Posts tagged ‘common descent’

March 9th, 2014

A world-famous chemist claims there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution

by Max Andrews

Original source: Uncommon Descent

Professor James M. Tour is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world. He is famous for his work on nanocars (pictured [below], courtesy of Wikipedia), nanoelectronics, graphene nanostructures, carbon nanovectors in medicine, and green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Computer Science, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Rice University. He has authored or co-authored 489 scientific publications and his name is on 36 patents. Although he does not regard himself as an Intelligent Design theorist, Professor Tour, along with over 700 other scientists, took the courageous step back in 2001 of signing the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, which read: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

June 29th, 2012

Neo-Darwinism

by Max Andrews

Evolution has many meanings.

  • Change over time
    • Evolution of the cosmos
    • Evolution of living things
    • Evolution of culture, technology, etc.
  • Changes within existing species
    • Morphological (anatomical)
    • Genetic (change in gene frequencies)
  • Common ancestry
    • Within a species
    • Descent of all species from a common ancestor
  • Darwinian evolution

Darwinism: Descent with modification through unguided processes

  • Descent:  “I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long ago.”
  • Modification:  “The preservation of favorable individual differences of variations, and the destruction of those which are injurious (natural selection).”
  • Unguided processes:  “There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. So I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of chance.”
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October 4th, 2011

An Objection to Intelligent Design I’ve Never Heard

by Max Andrews

I was in a tweebate (tweet debate) with another person [whom shall remain anonymous] over a previous post of mine where I claimed that Ken Miller’s argument against irreducible complexity was a bad argument (I really don’t like Twitter debates/conversations either).  This person went on about how Miller’s argument convinced Judge Jones and my position was that it’s actually quite embarrassing that the argument would convince anyone (see my post for the context).  Then he claimed the type three secretory system is an objection to irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, which prompted me to claim that it may indeed be IC itself and there are arguments that the flagellum may have come first.  Anyways, those aren’t what interests me.  The argument that I had never heard before was:

ID claims are anything but modest.  Incapacity to imagine other explanations of our beginnings is not evidence of ID. Non sequitur.

Let me be clear, I have never claimed anywhere at any time… ever… that one should be a proponent of intelligent design because of an incapacity to imagine other explanations.  So first of all, this argument belongs in a cornfield scaring away the crows.  Secondly, this is an utterly blatant attack on my imagination! I’ve got a great imagination! (Okay, the second point isn’t really a part of my argument.) It’s true, if anyone did make an argument for ID based on a lack of imagination it would be a non sequitur since one’s capacity to imagine something has nothing to do with the truth claim (as long as the claim is sound/rational, I cannot imagine the actualization of a contradiction).  I’m fairly confident anyone familiar with intelligent design and the state of the evolution controversy would never make an argument for intelligent design like this.  In fact, no one should ever make such an argument for ID like this.

I’ve explained before in my post on God and Darwinism, the reasons why I’m not a Darwinist are for two reasons: 1) the origin of information must be mind and 2) there is objective teleology in the world and primarily human beings.  I do believe the argument from irreducible complexity is a good argument for ID but I’m not going to die on that hill.  I think intelligent causation is a legitimate scientific hypothesis and explanation.  However, there are certain philosophical truths that press the argument.  I could care less if man evolved from a common ancestor but this evolution could not have occurred without a mind acting on the origin of the information in DNA and I believe man [evolves] with an end goal in mind.  That’s why I reject Darwinism.

June 21st, 2011

Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution? Not So Fast Huffington Post…

by Max Andrews

Recently, an article was published in the Religion section of the popular online news agency The Huffington Post.  I don’t know much about the author, Jonathan Dudley, but according to him he has graduated from seminary and is currently studying to be a medical scientist.  That’s excellent!  However, I’m not too convinced that his article is all too accurate.  In fact, it’s wrong.

I don’t want to push off the article all together because there are certainly many good points made.  For instance,

In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.

These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”

My quarrel with Dudley’s article is that his logic seems to be a bit off.  If by “requiring” acceptance of evolution for the Christian he means that it necessarily entails the acceptance of evolution then he has missed the gospel message.  There’s a difference between having sound Christian theology and philosophy and what it means to have Christian faith.  Here’s the logic.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the acceptance of evolution.

