• About last night

    We were halfway into the commute between UCO and OSU last night when we got the call that there would, after all, be a live stream of the planned dialogue between representatives of Oklahoma Atheists and representatives of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. This lead to some hasty mobile-blogging on the part of my colleague and fellow traveler Chas Stewart, who announced the live stream here with less than half an hour until go time. For those that asked, there will be a recording released to YouTube in the coming days, probably here. Before then, I just wanted to get a few of my thoughts down while the event is fresh in my mind.

    Firstly, several audience members suggested that whenever apologists and atheists share a stage together, people expect to see sparks fly, and they can be a bit let down when a confrontational dynamic fails to emerge. Even though the participants were careful to frame the event as a dialogue rather than a debate, many in the audience were eagerly anticipating the moment when one side would start affirming what the other side denied. I’m unsure how best to deal with this problem, but it is not about to go away given our increasingly polarized and balkanized media landscape.

    Secondly, don’t wear an OU cap to OSU. We took all kinds of shit for that, got segregated into the cheap seats, and some guy in a white Saturn nearly ran us down while shouting redneck epithets. Lesson learned.

    Finally, I noticed during the Q&A that there is a class of questions which have the property of being very easy to answer tersely (and at least seemingly satisfyingly) on the premises of Christianity but much more difficult to answer on the worldview of Humanism, because the latter view offers us a wealth of open possibilities while the former does not. Here are a few representative examples.

    Q: What does it mean to be human?

    Humanist: There is no single thing that sets us apart from the other great apes. An complex array of biological and cultural adaptations have gradually distinguished us from our mammalian forebears over time.

    Christian: Humans are uniquely created in the image of God.

    Q: How do you find purpose in life?

    Humanist: There is no set purpose in life, it is up to each of us to choose which purposes we should pursue in accordance with our own values.

    Christian: The purpose of life is to love and serve God.

    Q: Why there is something rather than nothing?

    Humanist: The question raises a number of difficult questions in quantum physics and cosmology, and the answers (if these should ultimately prove answerable) lie beyond our current scientific understanding.

    Christian: God wills it thus.

    Now, if I really wanted to provide reasonably thorough naturalistic answers to these three questions, I would probably recommend this book, this book, and this book, respectively, for a total of around 1,100 pages of interesting and often challenging reading. The Christian, meanwhile, may (perhaps a bit smugly, perhaps in a cultured English accent) assure us that the answers are always to be found by discerning the will of God. While this seems to us little more than an overpriced epistemic bridge to nowhere, it goes over really well with the crowd. That crowd, at least.

    Of course, not every question that unbelievers get from believers is going to suffer from this asymmetry in terms of how richly complex the answer is on each side. For example, one woman last night asked how she can reconcile her studies in the sciences with her faith in divine creation, and that is one question which never bothered me once I grew out of faith, even though I’d put a decent amount of effort into it before that. No doubt there are other questions like this one, which trouble only believers, but relatively few of them were voiced by the audience.

    Ok, so this post went on a bit longer than planned, so I’ll close with a few questions. Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a theologically loaded question like those listed above? What was it? What have you found is the best way to respond?

    Category: AtheismCurrent Events

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.

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    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Maybe not theologically, but creationists always use loaded questions. When I can, the best response to explain why their question is meaningless, and then explain what they should have asked, why, and the answer.

      • What would be a good example of that?

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        For example: If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By Chance?

        This assumes two possibilities. That’s not the case. Evolution is neither god nor chance. So, you have to explain why it’s wrong, then explain why science can answer the question.

      • We don’t know how the first complex unicelluar life originated.

        I’m guessing that this answer does not generally satisfy.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        True, but there’s been a ton of research on the subject and so far, there’s no chemical or physical issue with all the components developing without a designer of some kind.

      • Joe G

        And there isn’t any evidence that physics and chemistry can produce a living organism. Nature tends towards the simple, ie the line of least resistance. Just look at the Spiegelman Monster and AVIDA when given realistic parameters doesn’t do much of anything.

      • Joe G

        Natural selection is non-random only in the sense that not all organisms have the same probability of being eliminated. Out reproducing others in your population doesn’t do anything except that.

        Natural selection is eliminative. There isn’t any purpose to it. It does not plan for the future. And what drives natural selection are heritable random mutations- as in genetic accodents/ errors/ mistakes, ie undirected changes, along with fecundity, which is another crap-shoot..
        And if you read Mayr, quite a bit of chance is at play at all levels.

