Saturday, 28 February 2009

Occluded Vision

Meanwhile, in the pocket universe known as COG-aic...

Dilettante-in-Chief David Hulme has come close to rattling his begging bowl.

At Vision, we are pursuing excellence in publishing in print and on the Web... We hope you agree and that you will consider supporting in whatever way you can this very necessary work.

Yes, times are tough. Send money quick or Dave might have to fly economy class.

Also of some interest, given the recent discussion on evolution, is a Vision review of Michael Dowd's book Thank God for Evolution.Reviewer Dan Cloer unleashes a torrent of scorn. I haven't read Dowd, but he seems to mesh with a number of theologians who follow in the wake of Teilhard de Chardin, the early twentieth-century Jesuit scholar. For those who have encountered Australian Michael Morwood's "new story" theology, Dowd's approach will also be familiar, but in an Americanized, Protestantized version, seeking to make sense of God and Christian belief in a world very different from the "heaven above, hades below" cosmology of the ancient world.

Cloer comments: "Every page is replete with jammed-together science factoids and out-of-context Bible catchphrases."

Sounds like the Good News style manual to me...

"Intellectualism runs rampant."

Oh no... please... stop... mercy... not intellectualism...

Actually, Dowd seems reasonably approachable, based on sample pages you can access on Amazon. Now if Dan would really like a challenge, and risk shattering his delicate crypto-creationist worldview forever, I'd happily recommend John Haught.

You can find the digital edition of Vision online.

49 comments:

Corky said...

Heh. Are you sure you want to get back into evolution again, Gavin?

I was reading a while back that Catholics knew about evolution centuries before Darwin. I can't remember off hand what the Bishop's name was (I'm sure Jared knows) but evolution is old news to them.

Too bad they didn't share that knowledge before now though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

"Keep the issue in mind: the question is not whether it is possible for someone simultaneously to hold unproven, baseless beliefs about a supernatural dimension and scientific, reasoned conclusions with regard to observed phenomena. It is possible for all sorts of people to believe all sorts of things—just as Humpty Dumpty practiced every day believing six impossible things before breakfast.

But it is not possible to do these things and still have intellectual integrity.

It requires instead intellectual dis-integration: the skill (if it can be called a skill) of not thinking about the possible connections between the phenomena of the universe. That is, it requires precisely the opposite effort that science requires. It requires one not to think.

http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/search?q=jerry+coyne


The Apostate Paul

aka, Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

since the Roman Catholic leadership has been quick to adopt all things pagan, it's no wonder that they embrace evolution.

Anonymous said...

As an American, I am glad that intellectualism seems to have come back into style in my country. Except within fundamentalist circles, that is. Most of the country seems to have had quite enough backward thinking and are eager to embrace a more enlightened approach.

Byker Bob said...

Who really cares whether God used evolution, or creation, or both to kickstart life?

Many would like to create a comfort zone for themselves by proving that God doesn't exist. An old prof used to throw a handkerchief in the air and proclaim, "Hey, if there's a God, catch!" Thing is, you can't really prove a negative.

Evolution could well be yet another governing set of laws for our self-sustaining universe, as are the laws of physics, thermodynamics, gravity, etc. The more deeply we get into the complexities of evolution, the more, in my opinion, it cries out for a God to have planned the process. Evolution helps affirm my faith!

BB

Hulme's $wiss Banker said...

Just wasted 5 minutes reading article in Vision. What confusing meandering junk in that pretentious, pseudo-intellectual magazine that virtually nobody reads. More Post-Armstrong madness (with a pompous Quest77/Human Potential/AICF twist).

Tkach's $wiss Banker said...

Byker Bob said...
Who really cares whether God used evolution, or creation, or both to kickstart life?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Christ Myth is a good example of evolution (took about 50 years to take form). I challenge you to historically document Jesus, Apostles, Saul/Paul.

Anonymous said...

"The Christ Myth is a good example of evolution (took about 50 years to take form). I challenge you to historically document Jesus, Apostles, Saul/Paul."

Excellent observation! Backed up by both Tom Harpur and Early Christian Writings.

larry said...

Paul Ray, you are dead wrong.

You suggest that a belief in God and science makes one intellectually dishonest. I submit to you that the existence of God is quite LOGICAL. This is at odds with your statement that a belief in the "supernatural" "requires one not to think"!

There was a time when many of the established facts of modern science were unknown and considered magical...electricity, chemistry, atoms, astronomy, etc. (the list is endless) These things were always true, but humans could not understand them. In most cases we still don't completely. Just because we cannot measure or see God does not make His existence any less true. We have essentially proven that multiple dimensions exist in our universe, but has anyone ever seen one or been there? I think not.

