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The tree stump apparition

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William Crawley | 18:29 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

_46036003_007625894-1.jpgHas the Virgin Mary appeared in a tree stump in Limerick? I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting that she has. But the stump has a marian shape to end. End of story.

Fr Paul Finnerty, a spokesman for the diocese of Limerick, says: "The Church's response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism. While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition."

That comment will fell a few rhetorical trees. Where does "superstition" start and where does it end?

Update: Watch Mark Simpson's report on the tree stump.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.


    The church, skeptics? Muhaha.


  • Comment number 2.

    I'm stumped.

  • Comment number 3.

    Will, the answer is that it starts with religious belief, and it ends with the rejection of "belief" and "faith" as a basis for anything. Religious faith and superstition are the Same Thing, and this ludicrous log is the Chi-Rho above Rome, the dove descending from heaven at the Jordan, the voice on the Road to Damascus, Gideon's fleece, Baalam's donkey, the star of Bethlehem, the Angel of Mons and much more besides.

  • Comment number 4.


    H

    It might be worth suggesting that there is a smidgen of difference between a tree stump and the concept (yes let's limit our consideration of the matter to concept) of 'revelation' in the context of a nation, in history, over quite a number of years; then again maybe I shouldn't bother.

    Alternatively, as I've requested before, you could prove your axioms, but I suppose you'll just tell me you don't have to.

    Personally, to me, the stump looks like Altair.


  • Comment number 5.


    "I'm stumped."

    *APPLAUSE!*


  • Comment number 6.

    Peter, I'm not entirely clear on where the difference lies. Sane, "normal" people are hanging rosaries around this stump and lighting candles on it. This should be telling you something about people's willingness to see the "hand of god" (or his ma) in any old dross, be that a stump, a slice of toast, a cloud, a cow-pat, a deacon's dodgy spine, or even something as facile and ridiculous as the context of a nation, in history, over quite a number of years.

    And as for my axioms, what on earth do I need *axioms* for? Cutting down treeioms? Anyway, in this case I think they used a chainsaw.

    There's another discussion to be had there, but I think we hauled VPL over that one a while back, so I'm loth to revisit...

  • Comment number 7.


    Ok, see - this is why I was never gonna be a fully-signed up catholic!! (one of the reasons, anyway).

    I HATE this superstitious cr*p! Also annoyed by people who drop something on the ground, 'bless it' with the sign of the cross then its safe to eat lol.
    Similarly those who say things like: 'a woman whistling makes Our Lady cry' .....er, What?????
    If all Our Lady has to worry about is women whistling, frankly Im worried............
    The crossover between Paganism and Catholicism is glaringly obvious at times like this, and I find it ridiculous and childish.
    Ok, rant over lol ;-)

  • Comment number 8.


    Electra

    As a catholic (but a non tree stump worshipping one) can I say that I agree that some catholics have an unhealthy, if not bizarre, fascination with all things marian. (We had to study Mariology (honest!!) at seminary.) Mind you, that part of the course lasted three hours out of six years.

    When ever I preached on the subject, I would refer my parishioners to one of the few passages attributed to her in the scriptures where she is reported to have said, amongst other things, that her son will cause:

    - the poor to be raised on high
    - the hungry to be given good things to eat
    - the mighty to be thrown down
    - the rich to be sent away with nothing
    (Though possibly not in that exact order!!)
    and that God is to be praised for all of this.

    To me, they are amongst the most radical words recorded anywhere in the Bible, yet, the catholic church ended up with this notion of Mary as being some sort of pious, rosary wielding semi-God. (Their absolute fixation on her lack of sinfulness is only equalled by some of my Protestant brothers and sisters fixation with personal sin, as witnessed time and again on this site.)

    I gave that sermon in Knock once and, had there been lumps of wood handy, whether they looked like Mary or not, I got the distinct impression I would have been clubbed to death.



  • Comment number 9.


    Helio

    I think you'll find that RJB (if I read him correctly) has identified something of the significance of God in history I was hinting at, by drawing our attention to 'Mary's Song'. The 'hand of God", as you say, is concerned with justice and mercy, it is seen in how we treat one another, in generosity, fairness. It is utterly practical and has no need of superstition.

  • Comment number 10.

    Peter & RJB, quite right. It has no need of superstition. Indeed, it has no need of god at all. Good work, chaps :-)

  • Comment number 11.


    Why do they think this looks like the Virgin Mary? It looks like my Aunt Pat.

    How do they know what Mary looked like????


  • Comment number 12.

    "How do they know what Mary looked like????"

    I think she looked like your Aunt Pat, John.

    Pareidolia is a very common phenomenon. And John's Aunt Pat, like the blessed "virgin", does get around a bit, and pop up in the unlikeliest of places, when you least expect her. Indeed, "pop up" is pretty much correct, because she has even put in appearances on slices of toast. This tells us a great deal about the human propensity to believing stuff.

  • Comment number 13.

    Mary appearing on toast? That's nothing. Toast is the great fountain well of wisdom. It helps to answer all our great questions. See e.g. the short article here

    https://www.satireandcomment.com/0208toast.html

    If there's any Catholic, Mary-appearance believing fundies about, how silly would you think things are if the article above wasn't satirical? That's right, very silly. Now do a bit of introspection and consider your own beliefs for a moment.

  • Comment number 14.

    PK
    It could get even sillier. Future generations may very well march through the streets carrying banners of 'Willow of Orange' and singing 'The Ash my father wore.'

  • Comment number 15.

    Here's my take on all this, and I will try to express it as politely as I can...

    There are some people who propagate the myth that "belief in God" and this kind of "seeing things in toast and tree stumps" should be lumped together in the same intellectual category: superstition.

    I'm afraid I don't see it that way. For me "belief in an intelligent personal Creator" is diametrically opposed to all those beliefs that attempt to "see things in matter that are not there".

    What I include in the "seeing things in matter" category are:

    1. Images of the Virgin Mary or Jesus in toast, tree stumps and clouds.

    2. Seeing purpose and progress and the propensity to order and the survival of life in blind nature left to its own devices.

    Both points of view are equally "superstitious".

    As I wrote on the "Codex Sinaiticus" thread (#61) I would need far more "faith" to be an atheist (naturalist) than a Christian. In fact the kind of "faith" required to see the Virgin Mary in a tree stump is the same kind of faith required to believe what David Hume wrote: "...that, even if you start with a completely chaotic, random, unstable universe, given enough time some forms are going to come into being, purely by chance, that are stable and orderly. And because they're stable and orderly, they're going to last longer than the forms that are unstable and chaotic."

    There is not one shred of evidence that supports the view that "orderly and stable forms" are going to last longer than "unstable and chaotic forms". All the empirical evidence tells us that the opposite is true when nature is left to its own devices. Therefore the order we see in nature has another, more truly rational, explanation.

    I would love to see an end to both these insidious forms of superstition.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    LSV,
    There is not one shred of evidence that supports the view that "orderly and stable forms" are going to last longer than "unstable and chaotic forms". All the empirical evidence tells us that the opposite is true when nature is left to its own devices. Therefore the order we see in nature has another, more truly rational, explanation.

    All WHAT evidence? The mathematics of complex systems, as well as the empirical evidence of things like clouds and waves and crystals etc etc tells us that ordered structures very very frequently DO arise out of nature left to its own chaotic devices. If we're going to get into discussions of order and complexity, you're going to need to do a bit better than that!

  • Comment number 18.

