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Is evolutionary chance impossible? 
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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
DWill wrote:
Robert I thought was at first categorizing as knowledge only that of which we are certain. Its certainty is what makes it knowledge. If it's not knowledge, it's delusion. What about things of which we can't be sure? if these are not knowledge, what are they? Robert seems to change the classification in his last post, but I could be wrong and invite him to correct me.
As I explained in regard to Plato, the epistemological separation is between knowledge and belief. Plato held that knowledge is intelligible while belief is based on appearances. All knowledge is true by definition, because the concept of false knowledge is a contradiction. However, belief can be either true or false. True belief sits between delusion and knowledge on the spectrum. This is where the concept of heuristics that Interbane mentioned comes in. I believe a hypothesis will be proved by experiment, but can change my belief when the evidence changes. I can have a belief about popular political attitudes, but an election can either prove me right or wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic There are many true statements which do not qualify as knowledge, simply because we are not certain if they are true or false. If we hold to such statements, we express a belief, not knowledge. If a past belief is proved wrong, we say they thought they knew but they were wrong, and they only believed it.
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There is a question of purpose to be asked. What is the importance of claiming certainness? That's not a challenge question, I really am asking in order to know. We've heard that to have confidence that what we believe is reliable, without having to specify certainness, is sufficient. Is it always?
It gets back to the purpose of philosophy. Traditionally, philosophy aimed at a systematic understanding of reality. The rise of post modern relativism has cast this goal into disrepute among liberal academics and their acolytes. My view is that we need systematic foundations in logic as a basis for correct thought so we can agree what is objectively true and false. Otherwise we find ourselves in the awful mess illustrated by this thread of people not being certain if evolution is a more accurate explanation of life than creationism.
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Another question is what do researchers try to do. Do they try to arrive at certainness, and is asserting that something is certain part of their mandate? Is that proper or improper action?
This gets back to Karl Popper's theory of falsificationism, the idea that a scientific claim is one that could in principle be falsified by contrary evidence. This has morphed into the weird solipsist idea that all certainty is impossible. We cannot falsify the claim that the earth orbits the sun because it is true. Scientists refine this finding by measurement against data, and now have a very precise scientific theory that predicts the future positions of all the planets. It is not a complete theory, because it starts to get inaccurate after several thousand years, but it is quite good. Science is always striving for greater accuracy and predictive power.

Following Popper, scientists have become models of humility and contriteness, not willing to assert they are certain that creationists will go to hell. :twisted: :P Or to rephrase that, that creationists are definitely wrong.
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Looking at the second aspect, which I'm going to say cannot be divorced from emotion, what are its benefits and drawbacks? I can think of motivating for action as in the first category, and tending toward confirmation bias as in the second.
Knowledge is a great motivator, just as faith can move mountains. But we need to be cautious before making claims of knowledge, just as we see that faith can be a dangerous thing. That is why I say that scientific method is core to knowledge. When abundant objective data corroborates our claim, we are justified in claim that it is knowledge. But even so, scientists are people, with psychological and political foibles. Kuhn explains the problem of confirmation bias quite well, with scientists resistant to ideas that challenge established theories. Generally this is because the established theory is right and the critic is wrong. But this creates a rigidity of worldview, with beliefs about what is important and what is unimportant. Paradigms are held in place by established views that criticism is unimportant. An error at the margin of a worldview can prove rather upsetting.

In relativity, Einstein did not prove Newton wrong about most things, but mainly provided a refinement of Newton's findings. It remains the case that most Newtonian knowledge remains correct, especially the laws of motion as applied in practical engineering.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s ... f_validity


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Robert Tulip wrote:
As I explained in regard to Plato, the epistemological separation is between knowledge and belief. Plato held that knowledge is intelligible while belief is based on appearances. All knowledge is true by definition, because the concept of false knowledge is a contradiction. However, belief can be either true or false. True belief sits between delusion and knowledge on the spectrum. This is where the concept of heuristics that Interbane mentioned comes in. I believe a hypothesis will be proved by experiment, but can change my belief when the evidence changes. I can have a belief about popular political attitudes, but an election can either prove me right or wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuristic There are many true statements which do not qualify as knowledge, simply because we are not certain if they are true or false. If we hold to such statements, we express a belief, not knowledge. If a past belief is proved wrong, we say they thought they knew but they were wrong, and they only believed it.