I believe that you are the one being illogical because your line of reasoning suggests that the universe, and life in general, has no greater purpose. If that is the case, there is a great deal of energy being completely wasted. Why create energy and complexity if it is all going to dissipate and return to nothingness?

And why have an entire dimension of time, with past, present, and future, if nothing lasting is to be accomplished?

Maybe you should "think" a little about these things.

Byker Bob said...

Whoever's (flavor of the month) $wiss Banker: I already did! Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, in addition to the entire New Testament, provide wonderful documentation of Jesus and the Apostles, and everything you need to know about them. The problem is that atheists and agnostics reject them because these books also have strong religious overtones. But, frankly, that is not my problem.

2,000 years of Western Civilization have been based upon, or influenced by Jesus. And, remember, Rome didn't go quietly along with this. They went kicking and screaming, torturing and killing Christians for the first 300 years.

BB

Corky said...

Byker Bob said...
Many would like to create a comfort zone for themselves by proving that God doesn't exist. . . . Thing is, you can't really prove a negative.

No, you can't prove a negative but you can lower the probability down to nothing.

Just for me personally, the fact that you can't prove a god exists proves that one does not.

Was atheism your "comfort zone" a while back, Bob? I don't see atheism as a comfort zone but then your comfort zone is what you make it, I suppose.

TKACH's $WI$$ BANKER said...

Byker Bob said:
"the entire New Testament, provide wonderful documentation of Jesus and the Apostles,"

That's like saying the Book of Mormon documents the existence of ancient tribes on Israel in North America.

Tkach's $wiss Banker said...

Attention all AW Atheists:

Bill Maher's RELIGULOUS now out on DVD. Don't miss it !

Anonymous said...

If there were no God no plan or purpose for mankind then what would it matter how you live your life? when you die that would be the end of you whether you were good or bad. Strivng to live a moral clean life would be just very futile.There would be no sin so those of you who don't believe in God just go ahead and do whatever pleases you go rob a bank, have sex any way and with whomever you want to regardless of mans law hey when you are gone you are gone right. I really dont think Gavin will post this he did not post one I wrote about freedom and truth but I am posting anyway.

Anonymous said...

"And why have an entire dimension of time, with past, present, and future, if nothing lasting is to be accomplished?"

Chronological time is purely a construct of the neocortex. It is a construct that allows us to advance, as a species. We remember our mistakes (if we are very very observant), and we attempt not to repeat them (most of the time). We remember what worked in the past, at first what got our ancestors food and tools and tribes, but later expanded to computer programming and economic states.

Finding a balance between the non-linear state of the paleocortex, and the purely linear state of the neocortex, can be accomplished through meditation, which studies have shown actually increase the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the thin bridge of tissue between the paleocortex and the neocortex.

Those who engage in meditative states often report a sense of being outside of time, or at least briefly focusing their awareness away from chronological time.

Just something to consider.

Questeruk said...

Corky said..
“Just for me personally, the fact that you can't prove a god exists proves that one does not.”

It might work for you Corky, but it doesn’t work logically.

In a court case would it be true to say ‘The fact that you can't prove the defendant guilty proves that he is innocent’?

No – it would make a conviction unsafe, but it is not proof of innocence.

Or the alternative application of the logic is rather worse for the accused - ‘The fact that you can’t prove the defendant innocent proves that he is guilty’.

Would justice be done using that sort of logic? No, it would open the door to a whole wedge of unjust convictions.

Of course not being able to prove something one way is not proof at all that the opposite is true – merely that the answer is inconclusive.

Neotherm said...

Imagination seems to be used by everyone in the creationist-evolutionist dialog. Dawkins makes up cute little anecdotes about how things like flagella evolved. Behe makes up cute little anecdotes about how flagella could not have evolved.

I can apply a little imagination and reconcile the Genesis account to scientific findings. It's not even a stretch and it is not even dishonest.

I have no trouble believing in God as Creator who used evolution to modify living creatures over great spans of time. In fact there were many in the old pre-1995 WCG who believed that Satan actively manipulated the genome to produce, for instance, T. Rex. This could be classed as a kind of "evolution".

Overall, I just do not see adequate evidence in the fossil record to convince me that evolution actually happened. No doubt there were many different flora/fauna environments on this planet. There really was an Eocene. But I do not believe that it is demonstrable that evolution is the thread that ties all these diverse environments together.

-- Neo

Anonymous said...

A significant percentage of people "experience" the "divine". In some way they feel spirits, they come in contact with spirits, there are occasional healings, etc.

But other folks never experience the "divine". I feel sorry for them because there is a dimension to life they appear totally unaware of; they are genuinely ignorant that there is a "divine" presence in this world.

I'm not sure why that is...