This doesn’t make sense at all.  He also equates this as orthodoxy!  Here are a few examples of what having Christian faith necessarily entails.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief in the existence of God.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief that Jesus was fully human and fully God and died as a propitiation for your sin.

These are examples of the gospel message, what it means to be a Christian.  Consider one’s theology as a web.  In the center of the web is the gospel message.  The next ring is orthodoxy, the acceptance of the inerrancy of Scripture, the second coming of Christ, the existence of a hell, etc.  Then there are peripheral manners and doctrines such as how sign gifts function today, how ordinances and sacraments are to be observed, etc.  One’s science, in this case, how one views evolution, is peripheral to being a Christian.  I agree with Dudley, a Christian should have sound theology and philosophy, which will shape how one applies theory in approaching the scientific data.  However, the scientific aspect of theology and philosophy is not the gospel message and it is not a manner of orthodoxy.  Dudley then proceeds to list several examples of creationism inability to account for specific scientific data, which I am not going to comment on (my credentials are in philosophy and theology).  However, I’d encourage him to be aware of one hand clapping.

I myself am not a creationist.  I believe [this] universe is about 13.7 billion years old.  I do advocate intelligent design, which is completely compatible with common descent evolution.  My only objection is with Darwinian evolution.  I appreciate what Dudley has attempted to do.  He has attempted to present Christianity in the light of responsible intellectual existence.  I hope he continues in doing so; however, he must do so by properly making the distinction between what requires Christian faith and applying sound theology and philosophy to science.

June 4th, 2011

God and Darwinism

by Max Andrews

I have two primary objections to Darwinism.  My first objection is that the best [and only] known source of information is mind (a positive case) and nature’s inability to sufficiently account for the origin of information (a negative case).  My second objection is that everything, particularly humans, has a purpose and chance voids any initial intention and final intention.  My focus here will be Darwinism within a theistic context.  However, before I continue I would like to clarify one point.  I’m not referring to evolution being change over time, which I agree with, or evolution being common descent, which I don’t hold to but I’m open to.  These two forms of evolution are completely compatible with intelligent design.  By Darwinism I mean that natural selection/mutation is the mechanism capable of creating new life forms.

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

Initial intent is something that allows for design to be a legitimate inference by material or efficient causation (i.e. what it’s made of or what produced it respectively).  This would include design being inferred by the origin of information within a cell, limits on population genetics, irreducible complexity, or epigenetic information and higher information processing in the cell [and an extrapolation of causes].  Theistic Darwinists would deny these as any purposeful acts or intentions by God because it’s an implicit contradiction to Darwinism by definition.  Let’s consider final intention. Final causation answers the question, “For what purpose was this caused?”  If the theistic Darwinist wants to maintain that humans have purpose then it’s only at best secondarily and a reaction of God’s [to give purpose to humans] in light of chance’s bringing about of humans.  Consider these quotes.

An evolutionary universe is theologically understood as a creation allowed to make itself. -John Polkinghorne

Not even God could know… with certainty that human life would come to be. -George Coyne

Mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained… we are here… as an after-thought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. -Ken Miller

It seems that once chance and nature bring about the existence of humans only then can God predicate any purpose.  My problem with that is how can this really be final causation?  How can there be final causation without material and efficient causes?  If God set up the universe’s initial conditions to bring about the elements and conditions needed for the evolution of life to take place then that is still design.  My favorite theistic Darwinist quote is Francis Collins’ when he says,

Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.  Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective… this would appear a random and undirected process.

How is this not intelligent design?  Even if ID proponents concede our ability to infer design by material and efficient causes that doesn’t mean Darwinism would then be true because God, as Collins points out, could be intimately involved in the creation of all species.