    Let me echo Helio and give just one very simple example: a snow flake. It's a highly symmetrical structure, made up of water molecules all lying very, very neatly in a periodically repeating pattern. If you had very tiny hands and you had to stack them manually in that order, you would have great difficulty doing it so neatly and ordered. Yet those snow flakes formed from water or water vapour that was highly chaotic. So under the right circumstances, nature locally produce very sharp fine order from chaos. The ordering of water molecules in a snow flake is more precise than the tissues that make up your body. Human (or animal) flesh is childs play, nature can do much more.

    And under very common conditions it al happens spontaneously from what previously was nothing but chaos. I presume you are not going to argue that the hand of god is involved in the creation of each and every individual snow flake?

  • Comment number 19.

    In his book "Evolution: A Theory In Crisis", the molecular biologist Michael Denton (most definitely not a creationist, or someone with a "religious agenda") makes the following point concerning the radical discontinuity between life and the inorganic world:

    "The possibility existed that certain viruses would prove to be intermediate between the physical and biological worlds. The hope that increased biochemical knowledge would bridge the gap was specifically expressed by many authorities in the 1920s and 30s. But, as in so many other fields of biology, the search for continuity, for empirical entities to bridge the divisions of nature, proved futile. Instead of revealing a multitude of transitional forms through which the evolution of the cell might have occurred, molecular biology has served only to emphasize the enormity of the gap.

    "We now know not only of the existence of a break between the living and non-living world, but also that it represents the most dramatic and fundamental of all the discontinuities of nature. Between a living cell and the most highly ordered non-biological system, such as a crystal or a snowflake, there is a chasm as vast and absolute as it is possible to conceive."

    He then goes on to explain that even the simplest of all living systems on earth today, bacterial cells are "far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world."

    Furthermore, molecular biology has shown that the basic design of the cell system is essentially the same in all living systems on earth from bacteria to mammals, with the roles of DNA, mRNA and protein being identical. "The size, structure and component design of the protein synthetic machinery is practically the same in all cells." Therefore, he concludes, there is no living system which can be thought of as primitive or ancestral to any other system, and there is not the slightest empirical hint of an evolutionary sequence among all the incredibly diverse cells on earth.

    He even quoted Jacques Monod to back up this point! Moroever, he reminds us that even Darwin himself in the "Origin of Species" made no claim that his model of evolution could be extended to explain the origin of life.

    No one can force anyone to believe anything, and I am powerless to convince other people of my point of view. What goes on between other people's ears is their business. But I do have the power to at least express why I think the whole idea of the complexity of life arising by "nature left to its own devices" is pure superstition and has no scientific basis. Others can reject my point of view, but at least people reading these blogs can be presented with a choice, and can make their own minds up, and it is to them I can only appeal.

    Concerning snowflakes, the formation of these still depends on the operation of orderly systems, even though there may be some from of "controlled randomness" within these natural systems. The idea that belief in a creator implies that God forms each individual snowflake is a caricature.

  • Comment number 20.

    Further to my last post, I would like to add that I am of the view that this discussion has, in reality, got nothing to do with scientific empirical evidence and everything to do with philosophy.

    Even if, somehow, it could be proven that life could have arisen by purely natural means in "the primordial soup" and the intricate and delicate systems protected from annihilation for millions of years, it does not actually prove that that is exactly how it did happen. This is not logic. Simple basic childlike logic tells us that the statement "it is possible that x happened" does not equal "x definitely did happen".

    So to say that life must have arisen this way is not a scientific conclusion, but a philosophical one. It is an attempt to force empirical evidence into a naturalistic intellectual framework.

    Those who seek to do this, therefore, have to ask themselves, in all seriousness, why they feel such a commitment to this philosophical position.

    If, dare I suggest it, it is to do with some "axe to grind" about the Christian Church, then I ought to be an atheist as well, because, not only do I utterly hate much of what goes for Christian theology (and if I expressed in honest language what I really thought, I think even the most hardened moderator would shudder), I also hate much of what goes for Christian practice as well.

    But I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Comment number 21.

    Molecular Biology has done nothing of the sort; and you would probably know that if you nose wasn't embedded in Denton's creationist pop-pseudo-science books to notice. The ID claims were trumped out and out, at the Kitzmiller trial with one of their strongest advocates Michael Behe even admitting that "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred". He went on admit that ID was so loose that even astrology would be considered a theory under those parameters.

    We've come a long way since Darwin, and you would be advised to catch up on it; even to last centuries research would be sufficient.

  • Comment number 22.


    Apologies, it's the silly season, but, do you see when all contributions to this thread have finished, would that constitute a maiden over?



  • Comment number 23.

    #21 - Geneboy -

    Thank you for that response, well backed up by rigorous scientific reasoning, I see.

    In case you didn't know, "who said what when how" does not constitute scientific evidence. So instead of insulting Michael Denton why don't you provide evidence for the evolutionary transitional forms between life and non-life?

    But I have noticed that when the current orthodoxy is questioned, the inquisition bring out their racks and thumb screws - also known as boorish insults and the rhetoric of the kindergarten - as they have no other resources at their disposal.

    Sad. Very sad indeed. But very reassuring for me.

  • Comment number 24.

    Interesting that you fail to reply to my post in the "Creationist defend Darwin film" thread, but instead choose to come over here.

    The simple answer for life from non-life is that I don't know. Certainly there are compelling models, and perhaps it may even be achieved in a laboratory some day; but at this time the answer has to be we don't know. I find it infinitely preferable to state the above, than to try to shoehorn a supernatural explanation into the equation; and I certainly have no desire to evoke any one of the numerous bronze aged gods. If we are going to resort to that then why not Allah, Raelia, Xenu or Zeus?

    I do also find it interesting that you like many other creationists retreat to the last bastion, so to speak, of abiogenesis. The biosciences have done a fairly robust job constructing scientific models and experiments to demonstrate the validity of the various strands within evolutionary theory, with nearly a quarter of a million peer review publications and books too numerous to count on the subject. It seems to me that abiogenesis is the only place left you have left to cultivate your wacky ideas.

    I am puzzled as to your insistance on inferring that evolution is a religion of sorts. If it is then great, because I can quite happily test, modify and alter mine. I can experimentally prove that my "god" is at work, and still shaping the biological world today.

    When was the last time Yahweh could be interrogated in this manner?

  • Comment number 25.

    Erk,

    My bad, I got my creationists mixed up. For some bizarre reason I totally forgot the moniker of the guy in the other thread. I wish there were some way to edit these things post, post.

    Apologies Logica.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24 & 25 - geneboy -

    Apology accepted, and I also apologise that my last post was a bit "reactive".

    I don't why you think my ideas are "wacky".

    I am not in any way trying to "prove" Christianity by observing nature. All I am saying is that, from a scientific or empirical point of view, the evidence does not support the concept of life arising without the input of what could be called "an external organising influence or intelligence". If some people call that "influence" God, Allah, Zeus or whatever, that is a completely separate discussion in the realm of philosophy and / or theology.

    What I cannot accept is the intellectual integrity of the idea that all empirical data should be forced into a naturalistic framework. For goodness sake, even Richard Dawkins has admitted that "the universe is much queerer than we can imagine". So, if someone like him is prepared to accept the "mystery", then why is it so intellectually scandalous to observe nature and deduce that there is clearly more to the universe than simply matter and energy?

    From an intellectual, philosophical, epistemological and, yes, even scientific point of view, I fail to see what's so "wacky" about that!