Regardless of how we interpret a philosopher's thinking, I think it's fair to say, and not arrogant, that we need not consider that the philosopher settled anything, such as a separation between knowledge and belief. Philosophy is all a conversation about the questions. There were great conversationalists like Socrates/Plato and lesser ones who didn't achieve the comprehensiveness of Plato. You seem to be relying on authority to a degree.

It does appear to be a misrepresentation to make Plato an advocate of science, unless we confine science to mathematics. Our science is really all about figuring out this changeable world, this intelligible world, which to Plato was not the highest reality. Argue as you will about misunderstanding of Plato's "forms," his was a highly idealistic concept that is far removed from empirical science.

It's unproductive semantics to place a division between knowledge and belief. Knowledge is something that needs only to have provisional use for us; if we can't say that such knowledge is 100% certain, does that make it a belief? Even if it does, there seems to be zero practical significance.
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It gets back to the purpose of philosophy. Traditionally, philosophy aimed at a systematic understanding of reality. The rise of post modern relativism has cast this goal into disrepute among liberal academics and their acolytes. My view is that we need systematic foundations in logic as a basis for correct thought so we can agree what is objectively true and false. Otherwise we find ourselves in the awful mess illustrated by this thread of people not being certain if evolution is a more accurate explanation of life than creationism.

I wish you would unslant your vocabulary, Robert. Why propagandize with terms like "liberal academics and their acolytes"? If philosophy seeks to understand reality, it can do so only with the tools at its disposal at a given time.These tools, for the past few centuries, have included science, and that availability has greatly altered philosophy, with recent advances such as neuroscience rendering moot the whole body/mind dualism, for example. Post-modern relativism, about which I could say some good things, comes along inevitably with science.
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This gets back to Karl Popper's theory of falsificationism, the idea that a scientific claim is one that could in principle be falsified by contrary evidence. This has morphed into the weird solipsist idea that all certainty is impossible. We cannot falsify the claim that the earth orbits the sun because it is true. Scientists refine this finding by measurement against data, and now have a very precise scientific theory that predicts the future positions of all the planets. It is not a complete theory, because it starts to get inaccurate after several thousand years, but it is quite good. Science is always striving for greater accuracy and predictive power.

Of course science is always striving. It's not too much to say that if it was hung up on having arrived at certainty, this striving would be weakened. It's not worth the possible cost to cling to this idea of certainty. Even if it were true 99% of the time that our certainties correspond to absolute truth, it wouldn't be worth the price of the one miss. Einsteinian physics might be thought of as "core" knowledge and thus unassailable. Now, with the European collider experiments, maybe not. Fortunately, good researchers have standards of proof that must guide them, regardless of any emotional attachments they might have to particular results.
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Following Popper, scientists have become models of humility and contriteness, not willing to assert they are certain that creationists will go to hell. :twisted: :P Or to rephrase that, that creationists are definitely wrong.

Darwin had Huxley as his bulldog. There are others who have fought for what research has discovered. But the work itself must avoid having the imprint of politics. Darwin was constitutionally unable to be his own defender, but this also worked out for the best.
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Knowledge is a great motivator, just as faith can move mountains. But we need to be cautious before making claims of knowledge, just as we see that faith can be a dangerous thing. That is why I say that scientific method is core to knowledge. When abundant objective data corroborates our claim, we are justified in claim that it is knowledge. But even so, scientists are people, with psychological and political foibles. Kuhn explains the problem of confirmation bias quite well, with scientists resistant to ideas that challenge established theories. Generally this is because the established theory is right and the critic is wrong. But this creates a rigidity of worldview, with beliefs about what is important and what is unimportant. Paradigms are held in place by established views that criticism is unimportant. An error at the margin of a worldview can prove rather upsetting.

I agree, but I think that you have just given us sufficient reason to shun this whole activity of canonizing knowledge. The benefit isn't worth the possible consequences.