Digressing back to final causation, I suppose that God could have purpose for the universe by his initiative act of creation.  This is categorically broad and the could not be any particular or individual purpose for humans since they are mere happenstance in the broader purpose of the universe.  The universe’s purpose would be no different had humans [or anything] not existed.  The purpose of a rock and human or equivalent.  Each are accidental properties of the universe and thus, couldn’t really have any final causation predicated to accidental properties.  (Posterior to God’s endowment of the Imago Dei on humans they may possess a greater purpose than rocks; however, prior to that endowment, they are still accidental properties and categorically equivalent.)  The best inference would be that matter and energy exist for God’s purpose.  That is as categorically defined as we can get.  Any forms of the matter and energy are accidental properties, they were not originally intended. If God initially intended for the initial conditions of the universe to bring about any form is design.

This is my philosophical hurdle to Darwinism.  Humans are accidental properties of the universe and my best guess to answer the question, “Why does anything exist” would be to speculate that God loves and enjoys matter and energy as broad as that is.  The forms and byproducts of matter and energy were not originally intended because if they were, that would have been design.  Perhaps someone can work this one out for me.

February 12th, 2011

The Discovery Institute’s Seminar on Intelligent Design

by Max Andrews

I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design (Social Science) in 2010.  My thoughts and comments will be general since we were asked not release specifics concerning information being shared (some of it was yet-to-be published and I don’t know if it has been published yet so I’ll remain silent) and I do not want to “out” any other attendees in their academic endeavors.  Once you’re labeled as an ID proponent your academic career is potentially slowed down or halted.  I’ve already outed myself and I’m pretty vocal about my advocacy of design (I’m a philosopher so it’s not as academically persecuted).

I have no negative comments concerning the DI’s seminar.  In fact, I have more respect for the institute and fellows.  There were two concurrent seminars (natural and social sciences) that interacted with each other on a regular basis and combined on many occasions.  I participated in the social science seminar and being philosophy graduate student I’m not as adept in biology, chemistry, and physics as many others are.  I certainly received a welcoming abundance of science in presentations, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Some of the lecturers included Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Doug Axe, Jay Richards, Jonathan Wells, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Bruce Gordon, Jonathan Witt, John West, and Casey Luskin.

Lecture topics included:

  1. The role and origin of information in DNA
  2. History of intelligent design
  3. The scientific basis of intelligent design
  4. Science and education policy
  5. Science and education law
  6. Evolution and academic freedom
  7. The media and evolution
  8. The Privileged Planet
  9. Neo-Darwinism
  10. Population genetics
  11. Natural theology in cosmology
  12. The multiverse
  13. Obstacles to unguided evolution
  14. Junk DNA
  15. Biological information and development
  16. The Edge of Evolution
  17. The Social Darwinian Evolution
  18. Theistic evolution
  19. ID and the origins of modern science
  20. The role of genius, beauty, and the aesthetics in design
  21. The metaphysical implications of ID

The schedule is demanding since it requires to fit so much material into a time span just over a week-long.  You’ll interact with the scholars on a one-on-one basis and even enjoy meals together.  They’re not distanced like some professors at the university may be like since there’s only about thirty participants.  I still keep in touch with many of the other participants and have made great friendships.  What’s beautiful about the seminar is that not everyone believes the same thing.  Every participant’s credentials were different ranging from philosophy, theology, law, journalism, biology, medicine, biochemistry, and nuclear physics with only a couple of undergraduates, mostly graduates, and a couple Ph.D.’s.  Religious affiliation was irrelevant, views on evolution and origins vary, and friendly/fruitful debate sparked throughout the seminar.  The DI accepted participants from around the world:  Africa, Norway, Scotland, Wales, California, Texas, and the East Coast.

I left Seattle with 59 pages of notes on my computer.  I’ve referred to my notes on several occasions and have gained valuable and beneficial knowledge.  They provided nearly two-dozen books for me to read in preparation and for studying while there (and of course post-seminar studies).  I spent a total of $50 on my ten day endeavor and that was only for a snack in the airport, an over weight suit case, and another snack at a 7-11 down the street from the campus.  I highly recommend the seminar to anyone who is friendly and open to the ID hypothesis.  I’m doing my graduate research on the multiverse as it pertains to the fine-tuning argument and this seminar has certainly been a valuable asset for me.  Thank you Discovery Institute for sharing this knowledge and granting me the opportunity to briefly study under these scholars.