    I am simply applying logic to empirical data, and making deductions.

  • Comment number 27.

    Geneboy -

    By the way, I didn't refer your post 16, in case you were wondering (and I never read what it said anyway), as it came immediately after one of my comments.

    For the record, I don't refer posts as a matter of principle, no matter how offensive they might be. I admit that, some time ago, I referred a post by MA2, which was reinstated (sorry Marcus), and I have regretted it ever since!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Hello LSV,

    As geneboy has taken care of most things I would have said, I can keep my post relatively brief. I would echo his statement on peer-reviewed literature. Getting a book published is no guarantee of the scientific quality of the contents, it is a sign of confidence of the publisher that he book will sell well. So, is what is written in the book of post 19 also published in a decent quality peer-reviewed scientific journal somewhere?

    About snow flakes you wrote

    "Concerning snowflakes, the formation of these still depends on the operation of orderly systems, even though there may be some from of "controlled randomness" within these natural systems."

    I'm not 100% sure I follow but if I understand what you're saying correctly then I think you're wrong. What 'orderly system' is involved in water or water vapour turning into a snow flake? Heat needs to be transferred to the surrounding world the water or vapour is in, and that process must increase the entropy of the surrounding world more than the entropy of the forming snow flake decreases. What 'orderly system' is required?

    Finally, sure the idea of abiogenesis has gaps left in it. But that does not lead to what you said in post 26

    "All I am saying is that, from a scientific or empirical point of view, the evidence does not support the concept of life arising without the input of what could be called "an external organising influence or intelligence"."

    It's fine when you say the evidence for abiogenesis can't be considered complete yet. I would agree. But you take it a step further, a step which is plucked out of thin air. The absence of extensive evidence for abiogenesis TODAY is not proof of the necessity of a divine hand in life coming about. You should realize that your god doesn't win by default (Graham Veales 'god of the gaps' fallacy, try to keep your reasoning above that). Evidence for abiogenesis is incomplete, but there certainly is some now while at some point there was about nothing. So the evidence is (admittedly slowly) accumulating. Lack of complete answers right now doesn't constitute any firm indication that god mist have been involved. If you want to argue that, then like geneboy said, offer something in support of gods involvement that exceeds the evidence for abiogenesis sofar.

  • Comment number 29.

    Logica,

    Perhaps wacky is the wrong turn of phrase, unnatural or supernatural would be much better and less inflammatory. The invocation of the un or supernatural to fill in the blanks where they arise, is quite unsatisfying from an intellectual standpoint. We could use the rationality that a higher power did it for more or less every unanswered question we have. But what do we actually gain in doing so? Does it lead to better understanding or further enquiry? Aside from the fact that the sciences can only ever deal with an entirely natural, testable Universe; the primary reason that we can't invoke a higher power is that Occam's razor dictates that we take the most parsimonious explanation. Of course you could argue that this leads to over simplification, but I would say that it leads to it being just simple enough i.e. to the point where we can test no further. I believe this form of epistemology is quite valid considering that science without experimentation and testing, is not science; and that it attempts to minimise the amount of "belief" or "acceptance" required to have a body of knowledge.

    Regarding the Queer Universe quote, it is a nod to originator Haldane by Dawkins in his 2005 TED conference presentation. Similar sentiments were expressed by Shakespeare, Bertrand Russell and H.P. Lovecraft; clearly it was the hot topic at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century. The context I believe is one of speculation, indicating that human philosophy in the form of theology can probably never describe the Universe and its contents. Due primarily to the fact that much of it is incredibly unintuitive and thus misrepresented by spiritual interpretation. For example we experience gravity as a force, the pull exerted by the massive body of the planet Earth; and not In fact as the warping of space-time in a membranous universe revealed by General Relativity. Another example would be that it would probably be reasonable to classify whales and dolphins as a type of bony fish and not in fact as close cousins to the hippo's and cows revealed by comparative anatomy and molecular genetics. Where our sensory interpretations often fail scientific scrutiny does not, and its not a matter of faith in science as it has be reproducible. If miracles were reproducible then perhaps there would be some common ground, and probably a lot of water to wine swilling about.

    Understand Im not forcing you to adopt a naturalistic world view, quite the opposite in fact; you can believe what you like. But when it comes to science I must be quite firm on the matter. Im stating that the current trend of ID, which lets face it is rebranded creationism for the 21st century, is selling its supporters a lame golden calf. Attempting to meld science and religion together benefits neither, sullies both, and answers nothing. I do not ask that Evolution be taught in churches or religious education classes; and likewise I expect the same courtesy for natural history museums and science classes. You wouldnt ask a mechanic to give a benediction, a minister to study molecular evolution or a rabbi to perform genital surgery well maybe that last one is valid, but you get the idea.

    I do feel strongly that ID and creationism advocates paint a very bizarre picture of the modern science community. I get the impression that many present it as a global conspiracy to suppress some maverick thinkers; that there are mountains of evidence supporting their claims, yet they are being stymied at every juncture. There simple truth is that there is no big debate in academic circles regarding the validity of these theories, as they just arent regarded as scientific theories. Perhaps if ID advocates and creationism ministries were to setup their own research council, and fund primary research rather than directing all their efforts to debunk accepted theories they would have more credibility and probably some interesting new arguments to bring to the table. Perhaps the reason they dont do this is because they know the kind of answers they will find.

  • Comment number 30.

    "I do feel strongly that ID and creationism advocates paint a very bizarre picture of the modern science community. I get the impression that many present it as a global conspiracy to suppress some maverick thinkers; that there are mountains of evidence supporting their claims, yet they are being stymied at every juncture."

    'bizarre' is a very friendly way of putting it. Some creationists will not hold back from trying to fight the success of the theory of evolution with the very dirtiest means. Take Ben Steins creationist movie 'Expelled' for instance. In short, is tries to turn people away from evolution by saying that evolutionary biologists were the cause of Bolshevism, the holocaust and just about everything else bad to happen to the world. Take a look at this clip from an interview with Ben Stein:

    https://belowthebeltway.com/2008/04/30/ben-stein-science-kills-people/

    quotes:

    "When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed that was horrifying beyond words, and thats where science in my opinion, this is just an opinion thats where science leads you."

    "Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people."

    So, scientists are made out to be the people who drove Jews into gas chambers. And that their business is killing people. And the aim is not very narrowly focused on evolutionary biologists (which would still be grotesque, given what they say) but scientists in general. 'bizarre' is to friendly a word for creationists. They are just immensely dishonest.

    https://www.sullivan-county.com/bush/tactics.htm

  • Comment number 31.

    Geneboy, I think you're an excellent recent addition to this blog. Sometimes a few of the regular posters here get together for dinner at McHughs restaurant in Belfast. If you'd like to join in sometime, drop me an email [Personal details removed by Moderator] .

  • Comment number 32.

    LSV, just to echo what has been said already - there certainly is NOT any scientific evidence of an external organising intelligence or influence, and indeed the evidence points in quite the other direction.

    Complexity and order can arise in essentially two ways: bottom-up and top-down. Insisting on a top-down explanation for things that are readily (or even conceivably) explicable by a bottom-up process is a fallacy. All the evidence so far indicates that the order in the universe, and indeed life itself, is the result of a bottom-up process - simple "rules" begetting complexity.