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Last edited by DWill on Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:21 am
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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
I think it was Lady of Shalot who made the keen observation that what Creationists are really looking for is certainty. They can't get that certainty from science which deals in an ongoing gathering of data that leads to an ever-growing body of knowledge. The fact that we can refine our theories as new data comes in is only a point in favor of science. So I think that's why we discuss scientific knowledge in terms of confidence, although obviously we can feel certain about many aspects of the world and, indeed, we rely on such certainty. We know if we heat up a kettle on a fire, the water will be scaldingly hot. We know if we were pushed off the top of a building, we will know certainly die, which is why we resist it at all cost. But in terms of understanding the beginnings of the universe or the beginnings of life, our knowledge is limited. A Creationist will ridicule science because it doesn't have the answers to these questions, preferring instead the illusion of certainty from religious myths.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Certainty is closely associated with faith, which the Bible defines as "confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11, the source of this definition, is a hymn to the virtues of faith. Some of the examples in this text are bizarre, such as Abraham's willingness to murder his son Isaac out of faith, and the call for certainty about creationism. These unethical statements amount to a lying call to claim knowledge when we have no basis for knowledge, confusing knowledge with fanaticism.

The trouble is that this religious concept of faith has poisoned the well regarding analysis of certainty. It is a fallacy to say that because creationists are certain about errors, therefore certainty about facts is unjustified.

Conventionally,we say we only need faith when we do not have evidence. Richard Dawkins says this means that faith is intrinsically blind. It is wrong to say faith must be blind. We have 'assurance about what we do not see' for scientific facts. We do not see evolution, so by this definition we take it on faith, as intelligible rather than visible.

The question tben becomes what basis we may have for assurance. Here is where science is a far better guide than religion. Religion is so heavily laced with obsolete superstition that it is utterly unreliable. By contrast, science gives good grounds for assurance about its positive claims, and is appropriately cautious about things that are not certain. It is very rare to find a scientist claiming something is a definite fact when they are not certain. But scientists do routinely speak of knowing definite facts that are known from analysis of objective information.

This discussion is such an interesting example of fallacious reasoning. The key fallacies here are

1. Some people wrongly claim certainty. Therefore all claims of certainty are false.
2. Faith routinely calls us to assent to false propositions that lack evidence. Therefore it is wrong to say we should have faith in propositions that have evidence.

The refutation of these fallacies requires the argument that we should have faith in things that are true. Faith is about where we place our commitment and loyalty. Saying we can do without faith amounts to saying we can do without commitment and loyalty.

To have faith in science means regarding evidence as a highest value. But saying that science is solely about facts, and never about values, excludes science from the domain of ethics. This is a misguided attitude, because it hinders social evolution towards a more evidence-based outlook.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
geo wrote:
I think it was Lady of Shalot who made the keen observation that what Creationists are really looking for is certainty. They can't get that certainty from science which deals in an ongoing gathering of data that leads to an ever-growing body of knowledge. The fact that we can refine our theories as new data comes in is only a point in favor of science. So I think that's why we discuss scientific knowledge in terms of confidence, although obviously we can feel certain about many aspects of the world and, indeed, we rely on such certainty. We know if we heat up a kettle on a fire, the water will be scaldingly hot. We know if we were pushed off the top of a building, we will know certainly die, which is why we resist it at all cost. But in terms of understanding the beginnings of the universe or the beginnings of life, our knowledge is limited. A Creationist will ridicule science because it doesn't have the answers to these questions, preferring instead the illusion of certainty from religious myths.

This can be discussed from a couple of angles. Everyone who has been involved in the topic sees evolution through natural selection as certainly true. This is because of the enormous weight of evidence for it. I don't think that needing to feel certain about something is a motivation for most of us. Similarly, but for a totally different reason, it might not be a need to be certain that moves creationists as much as the particular needs that the belief answers. Talk to creationists and you find that they need to believe in the separateness of human beings from the rest of life. Special conditions had to be at work in our non-evolution, they insist, otherwise we are no more than animals ourselves. We alone have a moral sense because it was imbued in us by a creator. The best explanation for this is the science of the Bible, for of course they really do accept the Bible as science.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
DWill wrote:
geo wrote:
I think it was Lady of Shalot who made the keen observation that what Creationists are really looking for is certainty. They can't get that certainty from science which deals in an ongoing gathering of data that leads to an ever-growing body of knowledge. The fact that we can refine our theories as new data comes in is only a point in favor of science. So I think that's why we discuss scientific knowledge in terms of confidence, although obviously we can feel certain about many aspects of the world and, indeed, we rely on such certainty. We know if we heat up a kettle on a fire, the water will be scaldingly hot. We know if we were pushed off the top of a building, we will know certainly die, which is why we resist it at all cost. But in terms of understanding the beginnings of the universe or the beginnings of life, our knowledge is limited. A Creationist will ridicule science because it doesn't have the answers to these questions, preferring instead the illusion of certainty from religious myths.

