Friday, September 16, 2005

When arguments become lovefests

Posted in: Science

Here is one of a few discussion forum threads about Intelligent Design that I started: Is there such a thing as a testable and falsifiable ID theory?

Said and done, it seems we agreed to disagree in a sea of tentativeness, and suprisingly high levels of kindness abounded (that is, for the internet). It became a study in itself about the way 'social' interactions can work over such controversial topics as ID. You can see how people explain themselves, how people respond to questions, how people want to be viewed...all in all, the thread became a rather Socratic experience for me. Bear in mind that the anti-ID people who stayed with it were ostensibly scientists (Joe in physics, Peter in paleontology, Brandon in cell biology), and we few pro-ID people weren't so much geared that way. Whether that is typical or not doesn't really matter. I love stuff like this. I welcome comments, and many avenues weren't fully persued from the discussion.


Blogger Clark Goble said...

Nothing to add to the above, but I do like your new look a lot. Dark text on light backgrounds is always easier on the eyes.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

Good to have you back blogging Ariel! (even though it be for a shameless myspace link).

Thanks for the comment on the new look, Clark. Perhaps I was too hard on our cheif blogmeister on an earlier post when I dissed our new look. I guess that the new colors are easier to read, but for some reason the new logo makes me want to take a bubble bath with potpori burning with rose pedals all around on the floor . . . afterwards running through a feild of dandilions wearing freshly washed, lemmony fresh, white linnen clothing.

Maybe it is good to have my softer side exposed in the blogsphere. In fact, I already feel at ease with my inner self.

Regardless, I suggest that we keep the white, but have a picture of Aquinas on fire as the logo and launch the "burning thomists" slogan. This update with new links to Boxing, Hockey, and NASCAR sites would suffice.

9:34 AM  
Blogger jamie said...

the new logo makes me want to take a bubble bath with potpori burning with rose pedals all around on the floor . . . afterwards running through a feild of dandilions wearing freshly washed, lemmony fresh, white linnen clothing.

You say that like it's a bad thing. The new look is easier on the eyes, I agree. And the moldy logo is quite pretty. And really, adding some hockey links provides the "manliness factor" to get away with all that. Though I would add, that NASCAR would be cooler if we combined it with hockey and boxing. Yeah, heh. Guy in the back seat punching the driver while driving fast and left on ice with drunken Canooks waving hockey sticks at the windshield. Now that is a real sport.

-Your resident lurking arch-darwinian materialist moon-bat.

11:02 AM  
Blogger davis said...


I just got a visual from that description. So is it shampoo or conditioner that is better?

Anyways, good graphics take time, and when I get it I will make a better one for the site. I agree that the white background makes it easier to read though.

Until I get the time- the bridal shower essence of this blog stays. I know you all secretly admire it though.


12:55 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

Hey Jamie,

Just wanted to take some shots at your *materialism* here.

But before I can proceed, I need to know what you mean by materialism? Do you mean materialism in the sense that in order for something to exist, it has to be detectable by the 5 senses? etc.

Just curious.

2:32 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

Fire away, Sal. Yes, that's how I mean it. Or more accurately - and to make an important distinction, in order for us to ask reasonable, answerable, and meaningful questions about the existence of something, it must be empirically observable.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

There's more to it than this, but I must ask . . . is your statement (i.e. your position) empirically observable?

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Technically, no, and this has been recognized for awhile now. You are overstating the relevance of this objection.

Material explanations of natural phenomena have proven their effective usefulness for a couple of centuries now. There may or may not be anything beyond that. Those questions, ultimately, are matters of faith, supported and proliferated by rhetoric. There are no definitive answers to those questions.

If such questions could be proven beyond reasonable doubt, in the way that scientific theories like plate tectonics and natural selection are proven, faith would be rendered meaningless. I'm curious (in the honest sense of that word) what you/ ya'll think of that with regards to apologetics.


5:56 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

Apologetically, materialism is untennable. Once again, the very assertion that all things are material trancends the material realm. To dismiss the ponint that materialism is self refuting as *passe* is not a very effective response.

Regardless, besides being self refuting, materialism fails to explain many *immaterial* subtences that exist. Human souls, acts of volition, and mental states are all non-material things that exist. Also, such things as justice and love, that are necessary for society to even function, are all out of the material realm. For these very reasons, materialism comes up short, and these are the very same reasons that I am not a mateialist.

Also, natural selection only works in a small scope, such as certain bacteria building up resistence to antibiotics etc. To hold that natural selection is responsible for the goo-to-the-zoo-to-you story of origins also falls in the realm of a faith based belief.

Basically, you should just quit horsing around and become a theist. Take some classes at SES next semester. Profs Geisler, Reed, Leventhal, and Howe are cranking out the goods.

see ya there!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Doctor Logic said...


Human souls do not exist. It is a semantic error to say that something can exist independent of its measurable properties.

In everyday usage, the verb "to exist" is always tied to empirical tests. To exist means "to have its empirical properties." To say "a coffee cup exists on the table" means "one can measure empirical facts consistent with the empirical patterns of a coffee cup on the table."

Colloquially, we may write existence itself as a property, e.g., "The coffee cup on the table has existence."

However, it is a semantic error to apply this property as if it had no strings attached. This isn't begging the question. This is a statement about conventional, uncontroversial use of the verb. What you have done is to invent a new verb "to %exist", whose meaning is as yet undetermined.

You say human souls %exist.

