4/11/2008

‘Foot-in-mouth Disease’ Strikes Some Smart People Sometimes

Colson’s Breakpoint Commentary is interesting today. Here’s a sample:

…Popular author and atheist, Richard Dawkins tells Ben Stein in [the movie Expelled] that there could have been a designer of life on earth, but it would
have had to have been “a higher intelligence” that had itself evolved “to a very high level . . . and seeded some form of life on this planet.” …. He really did say it -- striking admission, though it is.

14 comments:

Steve Newell said...

It is the hight of arrogance for one to make the statement that human life is the form of life in the universe.

This assumption cannot not be based on the evidence but on conjecture and dare I say it, "faith".

How do we know that we are not an experience in a petri dish made by an being far superior to ourselves.

that atheist guy said...

Howdy,

The ellipsis in the Dawkins quote leaves out a lot, so it isn't an admission of anything. He's not talking about a god, but an alien life that must have evolved somewhere else. Dawkins explains here:

"I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet (Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel suggested something similar -- semi tongue-in-cheek). The conclusion I was heading towards was that, even in the highly unlikely event that some such 'Directed Panspermia' was responsible for designing life on this planet, the alien beings would THEMSELVES have to have evolved, if not by Darwinian selection, by some equivalent 'crane' (to quote Dan Dennett)."

http://richarddawkins.net/article,2394,Lying-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins

Regarding one point in the Colson article:

In one sense he is right that nobody was "tricked" in that they weren't filmed with hidden cameras, but they certainly were mislead being told the film's title was "Crossroads" and that it was a neutral documentary exploring evolution, not a film promoting ID/creationism.

Regarding Steve's comment above:

Did you mean to talk about the idea that human life is the only form of live in the universe? Who had made such a statement? I'm not familiar with such a claim. (I think you're missing a word in the first sentence somewhere, maybe "human life is the only form..."?)

J. K. Jones said...

Steve Newell,

“It is the hight of arrogance for one to make the statement that human life is the form of life in the universe.”

I am also not sure what you mean.

If you mean to comment that we are arrogant to think we are the highest form of life in the universe, I totally agree. God is the first and best of all Beings. He is the ultimate form of life in this universe.

“How do we know that we are not an experience in a petri dish made by an being far superior to ourselves.”

I hear and read this one allot. Even if this were true, we would want an explanation for the “we” that we find in the Petri dish. Let’s take the argument in brief.

I exist because I must exist on order to doubt my own existence. My conscious existence is undeniable.

I am conscious and am aware of the environment I find myself in. There are things in my environment that are caused by other things; they came to be because of something else. There cannot be an infinite regress of these finite causes. If there were, we could not have crossed the infinity of things before us that had to be before we could be. Take an analogy:

If time goes on forever, the end of time will, by definition, never be reached. That is because we can never move to the end of a discrete, actual series of moments. If time had gone on forever, this moment could not have been reached because that would require the crossing of a discrete, actual series of moments. (This analogy is not a perfect one.)

There had to be a beginning to the series of causes. This cause must have existed forever. This cause must have the power to bring about the environment we find ourselves in. This cause must be intelligent enough to have designed the complexity we find in our environment.

There was a time when this cause was the only thing that existed. Therefore, this cause must have been able to act without anything outside it causing the act. This is the very definition of the ability to choose of its own free-will. This is integral to the definition of personality.

The cause of the consciousness we know exists in ourselves in some form or another must have been eternal, extremely powerful, extremely intelligent, and personal. This sounds a lot like the God of the Bible, and we should expect that this God would reveal Himself to us in some way.
I have posted a longer version of this argument several times. Please click on the label: cosmological argument on the side bar.

I don’t have room in this comment to flesh the part about “reveal Himself to us in some way” here. So please see the search label “Argument From Scripture” at the side bar.

Norman Geisler, a master of Thomistic reasoning, would handle this question differently, and you can find his response in the book When Skeptics Ask. He reaches the same basic conclusion with his version of the cosmological argument.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

that atheist guy,

Great to have you back.

“The ellipsis in the Dawkins quote leaves out a lot…”

True. I was not fair. I apologize! Please note that Colson was much more fair than I was.

It is still an interesting allusion to the possibility of design, even if it was not intentional.

“…an alien life that must have evolved somewhere else…”

I have responded to evolution in many other places. Please follow the search label “Teleological Argument” on the side bar.

You still have to explain how an unguided process can lead to an organized output.

I think that the statement of Dawkins you quote can at least be cited to partially dismiss the “aliens” theory. This is a good theory to be rid of since we have no good evidence for it. Please also note that it falls victim to the same form of the cosmological argument given to Steven in my comment above. The aliens would have to be accounted for just like the creature keeping us in the Petri dish, or the illusion, or the matrix, or whatever the current fad calls it.

“Regarding one point in the Colson article…”

Colson is a big boy who can handle these issues without my help. Surf around on his site in a few days, especially the blog. You can follow the links in the post above.

JK

that atheist guy said...

JK wrote:

"You still have to explain how an unguided process can lead to an organized output."

I think the theory of evolution does give a good explanation in that the process is guided by events in nature. Just like people guided the evolution of dogs through artificial selection of variation, life in nature has been selected by their environment.

I do think your question is good though, but it needs to be aimed deeper at the core of reality itself. Ie. why do we have the organized system of elementary particles? I don't see any conflict between evolution and a God who isn't literally described in Genesis. God could have easily designed reality to give birth to life through evolution. Or if God is beyond time, we can imagine the Universe created all "at once" from beginning to end including life through evolution. In other words the act of creation is happening NOW at all points of time.