This can be discussed from a couple of angles. Everyone who has been involved in the topic sees evolution through natural selection as certainly true. This is because of the enormous weight of evidence for it. I don't think that needing to feel certain about something is a motivation for most of us. Similarly, but for a totally different reason, it might not be a need to be certain that moves creationists as much as the particular needs that the belief answers. Talk to creationists and you find that they need to believe in the separateness of human beings from the rest of life. Special conditions had to be at work in our non-evolution, they insist, otherwise we are no more than animals ourselves. We alone have a moral sense because it was imbued in us by a creator. The best explanation for this is the science of the Bible, for of course they really do accept the Bible as science.


I can add two more powerful reasons that have nothing to do with the need for certainty. First, I should say that I am assuming that creationism is part of the larger package of Fundamental Christianity and that my two reasons are more directly connected to the whole than just creationism. Reason 1: Fear of death - believing in the Christian package provides comfort from the nothingness and non-being that death most certainly is. Reason 2: Meaninglessness. What happens when there is no doctrine to tell you what is important, what has value? Some people freak out at this prospect. It is much easier to put reason aside and go with an illogical religious doctrine that to sort through the emotional minefield that is figuring out meaning and death.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Robert Tulip wrote:
Conventionally,we say we only need faith when we do not have evidence. Richard Dawkins says this means that faith is intrinsically blind. It is wrong to say faith must be blind. We have 'assurance about what we do not see' for scientific facts. We do not see evolution, so by this definition we take it on faith, as intelligible rather than visible.

Although we might not see evolution in entirety with our own eyes, I would not see it as an example of something I must take on faith, simply because the theory draws in so much from common life and some of its details can be proved from common observation. That is why, despite initial resistance from religion, the theory hit many people as a gigantic "Of course!"
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1. Some people wrongly claim certainty. Therefore all claims of certainty are false.
2. Faith routinely calls us to assent to false propositions that lack evidence. Therefore it is wrong to say we should have faith in propositions that have evidence.

The refutation of these fallacies requires the argument that we should have faith in things that are true. Faith is about where we place our commitment and loyalty. Saying we can do without faith amounts to saying we can do without commitment and loyalty.

To have faith in science means regarding evidence as a highest value. But saying that science is solely about facts, and never about values, excludes science from the domain of ethics. This is a misguided attitude, because it hinders social evolution towards a more evidence-based outlook.

You seem to want to transfer religious feelings to science, Robert. That seems to be the tenor of your desire to reform Christianity. Whether the word we are using is certainty or faith, my view of what has been said in response to you is that these words aren't necessary when speaking of science and as beliefs they may have bad consequences. It's much more that than stating, "nothing is certain"--that is a danger you see lurking but I do not. Commitment and loyalty still are important human traits, but in regard to what research has discovered, let's be careful about taking up for results in this fashion. Passionate defense of results by other parties is okay, though, and should be a part of the broader social discourse involving science. I seem to be waffling a bit, I realize. Perhaps my objection concerns the manner in which such defense is done. It has to be based solely on evidence and with an absence of vitriol.

Have you changed your mind about Sam Harris' view that science should be used to determine values?


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
I think much of this discussion ultimately comes down to semantics with respect to the words "faith" and "certainty." I'm probably missing some of finer points here, but I can see Robert's point that the very concepts of "faith" and "certainty" have been muddied by religious fanatics who claim absolute certainty about their sometimes absurd beliefs and denial of empirical evidence that contradicts their faith. It's true that science is a far more reliable basis for certainty than religion. Maybe we have separated the realms of science and faith largely out of necessity due to those who would conflate the two. An intellectually honest theist does not claim certainty with regards to a belief in God, but accepts that his belief is based on faith. It's the fundamentalist who wants to obfuscate the line between the two to lend an air of legitimacy to their beliefs. They have to either make their beliefs sound scientific or diminish the importance of science in order to make their beliefs appear more credible.