If you claim this is meaningful, then the burden falls to you to explain what "%exist" actually means. It certainly doesn't mean the same thing as the conventional term. If it did, then your claim would be that "human souls, though they have no measurable empirical pattern, can be observed to have their respective empirical patterns." This is either a) meaningless or b) intrinsically false.

In contrast to immaterial souls, love, beauty and justice are solidly material. They are subjective, but they exist.

Also, you are totally wrong about speciation. Speciation has been observed in the laboratory. The unfounded statements of the ID crowd notwithstanding.

4:32 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

Uhh . . . what the good doctor said.

And, . . . acts of volition, and mental states are all non-material things that exist. Also, such things as justice and love, that are necessary for society to even function, are all out of the material realm.

How, then, would you explain the functionality of other social animals, which I assume you would not believe to possess souls nor the ability to conceptualize or feel things like love and justice (chimps, wolves, penguins, bonobos)? (And no, I'm not placing animals on the same pedestal as humans - I've got a pork burrito in the microwave as I write this). But you're claiming that mental states and social behavior are immaterial - since these animals exhibit something similar, then either they too have souls, or else mental states and emotions do have a material basis.

Finally, evolutionary theory does not address origins, but speciation. So, it's not goo-zoo-you, just zoo-you.


7:29 PM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...


I actually believe that animals have souls. Animals, such as dogs, possess souls and have desires (such as to eat) and feel pain etc.

But, they don't have desires about their desires. They don't wonder what it would be like to be a cat, or worry about going on a diet, etc.

It is the animals failure to carry out such contemplative, introspective desire within their soul that makes the key difference. Animal souls are of a *lesser order* than human souls.

Evolution doesn't address origins?

Well, I'll by you lunch if you can show me one Introduction to Biology textbook that is used in public schools that doesn't have the "... and billions of years ago it rained on a rock and the rock became soup and from this soup came the chemicals necessary for life..." evolutionary creation story in the first chapter or so ;)

My lunch money is safe because all of them do.

The issue is this: Evolutionary theory *convolutes* theories of abiogeneses with operative biological science and they don't make the distinction between the two.

There is origin science, such as theories of biogeneses and Cosmogony.

And operative science, e.g. mix this chemical with this chemical and get this result, kenisen transport functions as such in this part of the cell, red shift moves like so according to Hubble readings, etc.

Evolutionary theory seems oblivious to making the important distinction between origin and operative science. Like I alluded to earlier, everything is just thrown into the same mix. Not good science and/or philosophy of science on behalf of evo theory. (and the net result is actually just a shady way of slipping in an atheist view of origins).

This represents the main problem I have with Evolution as it is taught in the public schools. I think these distinctions need to be made, as well as including in the books problems with the "evidence" that has been used in the past to support evo theory. I think that this is only fair.


3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't vouch for what is taught in public high schools, having taken biology at a private Christian school, but I've got a freshman biology textbook right here that says you owe me lunch. It lists 3 major origin theories - special creation, panspermia, and chemical abiogenesis, pointing out that all are plausible, but the first is not testable in the lab, and further states clearly that a material explanation does not preclude religious belief or theism. I prefer Cuban, but Mexican will suffice.

Tell me something. Ya'll will admit that some, maybe even most, natural events have a material explanation, right? How do you decide where to draw the line? I can't figure out what method you use to make this distinction.

And again, anyone using evo bio as a way to sneak in some atheist indoctrination is building a very weak argument. I say this as an atheist, and I don't see this as being the dominant pov among biologists.


2:05 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

"Tell me something. Ya'll will admit that some, maybe even most, natural events have a material explanation, right? How do you decide where to draw the line?"

Surely you are aware of there being more than one "causal" explanation for a given event. Aristotle, for example, had four categories for causal explanation: the material (that out of which something comes to be), the formal (that of which something comes to be), the efficient (that which makes something to be), and the final (that for which something comes to be).

Oh, and please define material cause. Do you mean the same thing as Aristotle?

2:29 PM  
Blogger jamie said...

I'm not familiar with Aristotle, but as you define here, I mean the first three. These would be - if I'm understanding your definitions properly - the domain of science. The last, the for, would land necessarily out of scientific boundaries.

ID, however, mixes them all up and I don't see how you reconcile this. Supporting evidence for evolution is far greater than any other scientific theory. It seems odd that the Designer would have to step in and suspend the plan for something like a flagellum. More importantly, ID speaks of design, but even if something was designed, it would still have to be manufactured in order to exist. ID says nothing about manufacturing. Evolution says quite a lot.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Thanks Jaime for your comments. If, when you say "material cause," you mean "the first three," in what sense are you separating those causal explanations, whereas you take it that "ID, however, mixes them all up"?


8:27 AM  
Blogger Sal Monella said...

Hey Jamie!

Sorry for the delayed response. I was hoping to buy you lunch anyways, but if I am wrong I am willing to eat some crow along with my burrito.

Besides, in your textbook, the chemo evo scenerio sounds like the "goo" portion of the creation story. I bet if I flipped through the remaining pages, I would find at least some implied extrapolation from the chem-goo to some zoo/you action.

also, along with the "god did it" not being scientifically reapeatable in the lab, neither is the stocastic raw chem to peptide to amino acid to a protien to rna to dna to a rhibosome etc. scenerio.

each position takes a certain amount of faith to hold.

back to the lunch issue. If you can arrange it with Davis, I can meet with you guys for lunch and I would love to flip for your portion of the bill, regardless.


3:19 PM  

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