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Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology 
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Post Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 7: Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology. ::171




Sun Oct 01, 2006 8:43 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
In these upcoming chapters we get to delve into the meat of Creationist literature by reading primary sources! I was not expecting this, and it was almost like descending into the eighth circle of hell. But, at any rate, I think Scott presented good selections from those countering creationist claims, for the most part.

I found it interesting that creationists were distancing themselves from certain types of argument, even though they are just as implausible as those currently used. The argument about women having an extra rib or men missing a rib was particularly relevant to me, because I had actually heard this argument for the first time in a science class--from a BIOLOGY teacher! Quite frightening, really. I wish I had cared about science in the seventh grade so I could have challenged him.

The most prominent argument from outside biology that are said to support creationism (or, rather, to disconfirm evolution) are the arguments that utilize the second law of thermodynamics. This argument first originated as a simplistic misreading of the law that was quite contradictory and ridiculous. Basically, the arguer says that the law says order can't come from disorder, and therefore evolution must be false. For instance, in a Philosophy of Religion course I once took, a girl used this argument in an attempt to disprove evolution during a debate. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't say anything because I wasn't in the debate--and I was literally almost hyperventilating when the other team couldn't counter this claim and seemed to just blandly accept its truth. At any rate, the law doesn't really say anything as simplistic as this, otherwise it would also be impossible to build machines, to put together puzzles, for snowflakes to form, and so on. What it says is that closed systems tend towards disorder, and this is a much different claim which is fully compatible with building machines, putting together puzzles, forming snowflakes, and even evolution!

Now, the reading in the book, instead of abandoning this patently ridiculous argument, tried to resurrect it with obfuscation and misrepresentation. They rightly denounce the simplistic version, but they respond that "The Earth is part of an open system" argument does not refute their ideas. They argue that open systems can only produce complexity under certain conditions, and evolution doesn't have these conditions. For instance, they argue that natural selection is not an "organizing" mechanism because it only sieves out genes that hurt survival in order to preserve the existing order. Of course, this is a rather skewed look at natural selection. Natural selection, combined with the mutations that are selected, does not just "preserve" existing order, but indeed creates new order all the time. Basically, they are trying to imply that the production of new species and higher organisms from evolution is not implied by the theory when it is in fact one of the prime logical outcomes that can be deduced from the theory of evolution. To claim otherwise is to thoroughly misunderstand either what evolution is or how it works.

Other creationist ideas mentioned are the Vapor Canopy theory (supposedly explaining Noah's flood) and various argumets against the accuracy of Radiometric dating.

The Vapor Canopy theory is soundly dismissed by the following document detailing that the temperature would be 400 degrees Farenheit at the time the canopy existed if this were so. They also invoke physics to argue that the canopy would diffuse until it is in its present form, because this is simply what gasses do according to physics.

The anthropic principle is also addressed. The anthropic principle basically says that the conditions that make life possible are so precise that it seems as if they had to be "fine-tuned" to these precise measurements. However, this argument can be dispatched of in a number of ways. The book itself dispatches of it by arguing that it assume there is only one type of life (those that resemble the kind we know) when we have no reason to assume that replicating creatures that expend energy could not exist in other forms and by arguing that the various ratios of the constants may allow for other combinations of the numbers that would also produce life, making it a much more likely occurrence. For my own part, I think it is worthwhile to point out that we can't just infer the existence of a supreme being to set these conditions because we could also infer a number of other possibilities--for instance, it could be that these measurements are the only possible ones and we are simply ignorant of the evidence that shows this. Why should we prefer the God hypothesis over any other variety of other hypotheses that can account for these precise measurements, like a cyclic view of universe creation, or a multi-verse scenario, and so on?




Thu Nov 09, 2006 12:41 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
St Gasoline

I was particularly interested in the anthropic principle argument.

I had come across this in my early days of debating and was stumped at first. I quickly learned what the anthropic principle was and countered with your exact arguments, as well as with Scotts.