However, just because religious fanatics are not intellectually honest enough to admit that their beliefs are based on faith does not mean that scientists need to take back the mantle of certainty. This is essentially an attitude or posture which doesn't have a place in science. Certainty rests on the evidence itself, not on rhetorical skill or attitude. As DWill says, certainty is not a motivation for most of us. There are people who, for whatever reason, simply don't give much credence to science. They don't give empirical evidence the weight it deserves and so it becomes a battle between attitudes and not on rational discourse. Science doesn't necessarily win if the discourse is dragged down to this level. It becomes a battle of wills. I've heard Michael Shermer and Dawkins both say that preponderance of evidence doesn't really help in a debate. There are, in fact, Creationists who are quite skilled in debate. And I'm not sure there's much of a point in debating someone who gives equal or more weight to religion or superstition than empirical data. They refuse to give credit where credit is due—that all objective knowledge is based on empirical data.

The crucial distinction, I think, is between objective and subjective. DWill mentions the Creationist whose beliefs pretty much require the separateness of human beings from the rest of life. I was talking to someone on another forum who is absolute "certain" in the afterlife. He was saying that his love for his daughter is a "fact" beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. I said that love is not an objective truth. It's a personal and subjective truth. But he refused to believe that his love for his daughter will not transcend to the next life. So we are clearly far into faith territory here, but this guy simply can't—won't—make that distinction. And there are a lot of people like him. This belief in God (and the afterlife) simply supersedes an acknowledgement of these crucial differences between faith and science. Saffron points out the motivating factors that lead towards a faith-centric worldview. The rationalizations run very, very deep. And you will find that much of the conflict comes down to semantic squabbling. No amount of head-butting is going to help.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
I don't know if that will put a cap in the discussion, geo, but it pretty much sums up what's going on in this cultural/intellectual wrangle between extreme traditionalists (aka creationists) and those who accept the last 200 years of scientific investigation. We do run the danger of a back-and-forth largely based on semantics in this dispute over certainty and faith. I don't think that what we've expressed on the topic is really very far apart at all. It could be a conflict of purpose more than anything else. I want to, I try to, understand to the best of my ability what people are about, especially when their perspectives seem peculiar. I'm not focused on the cultural battle and don't see myself as a warrior as perhaps Robert does. I tend to think of this particular cultural battle as perhaps having harmful consequences of which we might not be fully aware. The existence of basic cultural comity can be taken for granted until it disappears and can't be easily restored, so we should do our best to overlook what turn out to be not crucial differences. Bumper sticker:"Have you hugged a creationist today?"


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
DWill wrote:
I don't know if that will put a cap in the discussion, geo, but it pretty much sums up what's going on in this cultural/intellectual wrangle between extreme traditionalists (aka creationists) and those who accept the last 200 years of scientific investigation. We do run the danger of a back-and-forth largely based on semantics in this dispute over certainty and faith. I don't think that what we've expressed on the topic is really very far apart at all. It could be a conflict of purpose more than anything else. I want to, I try to, understand to the best of my ability what people are about, especially when their perspectives seem peculiar. I'm not focused on the cultural battle and don't see myself as a warrior as perhaps Robert does. I tend to think of this particular cultural battle as perhaps having harmful consequences of which we might not be fully aware. The existence of basic cultural comity can be taken for granted until it disappears and can't be easily restored, so we should do our best to overlook what turn out to be not crucial differences. Bumper sticker:"Have you hugged a creationist today?"


I lean more and more towards a live-and-let-live approach to Creationists these days (sort of). We've talked to a few of them on this board and it seems apparent that there is basic conflict of purpose, as you say. Some folks have a worldview that gives more weight to mystical beliefs because it allows for a belief in God. It seems a dissociative kind of position because the scientific method has given us so much in the last 200 years. But the beliefs themselves are personal and can't be argued using logic anyway. None of us would want to take away another's belief in God. We only jump in when they make claims that cannot be supported and, of course, we do have to take a stand when true believers try to inflict their beliefs into our schools and government.

Plenty of people believe in God, but it's more of an agnostic approach and can easily be compartmentalized. How many folks take a literal approach to the Bible to the point they reject science? I sometimes wonder if it isn't a fixed percentage of folks who need that absolute belief in God and that it remains relatively unchanged. Our brains are "designed" to believe and like a Bell curve there will always be those on the fringe who believe absolutely and totally.

What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria concept?


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
geo wrote:
What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria concept?