    There is no a priori reason to assume that the universe should be entirely disordered - indeed, mathematically pure disorder (randomness) is famously *difficult* to generate (if not impossible). In proposing a top-down model, you are explicitly purchasing a hugely complex system (which by definition, if it is top-down) must be more "ordered" than the system you are trying to explain. This is not an invalid speculation, but you are then faced with the problem of explaining where THAT system came from (and how we can analyse its components and their functioning).

    You cannot use the mere fact of the existence of our universe to argue for a top-down "creator", least of all one that is superior to it all. You are assuming way way way too much, particularly when the evidence is already painting a very clear picture of a bottom-up process.

  • Comment number 33.

    geneboy, Peter, helio -

    It seems to me reading these posts that those who believe in a "bottom-up" view of the development of life seem to think like this...

    We assume 'a priori' that in time we will be able to explain every experience and empirical phenomenon by naturalistic means. If we cannot do so at the moment it is because our knowledge has not yet advanced sufficiently. Logically, that is actually a position of "faith", a philosophical assumption that has nothing at all to do with the scientific method.

    Undergirding this idea is what I will call the "myth of progress". Because we observe that there has been a trend to explain naturalistically what was formerly explained "spiritually", then we project this trend into the future. This is the classic counter to the "God of the gaps" argument.

    Does it actually stand up to scrutiny? What if the advancement of science raised more questions than answers? Science has debunked the old mediaeval notion of "spontaneous generation" when it was believed that non-living matter could produce living forms. Has the advancement of molecular biology increased our confidence in a naturalistic explanation of biogenesis, or has it actually increased the sense of mystery, and further intensified the need to look for other explanations? The advancement of the natural sciences can have the effect of falsifying certain theories. It is not a certainty that an honest investigation of nature should lead unfailingly to a naturalistic explanation for every phenomenon. Such an investigation could rule out such explanations.

    Concerning randomness and snowflakes - what I meant by "controlled randomness" is that some random events occur within stable and ordered ecosystems - such as planet earth - which function according to stable and predictable laws. It would be foolish of me to pretend that I understand all the processes involved, but surely there are varying degrees and types of randomness.

    It is like throwing a pair of dice onto a casino table. These dice are subject to randomness, since it cannot be predicted what numbers will come up. But they are thrown in an ordered environment, subject to the law of gravity, the laws of motion, and each dice (or "die", to be pedantic) is held together by laws governing molecular structure. What we do not see happen is when the dice are thrown, one or both of them fly up into the air and disintegrate, the table collapses and all the laws of physics are subverted. So the random action takes place within a structured "ecosystem", as it were. We may even find that when the dice are thrown many times, that the resulting numbers may even create "patterns", according to the laws of probability. So to use a concept of randomness that functions within an ordered system to somehow "prove" that the intricate systems of life arose by purely natural means some time after the chaotic event of the Big Bang is something that, in all honesty, I cannot accept.

    In fact it could be argued that such forms of randomness are actually an outworking of an ordered system.

    Richard Dawkins acknowledges that life is highly improbable. I cannot see the logic of assuming that an observed effect is the result of a highly improbable cause, while at the same time regarding the more probable explanation as "nonsense". By "more probable explanation" don't imagine I am arguing for Christianity. This is the leap that some naturalists take. If we don't agree with the naturalistic explanation of the origin and development of life, then all of a sudden we are having to talk about Adam and Eve and "who was Cain's wife?" etc.

    I am stripping the whole argument down to a simple point. Does nature, left to its own devices, account for life? My answer is: no. I believe the answer of science is also no.

    The alternative to this, of course, is to posit the existence of an intelligent creator. Some people call this creator "God". But that is a matter for philosophy and theology and not for science. Science is simply about observing and experimenting with nature. Let's not confuse science and philosophy. This is what some of you seem absolutely determined to do.

    I am not attempting to convert you to some religion. I am simply pointing out that I fail to be convinced that the complexity, intricacy and delicacy of life can arise - and be sustained for millions of years in a hostile environment - by purely natural means. This is a logical deduction from scientific observation. I happen also to be a Christian, but that should no more enter into the discussion than the fact that you are atheists. If I am accused of trying to force science to fit my religion, I could just as easily accuse you of trying to force science to support your philosophy - just as Dawkins has seen Darwinism as a way of becoming "an intellectually satisfied atheist". Frankly, atheism, Christianity or any other interpretation of reality should not colour scientific discussion.

    Scientific investigation is not the "be all and end all" of human knowledge. It deals with an aspect of reality, and should be kept within its proper bounds. And often science reminds us most keenly of what we will probably never know, or be able to know.

  • Comment number 34.

    LSV, a couple of errors there:
    Has the advancement of molecular biology increased our confidence in a naturalistic explanation of biogenesis

    Well, the answer to that is YES. There is stacks that we do not know, but we have a pretty good assessment of the scope of the problem. You seem to be introducing a barrier assumption, that the gaps in our knowledge represent gaps that cannot be crossed by a "naturalist" scenario. Time and time again that sort of thinking has been shown to be wrong, so I think you have to (grudgingly perhaps) grant us scientists a little sense of optimism that this problem is a/ tractable, and b/ very likely to be explicable in naturalistic terms. If you choose to make a massive assumption-purchase, that's up to you, but you are not a scientist, and you can believe whatever you like. If you want to contribute to the *scientific* debate, however, you'll have to do a LOT better than that!

    But a bigger error:
    The alternative to this, of course, is to posit the existence of an intelligent creator.

    Well, there may be several alternatives. You are stating only one. It is inappropriate to exclude (which you haven't done, incidentally) one explanation of what is inside the Black Box, and then announce with a flourish and a drum roll that, "therefore, there is an intelligent creator!" That's just silly.

    Maybe there is an intelligent creator - I'm not scared by that prospect. Interesting hypothesis, Watson. But how do you go about TESTING that? How do you show that to be the case? You haven't even dented a naturalistic scenario - just pointed out the rather boring fact that we don't have a complete one yet. Well, you don't have a complete deist hypothesis either, so you're not exactly in a position of strength here.

    Scientific investigation is not the "be all and end all" of human knowledge. It deals with an aspect of reality, and should be kept within its proper bounds. And often science reminds us most keenly of what we will probably never know, or be able to know.

    Well, we'll let science continue, shall we? As a scientist, I would respectfully tell you to stick your "proper bounds" - we will discover what the bounds are when we come up against them. Origins research, cosmology, human evolution and behaviour, etc etc - these are all very valid and fruitful topics for scientific research, and if religiots are trying to get us to keep our filthy little scientific paws off them, I'm going to graciously disagree and carry on regardless.

    Sorry for being uppity, but science has a way of shaking some people out of their comfort zones.

  • Comment number 35.

    #32 - helio - "...but you are then faced with the problem of explaining where THAT system came from (and how we can analyse its components and their functioning)."

    In response to this point, you seem to be placing a burden of proof on me that you are not prepared to carry yourself. This statement is based on the assumption that until such time as the human race understands everything, it has no right to say anything. Therefore, why are you so confident in your theory?

    Can you explain all the processes that preceded and led to the Big Bang? Can you explain how the entire universe arose from a singularity? And already there is an admission that "we don't know how life arose from non-living matter". Does that disqualify you, therefore, from constructing any theory at all?

    If we take your idea to its logical conclusion then that is the end of all human learning and scientific investigation.

    I am proceeding by a process of falsification. As far as I see, science rules out the idea of the complexity of life arising by purely natural means. Through the use of logic that implies another explanation. To then suggest that I have no right to postulate the existence of that other cause unless I have a perfect understanding of - or the opportunity to analyse - the internal workings of that cause is not a logical position. The existence of a cause can be deduced without having to know everything about its internal workings!