      • Joe G

        Smilodon- Evolution has nothing to do with how “the first single-celled organism originate[d]”. And Dawkins says it was entirely by chance. Seriously, what else is there in the absence of design and Creation?

      • Joe G

        Smilodon, you deny that evolution posits blind and undirected chemical processes even after references to support that have been provided.

      • I don’t deny it. What is your alternative hypothesis?

      • Joe G

        An alternate hypothesis to something that can’t even produce a testable hypothesis? Well Intelligent Design can at least be tested. So I will stick with that.

      • Okay so the competing hypotheses are:

        1) Blind undirected chemical processes
        2) Intelligent design

        How do you propose to test these?

      • Joe G

        Damion, You have to figure out how to test 1. As for 2:

        ID is based on three premises and the inference that follows (DeWolf et al., Darwinism, Design and Public Education, pg. 92):

        1) High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

        2) Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

        3) Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

        4) Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

        Those are the core concepts of ID and to falsify Intelligent Design all one has to do is demonstrate that natural selection can produce irreducibly complex biological systems.

        As Dr Behe said:

        Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

        In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.(1)

        How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.

        Let’s turn the tables and ask, how could one falsify the claim that, say, the bacterial flagellum was produced by Darwinian processes?

        The criteria for inferring design in biology is, as Michael J. Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Leheigh University, puts it in his book Darwin ‘ s Black Box: “Our ability to be confident of the design of the cilium or intracellular transport rests on the same principles to be confident of the design of anything: the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components.” That is the positive case. For example:

        As I posted in an earlier blog:

        The ATP Synthase is a system that consists of two subsystems-> one for the flow of protons down an electrochemical gradient from the exterior to the interior and the other (a rotary engine) that generates ATP from ADP using the energy liberated by proton flow. These two processes are totally unrelated from a purely physiochemical perspective*- meaning there isn’t any general principle of physics nor chemistry by which these two processes have anything to do with each other. Yet here they are.

        How is this evidence for Intelligent Design? Cause and effect relationships as in designers often take two totally unrelated systems and intergrate them into one. The ordering of separate subsystems to produce a specific effect that neither can do alone. And those subsystems are composed of the ordering of separate components to achieve a specified function.

        ATP synthase is not reducible to chance and necessity and also meets the criteria of design.ETA-

        * Emergent collective properties, networks, and information in biology, page 23:

        In the same vein, ATP synthesis in mitochondria can be conceived of and explained only because there is a coupling between ATP-synthase, the enzyme responsible for ATP synthesis, and the electrochemical potential. Hence ATP synthesis emerges out of this coupling. The activity of ATP-synthase alone could have in no way explained ATP synthesis. It is the merit of Mitchell, to have shown that it is precisely the interaction between two different physico-chemical events that generates this novel remarkable property.

      • High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

        Let me stop you right there. Suppose I send you three data streams, one from a DNA molecule, one from a random number generator, and one from a digitally encoded library of my choosing. Can you calculate the information content (or specified complexity) of each?

        If not, why should I place any confidence in your claim that this is something we can quantify?

      • Joe G

        Let me stop you right there. Science isn’t a parlor game and Shannon gave us the methodology for measuring information. And yes that can be applied to any data stream. As for specified complexity, that is just Shannon information with a function/ meaning.

        That said any sequence of numbers, even from a RNG, would be designed, ie a sign of Intelligent Design. Any data stream would also be a sign of design- mother nature hasn’t figured out how to do data streams yet. DNA doesn’t exist in a vacuum and there is a methodology for calculating biologically functional information.

        So I don’t even understand your point and there is still no way of testing blind watchmaker evolution.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Aarg, I can’t stand to let you pretend to get away with this.

        Shannon Information is a measure of the compressibility of a string of data. THAT’S ALL IT IS.

        OK, so specified complexity is added to Shannon information. What values are specified complexity in? How are they calculated? How are they added to Shannon information? Is it a single value, is it a matrix, is a set?

        Show us the specified complexity for anything. Go ahead. ANYTHING. You pick. Explain to us, in detail, how you arrived at that value. Such detail that anyone reading this, can perform the same process on anything of their choosing and get the same value that YOU would on that some thing.

        As for everything in your second paragraph. What you have just done is admit that everything is designed. Indeed, according to the claims in this paragraph NOTHING could EVER distinguish designed from non-designed because “any sequence of numbers, even from a RNG, would be designed”.