Regardless, if you experience the "divine" that doesn't mean that you understand the "divine". It doesn't mean that God and spirits do what you think they should do, it doesn't mean that they do what expect them to do or that they do what you want them to do.

It is my experience that God and and Spirits do not follow the rules set down in the OT and NT.

It would be nice if they did. It would make things much easier.

The point to all of this is that God does exist, spirits do exist, and evolution is in someways true and in other ways still a theory.

Evolution is real but it doesn't completely follow the theories we currently have in hand.

Anonymous said...

It pains me to even somewhat agree with something Larry wrote, however my take on it, and I'm not pushing it on anyone here, is that science / math will eventually either prove the existence of a God or prove that one doesn't exist. I'm perfectly content to see what develops.

So yes, I don't see how believing in the scientific method is at odds with a belief in a God.

God is a deeply personal thing and should be left that way.

Corky said...

In a court case would it be true to say ‘The fact that you can't prove the defendant guilty proves that he is innocent’?

Yes, because in a U.S. court you are innocent until proven guilty the opposite proposition of guilty until proven innocent doesn't apply.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:29 "If there were no God ... Strivng to live a moral clean life would be just very futile."

So you think living a "good" life is pointless unless there is a "reward" in the afterlife? That if there were no God, we should live in anarchy?

Now I can understand, as Paul did, that if it's all for nothing, then suffering persecution makes life miserable and seem futile. But not living a decent moral life in contemporary society.

larry said...

Charlie, I am such an agreeable person! Please take an aspirin.

Science is designed to focus on the physical. It does that very well. We endeavour daily to discover what, how and why? And we do.

But, science does a poor job of discovering the metaphysical, as in the DEEPER why. What is the real reason for the existence of the universe? What is our purpose? Why are our lives so short? What is consciousness? etc. (this also is an endless list)

Science has few answers here.

Anonymous said...

Through the ages the world has known mostly warfare strife poverty just total misery and today those things have worsened not gotten better so if there is no God with a plan and a purpose I say still live your life as you please because in the end it wont matter not one bit. If there is anarchy it will just bring an end to everything quicker. You know very well that it is now possible to wipe all life off of this planet.Eventually some one will push that nuclear button but thank God He will intervene.

Stan said...

Corky,

About your reply to Questeruk:


Since the 16th century, when jurors became evaluators of testimony and evidence (rather than collectors of evidence or persons assumed to have firsthand knowledge of a crime), courts’ instructions to jurors have been a crucial factor in ensuring due process. A fair trial demands that jurors consider all and only the legitimate evidence at trial, that they refrain from discussing the case with parties outside the process, and that they apply the appropriate standards of proof. To this end, they are admonished to consider firsthand testimony, not hearsay; unless the hearsay in question is deemed properly and legally admissible under one of the legislated exceptions to the hearsay rule; to consider the statements of sworn witnesses but not those of attorneys, and so forth. Surely one of the more important instructions to criminal trial juries concerns the correct standard of proof—that is, the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Embedded in this charge is both the claim that the burden of proof rests on the prosecution and the notice that the standard of proof is set extremely high. The importance of this jury instruction is underscored by the fact that every court in the land must inform jurors of the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof for criminal cases (but not those of a civil category). While the charge is universal, however, courts differ both on whether and on how to define "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" for jurors. Most courts that do offer jurors an explanation of this concept attempt to define the embedded term "reasonable doubt."


In criminal trials, it is the burden of the prosecution to bring jurors to conviction—wherein the appropriate epistemic state of the juror is a vote for the legal state of guilt of the defendant. Thus, while conviction denotes a finding of guilt on the legal end, it also denotes an epistemological category. But, on the epistemic end, the word is ambiguous. Construed widely, "conviction" is often equated with a kind of belief as in "his religious conviction prevents him from considering some courses of action" or "it is my conviction that the defendant is guilty of something." Here, we may speak—loosely—of conviction (i.e., of being convinced) even where we lack conclusive evidence for our beliefs; in this sense, conviction is a measure of the tenacity with which one holds onto one’s belief.

In another more straightforwardly epistemic sense conviction is a measure of the justification or evidence for a belief. In the second sense, to be convinced is to be persuaded of the truth of a claim by evidence sufficient to justify that claim. In an epistemically ideal world, the two senses of conviction would never come apart—i.e., we would cling tenaciously only to those beliefs that the evidence convinced us to endorse, as in “Don't believe me, believe your Bible”. But we often err by believing without sufficient evidentiary support and/or by refusing to believe where evidence is strong.

