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The portrait is Charles Darwin, age 31, in 1840

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Comment Wall


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Comment by Joseph P on February 15, 2015 at 6:30pm

I like the objection but I feel it only works up to a point. A creationist could (probably never would but...) say "Yes from my position everything is designed, luckily I'm not trying to convince me ...

Well, yeah, there's always the issue of the inherent dishonesty of Christian apologetics.  Nothing we can do about that.  This is assuming that we're having a discussion in front of a bunch of undecided observers.  You're almost always doing things for the observers who are on the fence.

With any logical argument for the existence of a god, if you're arguing one-on-one, and you're actually trying to convince the person you're arguing with, you need to bypass the logical arguments entirely.  The hosts of The Atheist Experience do it best, with their theistic callers:

"Tell me what you believe and why."

The person you're arguing with almost certainly believes in their religious nonsense because of childhood indoctrination.  Any supposed logical proofs that they hold up as reasons are only post hoc rationalization of what they accepted for anything but rational reasons.  You can't get from any of the logical arguments for the existence of a god to a belief in any specific god.  That's assuming that there was actually an argument for the existence of a god which was both valid and sound, which there isn't.

"So, that's really the reason you became a Christian?  Really?  Really?!?!?"

Comment by Quinton Llewellyn on February 15, 2015 at 6:09pm

I like the objection but I feel it only works up to a point. A creationist could (probably never would but...) say "Yes from my position everything is designed, luckily I'm not trying to convince me. The thought experiment is entirely for your benefit, and I am judging that you would find a watch too complex to not have been designed. Once the idea that something can be 'too complex to not have been designed' is established I can then refer you to the complexity of the universe..."
Of course the counter is, if complexity necessarily infers design, then "the designer" in turn would need to be designed, and "the designer's designer" ad infinitum, and if you're going to claim that "the designer" isn't designed you need to provide a reason why the loophole it slips though can't be applied to the universe (or I guess a watch ;) ).

Comment by Joseph P on February 15, 2015 at 8:33am

That's why I've been reacting how I have been, lately, Quinton.  He has no papers, published or not, which even come close to outlining his proposed alternate model.  Hell, he doesn't even have any writing which clearly outlines his objections, just badly mangled metaphors and emotional appeals to eugenics and supernaturalism.  He has no experimental data.

For a supposedly science-oriented atheist, he doesn't understand the first thing about the scientific method.  I think it's fair to categorize him more as a science fetishist, with a method similar to a 9/11 Truther or a Christian apologist.  That's why I initially thought he was one of the stealth theists that we occasionally get on the site, when he first showed up.

I don't know how he expects anyone to take this shit seriously.

On your other subject: one of the best responses I've heard to the watchmaker argument is pretty concise, actually.  If someone literally starts telling the watch-found-on-the-forest-path narrative, as I've seen many creationists do, there's a simple objection.

You think that we're looking at a watch, which you found lying in a field of watches.  You think that everything is designed.  How did you determine that the watch is designed, when you claim that everything in the universe is designed?  What's your undesigned point of reference?

It's so bad that I've taken to making the watchmaker argument for the creationists, if they make some other construction of an argument from design, since the matchmaker argument more clearly demonstrates why what they're engaging in is so silly.

Comment by Quinton Llewellyn on February 15, 2015 at 4:12am

In the meantime some fun evo stuff. I teaching tool

And a reply to the "if you found a watch lying on the ground" argument used by ID proponents (I love this one!)

Comment by Quinton Llewellyn on February 15, 2015 at 4:06am

I think it is more that he is projecting himself as an authority in an area where he is at best an interested amateur (I would also be an interested amateur) while disregarding the weight of skill and knowledge of those who actually have legitimate authority in the subject. This is what I meant I told him that his tone comes across as arrogant. I don't think his point can't be disproven. At the same time I understand with all the exasperated comments I see it might be a fool's errand. Possibly thinking that I can point out to him what no one else has managed to (especially when I can see they know much more about evolutionary biology than me e.g. Joseph P), I am being a bit arrogant myself.

Comment by Lemual Poot on February 15, 2015 at 2:27am


I just don't see the point in hypothesizing for the sake of hypothesizing.  I have a term I call: "Jailhouse genius."  A jailhouse genius is someone who's professing knowledge and arguing about a subject that has no relevance and can't be proven or disproven at that point in time.

A theist says, “I believe because I believe.”  A scientist says, “I believe because…” and cites laws, facts, and figures.  That bozo may think he’s appeasing the first by emulating the second but he’s actually “none of the above.”

