News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on May 28, 2010 in News

Arizona Atheist attempts a one-post takedown of Bill Craig’s Five Arguments for God.

Fashion: an entire industry, innovative and profitable without any copyright protections. Actually, there are lots of copyright-less industries (food, furniture, cars, hair styles, jokes), and their gross sales are way, way higher than the gross sales of heavily copyrighted industries like books, music, and film.

The discussion on ‘red state’ and ‘blue state’ models of marriage on the new episode of Reasonable Doubts is excellent and very true. One of the few things I miss about being one of the young guys in church is how hard the lovely young Christian girls competed for us.

Missionaries of Hate: The Christian crusade against gays in Uganda (documentary).

Ross and Phoebe of Friends argue about evolution.

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Justfinethanks May 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Re: Friends Clip

In fairness to Ross, he didn’t really “cave.” It’s actually accurate to say that there is a “teeny tiny” possibility that evolution is false. In fact, a recently published test of common descent allows us to put a figure on just how “teeny tiny” that possibility is: 1 in 10 to the 2,680th power.

  (Quote)

Arizona Atheist May 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Luke,

Thanks for posting a link to my review. If you’ve had a chance to read it yet I hope you enjoyed it.

  (Quote)

TK May 29, 2010 at 1:01 am

To be fair, Justfinethanks, the study assumes that only naturalistic (evolutionary) processes are possible. We still have no idea what the probability of such a configuration arising by intelligent design is (although, if we take the sum total of all genomes and other data, that probability arguably becomes vanishingly low).

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks May 29, 2010 at 7:52 am

To be fair, Justfinethanks, the study assumes that only naturalistic (evolutionary) processes are possible.

Not really. It closely examined proteins that are common to most organisms and used Bayseian reasoning to determine what the probability of these proteins arising via a common origin and one arising via multiple, independent origins. And a common origin is overwhelmingly more probable.

We still have no idea what the probability of such a configuration arising by intelligent design is

That’s true, but only because there’s not really a meaningful way to predict how a designer will design, which essentially renders it a useless hypothesis in science. Besides, the scope of the study was different. It didn’t test design vs. not designed, it tested common descent vs. independent descent.

For a really cool exchange between Douglas Theobald, the author of the study, and Creationist Cornelius Hunter (who, by virtue of being a member of the Biola faculty, can not profess acceptance of evolution on pain of unemployment), check out this thread on Hunter’s blog.

Money quote from Dr Theobald :

Evidence for hypothesis A relative to another hypothesis B necessarily means that there is evidence for hypothesis A. All we have is relative evidence — all evidence is relative to other competing hypotheses. Because that is all we have, when we say “there is evidence for hypothesis A” we can only mean that “there is evidence for hypothesis A versus some other hypothesis B”. Again, this is the standard model selection, likelihoodist, and Bayesian statistical interpretation of evidence. And it is a view I wholly subscribe to.

Contrary to your assertions, I don’t think you are “technically correct” — I think your claim is absurd.

Let’s look again at what you wrote above in your blog post:

“What you have is very strong evidence that the hypothesis beats out the other hypotheses, period. You do not have very strong evidence for the hypothesis, as you are claiming.”

I honestly have no idea what you mean. You agree that there is very strong evidence that universal common ancestry beats out all other competing hypotheses. Yet you claim that’s not strong evidence for universal common ancestry. That makes no sense. No one here but you understands what you mean — and nobody is rushing to your defense on this esoteric point.

  (Quote)

Lorkas May 29, 2010 at 7:57 am

“Not really. It closely examined proteins that are common to most organisms and used Bayseian reasoning to determine what the probability of these proteins arising via a common origin and one arising via multiple, independent origins. And a common origin is overwhelmingly more probable.”

Yes, but the paper did not compare a naturalistic common origin to multiple magical origins, so what TK said is true.

There’s no way, in this paper or otherwise, to falsify the proposition “It was all magicked that way”, which is one of the most common scientific criticisms of creationism. We can’t point out it’s unfalsifiability in one breath and then declare it falsified in the next.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks May 29, 2010 at 8:16 am

Yes, but the paper did not compare a naturalistic common origin to multiple magical origins, so what TK said is true.

“Multiple origins” doesn’t mean “magical.” In fact, before the discovery of the universal genetic code, some scientists thought it possible that life had multiple origins. Darwin himself entertained the idea in his poetic ending to the Origin when he thought that all of life may have come from “a few forms or into one.”

There’s no way, in this paper or otherwise, to falsify the proposition “It was all magicked that way”, which is one of the most common scientific criticisms of creationism.

On that point, I certainly agree. It doesn’t rule out the “deceitful designer” hypothesis, and there would be nothing logically contradictory about it, so you can’t claim that this paper (or anything at all) falsifies creationism. And as you point out, that is one of the major reasons why creationism is not science.