It is for this reason that jurors are admonished to decide cases solely on the basis of the evidence presented, for one may harbor beliefs about a defendant’s guilt or innocence without properly considering the evidence presented. Indeed--and this is crucial--one may believe that a defendant is guilty while at the same time recognizing that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, it is possible for a juror to both believe that a defendant such as Armstrong is guilty and to fail to be convinced of this fact by the evidence presented at trial. In such cases, a juror may be in the strange position of believing a given claim while reasonably doubting that very criminal charge.

Stan Gardner

Anonymous said...

"I submit to you that the existence of God is quite LOGICAL."

Care to explain how it is logical to believe in the existence of something without a shred of proof?



"There was a time when many of the established facts of modern science were unknown and considered magical...electricity, chemistry, atoms, astronomy, etc. (the list is endless) These things were always true, but humans could not understand them."

And do you know what man did when he couldn't explain something? He attributed it to god(s). And almost every phenomena that man atttributed to imaginary beings has been explained by science. This should tell you something. Just because you can't explain something doesn't automatically mean that god(s) did it. But, people are still doing it.

"Just because we cannot measure or see God does not make His existence any less true."


And just because we cannot measure or see Zues does not make His existence any less true. Do you agree?



"I believe that you are the one being illogical because your line of reasoning suggests that the universe, and life in general, has no greater purpose. If that is the case, there is a great deal of energy being completely wasted. Why create energy and complexity if it is all going to dissipate and return to nothingness?"

"Purpose" is irrelevant. Why should a bit of dust in space need a purpose? Oh- that is, unless you believe in imgaginary beings. Then everything must have a purpose so you can't imagine reality without a purpose.

Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

"Strivng to live a moral clean life would be just very futile."


Your kind is the most frightening type- completely amoral without your god(s). Without an imaginary being to instruct you on how to behave, you see no point in behaving.

Yet, if anyone is willing to take the time to think about it, look around. Do you see the majority of self-proclaimed atheists robbing banks and murdering and raping? No, you don't. I don't, I can assure you. Why don't I???

Paul Ray

The Thinker said...

I'm glad that the religious anon is that way lest I be unable to sleep nights. To think that the only thing holding him back from pillaging, raping and other foul deeds is the thin skin of faith is disquieting indeed. Then multiply that by the millions of people so deluded in America--all thinking that the only reason to be nice is because a non-existent god wants it that way.

Excuse me now please, as an atheist I have a bank to rob and after that I have to plan how to steal my neighbor's new car, kidnap his children and kill them.

Gee, that leeds me to wonder why the Roman Catholic priests got to have their way with so many children in their care. Are the priests really atheists? It seems they have no fear of any gods.

Does that mean that Herbert Armstrong and his son, Ted were really atheists? Look at their actions.

Questeruk said...

To my question ”In a court case would it be true to say ‘The fact that you can't prove the defendant guilty proves that he is innocent’

Corky said…”Yes, because in a U.S. court you are innocent until proven guilty”

I don’t want to belabour the point, but I will try one more time, because this is basic logic.

While it is true that both in US and UK you are innocent until proven guilty, that is because it is a sensible safeguard, to prevent miscarriage of justice.

However, the fact that you can’t PROVE a person guilty doesn’t in itself PROVE they are innocent. What it does do is show that there is not enough evidence to prove them guilty. This is a different thing to proving innocence.

I am sure you do actually realise this Corky, or at least I hope you do, because it is a basic point of logic, which should also be considered with your statement:-

“The fact that you can't prove a god exists proves that one does not.”

Anonymous said...

In a sitcom, a defendant said he pleaded "unequivocal innocence", to which the judege replied, "In my court, you have two choices: guilty, or not guilty."

To quote Colombo, "I know he did it, I just have to prove it." And if you see the first part of the program, you know he did it, too. The problem is proving it.

Anonymous said...

"Dawkins makes up cute little anecdotes about how things like flagella evolved. Behe makes up cute little anecdotes about how flagella could not have evolved."

I don't know about Dawkins, but Behe didn't make up cute anecdotes-he basically said, "It aint't so."
Since then I am afraid science hasn't provided any cute anecdotes, but they have refuted Behe's claims of "irreducible complexity," which is a code word for "Goddidit." An excellent review in the 2006 issue of Nature (Pallen, M., and Matzke, N. "From The Origin of the Species To The Origin Of The Bacterial Flagella" Nature 2006, October, Vol. 4 784-790)comprehensively addresses the issue. If anyone is really interested in reading it but cannot access it, I'll see what I can do.





"I can apply a little imagination and reconcile the Genesis account to scientific findings. It's not even a stretch and it is not even dishonest."

Horse Puckey. You want to explain how a man was created out of mud instantaneously by magic???? How do reconcile this little gem with science without compromising intellectual honesty?

"I have no trouble believing in God as Creator who used evolution to modify living creatures over great spans of time."

Neotherm, I really want to believe you. I do.