Comment by Quinton Llewellyn on February 14, 2015 at 12:28pm

I don't think anyone sees it as disloyal, but your tone does come across as arrogant, this is what makes people angry with you.

Maybe it's worth simplifying things. Let's imagine a self-replicating organism, whenever this organism eats 1x it creates another of itself, after replicating 10 times it dies.
Let's start with 1.
To begin with it consumes and replicates 10 times giving us 10.
7 are just like their parent.
1 has a mutation that means it needs to eat 2x to reproduce.
1 has a mutation that slows down the rate at which they can consume to half the speed.
1 has a mutation that means that they only need 0.5x to reproduce.
With every 10 reproductions that a single organism creates this pattern continues.
Over time does the average rate of reproduction of the organism increase or decrease? What happens when we say there is a limited amount of x available in any given cycle? What happens when we introduce predators?

You say you think your Fisher review is clear, but it needs to be clear to other people or it's pointless. I gave my response to it previously, I thought it was mistaken.

Comment by Shaun Johnston on February 14, 2015 at 9:22am

Quinton, I appreciate your close reading in this thread. I am pursuing two lines of argument at once, that I keep separate but you've brought together. Of course that's confusing. Summary, I'm a science - oriented atheist, who suspects the modern synthesis is faulty, the fault originating in Fisher's statistics. At the same time I am exploring other ways of thinking about evolution, such as my 'genies.' I recommend keeping them separate, because free speculation can't be defended as criticism of statistics can be. I think my Fisher review is clear. He doesn't include consideration, in his statistics, of the much greater number of harmful mutations. This is a statistical gaffe, I think. By the way, he thinks there are no neutral muations, because natural selection is so sensitive all mutations will register.
Some people think it's disloyal to question tthe basis for the modern syntheses. I think it's ok. What do you think?

Comment by Shaun Johnston on February 14, 2015 at 8:58am

Quinton, I appreciate that you reproduced my ideas accurately. We differ about the potency of different populations of mutations, and so arrive at different conclusions. 

Comment by Quinton Llewellyn on February 14, 2015 at 6:21am

Yeah he doesn't seem to give you a straight answer, maybe he thinks he is, but having looked through that whole dialogue I understand your frustration. It can come across much like Bill O'Reilly's "How do waves happen?" or The Insane Clown Posse's "Magnets, how do they work?" but I don't think he thinks natural selection is supernatural, I think he thinks it has a problem that can't be explained so the supernatural thing is done with a sarcastic voice "so how does that work unless you're invoking 'then something magic happens' to the middle of your argument?", he does in one reply say "I am accusing modern evolutionary theory of resorting to supernatural explanations.".
The idea he has is that if a mutation arises that hinders the organism but doesn't kill it or necessarily stop it from reproducing then it will be passed on (and for arguments sake let's always consider it as a dominate trait), lets say it slightly weaker knees. He then muses that thrown out at random there has to be many more mutations that will hinder you than help you (a long the lines of 'there is 100 ways to get this wrong, only 1 way to get it right') and so a beneficial mutation amongst mutations will be relatively a rarity. He concludes that if this is true, over time the resulting organism will be so weighed down by the mutations that hinder it that for whatever the benefits it gains from mutations that have happened in it's ancestry that favour survival and reproduction, they will do little to overcome the accumulation of the vastly more mutations that challenge it. He has clearly made a number of errors. The important error seems to me to be this, he discounts the range of organisms that are products of their parents traits (or combined traits) with the claim that it is only the exceptions that make a difference (he says "Only beneficial and harmful variations are relevant to how mutations induce the action of natural selection."). The problem with this is that the group he considers irrelevant is the largest group in pool that the organisms are fighting in, those with traits from these "harmful mutations" that lessen the organism's chances of survival and reproduction for the most part do so in relation to this group. Everything taken into account the mutations he talks about as being either "harmful" or "beneficial" are themselves the rarity in relation to the whole and so can easily be adopted or wiped out. By excluding anything but his "harmful and beneficial mutations" he is left with a group that might look likely to snowball into chaos. This I think is where his main mistake lies.
To me what would get my back up about how he has gone about this whole thing is that he has assumed that he has found a problem and proclaims it to be a problem without any sense of humility. If he had approached this by saying there was something he didn't get about natural selection and could anyone explain it to him he would of had a completely different conversation, but just assuming that he has found out something that no evolutionary biologist had noticed and attacking natural selection like he did was a bit of a dick move.




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