Sure, it may be a strategic issue of how you want to deal with religious people, but I tend to agree with Dawkins: "it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria



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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
geo wrote:
What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria concept?


Gould suggested science is about facts and religion is about morality. This fails on multiple levels from both directions. It is a tactic to allow science to ignore religion but it just won't work. They overlap intimately all the time.

Science is about morality. The evidence that science has collected about our world provides the basis for moral decisions. Data provides information that is synthesised as factual knowledge and moral wisdom about what is good. The traditional positivist idea from David Hume of a "Chinese Wall" between facts and values, based on the quasi-fallacy that we cannot derive an ought from an is, has implanted itself as a baleful prejudice in scientific thinking, leaving scientists rather impotent in the face of moralising rhetoric from irrational opponents.

Religion is about facts. All religions claim to explain the nature of reality. They do it badly because they are infected by prescientific superstition. Gould's idea, that religion could be put back in its box to provide moral guidance while everyone ignores its factual errors, is stupid. The factual errors create and justify moral errors. Believing that the world was created 6000 years ago allows the moral error of regarding Christians as aliens on this planet whose true home is with our father in heaven.

The extraordinary thing is that these people claim to be "Bible believers" and yet the Bible specifically condemns their views about the earth. It is bizarre that the people who claim the Bible is inerrant do not read it. What they really mean is that they have built the Bible as an idol, a totem that they worship, without regard to its actual content. This Bibliolatry directly flouts the second commandment, not to make graven images, and is condemned by Saint Paul in Romans 1. The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is a dangerous excuse for maintaining extreme irrationality, and is seriously incompatible with the actual teachings of the Bible itself.

John 3:17: "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."

Revelation 11:18: "thy wrath ... shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."

Romans 1:19-25 "that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man ... Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever."

The 'vain imagination' that Paul speaks of here is found in people who insist that error is truth. It presents a compelling ethical critique of the dogmatic Christian church of today, which puts its own created idol in place of the truth.

PS: Hey, I just discovered that after you hit 'post reply' button to compose a post you can highlight text in the previous posts below and use the quote buttons. Very cool.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Robert Tulip wrote:
The trouble is that this religious concept of faith has poisoned the well regarding analysis of certainty. It is a fallacy to say that because creationists are certain about errors, therefore certainty about facts is unjustified.


It wasn't any religious person that poisoned the well for me. It was having to find out that some things I was certain about were actually false. In my mind, such examples render the entire concept of certainty as irrational. Since, how do you entirely disassociate something you're currently certain about from the previous mistakes? How can they be categorically different, so you can confidently minimize a true negative? Genuine, objectively true certainty is an unachievable ideal that would require omniscience. It's replace with a sort of demi-certainty, where you're certain by most definitions of the word, but with the disclaimer inside your head that anything is possible(including the antithesis of the belief). Certainty, even when justified, can put blinders on your thinking.


Robert, your stance is to be certain of many items in science that are important footholds against magical thinking. I have a concern I'm sure you can answer about your stance.

If you break apart each and every proposition, such as "Evolution is true", you get into the can of worms that I believe geo mentioned. Our abstractions have nested concepts within them that could turn out to be true, or missing information. Which "part" of evolution is true? All of it, as currently proposed? Here we would draw the line, and say some parts are less than certain, and some may be false, but in general the theory is true. Here, certainty does not have a positive effect on Creationists. If you tell them "evolution is certainly true", you'll be hit with a foot from their knee jerk reaction. Because the only thing they will have in mind are the problematic parts, which will be the first things to pop out of their mouths.

Quote:
Gould suggested science is about facts and religion is about morality. This fails on multiple levels from both directions. It is a tactic to allow science to ignore religion but it just won't work. They overlap intimately all the time.


I agree.


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Never mind


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Post Re: Is evolutionary chance impossible?
Dexter wrote:
geo wrote:
What do you guys think about Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria concept?


Sure, it may be a strategic issue of how you want to deal with religious people, but I tend to agree with Dawkins: "it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria

However, if you see this from Gould's own perspective, I mean as a religious person who obviously didn't flirt with fundamentalist belief, he's right. What he thought religiously did not impinge on what he thought scientifically. Our generalizing tendency can get us into trouble. What is religion? What is a religious person? I believe we should specify that with Dawkins' criticism we're taking aim at the extreme.


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