"Overall, I just do not see adequate evidence in the fossil record to convince me that evolution actually happened."


Okay. What of the fossil record have you reviewed? Exactly what about it doesn't hold water for you? Could you point to some specifics?



Paul Ray

Anonymous said...

"To think that the only thing holding him back from pillaging, raping and other foul deeds is the thin skin of faith is disquieting indeed."

It's sad, isn't it? These people just see no reason to love others, to speak kind words, to enjoy the fellowship of other humans, to do no harm to others- unless they have a supernatural task master who enforces proper behavior. Talk about evil. These people are one step away from anarchy. Take away their god and they will be eating your flesh as they pilfer through your wallet.

Paul Ray

Corky said...

Yes. I know, Q. However, the burden of proof is on the prosecution and in this case, on the one making the positive statement that a God exists.

It still has to be proved that a God exists before it can be said that one does. It hasn't been proved, therefore - a God does not exist.

It's just that simple.

Unless you can prove the positive, the negative is the default.

Corky said...

Paul Ray says,

Take away their god and they will be eating your flesh as they pilfer through your wallet.

That's exactly right! That is one of the main reasons that religion was invented - to control the masses and keep them from slaughtering the king/priest and feeding him to the dogs.

It's all about control and that's it QED. So, I'm kind of glad there is religion until people can really feel "all men are created equal" and capable of governing themselves.

Have you seen the latest about the UN and Sharia law?

People need to wake up before they end up bowing toward Mecca 5 times a day.

Stan said...

Corky:

As Questeruk said:

"However, the fact that you can’t PROVE a person guilty doesn’t in itself PROVE they are innocent. What it does do is show that there is not enough evidence to prove them guilty."

So it is possible for a juror to both believe that a defendant is guilty and to fail to be convinced of this fact by the evidence presented at trial.

To show how this might arise, we must consider the situations in which reasonable doubt legitimately arises in a trial.

To put reasonable doubt in the proper context, however, we must first say something about doubt simpliciter. We can distinguish between the following two senses of doubt (where S is a person, p a statement).

S doubts1 that p =df S believes that not p.

S doubts2 that p =df S does not believe that p.

In the first sense (doubt1 ), doubting is equivalent to disbelieving. In this sense, the Atheist—but not the Agnostic—doubts that God exists. In the second sense (doubt2), one’s doubting does not entail any positive belief state at all.

This, clearly weaker, sense of doubting is compatible with taking no position at all with regard to the claim (p) in question. In this weak sense, we may say that the agnostic doubts that there is a god. Consider the case in which "p" stands in for "the defendant Armstrong is guilty of the crime charged." A juror may have doubts with regard to this claim in either the stronger sense (doubt1 ) or in the weaker sense (doubt2 ). In the first case, his doubt1 is equivalent to a belief in Armstrong's innocence; in the latter case, his doubt 2 is merely the absence of belief with regard to the Armstrong's guilt. Insofar as a juror believes that the Armstrong is guilty, the juror does not doubt (in either sense) that Armstrong is guilty.

The relevance of this distinction is found in the fact that some reasonable doubt jury instructions equivocate between doubt 1 and doubt 2, with the potential result that jurors use incorrect standards when determining whether a criminal prosecution has met its burden of proof.

In the context of a criminal trial, jurors are faced with two legitimate options with regard to the defendant’s status in the alleged crime: Armstrong is guilty or not guilty (where the latter is not equivalent to his innocence). I suggested that the prosecution must attain conviction in the epistemically, legally technical sense, wherein jurors are provided sufficient evidence for belief in the defendant’s guilt. In such a case, a reasonable person would come to believe that the defendant is guilty; thus, on the assumption that jurors are reasonable persons, whenever the prosecution has met its burden of proof, the jury will convict.

On the other hand, when the jurors have not been provided sufficient evidence for the defendant’s guilt, they are said to have reasonable doubt. It follows that reasonable doubt is itself equivalent to a lack of sufficient evidence for a juror to believe that the defendant is guilty.

Now, compare this result to the "reasonable doubt" correlates of doubt 1 and doubt 2, where "p" stands in for "the defendant is guilty of the crime(s) charged."

S reasonably doubts1 that p =df S has sufficient reason to believe that not p.

S reasonably doubts2 that p =df S does not have sufficient reason to believe that p.