        Therefore, there’s no point in doing any of this, because no matter what you do, you will claim design. In which case, design is meaningless. It’s like saying that things are made of matter. Yes, it may be true, but it is useless to determine anything more about the thing. Almost by definition things are made of matter in our universe. If everything in our universe is also designed, then it’s a designation without meaning or value.

        Again, Joe, you continue to conflate blind with undirected. Mutations are undirected in the sense that they are mostly random. Research has shown that some organisms (including humans) can, under certain conditions, have extremely high mutation rates in specific parts of our genome… the immune system for example. You are also forgetting selection, which is not random. And my recent blog posts show that your common contention that selection is a removal process (which is true) can only reduce the genome (which is not true, because of the massive numbers of mutations that occur in populations).

        Of course, we’ve tried to explain this to you for at least four years now, all to no avail.

        I will not discuss that part with you. I’ve said it. Everyone at AtBC has said it. Dawkins has said it. You don’t listen. OK. Fine. No one cares what you think on the subject.

        But since you are such an expert on ID (inserting yourself into every conversation in order to promote ID), then answer all the questions I described in the first part. “I did it before” is not a valid response. A link to your blog is not a valid response (your one attempt there is to find the specified complexity of an aardvark by describing the word in the dictionary). No, I (and I think everyone else who isn’t familiar with your behavior and giving you the benefit of the doubt) are very interested in a ‘teaching moment here’. We really want to see these calculations happen. I know I’ve been asking for them for years.

        I’ve even offered a guest blog post to anyone who will do them. I know that several pro-ID people read my blog, especially you Joe. So I know you’ve seen that post. Here’s your chance.

        Step up and type out those calculations.

        OK, I’m done.

      • Joe G

        Pathetic. I said what Shannon did. And I did not say that specified information is added to Shannon.

        aardvark: a large burrowing nocturnal mammal (Orycteropus afer) of sub-Saharan Africa that has a long snout, extensible tongue, powerful claws, large ears, and heavy tail and feeds especially on termites and ants

        A simple character count reveals 202 characters which translates into 1010 bits of information/ specified complexity..

        Here is a formal way of measuring functional information: wrt biology.

        And no I didn’t admit that everything was deigned. Only a child would say that.

        I did not conflate blind with undirected. I have explained this to you many times. Natural selection is blind and mindless and the mutations are undirected. As I said you have serious issues.

        And I said how natural selection is non-random- it is non-random only because not every organism has the same probability of being eliminated. As for the research, well again you have no idea what ID says and you have no idea what Creation syas about mutations. You are proud of your willful ignorance wrt your opponets positions. Read “Not By Chance” by Dr Lee Spetner. It only came out in 1997.

        BTW I did NOT find the specified complexity of an aardvark by describing the word in the dictionary. You are just very confused. It’s as if you are proud to be ignorant.

        And one more thing- picking on ID will not produce positive evodence for blind watchmaker evolution. And to date there isn’t any. Heck you have no idea what evolutionism even entails.So no one cares about what you offered IDists. You can’t even find support for blind watchmaker evolution. And that is all you need to put ID down.

        Come on Kevin, please show us the evidence that natural selction and drift can produce something of note. And don’t bring your strawmen to this fight.

        BTW until you get published what you say wrt biology is meaningless. I have supported what I say. OTOH you are your reference.

      • Joe G

        BTW Kevin, I knew what Shannon information was before you were born. I knew what evolutionism entailed before you were born. I have forgotten more about this than apparently you will ever learn although you do seem to be learning somethings after years of my pounding you with them. You finally figured out the 47 chromosome thing. And you finally figured out that whatever is good enough to survive gets through the NS filter. Both of those I have been saying for years. And both of those you have argued against.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Joe, you’ve been presented such information for 4 years now. It’s obvious that there is no such evidence that you will accept.

        As far as the rest, I note that you didn’t actually do anything. You counted letters in a definition. Congrats.

      • Joe G

        No, Kevin, no one has presented any evidence for natural selection doing something. You are sadly mistaken.

        As for the definition that fit YOUR challenge. It’s as if you think your dishonesty means something.

        Kevin sed:

        Show us the specified complexity for anything. Go ahead. ANYTHING. You pick.

        I picked a definition and Kevin had a hissy fit.

