Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Posts and Comments at Telic Thoughts

Salvador Cordova posted this comment containing the following two paragraphs:

Physicist Pual Davies suggests it is a category error to argue conciousness, like software, is reducible to the hardware on which it runs. It is like asking "what kind of atoms can make a Wednesday" (it is essentially a nonsensical question rooted in a category error). Davies received the Templeton Prize for Religion for that and other insights….

Davies went even further and argued if software is transportable from one assemblage of computer hardware to another, in principle, consciouness can be transportable and thus "disembodied". Disembodied consciousness can thus lead to disembodied intelligences. If for example, artificial intelligence can be rooted in a software algorithm, we have demonstrated that at least some intelligence can be disemboidied. But whether an artificial intelligence is a conscious "being" is another story!!!

Finally there is this comment of mine delineating my view that order signifies purpose and design:

That the order and intelligible laws by which the universe operates are not logical prerequisites of Nature. This universe, and others that might exist in a multi-universe system, could have become disorderly and unintelligible had initial conditions of their associated origins been different. The orderliness signifies purpose and design. The narrow range of conditions hospitable to life on earth is a further indicator of purpose and design. So too are the information rich genomes essential to the development, sustaining and diversification of life on earth.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

What is Meant by: "It's political"

Unfavorable reviews of the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed largely focus on the allegation that the movie is political. Given the strong feelings of those involved in discussions of Intelligent Design this was inevitable. I don't think a movie can be made about Intelligent Design that does not invoke this response because of the mileage critics get from the political charge. Before developing this point let's look at two of the more reasonable complaints.

One points out that more moderate voices were not included in the film while the polarizing types were represented. Bilbo made this point:

We also get to see Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Paul Nelson, David Berlinski, and some minor ID guys. But NOT Michael Behe. Why? Probably because Behe argued for Common Descent in his latest book. That's a no-no when talking to most people in the religious right. They usually prefer YECism.

Michael Behe has been put forth as an example. Behe is prominent and considered more moderate than some IDists included in the film. However, based on the brutal comments directed at Behe when his most recent book was published, it is doubtful that the inclusion of Behe, or others considered more moderate, would have muted criticism. Opposition to ID is too deeply ideological to allow for fair and reasoned responses.

The best objection is the movie's linkage of Darwinism to the holocaust. There was a clear fitness concept in Nazi racial arguments and artificial selection was practiced through implementing the final solution. However, aside from knowing that homicidal maniacs will employ anything to advance their goals what can we take from the Darwinist connection? It is not going to bring about the removal of natural selection from evolution. Expect critics to focus heavily on the holocaust issue.

One of the lightweight objections is the complaint that Ben Stein is conservative as evidenced by this remark:

Bradford, you can pretend you know absolutely nothing about 20th-21st century American politics if you want to, but I'm not playing that game. Stein was a speech writer for Nixon, he's a well known conservative commentator,

Your basic red herring and a blatent emotional appeal to ideological motives at the expense of a fair assessment of the movie itself. In fact Hollywood bemoans the McCarthy era precisely because the political views of those in the entertainment business became a focus rather than their work. It hardly behooves critcs to practice McCarthyism.

So what is driving resistence to the movie? Some of it is nothing more than opposition to a movie advancing a cause critics oppose. The movie is doing better than expected at the box office and many are seeing the film's message.

There is a more fundamental reason for wanting to taint a cause with the politics charge. There is no better political strategy than one which convinces others that one message is to be taken at face value while the other is political. It is an almost certain guarantee of success. Political strategists struggle to achieve this objective during campaigns. No one likes to be had and that is essentially the message of the politics charge. Don't trust what he says for he has an agenda.

What is not being acknowledged by ID critics is the political nature of their own cause. That's also the reason they will strive to keep the focus on the "ID movement." It keeps your eyes off their own non-scientific intentions.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Those Liberal White Males

Viewpoint has an article titled Liberal White Men which gives us insight into ideological thinking that blinds most of the world. The author cites an article from the Huffington Post written by Nora Ephron. From the Viewpoint article:

According to Ms Ephron Democrat males who vote for Hillary are not doing so because they like her but rather because they hate blacks and those who vote for Obama are not doing so because they like him but because they hate women. This is a quite astonishing admission. The assumed repository of tolerance and righteousness in our polity, the Democratic party, is thoroughly infected with the bacillus of race hatred and sexism. Who'd have thought it?