Personally I find such concepts of God to be more compelling than the literal story of creation as told in Genesis.

"Colson is a big boy who can handle these issues without my help."

But he won't let me comment on his blog, so I have to bother you. ;-)

J. K. Jones said...

atheist guy,

Assuming that the universe has nothing (or No One) to guide it, then the events in nature are random. If evolution was guided by events in nature, then it would be guided by random events by definition. The problem is that random, unorganized events give rise to organized life forms.

As to your other comments, why don’t you just believe in a God who causes things to evolve? What’s the hold up? We could then go on to discuss the specifics of that God.

Do look at some of my stuff on the “Teleological Argument” label on the side-bar. The argument as I state it is based on the necessity of at least a God to guide and govern the process.

Feel free to “bother” me anytime. ;-)

JK

J. K. Jones said...

atheist guy,

Assuming that the universe has nothing (or No One) to guide it, then the events in nature are random. If evolution was guided by events in nature, then it would be guided by random events by definition. The problem is that random, unorganized events give rise to organized life forms.

As to your other comments, why don’t you just believe in a God who causes things to evolve? What’s the hold up? We could then go on to discuss the specifics of that God.

Do look at some of my stuff on the “Teleological Argument” label on the side-bar. The argument as I state it is based on the necessity of at least a God to guide and govern the process.

Feel free to “bother” me anytime. ;-)

JK

that atheist guy said...

"Assuming that the universe has nothing (or No One) to guide it, then the events in nature are random. If evolution was guided by events in nature, then it would be guided by random events by definition."

I guess it depends how we interpret the word "random". For example, at some point in the past blind cave fish were not blind. They swam into the cave and became trapped there, where they evolved and lost the ability to see. Was the effect of their new environment (darkness) a "random" event? In some sense, yes, but it isn't the same kind of randomness people think of when they talk about rolling dice, etc.

"As to your other comments, why don’t you just believe in a God who causes things to evolve?"

Of course I can't rule it out, but it seems like an inelegant way to get a system where you want it to go. Why couldn't the potential for life be built into the very fabric of reality? To me, imagining a god that first creates the world, then tweaks it, is like imagining someone creating a beautiful airplane, but instead of flying it, the builder decides to tow it around with his pickup truck. (Sorry, there must be a better analogy then that.)

In other words, I would sooner believe in a God whose engine of creation is evolution. (But again, that is thinking too broadly, for the engine is the very fabric of reality, maybe strings or branes or whatever.) So the "randomness" is part of the design, and the fuel of creation.

On a side note, I have some philosophical problems with randomness in general. If all events have causes then how is anything random anyway? I know quantum mechanics proposes truly random events, but who knows if that is really true or not.

Steve Newell said...

What I meaning to say is that it is the height of arrogance to assume that human life is the highest form of life that exists. There is an assumption that only what can be known must come by the "scientific method".

God is a living entity that exists outside of nature as we know it. Just because we cannot explain God in terms of what we can observe and measure doesn't know mean that God doesn't exist. It could mean that we don't have the ability to observe and measure God.

that atheist guy said...

Steve wrote:

"There is an assumption that only what can be known must come by the "scientific method". "

I'm not sure who is making that assumption, but I would bet the majority of Americans don't. Science is one way of gaining knowledge. Are there others? I suppose mathematicians use methods that aren't exactly scientific. I guess religious folks would say revelation is another way to gain knowledge, but I don't know how to judge the truth values of different revelations.

For me, the basic issue is finding answers to questions. What are the best methods to get new and useful information? How do we know those methods are reliable, or the answers they give are correct?

J. K. Jones said...

atheist guy,

You are hitting on the very problem I have with the non-theistic view of the world. If there is no intelligence to guide the universe, why would it not be a “coin flip?” Why would we have an order at all? How would we know the order we do perceive is not a function of random chemical firings in our brains?

Science explains the order we find in the universe by postulating more order. How do we explain the order we just postulated? With more order of course. All the while, there is no explanation for the order itself.

“Randomness” does not even exist in a universe with the Christian God. He guides all things. Randomness is just the definition of unexplained causes.

Also, the way God’s creatures adapt to changing conditions is evidence of design in and of itself. He designed the creatures He created to be robust to changing conditions, to be able to survive in differing environments.

JK

that atheist guy said...

JK wrote:

"How do we explain the order we just postulated? With more order of course. All the while, there is no explanation for the order itself."

If we are talking about the deepest levels of order as in the structure of space and matter, then I have no explanation. I don't find current conceptions of God to be satisfying explanations, nor satisfying endpoints to that seemingly endless regress of "causations of order".

J. K. Jones said...

Atheist guy,

There must be an end to the “seemingly endless regress of order” just as there must be an end to the regress of causation. There must be a ground for order in an Orderly Being, or we would not find order in the here and now. Any order that is present ultimately requires an Orderer just as any purpose that is present requires a Purposer.

I would love to hear what it is you find so unsatisfying about the current conceptions of God. “Finitum non capax infinitum,” the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. We can know many things about God from nature and from revelation, but there will always be things that we do not fully understand.

Please place your comments on the things you find unsatisfying on the post you find here:

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/2007/08/nine-reasons-why-christianity-is-only_17.html

Know I pray for you and yours daily.

JK

that atheist guy said...

OK, I will go take a look there.

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