      • Joe G

        So Kevin gets his lies exposed and runs away, Typical, And he has the nerve to talk about my behavior.
        Yes Kevin I read your blog and I on my blog expose all of your lies, misconceptions, misrepresentations and strawmen.

      • Joe G

        Kevin sed:

        Shannon Information is a measure of the compressibility of a string of data. THAT’S ALL IT IS.

        BZZZZZ. Wrong answer. Kolmogorov complexity is about the compression of a a string. Shannon is about the set-up, transmission and reception of a string- and the removal of uncertainty.
        And Kevin got to up votes for that post. That tells you something about the intellect of the voters.

      • Which specific methodology for measuring information are you proposing we use?

        Do you have some additional methodology in mind that will allow us to quantify either function or meaning?

        It does not sound to me like you’ve nailed this stuff down yet, but maybe you are just holding back the details.

        What I am proposing in an empirical test, I’ll send you a few data streams, and you show me how you can quantify these things.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I’ve done that no less than 5 times to Joe, and any other ID proponent willing to take it up. So far, no one has even attempted it.

      • Joe G

        Kevin, you are a proven liar who can’t even understand that ID is not anti-evolution. Not only that you don’t even understand what evolutionism entails. You are nothing but a strawman erector. And the sad part is all you have to do is demonstrate that natural selection is a designer mimic and ID goes away. Attacking ID with your ignorance is never going to support evolutionism.

      • Joe G

        I said to use Shannon’s methodology. And function is observed. Meaning is observed.

        Also you needn’t worry about ID as if you could just support blind watchmaker evolution ID is dead.

        But anyway:

        Complex specified information is a specified subset of Shannon information. That means that complex specified information is Shannon information of a specified nature, ie with meaning and/ or function, and with a specified complexity.

        Shannon’s tells us that since there are 4 possible nucleotides, 4 = 2^2 = 2 bits of information per nucleotide. Also there are 64 different coding codons, 64 = 2^6 = 6 bits of information per amino acid, which,
        is the same as the three nucleotides it was translated from.

        Take that and for example a 100 amino acid long functioning protein- a protein that cannot tolerate any variation, which means it is tightly specified and just do the math 100 x 6 + 6 (stop) = 606 bits of specified information- minimum, to get that protein. That means CSI is present and design is strongly supported.

        Now if any sequence of those 100 amino acids can produce that protein then it isn’t specified. IOW if every possible combo produced the same resulting protein, I would say that would put a hurt on the design inference.

        The variational tolerance has to be figured in with the number of bits.

        from Kirk K.Durston, David K. Y. Chiu, David L. Abel, Jack T. Trevors, “Measuring the Functional sequence complexity of proteins,” Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Vol. 4:47 (2007):

        [N]either RSC [Random Sequence Complexity] nor OSC [Ordered Sequence Complexity], or any combination of the two, is sufficient to describe the functional complexity observed in living organisms, for neither includes the additional dimension of functionality, which is essential for life. FSC [Functional Sequence Complexity] includes the dimension of functionality.
        Szostak argued that neither Shannon’s original measure of uncertainty nor the measure of algorithmic complexity are sufficient. Shannon’s classical information theory does not consider the meaning, or function, of a message.
        Algorithmic complexity fails to account for the observation that “different molecular structures may be functionally equivalent.” For this reason, Szostak suggested that a new measure of information—functional information—is required.

        Here is a formal way of measuring functional

        Robert M. Hazen, Patrick L. Griffin, James M.
        Carothers, and Jack W. Szostak, “Functional information and the emergence of Biocomplexity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, Vol. 104:8574–8581 (May 15, 2007).
        And you still cannot provide a way to test blind watchmaker evolution. And that is very telling.

      • I’m still not seeing a computation for CSI. You’re just using traditional metrics from information theory and then saying that you can perceive function in a sort of holistic, qualitative, and seemingly subjective way.

        Is the function of the Sun to produce heat and light, or is it just a collection of atoms doing what atoms do? Does the configuration of atoms in the Sun provide evidence of CSI? This is a really simple example, so I expect that it should be easily answerable, if CSI is the sort of thing that can be readily measured.

        And you still cannot provide a way to test blind watchmaker evolution. And that is very telling.

        The hypothesis that evolution is blind might lead to a world in which the family tree of life clearly evidences common descent and most of the branches are pruned off by extinction events.

