October 16, 2009

Falsifiability and the Argument Regarding Design

Posted in Answering Apologists, Science, The Universe tagged , , , at 10:26 am by Andrew

Conceptually, I think the Argument Regarding Design — the notion that something must have created this wondrous universe that displays such complexity is bogus on basically every level, from the incorrect factual premise to the unsubstantiated conclusion. I set forth a lot of those arguments in my article “The Heavens Do Not Declare The Glory of God.”

One of the arguments I’ve made only by implication in that article is the falsifiability argument; namely, that the Argument Regarding Design is empty as a hypothesis, because any state of the universe could be offered as “evidence” for the hypothesis. So, for example, many apologists argue that the narrow band for various cosmological constants is evidence that the universe is “finely tuned” so as to permit human life.
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April 29, 2009

Francis Collins, Creationist

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Creationism tagged , , , , , at 3:00 pm by Andrew

Many atheists are familiar with the conversion story of the brilliant geneticist Francis Collins; if not, here’s a recap:

Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith. And that leap of faith seemed very scary to me. After I had struggled with this for a couple of years, I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful fall afternoon. I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief.

[emphasis added]

Okay, got that? Collins tells us that (a) he was not “argued all the way” into becoming a believer on the basis of evidence, but rather that (b) his personal experiences changed his mind.

Now — as I’ve said elsewhere on this site — I can’t argue with that. Personally, I don’t think I would have had the same reaction to what strikes me as a relatively ordinary experience, but I can’t second-guess Dr. Collins’ personal motivations and conclusions. If he wants to do good science with one part of his brain and accept Jesus with another, so be it; that’s a concession that atheism is a rational response to the world.

But Dr. Collins doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t leave faith as a personal experience, to be divined from a tripartite waterfall or the equivalent; no, he’s got a new apologetic website in which he attempts to “argue all the way” to Jesus. Worse, on that site, Dr. Collins deliberately attempts to use his legitimate and unimpeachable scientific credentials in one field (genetics) to buttress standard schlock creationist arguments in an entirely different field in which he has no expertise whatsoever (astrophysics). This is standard creationist stock in trade, but it’s disheartening to see Collins using the same sleazy tactics.

Think I’m overstating the case? Here, let Collins speak for himself:

There is a law of physics called the Second Law of Thermodynamics that states an isolated system’s entropy can never decrease, it can only increase or stay the same. In other words, all changes in isolated systems lead to states of higher disorder. Therefore, the same must be true of our entire universe. However, it is also known that the formation of stars and galaxies, essential for the development of life on Earth, requires a high degree of order. This implies that the universe was once much more ordered than it is now, and therefore it began with a very low entropy.

No serious astrophysicist would write something that stupid. First, entropy is not really about ‘order’ in the cosmological sense; second, stellar formation is really well-understood (and not threatened at all by the increasing entropy of the universe), and third, the Big Bang model postulates the lowest possible initial entropy of the universe in any event.

In his apologetics, Collins protests that he is neither an ID creationist or a Biblical creationist. Why, then, is Collins peddling a classic ID creationist argument; one that has been debunked for over a decade (including Penrose’s garbage probability calculations)? And notice that when it comes to his own field, genetics, Collins ably refutes the creationists. But he rips a page from their playbook when he pretends to be an astrophysicist and regurgitates stuff you’d find at Answers in Genesis.

I don’t begrude Dr. Collins his personal beliefs; if he wants to be a Christian, that’s his business. But I do wish he’d honor his own reasons and leave it up to the personal experiences of others to affirm or reject, and I really wish he hadn’t crawled into bed with the tactics of the sleaziest creationists in peddling thorough-going dishonest, misleading nonsense.

HT: Pharyngula, of course.

April 24, 2009

Bayes’ Theorem and the Argument from Design

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Creationism, The Universe tagged , , , , , at 12:28 pm by Andrew

Mark Reid has a great article up analyzing the Argument from Design using Bayes’ theorem. The focus is not on whether the Argument from Design is true, but rather explaining how one’s evaluation of Argument from Design depends upon prior beliefs about the supernatural generally. His conclusion validates that:

Bayesianism therefore has an explanation of why religious folk are more ready to accept the argument by design than skeptics.

The whole article is definitely worth a read.

April 15, 2009

Video Refutation of the “Fine Tuning” Argument

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Science tagged , , , , at 2:00 pm by Andrew

Most of you have probably seen YouTube user “Thunderf00t‘s” excellent series, “Why People Laugh at Creationists.” (If not, you should.)

Part 10 of that series nicely responds to the Fine Tuning argument as advanced by the Discovery Institute in “The Privileged Planet” (the first clip) and Lee Strobel’s video “The Case For A Creator” (second clip). Here it is:

(After a brief interlude to smack down Kent Hovind — which is a bit too much like kicking a wounded puppy for my tastes — the response continues with part thirteen.)

February 23, 2009

Evolution (“Darwinism”) at the University

Posted in Atheism, Creationism, Science, The Universe tagged , , , at 12:19 pm by Andrew

In a prior comment, Victor Reppert offers this interesting assertion:

Someone who starts doubting aspects of Darwinian biology might have similar fears about their status at their own institutions of learning. I don’t want to uphold the whole “Expelled” claim, but I think there is considerable pressure within many academic biology departments not to stray from Darwinism.

I appreciate Reppert’s repudiation of Expelled — which combined wildly hyperbolic conspiracy theories with Nazi name-calling — so I’m willing to entertain arguments that there is real pressure within academic biology departments to not deviate from the standard scientific debates over the modern evolutionary synthesis.

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