been a science writer. That means I eavesdrop on what’s going on in laboratories so I can tell interesting stories. It’s analogous to the way art critics write about art, but with a difference: we “science critics” rarely criticise. If we think a scientific paper is dumb, we just ignore it. There’s too much good stuff coming out of science to waste time knocking the bad stuff. Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience—homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science. Or so I used to think.

Ridley’s main concern is the highly politicized idea of anthropomorphic global warming (AGW):

Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

This piece by Ridley is important because it is a cogent and direct challenge to the dominant and damaging ideas of scientism and the Warfare Thesis. And it is an admission that the problem is rather obvious:

This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.

Ridley has shed the mythology of the objective scientist driven simply by a pursuit for the truth:

Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence.

And Ridley has learned about scientific hegemony:

What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press.

Ridley observes that global warming has now joined this infamous list of dubious yet dangerous sciences:

This is precisely what has happened with the climate debate and it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science. The “bad idea” in this case is not that climate changes, nor that human beings influence climate change; but that the impending change is sufficiently dangerous to require urgent policy responses.

Ridley explains how climate science was hijacked by partisans some 15-20 years ago and since then dogma, not data, has controlled the research:

These huge green multinationals, with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous. Today’s climate science, as Ian Plimer points out in his chapter in The Facts, is based on a “pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored and analytical procedures are treated as evidence”. Funds are not available to investigate alternative theories. Those who express even the mildest doubts about dangerous climate change are ostracised, accused of being in the pay of fossil-fuel interests or starved of funds; those who take money from green pressure groups and make wildly exaggerated statements are showered with rewards and treated by the media as neutral.

It is not difficult to imagine how this plays out:

Look what happened to a butterfly ecologist named Camille Parmesan when she published a paper on “Climate and Species Range” that blamed climate change for threatening the Edith checkerspot butterfly with extinction in California by driving its range northward. The paper was cited more than 500 times, she was invited to speak at the White House and she was asked to contribute to the IPCC’s third assessment report. Unfortunately, a distinguished ecologist called Jim Steele found fault with her conclusion: there had been more local extinctions in the southern part of the butterfly’s range due to urban development than in the north, so only the statistical averages moved north, not the butterflies. There was no correlated local change in temperature anyway, and the butterflies have since recovered throughout their range. When Steele asked Parmesan for her data, she refused. Parmesan’s paper continues to be cited as evidence of climate change. Steele meanwhile is derided as a “denier”. No wonder a highly sceptical ecologist I know is very reluctant to break cover.

Ridley explains that this abuse of science is justified and enabled by the propagation of a false dichotomy that casts skeptics as dangerous or ignorant extremists:

These scientists and their guardians of the flame repeatedly insist that there are only two ways of thinking about climate change—that it’s real, man-made and dangerous (the right way), or that it’s not happening (the wrong way). But this is a false dichotomy. There is a third possibility: that it’s real, partly man-made and not dangerous. This is the “lukewarmer” school, and I am happy to put myself in this category. Lukewarmers do not think dangerous climate change is impossible; but they think it is unlikely. I find that very few people even know of this. Most ordinary people who do not follow climate debates assume that either it’s not happening or it’s dangerous. This suits those with vested interests in renewable energy, since it implies that the only way you would be against their boondoggles is if you “didn’t believe” in climate change.

And given this false dichotomy, the next step is the vilification of the skeptic in a full-scale demagoguery:

But the commentators ignore all these caveats and babble on about warming of “up to” four degrees (or even more), then castigate as a “denier” anybody who says, as I do, the lower end of the scale looks much more likely given the actual data. This is a deliberate tactic. Following what the psychologist Philip Tetlock called the “psychology of taboo”, there has been a systematic and thorough campaign to rule out the middle ground as heretical: not just wrong, but mistaken, immoral and beyond the pale. That’s what the word denier with its deliberate connotations of Holocaust denial is intended to do. For reasons I do not fully understand, journalists have been shamefully happy to go along with this fundamentally religious project.