    I'm actually surprised that naturalists still come up with this argument, which is a variation on the "who created God?" question. That question can be asked of any philosophy: where did the Big Bang come from? And if we can answer that, then where did that thing that caused the Big Bang come from? etc etc an infinite regression into the realm that goes beyond human understanding.

    So if you want to place a burden of proof on me, then, at least, be good enough to carry the same burden yourself.

  • Comment number 36.

    #34 - helio - "religiots"

    Tut tut. And to think I was trying to engage in polite reasoned discussion.

    OK, you admitted you were being uppity, but try to be more scientific, my friend.

  • Comment number 37.

    Hello LSV,

    "We assume 'a priori' that in time we will be able to explain every experience and empirical phenomenon by naturalistic means."

    We don't assume that, but we do aim to reach that and based on the advances made sofar, there is reason for optimism that we might indeed one day be able to achieve it. It may also turn out that there are things science can't explain. For now, let's at least give it our best try and see how far we get. So when you say

    "Scientific investigation is not the "be all and end all" of human knowledge. It deals with an aspect of reality, and should be kept within its proper bounds."

    No way, no peace with that. We'll keep expanding our knowledge, and in the process squeeze your god into an ever smaller box, maybe until there is no box left at all.

    "If we cannot do so at the moment it is because our knowledge has not yet advanced sufficiently."

    I don't say that that is 100% certainly so, but I certainly don't rule out that option either. Let's keep learning as we have been doing, and see how far that gets us.

    "Logically, that is actually a position of "faith", a philosophical assumption that has nothing at all to do with the scientific method."

    No. You slightly misunderstood the position I (and I think Helio and Geneboy, although I don't speak for them) hold, thinking that there is full certainty in it, etc. There isn't. My position is more careful. It is a positive, optimistic outlook, it is not a particularly philosophical one.

    "Because we observe that there has been a trend to explain naturalistically what was formerly explained "spiritually", then we project this trend into the future."

    Exactly. Given the great success sofar, with the pace of learning and understanding ever increasing, the logical thing to expect is for that trend to continue.
    Of course science doesn't get everything right the first time. Spontaneous generation is a valid example for you to bring up. But it is a very tiny example that does microscopically little to counter the general trend of ever greater understanding of how life works. Again, I'm not dogmatic in my optimism, but you should accept that indications sofar are that naturalism will rule more and more. Your god of the gps must be getting uncomfortably tight in his ever shrinking gap. Can you name some examples of fields of biology where extensive theories were dumped, not to be replaced with better theories (as in the case of spontaneous generation) but to leave a large gap that we previously thought was filled?

    "Concerning randomness and snowflakes - what I meant by "controlled randomness" is that some random events occur within stable and ordered ecosystems - such as planet earth - which function according to stable and predictable laws."

    Tosh. What you say does nothing to take away the fat that highly ordered systems come about without any intelligence. I think you went in off rather badly with your 'orderly systems' and 'controlled randomness' jargon blurts. But if you want to say I'm getting it wrong then by all means let's continue this one. I'm listening.

    Then the dice in the casino analogy. That's where I think your are really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Most of the whole planet earth where your snow flake falls or your casino is located, comes from the condesation of a very large cloud of gas tat also gave birth to the sun and other planets in the solar system. Your example doesn't do anything to show the necessity of the hand of god in your 'ordered system that contains controlled disorder' coming about, as your ordered system itself came from a very hot chaotic gas cloud. You are unsuccessfully trying to argue for a need for the hand of god behind it all.

    "I cannot see the logic of assuming that an observed effect is the result of a highly improbable cause, while at the same time regarding the more probable explanation as "nonsense"."

    Highly improbably indeed, that's why it took billions of years for all life we see today to come about. If it weren't improbable, we should be seeing new life forms popping up all over the place. We don't, so that fits in very well with an explanation for the diversity of life that depends on low-probability events.
    And ok, I won't assume you mean Adam and Eve, but please present evidence for intelligence behind it all that outweighs the evidence for abiogenesis and evolution. Small pre-condition: your gut-instinct or other emotionally based arguments don't count. Something that meets the same stringent criteria that the evidence for evolution and abiogenesis passes please.

    "I am stripping the whole argument down to a simple point. Does nature, left to its own devices, account for life? My answer is: no. I believe the answer of science is also no."

    The first part is no doubrt correct, for you it doesn't. The second part is wrong. That should read 'probably, it's the best explanation we can come up with sofar'.

    "Science is simply about observing and experimenting with nature. Let's not confuse science and philosophy. This is what some of you seem absolutely determined to do."

    Sorry to be unkind, but science is about understanding how nature works. Observation and experiments are not the goal of science, they are tools that help grow our understanding.
    And science certainy has the ambition to encroach on territory that previously belonged to theology. It has already annexed a good portion, with more likely to be taken over. Get used to it.

  • Comment number 38.

    LSV, I think you'll find my science is just fine, and when someone says something so silly and arrogant as "science should be kept within its proper bounds", it deserves a bit of a smackdown, don't you think?

    As for this:
    you seem to be placing a burden of proof on me that you are not prepared to carry yourself. This statement is based on the assumption that until such time as the human race understands everything, it has no right to say anything.

    No - that would be a very incorrect understanding of my position, and I suggest you re-read my post. We all KNOW that there are unknowns. It is perfectly valid to leave an unknown as a Black Box without slapping a "Here be dragons" sticker on it, and then saying "you smarty-pants scientists can't disprove the dragons". You are back to Russell's teapot.

    I am proceeding by a process of falsification.

    Really? It looks to me more like you are bringing forward ad hoc hypotheses that you are unprepared to subject to testing. Or are you suggesting that some creator intelligence does not require explanation??

    As far as I see, science rules out the idea of the complexity of life arising by purely natural means.

    Well, that would be a mistaken assumption, wouldn't it? Again, you are confusing the existence of a gap in our knowledge with a gulf that is *in principle*. You are putting dragons into the black box. I have already highlighted this major flaw in your reasoning.

    To then suggest that I have no right to postulate the existence of that other cause unless I have a perfect understanding of - or the opportunity to analyse - the internal workings of that cause is not a logical position.

    Oh, postulate all you like, but you're postulating far beyond what the initial problem permits you to do, and *creating* an even bigger postulational problem in the process. You certainly have the *right* to postulate; what you don't have is the *justification*.

    But hey, we have your hypothesis - life on earth was created by aliens or super-beings or something like that. Please indicate how you *test* this remarkable hypothesis.

    The existence of a cause can be deduced without having to know everything about its internal workings!

    Perhaps so, if your logic is correct; yours is not. And even then, you cannot *rely* on such a deduction without testing it. So where are these creators, so we can fire a few protons at them or something?

    I'm actually surprised that naturalists still come up with this argument, which is a variation on the "who created God?" question.

    That is because you do not recognise the purpose of the question. The purpose of the question is to show that the "answer" is a non-answer. We don't know what "created" the Big Bang, but we can point to the Big Bang (or some equivalent cosmological thingy) and work forward from there. As it happens, the "Big Bang" singularity is not universally accepted, and the very early universe remains as something to be explained, but we don't get out of that problem by sticking a dragon in the box.

    So if you want to place a burden of proof on me, then, at least, be good enough to carry the same burden yourself.