But the person I was debating had latched on to this principle with such fanaticism that he could not consider the possibility of other forms of life, other universes, or even other possibilities for its truth. To him it was simply proof of god.

The lack of evidence supporting his claims was meaningless to him, he did not care that his claims were groundless or that he was making predictions from ignorance.

He had found proof of god and that was all that mattered.

Until someone could show him otherwise he was convinced.

I think that this line of thinking is the core of the problem with creationists. Evidence is meaningless to these people.

Now if we could find out why they are so resistant to the evidence... That would be a real breakthrough.

Later




Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:05 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
Frank 013: Now if we could find out why they are so resistant to the evidence... That would be a real breakthrough.

I think that's a fairly easy question to field, at least in general terms. They're resistant to evidence because they're not looking for the answer to an open-ended question. They are, in that sense, pragmattists. They have a particular agenda in mind, and they're looking for arguments in support of that agenda, with the added caveat that those arguments be fairly resistant to counter-argument.

The more complex question is, what is their agenda, and I think that's a complex question because the same strategy is being used by different people to support different agendas. Some, for instance, may support creationism in order to support a particular lifestyle -- monogamous, heterosexual family units, for instance. Others may support it in order to further a political career. Others may be using it in order to disenfranchise a particular segment of the community -- a racial or religious minority, for instance. Still others may espouse it because they genuinely believe that some form of Christian cosmology is necessary to sustain a moral society.

It should be noted, however, that this is not a phenomenon unique to Creationists, or even religionists. Carl Becker has pointed out that much the same process informed the thought of the Enlightenment philosophes how first forwarded freethought as a viable alternative to traditional Christian dogma.




Sun Nov 26, 2006 8:27 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
Quote:
I had come across this in my early days of debating and was stumped at first. I quickly learned what the anthropic principle was and countered with your exact arguments, as well as with Scotts.


I had a similar experience. When I first heard the argument, they compared the chances of a life-sustaining universe developing with someone standing a few feet in front of a firing line somehow surviving after all fifteen of the shooters missed.

The problem with the argument is that it can be applied to things that are not products of sentient guidance while seeming to imply the existence of some overriding intelligence where there obviously isn't one.

For instance, a woman has hundreds of eggs, and within ejaculate there are millions of sperm. You are composed of a union of one sperm with one of these eggs, and then further you have to rely on chance recombinations of the mother's and father's genes to become who you are, further complicating the picture. Then we can also factor in the likelihood for this process for each of your ancestors, even to the lowest amoeba, and it becomes clear that your existence is highly, highly unlikely. Does this mean a benevolent stork must have existed to "fine-tune" all these precise variables that were needed to all be in place at once in order to create you? Not at all. Clearly, then, merely pointing out how improbable something's existence is does not justify an appeal to a fine-tuner. It would also be convenient to ask how the fine-tuner became so fine-tuned, and in the process we enter an infinite regress of tuners, unless one appeals to the tuner existing on some supernatural realm where such causal and natural laws no longer apply.




Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:48 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7 - Cosmology, Astronomy, Geology
I think a bigger problem with the principle -- and with a lot of the arguments coming from the Creationist camp -- is that it equates statistical probability with fact. It's improbable that such a universe could randomly exist, therefore....

The discouraging thing is that a lot of people arguing against Creationism have fallen into the trap of taking that argument on its own turf. Hence, you get return salvos that take probability into account. But why? Why not cut to the chase and just point out that probability doesn't really have much to do with the acceptance of a scientific view of nature. That view is conditioned by what we're capable of depicting as a model of regular, mechanistic laws, and it derives nearly all of its worth from just that condition. Even if we could somehow determine whether or not it is more probable that the universe was set in motion by a supernatural being -- and how would you demonstrate that probability? -- deciding that it had been wouldn't help us to accomplish any of the goals that are the work of science.




Sun Dec 03, 2006 10:04 pm
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