And behind all the demagoguery, politics, fallacies and manipulation is just plain old bad nineteenth century science:

Joanne Nova, incidentally, is an example of a new breed of science critic that the climate debate has spawned. With little backing, and facing ostracism for her heresy, this talented science journalist had abandoned any chance of a normal, lucrative career and systematically set out to expose the way the huge financial gravy train that is climate science has distorted the methods of science. In her chapter in The Facts, Nova points out that the entire trillion-dollar industry of climate change policy rests on a single hypothetical assumption, first advanced in 1896, for which to this day there is no evidence. The assumption is that modest warming from carbon dioxide must be trebly amplified by extra water vapour—that as the air warms there will be an increase in absolute humidity providing “a positive feedback”. That assumption led to specific predictions that could be tested. And the tests come back negative again and again. The large positive feedback that can turn a mild warming into a dangerous one just is not there. There is no tropical troposphere hot-spot. Ice cores unambiguously show that temperature can fall while carbon dioxide stays high. Estimates of climate sensitivity, which should be high if positive feedbacks are strong, are instead getting lower and lower. Above all, the temperature has failed to rise as predicted by the models.

Ridley chronicles the long sordid history of manipulating evidence and mindless predictions that, though one after the next turned up false, never mattered and even though they failed ridiculously were used anyway as confirmations of AGW:

Excusing failed predictions is a staple of astrology; it’s the way pseudoscientists argue. In science, as Karl Popper long ago insisted, if you make predictions and they fail, you don’t just make excuses and insist you’re even more right than before.

In the end all of this will ultimately harm science. Its hard won reputation can withstand only so many religious and political intrusions. For Ridley himself, it gets personal:

That complacency has shocked me, and done more than anything else to weaken my long-standing support for science as an institution. … I feel genuinely betrayed by the profession that I have spent so much of my career championing.

But this goes far beyond feels of personal disappointment and betrayal. The consequences are enormous:

None of this would matter if it was just scientific inquiry, though that rarely comes cheap in itself. The big difference is that these scientists who insist that we take their word for it, and who get cross if we don’t, are also asking us to make huge, expensive and risky changes to the world economy and to people’s livelihoods.

Ridley’s article is a must read for anyone who is true to science. But for all of its import, it is only the beginning. Ridley is obviously a discerning man but there has been another misadventure and abuse of science that dwarfs climate science. Virtually everything he points out in this excellent piece could be restated, but to even greater extremes, regarding evolution science.

Ridley was once an AGW proponent who now has pulled himself out of its mire. He has stepped back and now the landscape has become all too clear. It is not that there is no warming, or that carbon dioxide has no effects. That’s hardly the point. The problem is in the misrepresentations of the science, the control of the funding, the publication control and blackballing, the demonization, the false dichotomies, the political intrusions, the dangerous impact on public policy, and so forth. This is not science, it a hijacking of science for nonscientific purposes.

Ridley sees all of this. He sees how it really is, and he doesn’t like what he sees. What Ridley does not yet see is that evolution science is all of this, but on a grander scale. Ridley has opened a door, but he is focusing on the first step. It is a most dangerous door, for behind it are all manner of truths people prefer to avoid.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood Launches Counter Attack With Ersatz Apology

Fork Tongue



In this video Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “personally apologizes for the tone and statements” of “one of our staff members.” That “staff member” happens to be Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services and those “statements” happen to be about the on-going practice of killing babies before they have a chance to see the light of day, turning the mother’s womb into the most dangerous place in America. But Richards is not apologizing for the mass murder she presides over. After all, she promotes it. In fact, the video is not really an apology at all. It is an attack that is full of lies. Richards states that Planned Parenthood “follows all laws and ethical guidelines,” has as a top priority “the compassionate care that we provide,” and is committed  “to life-saving research.”

Ethical guidelines? Compassionate care? Life-saving research? In fact, Planned Parenthood has failed in its ethics and care. Its work is to end, not save, lives.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Day the Music Died

We Are Now Without Excuse

In the age of on-line entertainment and instant information it was, perhaps, possible to live without knowing about the carnage going on around us, but the video of evolutionist Deborah Nucatola casually and callously explaining the crushing of innocent babies and harvesting their young bodies leaves us forever without excuse. Between gulps of red wine and bites of salad we learn that “a lot of people want liver” and that “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver …” We are also told how to play games with the law so the harvesting of human body parts can proceed efficiently:

The Federal Abortion Ban is a law, and laws are up to interpretation. So if I say on day One, I do not intend to do this, what ultimately happens doesn’t matter. … If you maintain enough of a dialogue with the person who’s actually doing the procedures, so they understand what the end-game is, there are little things, changes they can make in their technique to increase your success. … For example, so I had eight cases yesterday. And I knew exactly what we needed, and I kind of looked at the list and I said alright, this 17-weeker has eight lams, and this one—so I knew which were the cases that were probably more likely to yield what we needed, and I made my decisions according to that too, so it’s worth having a huddle at the beginning of the day, and that’s what I do.