In the first option, a juror (S) has reasonable doubt only if he has sufficient reason to believe that the defendant is innocent. While jurors may be presented with sufficient reason to believe that a defendant is innocent in some (relatively rare) cases, the court certainly cannot insist that jurors attain such a state in order to acquit. Clearly, this requirement would fly in the face of the presumption of innocence, which the court allows the defendant. Reasonable doubt 1 suggests that the relevant issue is whether or not the jurors have been convinced of the defendant’s innocence, thus incorrectly placing the burden of proof on the defense. The relevant issue, of course, is whether or not the jurors have been convinced of the defendant’s guilt. If not, they are said to have reasonable doubt. Thus reasonable, doubt is clearly defined in the weaker sense of doubt2 . To see why this is so, we need only consider what is required for the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—the prosecution must present convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, and there must be no plausible explanation of the facts established in court other than the explanation that incorporates the defendant’s guilt.

There are two quite different scenarios in which jurors will fail to be convinced of a defendant’s guilt. First and most obvious, the prosecution may fail to convince jurors of a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt simply because their case is too weak and the evidence presented at trial is not sufficient to warrant the belief that the defendant is guilty. In such cases, the reasonable doubt need not be something that a juror can put her finger on, as it were, for there need not be any positive epistemic state with which the doubt could be equated. Instead, there is merely an absence of conviction in the juror’s mind. One would expect these "insufficient evidence" cases to be relatively rare in trial situations, for one would expect prosecutors to recognize such cases and attempt a plea bargain rather than bring an extremely weak case to trial. Nonetheless, such cases are often prosecuted, for a variety of reasons.

A second—and vastly more common—situation in which reasonable doubt may arise involves the underdetermination of theory by evidence. The thesis of underdetermination makes the claim that two (or more) theories are underdetermined by a given class of empirical evidence whenever each of the theories equally well incorporates that evidence and there is no way to determine which of the competing theories is true by appealing to that evidence. Where two competing theories are mutually consistent, underdetermination need not be a serious problem (for we could then simply decide to accept both theories unless or until further empirical evidence comes along and falsifies one of the theories). However, in those cases of underdetermined but mutually inconsistent theories, we are faced with a vexing epistemological situation: we know that at least one of the two theories must be false, but we cannot determine which, for our available evidence supports the theories equally well. It was just this situation that astronomers supposedly faced in the late 16th century when Copernicus’s heliocentric cosmology and Tycho Brahe’s modification of Ptolemy’s geocentric cosmology appeared to be equally well supported by the available astronomical data (prior to input from Kepler).

Just as scientists are presented with empirically underdetermined theories, jurors are sometimes presented with two theories-- that square equally well with the evidence presented in a trial.


Stan Gardner

Questeruk said...

Out of interest, in Scots law there are three verdicts that can be given – proven, not proven and not guilty.

This has had checkered history, but in modern courts ‘not proven’ it tends to be used when the jury doesn’t think the case has been proved, but is not convinced that the person is innocent.

The person is aquitted, but there tends to be a stigma left. It has been said it’s a sort of “not guilty, but don't do it again" type of verdict.

Anonymous said...

Corky said: "People need to wake up before they end up bowing toward Mecca 5 times a day."

No doubt. Anyone that does not realize that militant islam is the single greatest threat to mankind in the 21st century is already lost.

larry said...

Paul Ray,
I believe that OJ Simpson is a murderer, but I have no "proof". I arrived at this conclusion through deductive reasoning.

Although my previous post was addressed to you, it was really for your audience. I just wanted everyone to know that not everyone in the scientific community has fully embraced your skepticism.

As for "purpose", I am hard-pressed to think of any major energy expenditures in the world of biology that do not have a specific purpose. Perhaps one should not extrapolate too much from this, but it is one of the examples available to us.

Anonymous said...

"I just wanted everyone to know that not everyone in the scientific community has fully embraced your skepticism."

No, there are people within the scientific community who "believe six impossible things before breakfast." And they have very little intellectual integrity.


Paul Ray

Stan said...

Q and Larry,

The Scottish verdict has its most famous use outside of Scottish law came when Senator Arlen Specter tried to vote "not proven" on an article of impeachment of Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. And at the O.J. Simpson murder case, various reformers, including Fred Goldman, Ron Goldman's father, pushed for a change to "not proven" because of what they felt was an incorrect presumption of innocence on the part of Simpson.

Arlen Specter remarked:

"My position in the matter is that the case has not been proved. I have gone back to Scottish law where there are three verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and not proved. I am not prepared to say on this record that President Clinton is not guilty. But I am certainly not prepared to say that he is guilty. There are precedents for a Senator voting present. I hope that I will be accorded the opportunity to vote not proved in this case. [...] But on this record, the proofs are not present. Juries in criminal cases under the laws of Scotland have three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty, not proven. Given the option in this trial, I suspect that many Senators would choose 'not proven' instead of 'not guilty'. That is my verdict: not proven. The President has dodged perjury by calculated evasion and poor interrogation.”

Recall, then, the innumerable objections put forth to nearly every single question asked Herbert Armstrong during his divorce trial by his attorneys.