    I hope the above has demonstrated that I am not asking you to shoulder a burden of proof - merely to understand why your logic is flawed, and the postulation of gods unnecessary, unjustified and not even very interesting. But if you can come up with the evidence, even if you can't tell where your creator beings sprang from, do let us know.

    -H

  • Comment number 39.



    Helio

    You seem to be running away from these questions - VSL? Perambulation? Egyptology? Are you on the square or not?



    You say;-

    "Maybe there is an intelligent creator - I'm not scared by that prospect. Interesting hypothesis, Watson. But how do you go about TESTING that? How do you show that to be the case? You haven't even dented a naturalistic scenario - just pointed out the rather boring fact that we don't have a complete one yet. Well, you don't have a complete deist hypothesis either, so you're not exactly in a position of strength here."


    Why is there a need to test a God hypothesis? Why did the burden of proof shift to require this to be proven?
    The answer is the philosophical shift of the enlightenment. This was not a scientific development. oh no. but you knew that.

    The movers and shakers of the scientific revolution were inspired to lay the foundation for modern science BECAUSE of their assumption of and worship of God. eg Mendel was a pre-evolutionary theory monk, as you know. Kepler said: "Science is thinking God thoughts after him."
    That could have been the motto of the scientific revolution. Historical fact.

    Also, why can we treat all sorts of exotic scientific theories wuith the gravitas of "facts" ie in theoretical physics and cosmology when they are plainly unsupported by evidence and go way beyond actual scientific
    evidence.

    Yet it comes to positing a God hypothesis for the big bang, the stability of the universe and its laws ...and the origin of life... and all of sudden that cant be permitted in a discussion of "science".

    There are very strange double standards for anyone who claims to boldy want to pursue "truth".


    You said:

    "...Well, we'll let science continue, shall we? As a scientist, I would respectfully tell you to stick your "proper bounds" - we will discover what the bounds are when we come up against them. Origins research, cosmology, human evolution and behaviour, etc etc - these are all very valid and fruitful topics for scientific research, and if religiots are trying to get us to keep our filthy little scientific paws off them, I'm going to graciously disagree and carry on regardless."


    Again, the secular/sacred division is a pretty modern invention in science, I dont see a problem investigating anything at all scientifically.

    The problem is that you cant have it both ways. Science can examine any field but God must be kept in an ever shrinking box???


    That is an indefensible fallacy. Aquinas noted long before these culture wars that God created and upholds all scientific laws.

    What is the scientific explanation for how such order and stability originated from a massive explosion?

    If theoretical physics and cosmology can posit incredible unsupported theories then why can't a God hypothesis be allowed alongside these?

    The answer cannot seriously be "because it is supernatural" because there is no objective scientific term to define this; - only an arbitrary religious one masqerading as science.

    The alternative is that you draw a line around yourself on the floor representing current scientific knowledge and say "we are not moving outside this because doing so would take us beyond our current understanding of nature and thus be an incursion into the supernatural".


    You are building rhetorical castles in the sky, but the big picture exposes the lack of foundations.

    Doesnt it?

    OT

    Ps like the new website doc!



  • Comment number 40.



    pps the evolutionary God of the gaps fallacy ignores many biblical ideas;

    That God was the first cause of the universe
    That He created all matter
    That he created all order in the universe
    That he still upholds all order and scientific laws in the universe
    That he created and upholds all life


    It is impossible to squeeze such a God back into a "here be dragons" box.

  • Comment number 41.



    sorry - forgot that He created all energy, time and space also...


    apologies for misspellings and brusque style, gotta run, hope youre well.

    OT

  • Comment number 42.

    Well, chaps, all I can say is that we will have to disagree. Whether that means "agreeing to disagree" is another matter.

    I'm afraid I don't feel a great motivation to "repent" and reinterpret all the events and experiences of my life, never mind what I observe around me, in a naturalistic way, simply because a few bloggers on "Will & Testament" suggest that I should. I can't imagine that "turning to Darwinism" would deliver anyone from depression or breakdowns - or would work in any other foxhole (unless, of course, it's the lesser evil compared to legalistic Christian fundamentalism).

    Encroach on "religion" as much as you like. I hope you make a better job of it than the ludicrous JEDP documentary hypothesis - the nonsensical attempt to force the Old Testament into an evolutionary framework. That was fun to study many years ago, I must admit!

    Naturalism as an epistemology is also an entertaining course of study - I've derived much pleasure trying to make sense of it (perhaps I ought to write a book one day called "The Self-Contradiction of Empiricism", subtitle: "why the philosophy of empiricism fails to comply with its own criteria for truth"). So do carry on trying to take over philosophy as well. You may also like to branch out into psychology - I've had a little taste of behavioural psychology based on evolutionary theory. Pity such a myopic view of the human mind produces such hopeless results. But you are entitled to keep on trying.

    This attempt to reduce all human experience to nature has been tried, by the way. I know you'll sigh and groan when I say this, but the good old USSR tried it on, predicting confidently that religion would die a natural death. It didn't happen, and it ain't gonna happen here either. Sorry, but learn the lessons of history. It has not happened in China either (quite the opposite!). So perhaps you need to come to terms with that reality.

    I'm not running away, but I don't think we have much more to say on this thread. I might pop up again elsewhere (although I'll try and avoid anything with the word "Calvin" in it!).

    Bye.

    All the best, Al

  • Comment number 43.

    OT, nice to hear from you too, but you've brought nothing to the party again!!

    Did you leave a comment on the website?

  • Comment number 44.

    By the way, OT, I didn't realise your posts would appear before my last one, so I hope you understand that "chaps" in my last message refers of course to our naturalistic friends, PeterK, geneboy and helio.

    Just clearing up that little bit of confusion (of which there is much on this thread....!)

  • Comment number 45.

    Hello LSV,

    "I'm not running away, but I don't think we have much more to say on this thread."

    Your post 42 was not exactly a classy way to withdraw. You made various statements of a scientific nature in various posts, e.g. about degrees of order, the probability of evolution, etc. Called out over those, your post 42 doesn't respond to any of the points put to you, instead you then switch to (i.m.o. silly) things like how you wouldn't expect a naturalistic world view to get someone out of depression, comparison to the USSR, etc.

    I assume you knew when you hit the post button that you weren't going to convince anyone and that the primary effect of your post would be for most people reading this thread not to get a higher respect for your intellect?

  • Comment number 46.

    #45 - Peter K -

    You've managed to drag me back.

    The reality is that we are just going round in circles. You are determined to interpret scientific data in accordance with a naturalistic philosophy and there is nothing anyone can do to persuade you otherwise.

    The only way you could actually "respect my intellect" is if I agreed with your point of view. It is obvious from the way you reason.

    I cannot see from scientific evidence that it is "obviously" true that life arose by purely natural means - and most miraculously of all (a point often ignored) life has to be protected and sustained in a hostile environment for billions of years (the more time you then allow for this, the less probable this scenario becomes - like an unbroken series of sixes becomes more improbable with every throw). Your theory is ridiculously improbable - possibly even impossible. I can't therefore see the logic in believing something highly improbable, while at the same time dismissing other possibilities.

    And I also can't see what was wrong with what Michael Denton wrote. Either there are intermediate forms between living systems and non-life, or there are not. It's not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact.

    You and your friends will simply retort with simply, in effect, "we disagree with him and with you".

    I can use the same language. I disagree.

    End of conversation.

  • Comment number 47.

    LSV, Michael Denton is a creationist, and his book (which I have, buried under some stuff in the attic, but I'll have to dig it out) is a tissue of pants from beginning to end. He's supposed to be a molecular biologist, but even allowing for the relatively primitive state of the field when he wrote his book, he clearly does not understand what he purports to criticise.