      • Joe G

        Damion, I referenced a peer-reviewed paper that tells you how to measure functional information wrt.biology.
        No, the sun doesn’t contain CSI and materialism can’t account for the sun. Ooops.
        Also you are ignoring irreducible complexity. That is something any scientist can test- and they have.

        The hypothesis that evolution is blind might lead to a world in which the family tree of life clearly evidences common descent and most of the branches are pruned off by extinction events

        Really? That is a load of something.

      • I have been ignoring irreducible complexity because it’s not a concept that I take very seriously. Mostly it is an inference from “we don’t understand how this happened yet” to “it must have been designed by unspecified persons for reasons unknown.” Very shaky, that.

        What is your best example of irreducible complexity in our species?

      • Joe G

        Scientists take irreducible complexity seriously Darwin said it would falsify his theory. And no, it isn’t as you said. IC can actually be tested.

        ATP synthase is IC, just as I said. Flagellums are IC. The ribosome is IC. The spliceosome is IC. And your position doesn’t have any way to test to see if accumulations of genetic accidents can produce them. And that doesn’t bother you which I find strange.

        Your position is nothing but luck and yet you aren’t skeptical of that. It’s as if you alleged skeptics don’t even know what it means to be a skeptic.

        Stonehenge- did we just give up trying to find a non-telic cause? I ask because it is nmuch more simple than a living organism yet nature can’t even produce it although nature can produce ricks and stones.

      • Are any macroscopic structures IC, or only cellular level structures? Seems a bit weird that IC would only exists on very small scales.

      • Joe G

        Macroscopic- neuro-muscular-skeleton system. Well just start with the nervous system. Vision systems and many more. Prokaryotes don’t have those. That is why the focus on the micro world. If blind watchmaker evolution can’t make it past prokaryotes then why discuss anything else?

      • You don’t seem willing to pick an argument and make it, Joe. You’re just shotgunning all sorts of unsupported claims.

        Since you’re all over the map, I’ll pick one for you. Which aspects of mammalian vision cannot be explained in terms of incremental changes from pre-mammalian forebears?

      • Joe G

        What? YOU keep asking me different questions. You had an issue with IC and asked what structures are IC. I answered. And ATP synthase was mentioned many comments ago, in the comment I bought up ID’s methodology. YOU can’t stick with one thing or you would have stuck with that. So please don’t act all high-n-mighty when you are the one doing it.

        Which aspects of mammalian vision cannot be explained in terms of incremental changes from pre-mammalian forebears?

        It’s incremntal changes due to happenstance mutations. Not any ole mutations will do. And that means most likely it took several specified mutations to get the job done.. And wrt blind watchmaker evolution there may not be enough time in the universe: waiting for two mutaions– I would bet it takes more than two specified mutations to create the mammalian system from pre-mammals. And blind watchmaker evolution can’t explain pre-mammals
        Blind watchmaker evolution is impotent. Deal with it.

      • My understanding of “irreducible complexity” is that structures which have the property of irreducible complexity cannot possibly be formed by incremental changes, no matter how much time is available, because “the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

        Now that you’ve introduced a time component, it seems perhaps I have misunderstood the argument as originally formulated.

        How would you state the basic argument?

      • Joe G

        The hypothesis that evolution is blind might lead to a world in which the family tree of life clearly evidences common descent and most of the branches are pruned off by extinction events.

        That is sad and unsupportable.
        BTW materialism can’t account for the sun. Ooops

      • Which parts of the Sun are difficult to account for in terms of reasonably well-understood physical processes?

      • Joe G

        Damion, materialism can’t account for those well-understood physical processes. Read Hawking- all he sez is the laws of nature “just are (the way they are)”. Materialism requires a multiverse scenario that can entertain every possible combination of laws and constants such that this verse would just emerge from the blind watchmaker’s flatulence. Sorry but that ain’t science.

      • I’m not sure why you think that the laws of physics are difficult to account for on materialism. Something has to be brute fact, after all.

        As to the multiverse hypothesis, I see no reason to assume that it is either probable or improbable, apriori. That said, the entire history of cosmology has been one of discovering that the world is far vaster than previously supposed.

      • Joe G

        Materialism can’t account for the laws of physics. Hawking explains why. Materialism relies solely on luck to explain those laws. That ain’t scientific.
        As for the sun and CSI, well CSI is for that which can be easily amendable to bits, like nulceotides, words, computer programs.