That 17-weeker never had a chance—she never even saw the light of day. We now know the unthinkable and our response is telling.

Did we look at each other in horror? Did we stop everything? Were we angry? Were we sad? Did we cry?

No, we shot the messenger.

Surely this is all a false manipulation of the facts by those with nefarious and ulterior motives. After all, as the nightly news points out, the good doctor made it clear that this was not about the profit.

So it’s all good, right?

To avoid the obvious we strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. We celebrate that thirty pieces of silver was not excessive while innocent babies are murdered in cold blood.

We can try to look the other way but we are a deeply sick society. And now we know it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Lunch with Dr. Nucatola Fallout—Here Come the Attacks

How Do You Justify Murder?

As predicted, evolutionists are desperately attempting to dismiss and delegitimize a several-hour long video of an evolutionist discussing the routine practice of crushing live babies to murder them in cold blood. Business Insider, for example, leads with an absurd headline labelling the video as “false.” No the video is not false. What is false is the evolutionist’s claims that humanity, and everything else for that matter, arose from a series of random chance events—what their Epicurean forefathers referred to as swerving atoms. And, as William Jennings Bryan foresaw, if the world is nothing but a happenstance accident, then what does it matter if we kill? And kill they do. In our country alone evolutionists have murdered more than 50 million babies. It is Bryan’s worst nightmare come true. Evolutionists have brought us this nightmare, and they will insist that it continues. What we are now seeing is how evolutionists conduct business—lies, more lies, and blackballing and delegitimization of anyone who points it out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lunch with Dr. Nucatola

The Killing Fields



Evolutionary thought’s insistence that the world arose spontaneously is our modern-day version of Epicureanism. The idea was then, and continues to be today, motivated by metaphysics, not science. From a scientific perspective the idea is clearly false. That was understood by philosophers of antiquity, but it is understood all the more clearly today. Simply put, modern science has demolished Epicureanism. But ideas die hard, especially ideas that are driven by metaphysical ideas we believe must be true. Overturning Epicureanism and modern day evolutionary thought requires overturning the foundational metaphysics—and that is much more difficult than solving a scientific problem. And so in spite of the science, evolution continues to be a very popular and influential idea. In fact evolution has been tremendously influential in a broad range of political, public policy and social issues. These include wars, holocausts, and abortion. The above video is a good example. It shows evolutionist Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical research, explaining how they murder unborn babies and harvest the tissue. Nucatola describes crushing techniques they use to preserve valuable body parts while murdering the baby in cold blood:

We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.

The level of cruelty is astonishing, yet most likely will go ignored or dismissed by evolutionists. Already the Washington Post has made the absurd suggestion that the almost three hour video may have been doctored in some way. The article concludes:

It’s hard to assess exactly what happened at the lunch with Nucatola.

Hard to assess? Do they also question the holocaust? Do journalists have difficulty determining just exactly what happened in Nazi Germany?

It would be difficult to imagine a more misleading conclusion. An abortionist discussed techniques for murdering babies. How can that possibly be “Hard to assess”?

But this is how evolutionists will frame this event.

Pluto Flyby


Monday, July 13, 2015

Berkeley’s “Understanding Evolution” Website Explains Natural Selection

Secrets Of The Trade

With a small army of evolutionists working on it, and several National Science Foundation grants funding it, the University of California at Berkeley’s “Understanding Evolution” website has a surprising number of errors. One of the more egregious ones is on a page that is intended to clarify the concept of natural selection. It is entitled “Misconceptions about natural selection,” but it begins with what is perhaps the worst of all: “natural selection can produce amazing adaptations.”

While it is true that the species display a wide assortment of amazing adaptations, they have nothing to do with natural selection. Remember the chameleon that changes color? A recent study discovered the incredible mechanism responsible behind it:

Many chameleons, and panther chameleons in particular, have the remarkable ability to exhibit complex and rapid colour changes during social interactions such as male contests or courtship. It is generally interpreted that these changes are due to dispersion/aggregation of pigment-containing organelles within dermal chromatophores. Here, combining microscopy, photometric videography and photonic band-gap modelling, we show that chameleons shift colour through active tuning of a lattice of guanine nanocrystals within a superficial thick layer of dermal iridophores.