    For "intermediate systems between life and non-life", we do actually have these, and can play with them in the lab. This has been known about for a long time. To get an evolving system, all you really need are an informational replicator (I prefer RNA), a means of cycling (day/night = hot/cold, but you could also have wet/dry, light/dark, and we get that for free, because we live on a planet), substrate (and we have a great deal of evidence that organic chemicals are abundant in non-biotic systems in the universe), and some sort of catalyst to run the replication. If you have that, then natural selection is very much ON, and evolution takes care of the rest. It's known as the "RNA world hypothesis".

    What Denton didn't realise (and a lot of people still don't, although I've been plugging on at this myself for several years; others have been at it for a lot longer) is that the old so-called "central dogma" of molecular biology: DNA->RNA->Protein is a comparatively small part of the story, and really only true to a first approximation undergraduate level. The reality is much more interesting: the RNA world is not just some hypothetical past scenario - it still IS an RNA world, and you are primarily an RNA organism. It is not the *viruses* that are the "intermediates", but US.

    If you look inside the cell, you see RNA shuttling information from the nucleus to the cytoplasm; RNA in the spliceosome complex; RNA in the ribosome, driving protein synthesis, RNA deeply implicated in the structuring of chromosomes and the repair of genetic damage; RNA switching genes off and on in a mad panoply of synthesis and degradation that has little obvious purpose, but this is the "chaos" upon which the complexity and order of the cellular world sit.

    Inside your cells, a little dance of RNA is going on that is *spectacularly* ancient - it has been going on for billions of years, using DNA as its hard drive, and protein as its chassis. It is a system of spectacular beauty and counter-intuitive complexity - my feeling is that not only was this system NOT designed by an intelligence, it COULD NOT have been designed by an intelligence, because in the RNA world we see the direct OPPOSITE of intelligent design.

    It's breathtaking, and none of this was discovered by theologians or philosophers. It is ALL down to the hard work, dedication, intellectual bravery and rigour of real men and women of Science. And we are not finished yet. Not by a long shot.

  • Comment number 48.

    Incidentally, Geneboy - any thoughts on the RNA World? You seem a wee bit closer to the coal face than me - I haven't picked up a Gilson in about 5 years...

  • Comment number 49.

    RNA world certainly is a compelling model, but I think proving its possible and proving it happened are two entirely different propositions. Ive a strong supporter of the theory since I first learned of the actions of snurps and spliceosomes; and RNAs self catalysing and coding nature. The presence and action of miRNA, siRNA, snoRNA and ribosomes ubiquitously in nature as machines, switches and interferers I think would be a strong advocate for their fundamental importance to life processes. Regardless what the first genetic material present on the planet was; the swap from simple organic chemistry to self catalysing polymerisation in my mind has always been the largest hurdle to overcome.

    Although there are a plethora of publications, two come to mind. Robertsons 2007 paper in Science indicated that RNA in the form of the ligase ribozyme could catalyze the phosophodiester isomerisation needed for subsequent RNA self-replication; and in May 2009s Nature, Powner and colleagues demonstrated chemically how activated ribozymes could form from their constituent parts in plausible environmental conditions. The ins and outs of whether it was porous tubes or lipid bubbles, is trivial in comparison. The ability for such polymerisations to occur naturally demonstrates that it is entirely feasible to populate the world with RNA, as you only really need one of those billions and billions of dead molecules to align correctly to kick start the whole living, replicating process.

    RNA world also means that the later arriving DNA strand could originally have started out as an energy storage molecule, and not in fact as an encoding feature of life. A polymer of pure ATP so to speak, cultivated for times when phosphates and sugars were in short supply for the RNA and protoenzymatic machinery; although now they are locked together in a symbiotic arrangement, with the subsequent life encoding processes off-loaded to where we see them today.

    How can one prove that it occurred on Earth and ultimately resulted in life as we know it? Im totally at a loss on that one. Demonstrating their monophyletic presence in the tree of life? Indicating the environmental conditions at that time through geological cores, with possible catalytic byproducts? Demonstrating chemically how the constituent parts arise by purely naturalistic means? Is there a way other than speculation to demonstrate it given that the first replicators probably left no fossils and likely left no physical clues behind, of their presence?

    Oh yeah, and my gilsons from p5 to p1000 are sitting in my box of lab stuff, waiting quietly for my next post. God bless my first supervisor for letting me have them, amasing how one can get attached to such inanimate things; but we did extract a cackload of DNA together.

  • Comment number 50.

    Oh yeah one other thing, that sounds peachy Peter. Just let me know where and when, or where we can exchange details.

  • Comment number 51.

    GB, ah, how nice it is to have a sensible discussion in the unlikeliest of places (I'm not talking about Will's blog in general - just a post about a treestump that bears an uncanny non-resemblance to some dead lassie)!

    How can one prove that it occurred on Earth and ultimately resulted in life as we know it?

    I actually don't think we will ever be able to do that definitively, since all traces are likely to have been wiped - and extremely rapidly at that. However, even the current knowledge that we do have suggests that while this is a big conceptual leap for us humans, at the molecular level, it's not unlikely at all, and to be honest, ANY planet containing a good amount of liquid water in motion, and subject to thermal cycling at at least some point in its history sounds like a pretty good candidate to me. Mars, for instance. I'm less fussed on Europa or Callisto... I like a wet-dry along with my hot-cold, but these are questions that may be addressed eventually :-)

    -H

  • Comment number 52.



    Helio -

    You're not running scared/sacred on me are you?

    I actually dont recall debating these points with you before.

    Some to mention it, I do recall you debating many of LSV's points with me before, so why run scared of mine?



    I repeat;-


    Why is there a need to test a God hypothesis? Why and when did the burden of proof shift to require this to be proven?

    The answer is the philosophical shift of the enlightenment. This was not a scientific development. oh no. but you knew that.

    The movers and shakers of the scientific revolution were inspired to lay the foundation for modern science (including genetics) BECAUSE of their assumption of and worship of God.

    eg Mendel was a pre-evolutionary theory monk, as you know. Kepler said: "Science is thinking God's thoughts after him."

    That could have been the motto of the scientific revolution. Historical fact.

    That is not undermined by ad hominem attacks on Kepler et al; their science was explicitly inspired by their faith. Dont take your eye off this ball!


    Also, why can we treat all sorts of exotic scientific theories wuith the gravitas of "facts" ie in theoretical physics and cosmology when they are plainly unsupported by evidence and go way beyond actual scientific evidence.

    Yet it comes to positing a God hypothesis for the big bang, the stability of the universe and its laws ...and the origin of life... and all of sudden that cant be permitted in a discussion of "science".

    There are very strange double standards for anyone who claims to boldy want to pursue "truth".


    You said:

    "...Well, we'll let science continue, shall we? As a scientist, I would respectfully tell you to stick your "proper bounds" - we will discover what the bounds are when we come up against them. Origins research, cosmology, human evolution and behaviour, etc etc - these are all very valid and fruitful topics for scientific research, and if religiots are trying to get us to keep our filthy little scientific paws off them, I'm going to graciously disagree and carry on regardless."


    Again, the secular/sacred division is a pretty modern invention in science, I dont see a problem investigating anything at all scientifically, including religion and God.

    The problem is that you cant have it both ways. Science can examine any field but God must be kept in an ever shrinking box???