Quite ironic is it not? But let's look at the reality behind the emotional rant of Nora Ephron. Obama lost Pennsylvannia but still managed to get something like 46 or 47 per cent of the white male vote. Obama also got more than ninety per cent of the African American vote. So more than nine out of ten African Americans voted for Obama and nearly half of white males did the same. Yet which group is tagged racist? That's a no brainer right? By convention minorities are immune to the racist tag. If they show racial preference it is attribted to something positive like pride or something justifiably negative like fear of racism.

There is something else here. White males have been accused of both racism and sexism in a contest featuring a male of mixed ancestry and a white female. That's a neat logical trick is it not? If a white male votes for Hillary he is suspected of racism. If he votes for Obama the suspicion is sexism. And what of his accusers? Immune. Don't even think of going there.

Viewpoint quoting Ephron:

To put it bluntly, the next president will be elected by them: the outcome of Tuesday's primary will depend on whether they go for Hillary or Obama, and the outcome of the general election will depend on whether enough of them vote for McCain. A lot of them will: white men cannot be relied on, as all of us know who have spent a lifetime dating them.

The author has personal issues which have become the basis for her political views.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Biological Perspectives and Political Movements

David Heddle authored a blog entry at He Lives from which the following quotes are obtained. My comments follow.

What if (and, based on what I have heard, this is the secondary tenet of Expelled) Hitler and his supporters were true believers in evolution, and they sincerely believed that the holocaust was thereby justified. Would that actually impugn evolution?

No it would not. If evolution is true, then is a morally neutral fact. Actually I take that back—if it is true then it is, I’d say, as part of creation, necessarily good.

I agree with what is written but think that David Heddle has asked the less relevant question. I'll pose the more relevant one in a comment that follows.

It would be a similar situation to those who sincerely believed the bible justified southern slavery. Did such people actually exist? Perhaps—or perhaps they simply co-opted passages to justify their ideology. But for the sake of argument, suppose they sincerely thought they were interpreting scripture correctly. Does that impugn Christianity? No, it impugns only an erroneous exegesis.

A valid point and one which clues us in on accurate useage of biological concepts.

Asked differently, suppose you arrive at the conclusion that (a) evolution is correct and (b) it really did lead to Nazism. What would you do? Outlaw a correct scientific theory as being a dangerous idea?

Outlawing scientific theories and ideas is a non-starter. Evolution is a very broad topic which includes eons of time, mechanisms of change including mutations and drift, groupings of organisms by descent and branching, extinctions, analyses associated with molecular biological structures and much more. Yet the abuses of Nazism or eugenics for that matter, are linked to a specific concept within the study of evolution- natural selection. Perverted fitness concepts were linked to actions whose purpose was artificial selection and consequent population changes.

While reading an essay by Chuck Colson I found a better approach to the abuse of scientific theories for political purposes. In the linked article Colson writes:

Most important, the group, like any good Ivy League club, appeals to science to defend abstinence. On the True Love Revolution website, they make a big deal about a human hormone called oxytocin. This hormone, which is released during intercourse, birth, and breast-feeding, creates a deep psychological and physiological bond between people.

Fredell says that oxytocin in casual sex bonds people who may not want to be bonded to each other. In her words, “Why bond yourself so intensely when you are not sure you are going to spend the rest of your life with this person?”