It doesn’t really give us scientific reasons to believe whether or not creationism is true, and I never claimed as much. That is course an impossible task, because creationism falls outside of meaningful scientific inquiry.

However, what it does do is give us excellent scientific reasons to think that a central claim of evolutionary theory, universal common descent, is in fact the accurate view to hold. (Even if, as Ross correctly admitted, there is a “teeny tiny” chance it’s false.)

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks May 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

I should also note that saying “there’s a chance evolution is false” doesn’t mean the same as saying “there’s a chance creationism/intelligent design is true.” That’s the way that IDCs want to frame the debate (it’s either one or the other!), and people who accept evolution shouldn’t cave into that simple-minded reasoning.

If the Precambrian rabbit was found, there still wouldn’t be any good reasons to believe in intelligent design, only to believe that evolution is false.

  (Quote)

other eric May 29, 2010 at 9:16 am

luke,
you point to food as a copyright-less industry, but the destructive and oppressive use of patents in this industry, by the likes of Monsanto and others, has been well documented in articles and films such as ‘Food, Inc.’ and ‘The Future of Food.’
also, the products of most of the industries you mention – fashion, food, furniture, hair styles – cannot be effortlessly and near-infinitely copied and distributed digitally, as books, movies and music can.

i support your questioning of the need for and legitimacy of our overbearing intellectual property laws, but this argument or implication seems silly and doesn’t have much weight to it.

  (Quote)

al friedlander May 29, 2010 at 9:25 am

“I should also note that saying “there’s a chance evolution is false” doesn’t mean the same as saying “there’s a chance creationism/intelligent design is true.” That’s the way that IDCs want to frame the debate (it’s either one or the other!), and people who accept evolution shouldn’t cave into that simple-minded reasoning.”

I agree with your logic entirely. However, I just want to point out, that your opponents might simply state that it -increases the likelihood- of creationism being true, since evolution is many times used as an anti-religious bulwark.

  (Quote)

Lee A. P. May 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

You mentioned “jokes” as an area without any copyright protections. Marc Maron’s FANTASTIC comedy podcast “WTF” takes on one of the most notorious joke thieves in recent memory, Carlos Mencia. (and a few episodes ago he talked to Robin Williams about joke thievery as well.)

Fascinating and highly recommended:

http://wtfpod.libsyn.com/

Also here is my favorite religiously themed standup clip from Marc Maron:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up0IP9fQu9Q

  (Quote)

Lee A. P. May 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

Luke, you should start a post with collections of youtube stand up material that takes on religion.

Here is Joe Rogan on Noah’s Ark:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF9Xn5m2OGg

  (Quote)

lukeprog May 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

other eric,

Yeah, so by ‘food’ I was referring to the end product. Recipes can’t be copyrighted, because they are a set of instructions.

  (Quote)

Lorkas May 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

“Multiple origins” doesn’t mean “magical.” In fact, before the discovery of the universal genetic code, some scientists thought it possible that life had multiple origins.

Right, but the thing you called TK on is that he stated, correctly, that the study was only examining naturalistic mechanisms, not disproving creationism. You were wrong about that, but it sounds like you’ve clarified your position since then, and perhaps just misspoke before.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks May 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Right, but the thing you called TK on is that he stated, correctly, that the study was only examining naturalistic mechanisms, not disproving creationism. You were wrong about that.

???

Please read my first post again, the one that TK was referencing. Where do I say it disproved creationism? Where did I even mention creationism?

To quote myself:

It’s actually accurate to say that there is a “teeny tiny” possibility that evolution is false.

Evolution (specifically common descent)being false in no way equals creationism being true. I would like to submit I was wrong about nothing, and the only error that was made was by people who seemed to think that in discussing the possibility that common descent was false, I was simultaneously entertaining the idea that Intelligent Design was true or probable.

It also should be noted that while evolution vs. creationism are not actually competing hypotheses, by virtue of one not being scientific, common descent vs. independent descent can indeed be treated as competitors (and they were treated as such in Theobald’s study). It just so happens that one is empirically supported while the other is not.

  (Quote)

Mazen Abdallah May 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I resent that they’re called ‘Bill Craig’s’ 5 arguments for God. They aren’t his. The kalam came about in the Middle Ages, as did most design and ontological arguments. Arguably, Apologetics hasn’t changed since the days of Augustine (whiny little born again idiot).

  (Quote)

Jeff H May 29, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Hmm…I’m not impressed with this refutation of “takedown” of Craig’s arguments. Certainly it was a good attempt, and he does bring up some good points. Unfortunately, most of the things he says have clearly been heard, and in most cases even addressed, by Craig. Someone trying to refute Craig’s arguments should at least try and make sure to look to see if he’s already cut you off before you’ve even started (though I do recognize that he’s fairly prolific with his writing and debates…which makes it tough.)