      • Materialism relies solely on luck to explain those laws. That ain’t scientific.

        Luck is concept that we humans invoke when things happen to go well for us. Cannot say I’ve seen it invoked in science, so I’m going to assume you are very obliquely invoking one of the various anthropic principles here.

        As for the sun and CSI, well CSI is for that which can be easily amendable to bits, like nulceotides, words, computer programs.

        Seems to me that anything can be represented in terms of bits.

        Can you come up with an example of something that can be represented as a string of bits but does not evidence CSI, in the sense that you understand CSI to be a detectable phenomenon?

      • Joe G

        Hawking just wrote a piece in which he gave away the store. One coincidence after another. read it for yourself. The strange part is Hawking doesn’t seem to realize that ours is the only solar system of its kind, that we know of.tems are very different.

        Seems to me that anything can be represented in terms of bits.

        Perhaps if you really tried hard enough. However for me there are other methods for detecting design. And the evidence points to our solar system and our place in it, was designed. See “The Privileged Planet”

        Can you come up with an example of something that can be represented as a string of bits but does not evidence CSI, in the sense that you understand CSI to be a detectable phenomenon?

        Allegedly anything less than 500 bits of specified information is not CSI. But now it seems to be that any specified information that has a probability of arising of 1 in 10^120. WRT biology a 5 nucleotide ribozyme does not have CSI.
        That said context is important. If we saw scribbles on a cave wall we would still infer design without the use of CSI.

      • I remain skeptical that you (or anyone really) can quantify CSI even when presented with a stream of digital data, but I want to be an open-minded skeptic so I made you a thread to show us how the process works:


        Hopefully with a narrower focus on that one topic we can make more progress.

      • Timothy Horton

        If you want a real laugh check out this. Joe G has a whole site dedicated to him, over 240 pages of messages detailing the wacky loony world of Creationist Joe Gallien.

        You can read about Joe G telling everyone he was an Iraqi war hero despite never being in the military. How he bragged about being a professional genetic algorithm coder doing top secret cryptographic work for the government. How he’s a research biologist with a full up lab in his basement. How he claimed the Giza Pyramid is really a giant antenna to contact space aliens. How he says all the scientific evidence supports Noah’s Flood and baraminology. How for a while he pretended to be a Muslim so he wouldn’t get called on his YEC stance. How many times he’s threatened to meet and beat up people then gave out a phony address in a parking lot as the place he can be found.

        He’s quite the piece of work our Joke G. Turns out he’s just a morbidly obese middle-aged guy with zero scientific training who runs his own small appliance repair business. But in his tiny Creationist mind….

      • Joe G

        Timmy Tantrum, aka the liar’s liar and the coward’s coward, still with nothing to offer

      • Timothy Horton

        LOL! But Chubs, I’m not the one who wrote those several thousand posts from a hundred different users over all those years documenting your amazing BSing and stupidity.

        Looking over that thread I really was LOLing remembering some of your “highlights”. Like the time you claimed ice wasn’t water. And the dozens of sock puppets you use – John Paul, ID Guy, Frisbee_kid, etc. so you can pat yourself on the back.

        Don’t ever change Chubs. You’re the best spokesman for ID Creationism EVAR!

      • Joe G

        Timmy Tantrum, aka the liar’s liar and the coward’s coward this is for you

      • Timothy and Joe,

        Probably rule 3 is applicable here:

      • Joe G

        Damion, Timmy is an evoTARD attack puppy. If you noticed he came here attacking me.
        Just sayin’

      • I need you and Tim to both stop with the name-calling. Please review the ground rules here: http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2012/10/03/welcome-part-iii/

      • Timothy Horton

        Hi Damion. You need to understand that Joe G is a well known ID-Creationist troll. He’s posted this same ridiculous unsupported IDiot crap on sites all over the web. He’s been banned from many and now generally hides at heavily censored ID-Creation only sites like UncommonlyDense.

        Watch now as Joe G comes back with a stream of lies and filthy vulgarity. it’s his answer to everyone who questions his IDiot Creationist claims.

      • Joe G

        Hi Timmy Tantrum. You have been banned from more sites than I have visited. Strange that I am the only one here who has proposed a methodology to test his position’s claims. Loser

      • Probably this is a good time to review the rules: http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2012/10/03/welcome-part-iii/

      • Trolls post incendiary material just for the lulz, because they feed on butthurt. Joe strikes me as more of a true believer, at least from what he says here.