    That is an indefensible fallacy. Aquinas noted long before these culture wars that God created and upholds all scientific laws.

    What is the scientific explanation for how such order and stability originated from a massive explosion?

    If theoretical physics and cosmology can posit incredible unsupported theories then why can't a God hypothesis be allowed alongside these?

    The answer cannot seriously be "because it is supernatural" because there is no objective scientific term to define this; - only an arbitrary religious one masqerading as science.

    Otherwise please define "supernatural" scientifically for us.

    The alternative is that you draw a line around yourself on the floor representing current scientific knowledge and say "we are not moving outside this because doing so would take us beyond our current understanding of nature and thus be an incursion into the supernatural".


    You are building rhetorical castles in the sky, but the big picture exposes the lack of foundations.

    Doesnt it?


    Evolutionism's God of the gaps fallacy ignores many ordinary and traditional biblical ideas;


    That God was the first cause of the universe
    That He created all matter
    That he created all order and design in the universe
    That he still upholds all order and scientific laws in the universe
    That he created and upholds all life
    That He created all energy, time and space also...


    It is impossible to try and squeeze this idea of God into a "here be dragons" box.


    Thoughts?


    OT

  • Comment number 53.



    Also Helio


    Your RNA theory is fantastic........except it is just that are proposing it as actual evidence to undermine Denton. Come on helio ;-)!


    I cant help but feel you are allowing your religious views to cloud your science on these matters Helio. Otherwise why would you confuse theory with evidence?


    "my feeling is that not only was this system NOT designed by an intelligence".

    Steady Helio, your passion for your subject has caused you to forget that you are trying to argue a factual position.... with..... feelings!???


    Personally my favourite problem is the phylogenic tree. It seems to me that it is a perfect example of scattered data in search of meaning. it seems there are so many gaps in it in evolutionary terms, (a la Denton) that it is wide open for rival hypotheses to make sense of it.


    OT


    PS No didnt leave any comment on the site but I did leave some others for your on codes sinaiticus.

  • Comment number 54.


    Even Geneboy agrees with on RNA Helio, and he seems closer to the coal face than you!

    Come on, cry uncle!

    BTW, I dont know if you read my post on the other thread, but in all seriousness ref your gethsemane prayer;

    I appreciate that was a very private moment, but it is pretty well accepted in faith and psychology, so far as I an aware, that someone can express a desire with lips and mind when the heart is pulling strongly in the opposite direction.

    I wouldnt dare judge you or your gethsemeane prayer, but you do accept this dont you?



    Have a nice evening guys (that means you to PK!)

    OT


    BTW LSV, no offence taken.




    Got to run guys. Have a nice evening.

    OT

  • Comment number 55.

    OT - Erm, wait wut?

    Regardless of the lack of clarity, or likely impossibility of an answer regarding abiogenesis; evolution is extremely solid in it's theoretical and empirical findings regarding the diversification of life on earth. The simple fact of the matter is that methodological naturalism is the fundament of all science, whether you like it or not.

    That the ID movement have been debunked time and time again, and indeed have even been exposed to be a front to shoehorn religion into science is beside the point. Their methods are the worst kind of sloppy pseudoscience (right up there with ghost hunting and mediums), the majority of which I should note is based entirely on critiques of peer reviewed evolutionary biology; with any remaining examples being populist tripe published as a soft backed book for the religious masses to feel a little less stone aged. Their theories are riddled with logical fallacies and tautologies and of the few actual peer reviewed publications they have, which could be counted on two hands, they never attempt to introduce the concept of a god head or a designer; but rather try to introduce the jargon of the ID movement.

    Perhaps if they spent less time evangelising and writing pop-pseudoscience novellas they might be able to afford some time and money for actual academic research of their theory. But then I guess they already know what they will find.

    By the way I noted that Denton, one of ID's strongest advocates, has had his credentials taken down from the Discovery institute roster. He has since moved onto the Anthropic principal, probably because he realised his ID colleagues were so disingenuous and intellectually bankrupt! I do find it odd though that he is pushing the protein world origins of life rather than the more superior RNA world based hypothesis.

  • Comment number 56.

    Helio -

    Oh to the be the Biologist on the Mars 500 mission, if and when it happens. From the findings of the SWAS satellite it looks like the key elements and compound precursors of life are sloshing in one form or another more or less everywhere we look.

    Nothin wrong with liking your Hot/Cold/Dry/Wet, I don't think I had a single PCR that didn't end up that way eventually, hehe. It did stick in the mind though, and I had to fish through an old G.E.R. Lloyd greek science book to remind myself where I had heard it before. Good to know that even today we still have plenty in common with Thales, Anaxiomander and Heracleitus.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hi chappies,
    OT, keeping track of all these threads is tricky; forgive me if I occasionally stop following one :-) I am puzzled as to why you do not feel that the question of whether or not there is a god is an important one, and feel you can just default to answering "yeah, baby" without subjecting the matter to a little thought. A god is an assumption you make, but it is pretty clear that it is an *unnecessary* assumption. Even if you do assume some god or alien or something made the first living cells, and evolution took over from there, how does that help you? Do you stop investigating? Do you stop modelling? Would we have ever found out about lightning if Franklin had Believed in Thor?

    If there is a god, that's dandy. Now, bring me my proton accelerator.

    Re the RNA, I am not proposing it to undermine Denton. Denton is not even in the picture - he was wrong when he wrote; now even his mistakes are obsolete. He is irrelevant. I am describing the current knowledge of the RNA world as it exists *right now*, inside all the cells in your body, including the bacteria in your gut. RNA is a remarkable little molecule, and has been much overlooked in molecular biology prior to the last 10 years or so. What we have found out recently is *massive*, and personally I find it startling and beautiful that there is a direct continuity between the reactions going on in my cells right now and the very first RNA reactions over 3 billion years ago. Whether RNA itself was the very first replicator, we may never know, but it seems very clear that it was the common pathway for all extant life that we know of now (there are suspicions that there may be other lifeforms on Earth that use different chemistry; that is intriguing, if very speculative).

    Evolution is endlessly fascinating. Geneboy, I take it you agree? :-)

  • Comment number 58.

    There isn't a day goes by were I don't find something new and interesting.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hello LSV,

    Sorry to respond slowly, but my internet access is troublesome at the moment.

    Your post 46 made it two poor posts in a row for you in this thread.

    "The reality is that we are just going round in circles."

    Not at all. You confidently started out making scientific statements. You were challenged over them. And then you completely failed to back up anything. It's not that we ended up in the same spot time and time again after discussing what you held up. You failed to hold up anything. So let's not pretend it is dogmatism on my part that causes me to intellectually disrespect you. It's because your world view is very ill-founded and you can't back up statements you make based on that world view.

  • Comment number 60.

    Geneboy, the moderator cut out my email address. Seems strange, as plenty of people, including William Crawley post their emails. Let's hope it survives this time: [Personal details removed by Moderator].

    If you Google my first and last name and the word Belfast, you should get a hit of my old page at QUB. That has the email on it as well.

  • Comment number 61.

    GB, stay well away from the Bad Man! He is probably grooming you for an evil atheist night out, where strong liquor is consumed (I think Dylan Dog managed a Magner's last time, then fell over) and we feast on Christian flesh (hopefully Peter H still has a wee bit left - Hi Pete!). Then there is that dreadful McClinton character with his seedy humanist publications... however, speaking as the Good Influence on the group, things rarely get out of hand, and we're normally polite to everyone around (but not always each other :-).

 

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