So in a Clintonesque way, Armstrong also dodged perjury by calculated evasion of the facts in court and with the WCG.


Stan Gardner

"Francis S. Collins" said...

Corky-

I wrote in my book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" that there is no proof of God by scientific observation. (P. 78)

"...no logical argument can fully achieve that. Belief in God will always require a leap of faith." (P. 201)

And yet, I, as one of the top scientists in America, believe in God.

So, for you to say your denial of God is simple just cannot hold water. Or maybe you need to clarify your statement. There is a considerable amount of discussion still required. Else why does the discussion in the god/nogod debate continue?

Have you read my book? Has anyone here read it?

Anonymous said...

"Or maybe you need to clarify your statement."

Why should he have to defend his disbelief in leprechauns? Oh, I mean Zeus. Whoops- I mean Allah.



"There is a considerable amount of discussion still required."

There sure is. Provide a shred of evidence that your god(s) is real and maybe we can have an intelligent discussion.


"Else why does the discussion in the god/nogod debate continue?"

God? You mean Allah? Or Vishnu? For the debate still rages, believe me.

But a "discussion" over the existenece of something doesn't lend weight simply because there is discussion. You know this, of course.


And if you are Francis S Collins, you vapid little weasel, then I am Robert E Lee.

Paul Ray

Retired Prof said...

Corky said:
"Just for me personally, the fact that you can't prove a god exists proves that one does not."

This kind of either/or thinking puckers my sphincter. Only true believers live in such a black-and-white world. I'm no good at technical legal and logical discourse, the way Stan Gardner is, so let me explain in a different way how I manage to live with doubt.

There is a swamp on the other side of the field west of my house. Consider these three propositions:

1. There is a coyote in the swamp.

2. There is an anteater in the swamp.

3. There is a fairy in the swamp.


I doubt the first one, but my doubt is based merely on a probability and is not strong. I have seen coyotes in the swamp, I have heard them howling there, and I have seen their tracks in the snow, so there is nothing outlandish about the idea. If I wanted to acquire the hide of a coyote, I might walk across the field with a rifle or shotgun and try to call one within range with a predator call. I just would not expect to succeed very often, because the evidence says they do not frequent the place regularly.

I strongly doubt the second. Understand, I don't doubt that anteaters exist, for I have seen a number of them. Just not in that swamp, or anywhere near it. I also know that anteaters do not survive well in the kind of winter we are having. Yet if a trusted friend or neighbor came running across the snowy field waving his arms and yelling, "Anteater! There's an anteater over there!" I would give the statement serious consideration. Maybe a truck carrying an anteater to a zoo wrecked on the highway two miles west, and the confused animal ran this way. But that possibility is so remote that it can be discounted. It does not alter my routine in any way. I do not, on the chance that I may need to treat a stray anteater for hypothermia, carry a blanket and a hot water bottle when scrambling through the swamp.

My doubt about the third is abyssally deep. Not only have I never actually seen a fairy, nor any physical evidence of one, the texts where I have learned about them lack all credibility. They are folkloric in origin and fraught with inconsistencies. No one has ever come up with genuine physical evidence of a fairy; photos that purport to show them have been revealed as fakes. I feel pretty sure they don't exist anywhere on earth, so if anyone reports one in the swamp, I don’t expect to rush off across the field, filled with an ecstatic faith that I will catch a glimpse of the thing.


You see the problem, Corky? I would find it extremely difficult to prove there is a coyote in the swamp. Coyotes are elusive, and they have many places to hide. So there might be one in there, even if I can't prove it.

As long as I'm just considering the statement from the warmth of my living room, I would also have to allow the possibility there is an anteater in the swamp; it's just that the odds are very much worse. Even an absence of tracks would not prove the anteater was absent. Maybe it went in before the snow fell and didn’t come out. Probably dead by now, but, hey, it’s still an anteater. Actually, though, with a rigorously systematic and thorough search, it would be possible to prove there was no anteater there, since the area is finite and an anteater is a material object. Bulldoze the trees and brush, dig up all the hiding places; if you don’t turn up an anteater, there’s not one there. You actually can prove a negative, if you set the experiment up right.

A fairy is different. It has, the stories tell us, a metaphysical dimension. A fairy is not a material object, it is a spirit being. It can manifest as material but then suddenly evanesce into invisibility. Harder to pin down than a coyote, even. Given this description, nobody can prove the swamp does not contain one, or hundreds of them, for that matter.

Nevertheless, although I can't "lower the probability [all the way] down to nothing," I consider the chances so infinitesimally small that I never take precautions to avoid offending them. I don’t try to avoid falling asleep under an ympe-tree or set out milk and cookies for them, as medieval people did. Nor do I knock on wood, as some people still do today.