Wow—active tuning of a lattice of guanine nanocrystals. Biology students will recognize guanine as one of the four main bases used to form the chemical letters in our DNA. The chameleon forms crystals of guanine to control the reflected light. In an outer layer of skin, the chameleon has guanine nanocrystals in a triangular shape in special light-reflecting cells called chromatophores. Then, in a deeper layer the chromatophores contain brick-shaped guanine nanocrystals. The active control occurs in the outer skin layer. Using some sort of cell signaling, such as hormones, the triangular guanine nanocrystals are excited, altering the crystal spacing and with it the wavelength of the reflected light and so changing color.

It is a fantastic mechanism and, needless to say, natural selection plays no role in it.

What about the origin of this mechanism? Did it evolve via random mutations and natural selection? According to the paper it did. In fact the authors write that they have demonstrated such an incredible feat:

Combining histology, electron microscopy and photometric videography techniques with numerical band-gap modelling, here we show that chameleons have evolved two superimposed populations of iridophores [chromatophores] with different morphologies and functions

Is that true? Does the paper “show that” this incredible active color control mechanism evolved?

No.

In fact this claim is utterly false. The paper shows nothing of the sort. In fact the authors admit they cannot even settle on an “evolutionary scenario.”

They also admit that the mechanism is an evolutionary novelty:

This combination of two functionally different layers of iridophores [chromatophores] constitutes an evolutionary novelty that allows some species of chameleons to combine efficient camouflage and dramatic display, while potentially moderating the thermal consequences of intense solar radiations.

But it gets worse.

Not only do the authors lack a convincing evolutionary scenario for what must be an evolutionary novelty, but they fail to present an explanation for how this fantastic active color control mechanism evolved.

I’m not saying their explanation is weak. I’m not saying it lacks credibility. I’m not saying it is yet another “just-so” story. I’m not saying it is improbable. I’m not saying any of those things for the simple reason that there is no explanation given. Nothing. Nada. What the research does show is some of the details of how this fantastic mechanism works.

Believe it or not, for evolutionists, elucidating structure, mechanism and function equates with demonstrating that it evolved.

Newcomers to evolutionary literature might be nonplussed. How can a research paper unequivocally state that it “shows” X, and then do nothing of the sort? Nothing at all.

In fact this rather strange literary device runs throughout the evolutionary genre. Researchers make utterly unfounded claims of discovering, demonstrating, confirming and proving evolutionary events, and then journalists follow along with popular articles rehearsing the refrain. Evolution is demonstrated yet again.

And not just evolution.

Evolutionists also say that examples such as this are demonstrations of natural selection—demonstrations of natural selection producing amazing adaptations.

This brings us back to the UC Berkeley “Understanding Evolution” website. It abuses science in its utterly unfounded claim that “natural selection can produce amazing adaptations.”

In fact natural selection, even at its best, does not “produce” anything. Natural selection does not and cannot influence the construction of any adaptations, amazing or not. If a mutation occurs which improves differential reproduction, then it propagates into future generations. Natural selection is simply the name given to that process. It selects for survival that which already exists. Natural selection has no role in the mutation event. It does not induce mutations, helpful or otherwise, to occur. According to evolutionary theory every single mutation, leading to every single species, is a random event with respect to need.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

NIH Director: Each Neuron is Different

“Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light”

In his blog post this week on the neuroscience research of Columbia’s Sean Escola, NIH Director Francis Collins makes the obvious, yet too often overlooked point that each of the hundred billion or so neurons in the human brain is different. In our profound ignorance it is easy to view the brain like a pile of pudding, achieving its fantastic abilities through a lucky mixture of the right chemicals. But of course, nothing could be farther from the truth and Collins’ observations helps to disabuse us of such folly. If you have ever wired up a machine you will understand. It is not just a pile of wires that somehow happen to get it right. Each wire has its own, unique function, attaching to two specific connectors. Things are astronomically more complicated in the brain, as its “wires” are not merely a conduit of electrical charge but an incredibly complex cell called a neuron. And each neuron does not merely attach to two distant connectors, but rather to hundreds or thousands of connectors. And each connection is nothing like a simple soldering attachment. In the brain they are called synapses and with thousands of molecular-scale switches researchers compare them to microprocessors.

But on top of all that, each neuron is different. A hundred billion different, unique neurons, each having a different, unique function. Each forming a different, unique set of synapses. We have not even begun to understand all of this neural circuitry, let alone how to design or build anything like it. And yet we insist it all must have arisen spontaneously, as a result of random mutations. That is not science, that is absurdity.

h/t: Paul Asay