    • Clayton Flesher

      You did a good job summarizing the difficulties of last night. What I found most interesting was the way that atheists and Christians reacted so differently to the same statement about meaning and what it is to be human.

    • Clayton Flesher

      Also, unlock your damn Twitter account so I can start retweeting you again.

    • Brenda Weber

      It did seem as if the conversation rarely strayed from the theist viewpoint, probably because the atheist viewpoint is more complex (and dare I say richer and more satisfying).

      As to the question of what makes life meaningful, the theist point of view is that divine intervention or sacrifice is what makes human life meaningful. We have to point out that from our viewpoint life does not require meaning. This is a point even thiests must agree with since they don’t seem to apply any significance on any other life being meaningful in that sense.

      We make life meaningful because our brains kinda force us to. Once our big ole brain stopped having to spend all it’s time thinking about where to get it’s next meal or if we had shelter, it started contemplating itself and it’s place in the universe. We give ourselves meaning simply because we have trouble accepting the fact that we are tiny specks; that we are insignificant in the face of the vastness that is space/time. The search for meaning is exactly what makes our lives meaningful.

      Theists make their lives meaningful by divine intervention and sacrifice, atheists do so by seeking meaning from what they can experience and effect.

      • I would argue that meaning (and purposiveness) only exists in minds, and so far as we can tell minds only run on brains. Any attempt to externalize meaning and purpose outside of observable minds (such as yours and mine) is going to require showing that immaterial minds are possible in theory and probable on the facts.

        I’ll have to review the video when it comes out, but I’d say that the atheist viewpoint came across at several places. It’s just a lot harder to convey, because the richness and complexity of the real world is a far cry from the theist claim that anything whatsoever may be readily explained by appeal to an immaterial mind mediating by means most mysterious.

    • We as humans LOVE certainty. As a scientist, I’m trained to tolerate not knowing and ambiguity, and so I’m cool with an answer like “we don’t know yet.” The vast majority of the population, though, bristles at such and considers it a cop-out and unsatisfying. Theistic answers fit so well into this natural tendency towards pat, simple answers (which may, indeed, tell us about the origins of religion!). So, when we have “humans are created in the image of God” versus “well, there are many schools of thought on that, and to understand one of the most prominent you’ll need to read several hundred pages by this non-mustachioed fellow or I’ll need to talk for the next 75 minutes” it’s not really a fair fight from a cognitive processing/psychological POV.

      • Exactly. Reality is complex and difficult and uncertain and people seem much to prefer simple, easy, and certain. This will keep the apologists in business for some time to come.

        Kudos to Clayton for saying “I don’t know” straight up a few times. The people who can thrive on uncertainty will be won over by that sort of frankness in the long run.

      • Joe G

        When it comes to biology and evolution we need to say “we don’t know” wrt just about everything. How did any bacterial flagellum evolve via natural selection and drift? “We don’t know” How did metazoans arise? We don’t know.
        So the question is why don’t we do that?

    • Joe G

      Q What does it mean to be human?

      IDist- it means that we can find out about ourselves and the universe

      Q- How do you find purpose in life?

      IDist- by studying nature it has been determined that one purpose is scientific discovery

      For example:

      “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.” “The Privileged Planet”
      With all of the factors required just to get a habitable planet for scientific discoverers, there’s just no question that we are here for a reason. And that’s not even considering the biological evidence.
      Q-Why is there something rather than nothing?
      IDist- can’t discover anything with nothing. But that isn’t even a question we can answer

    • Joe G

      Hi josh- what evidence shows that living organisms are produced by physics and chemistry. Please be specific. Thanks.

    • Joe G

      Kevin, you are a clueless twit. You have never, ever been accurate nor precise. I have explained ID. You just cover your eyes and ears and say “no it isn’t” I posted, in this thread what ID posits. Obviously you choked on it.

      Everything I have claimed about Kevin I can easily demonstrate- easily.

      • Timothy Horton

        LOL! Good old Joe Gallien, the dumbest Creationist on the web, bar none.

        Still thinks you can calculate the CSI of a cake by counting the letters in the recipe.

        Entertaining stupidity like Joe Gallien’s here is a rare and valuable gift. Enjoy it folks!

      • Joe G

        Great, Timmy Tantrum, aka the liar’s liar, just in time to save evolutionism- not.

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