I think anything presenting itself as a “refutation” of Craig is going to need to be a lot more philosophically rigorous than that. Nevertheless, it was a good attempt.

  (Quote)

Jeff H May 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm

On a related note: I’ve heard Craig argue in the past that the multiverse theory doesn’t help the atheist explain how the universe came into being, because it only pushes it back one step to ask, “Where did the multiverse come from?” But doesn’t he undercut himself elsewhere when he points out that a good explanation need not have an explanation of the explanation? So if the question is, “What caused the universe?” does it matter if the multiverse is unexplained? It still answers the question that was asked. This seems to be a double standard on his part…

  (Quote)

Arizona Atheist May 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Thanks for sharing your opinions and would you happen to know where I can find these alleged rebuttals? I’ve seen Craig debate many times and I’ve read quite a bit of his stuff and I haven’t seen anything like what you’re describing (unless I just haven’t come across it yet).

Thanks.

  (Quote)

Lorkas May 30, 2010 at 9:10 am

I’m obviously talking about your second post, not your first. The response to TK. The one I quoted.

TK said that the study doesn’t disprove ID, and you said “Not really”, and I was simply pointing out that he was right and you were wrong on that single issue. I have no disagreement with anything in your first post.

  (Quote)

Jeff H May 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Hi Jeff H,
Thanks for sharing your opinions and would you happen to know where I can find these alleged rebuttals? I’ve seen Craig debate many times and I’ve read quite a bit of his stuff and I haven’t seen anything like what you’re describing (unless I just haven’t come across it yet).
Thanks.

Well, most of what I read from Craig ends up being second or third-hand, from people quoting him, etc. But I’d assume much of it can be found in the more scholarly articles on his website. For instance, you say about the KCA, “After he argues for his conclusion (that the universe has a cause) he wants to convince the reader that the cause must have the attributes of his christian god.” However, in every debate I’ve heard, he always points out that the KCA does not prove the Christian God – he has an extra argument that he tacks on afterwards to try to get from “The universe has a cause” to “The cause is a timeless, spaceless being”. I don’t think the argument works, but it’s important to address it.

Similarly, below that you say, “Again, as I’ve said already, just because Craig can’t imagine an infinite universe doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simply arguing that it’s impossible without any proof is no argument.” But Craig has done a great deal of work addressing the idea of an actual infinite – to say that he argues it with no proof is simply wrong. Certainly, in the argument you’re quoting from, he doesn’t get into that detail, but he does provide an overview to say essentially that the arguments are out there and available. (One example where he addresses this in more detail is here.)

In response to the moral argument, you essentially bring up the problem of evil. But Craig has addressed that numerous times, primarily with the notion of Molinism. (See here and here for a couple discussions about molinism.)

The examples I give are just from his Q&A section. I’m sure he goes into greater detail in his articles as well. Of course, none of this is an endorsement of Craig’s arguments – I just think that it’s important to address the counter-arguments that he’s already made to your arguments.

  (Quote)

Arizona Atheist May 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Hi Jeff,

“Similarly, below that you say, “Again, as I’ve said already, just because Craig can’t imagine an infinite universe doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Simply arguing that it’s impossible without any proof is no argument.” But Craig has done a great deal of work addressing the idea of an actual infinite – to say that he argues it with no proof is simply wrong.”

I tried to explain my position in my review. What I mean by “no proof” is that he simply tries to use logic to argue (same as in the link you gave me with the baseball cards) that an infinite universe is impossible, but as I tried to show with examples in my review, just because something seems illogical or impossible does not make it false. The idea must be tested, and judging by the science it’s possible to have an eternal universe. Just because intuitively something seems unlikely, is not a good argument because logic is not always the most reliable guide. Just as it seemed “logical” that a divine hand must have created all the species on earth, evidence has proven otherwise. I hope I made myself clearer this time around.

“In response to the moral argument, you essentially bring up the problem of evil. But Craig has addressed that numerous times, primarily with the notion of Molinism. (See here and here for a couple discussions about molinism.)”

I wasn’t really trying to argue the problem of evil. I was trying to show that Craig’s attempted counter to the Euthyphro Dilemma by arguing that god’s nature is ‘all good’ is false. As I showed, the only evidence of god’s nature is the bible and nature itself (and even actions performed by believers can be a guide as well) and these things surely don’t point to a purely good god. Therefore, based on the evidence we have, god’s nature cannot possible be ‘all good’ and therefore Craig’s argument is defeated.

  (Quote)

Reginald Selkirk May 31, 2010 at 9:09 am

When Phoebe says that scientists were “wrong” to think that atoms were indivisible, and when she badgers Ross into acknowledging there is a teeny, tiny possibility that evolution is wrong, it brought this to mind:

The Relativity of Wrong
Isaac Asimov

My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment