Monday, December 21, 2009

EDE: Why Students Believe What They Believe

Marlowe Embree, in a guest post on Steve Martin's page, has uncovered some basic truths that most of us suspected were true all along but had no way of showing it:
It appears that, for most students, their conclusions about reality are not grounded in a well thought out theory of knowledge. What students believe about God, about evolution, and about the relationship between science and religion does not appear, for the most part, to be a product of independent thinking.
While Dr. Embree is cautious to state that this finding relates only to his sample and that it cannot be generalized to the general public, it tends to support every bit of anecdotal evidence that I have encountered. Most fundamentalist evangelicals that I know view the world from within the fundamentalist perspective and what does not accord with that view has to be subjugated to that view in some way. They claim that groups like the ICR and AIG have demonstrated that their view of the universe is correct, but when you blow the "science" out of the sky, their world view doesn't change. I have had a running argument with a particular reader, who, over the course of ten or so posts, has always said the same thing: "there are no transitional fossils." Despite the fact that I and other readers have provided him with many links to the evidence and asked him to explain why he does not accept the evidence, he has declined to do so. My guess is that he cannot, he just simply doesn't "believe" it.

Another example of this is Todd Wood, who agrees wholeheartedly that evolution is a perfectly good theory and that it explains much in the biological world. He just doesn't "believe" it. He has no justifiable reasons to reject it, he just does because it doesn't fit into his theological world view.

On the other side of the coin, in The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins wrote:
An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
There is nothing in evolutionary theory that explains away God, despite what Richard Dawkins might think. That is a theological construct that he is imposing on science. Science can neither support nor dispel the existence of God. It simply isn't capable of doing so.

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  1. Sigh ... I absolutely HATE the canard used by theist (and some atheists), "Science can neither support nor dispel the existence of God. It simply isn't capable of doing so." It's poppycock!

    Suppose the star Betelguese went supernova and that supernova becomes apparent on earth this Christmas Eve. We turn our telescopes to view the event and we see written from the debris of the explosion: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Man -- Love God" in perfect Times Roman font.

    That would certainly be evidence to support the existence of God. So at least on a theoretical basis science CAN come up with evidence to support God's existence. The fact that it doesn't says that God isn't providing us with evidence we can see. That could be due to God's oversight,intentional hiding or it, or his inability to provide it.

    That is what science tells us unequivocally about God.

    Now if you theists are willing to go out on a limb and ascribe attributes to God that suggest actions in the natural world: he is omnimax (omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent), he answers prayers, etc. Then science can say something about that too.

    Unfortunately science says that the evidence is strongly against any of those Gods. The only way you guys can save those concepts is to come up with extremely convoluted ad hoc poorly thought-out excuses for the evidence pointing against your idea (free-will arguments), or you just "cop out" ("God is ineffable and acts in ways we cannot understand"). You call these "sophisticated" philosophical arguments and chide atheists for not taking them seriously.


    Darwin's Beagle

  2. From a sociological perspective you are correct. However, should such an event take place, the first thing that a scientist would do is try to formulate a hypothesis as to how the letters formed from the debris in terms of their trajectories, prevailing gravitational effects and so on. The hypothesis "God did it," isn't testable. It might be true, but it isn't testable. This is what I find to be unscientific about the modern ID movement. They resort to a "God did it" response, which precludes future research. The best example is the blood cascade that Michael Behe said was irreducible, therefore God made it that way. It turned out to be very reducible. It is a bit like the universe tweaking post hoc argument. It sure looks designed. But that is all we can say.

    We might view the Betelgeuse supernova in the heavens, bow down and worship God in awe, but the scientist in us will then ask "how did that happen, exactly?"

  3. Jim,

    The fossil record provides extremely poor evidence for evolution.

    The number of transitional fossils should actually be much greater than fossils that can be recognized by modern day animals. We only have a handful of these transitional fossils when we should have millions.

    The Smithsonian has over 50 million fossils and only a handful of transitional fossils.

    The problem is that morphology doesn't prove anything anyway. Since we don't have the biology of these organisms we don't know how alike or different they are.

    I personally have thrown out the ability of the fossil record to even be used to support Darwinian evolution because it is purely subjective and totally based on a creative imagination.

    I just wish you could think outside the box of your indoctrination.

    God Bless...

  4. It has been estimated that less than 1/10th of 1% of all animals that die get fossilized. Therefore, it is amazing that we actually have what we do have. And what we have gives us loads of informtion.

    About morphology: it certainly does tell us a lot. It is true that there can be sympatric speciation and that two very similar-looking species don't interbreed, but in every case, there is evidence that they were closely related at one time (horses and donkeys for example). While it is quite true that different ethnic groups of humans are primarily identified by their skin coloring and features, they are also identified by their skeletal morphology. So much so that, if given an unidentified skull, it is pretty dang easy to figure out which major ethnic group it came from. That is the basis behind the landmark studies Cranial Variation in Man and Skull Shapes and the Map by W.W. Howells. When the different population groups were measured, they ended up exactly where they are. There were no surprises. That is how we know the modern-day Chinese are very recent migrants to the area. The prehistoric fossils that we pull out of the ground there don't look anything like them. The way we are able to identify the adaptations that separate Tiktaalik rosaea and previous forms like eusthenopteron is by a careful examination of the morphology of the head and neck. It is this way that we can tell that Tiktaalik moved its head from side to side, unlike any known fish and quite a bit like later tetrapods. I have spent over twenty years working on the human fossil record. There are forms in it that are so transitional that there are arguments about what to call them. Oh yes, morphology tells us a lot about what is going on.

    But lets turn it around. You write

    The number of transitional fossils should actually be much greater than fossils that can be recognized by modern day animals. We only have a handful of these transitional fossils when we should have millions.

    Aside from the fact that we have a great deal more than a handful of transitional fossil, say evolution didn't happen and the biological diversity can be explained by the creationist model. If that is the case, all we should find are fossilized "kinds." There shouldn't be ANY transitional fossils at all. There shouldn't be ANY indication that evolution happened. Yet that is exactly what we don't find. Creationists are fond of chanting the mantra "there are no transitional fossils" but the fact is that even Answers in Genesis is backing away from this claim. If you do a head count of all known genera, the number of fossilized transitional forms numbers in the thousands. But even ONE is enough to create a problem for the YEC model.

    I have not been indoctrinated. I have looked at the fossils, themselves.

  5. Two years ago, a fellow church member was quite distressed when he learned that I was not a YEC. He assured me that it wasn't a salvation issue, but he just could not understand how any truly professing Christian could hold any other view. I showed him some of the things I had been reading and he derided them all. Finally, he told me that his belief is a 'gut feeling' and that he has to go with his gut.

    Oh, and that it IS a salvation issue after all.

  6. That is certainly what Ken Ham thinks. For many, it is simply a faith issue. They try to cloak it in a science context but when you tell them the science is junk, they cling to it anyway like, as Alan Heyward put it, "grim death."

  7. Yes, because if the Bible isn't true, then we might as well throw it all out and just stay home on Sundays. (This is what that church friend said to me.)