I feel the same way about god, see. The universe, unlike the swamp, is infinite in scope, and even if god were physical, there are many places for him to hide where I cannot look. Even more baffling, the stories tell us god is metaphysical, so he could be over there in the swamp right now and I’d never know it. There’s no way anyone can prove he isn’t. However, the texts where I have learned these things lack all credibility. They are folkloric in origin and fraught with inconsistencies. No one has ever come up with genuine physical evidence of god.

Therefore I consider the chances so infinitesimally small that I never take precautions to avoid offending him. I don’t fast on the Day of Atonement or eschew leavening during Passover. I don’t refrain from eating pork or oysters, and will even buy them in restaurants on a Friday evening or Saturday.

I do make a sincere effort to observe the last six of the Ten Commandments, and to treat people with compassion and forgive them when they screw up. Not for fear of being consigned to the lake of fire by a metaphysical being—just because that’s the kind of person I strive (imperfectly) to be.

Stan said...

Dr. Collins:

Given the current state of DNA genetic research, perhaps you would care to comment if cloning humans genetically is a near possibility.

"Francis S. Collins" said...

Paul Ray called me a "...vapid little weasel."

Two observations are readily available here. First, the moderator is quite liberal in allowing name calling for one thing.

Secondly, Mr. Ray would rather hurl ugly insults than gain some knowledge by reading my book. Other atheists have.

Hmmm--Robert E. Lee. He lost a big war. And you, Mr. Ray, have shown little intellectual strength to win yours.

BTW--Since you don't know if you are anonymous or "Paul Ray" you may be General Lee for all I know.

larry said...

Paul Ray,...or should I call you "Robert",
You said,
"No, there are people within the scientific community who "believe six impossible things before breakfast." And they have very little intellectual integrity."

Your opinion.

Corky said...

Retired Prof said...
Corky said:
"Just for me personally, the fact that you can't prove a god exists proves that one does not."

This kind of either/or thinking puckers my sphincter. Only true believers live in such a black-and-white world.


Exactly, and I'm a true believer in the non-existence of the supernatural (god or otherwise).

If just one supernatural could be proved (such as a fairy) then I could entertain the possibility of a god's existence.

And, Retired Prof., since you can't prove there is an eye in the back of your head, that proves to me that there is not an eye in the back of your head.

Course, you never made that claim but if you had, you should be able to prove it or stop claiming it. And, that's what I'm saying about the theist's claim that a god exists. They either need to prove it or stop claiming it.

Gavin said...

"Doc Collins":

"...vapid little weasel"

That's definitely on the milder but more literate side of the abuse-o-meter.

"Since you don't know if you are anonymous or "Paul Ray" you may be General Lee for all I know."

As a comment coming from someone posturing under someone else' name that's a fairly remarkable observation.

Unless you ARE Francis S. Collins, you'll need to adopt a new nom-de-plume in order to be posted here again.

Retired Prof said...

Corky,

We're not really far apart on this. The difference is that , whereas you say theists "either need to prove it or stop claiming it," I say that by making their claim metaphysical, they have placed it outside the realm of the kind of objective proof that would satisfy you or me.

The fact that I can't prove the hypotheses "There is an eye in the back of Retired Prof's head" and "There is an anteater in the swamp" can't show they are false. What can show they are false is a thorough examination of the locations in question that demonstrates that no such things can be detected there. The hypothesis "There is an undetectable sentient being keeping track of your behavior" simply cannot be falsified in the same way, on account of the proviso "undetectable." That adjective is what aborts any chance of validation by reference to material reality.

By the way, the fact that creationists miss this important principle explains why their quest to validate theism by reference to material evidence is so misguided.

Like you, I do not seriously entertain the possibility that gods exist. Unlike you, I do not call for theists to stop making the claim. It seems to console them, and it helps to mitigate some of the harm they might perpetrate in the absence of restraint.

I do think theists must be prevented from politically imposing the requirements and prohibitions they say their gods require on unbelievers, or on believers who accept different requirements and prohibitions.

In my post I was sharing how I have attained relative equanimity in the wake of my Ambassador College experience; the evidence that I have a sore spot that has not healed yet is that my sphincter still puckers when I see any strong expression of unwavering belief. Please feel free to go on making such expressions, though, and to go on challenging theists to offer proof of their assertions. I doubt that you or I will ever persuade them that what they offer as proof is inadequate, but we may clarify the thinking of their potential converts--and not trivially, our own.

Anonymous said...

"Overall, I just do not see adequate evidence in the fossil record to convince me that evolution actually happened."

Neotherm, again, what is it specifically that you disagree with in the fossil record??




Paul Ray