Note the biological reference. Oxytocin, a hormone, the level of which is elevated through sexual intercourse, fosters more intense bonding between a couple. That is not desirable if the partners have a casual relationship with no intent to make it anything other than casual. Note too that the hormone is directly related to the social problem discussed. It is not a vague concept or even a specific one with broad implications that do not impact the matter at hand. If we are to delve into biology we need to know what data to use and what concepts to stay away from when formulating socio-political policies. Natural selection contains seeds of destruction when applied to issues like genetic defects and racial disharmony. We need not ban its discussion of course. Merely use it correctly and refrain from social analogies when they are destructive. What do we substitute then if anything? More from Colson first:

True Love Revolution is also taking this radical stance by doing something that good Christian apologists have done for generations: by appealing to natural law. To put it simply, natural law is an explanation of reality based on the natural—and we know, created—order. C. S. Lewis, for instance, defended Christianity by explaining that it makes the most sense of the world. In essence, that Christianity is the most natural worldview.

Similarly, this exceptional group of students argues that sexual purity is the most natural way to find true love, because it respects the body and it respects the human being.

The more relevant question, I believe, is what, if any concept, within evolution or biology is an appropriate guide in the formulation of socio-political policies? The answer may be nothing. It may also be found in the example of using oxytocin to support Christian morality. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. We don't need to excise biological concepts but at times we need to keep them within the realm of scientific theory and not misapply them to matters outside the realm of biology. Consider applicable biological functions instead. They tend to be more precisely formulated and more relevant when biological analogies are called for. There are some that, like oxytocin, better advance a Christian world view than natural selection.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Design: Making a Comeback

Post details: Introduction: The Science of God - a Jewish physicist considers the design of the universe and life is the title of Denyse O'Leary's blog entry at The ID Report.

Quoting from the blog entry:

Nineteenth century materialism created an intellectual market for theories that attempt to explain how the universe and life hoisted themselves into existence without design. "Many universes" and Darwinian evolution are the two most popular today. These theories are given vastly more weight than the evidence allows. And yet their enthusiastic, often fanatical backers wonder why the public remains skeptical.

Recently, I had a chance to read The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom (New York, Free Press, 1997) by physicist Gerald Schroeder - a Jewish take on design in the universe.

Formerly at MIT, Schroeder - who now lives in Israel - was one of the people who helped convince highly respected atheist Antony Flew that, There IS a God, on account of design.

The current bias against teleology is an outgrowth of nineteenth century philosophical whims whose seeds took root in the West and gave rise to the present philosophical climate. But winds of change are in the air and some quiet rumblings from the last few years of the twentieth century are gaining traction despite the considerable weight of established institutions against design. Denton and Shroeder were among the early pioneers. Many less well known individuals are swelling the ranks. The driving force is the inherent weakness of existing dogma. Theoretical extrapolations far exceed what data supports. It is more than an origin of life issue although that is a big part of the picture.

Ben Stein's movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed debuts tomorrow in the USA.


Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm (not very) shocked, shocked

Headline from Yahoo News:

Shock: First Animal on Earth Was Surprisingly Complex

Were you shocked? Presumably you're a Darwinist.

The story goes on to say that some researchers working in a study funded by the National Science Foundation (USA) concluded that the first animal, at the base of the inferred "tree of life", could not have been a sponge, but the substantially more complex comb jelly. The comb jelly possesses connective tissues and a nervous system.

The researchers were so taken aback by this finding that they repeated the study again - with the same results; their shock continues. Why are they shocked? Because they're working within the Darwinian framework, which teaches them that life's complexity developed over time, by natural processes. If they hadn't come to the study with that prior belief then they would feel like I do as I read Yahoo's story - as if another "dog bites man" headline were floating past me.

The researchers go on to speculate that maybe the comb jelly's complexity developed after it had branched from the tree of life, or that maybe the sponge's decreased complexity is because of loss over time rather than gain. The latter possibility, if seriously indulged or applied in other areas, may lead to the researchers being expelled from the church of Darwinist orthodoxy so unsurprisingly the alternative is labeled as the "first" possibility and this as the "second". That labeling doesn't come from the evidence - it comes from the researchers' prior philosophical beliefs. The same beliefs that led them to be shocked by their contradictory research results...

There's one important area in which the researchers should have been shocked and weren't. It's the fundamental complexity which exists in the sponge, within the cell. They seem to have been still locked in Darwin's delusion that the cell is a simple blob of primitive goo. Of course, they're not - they surely know far better than I do the essential and fundamental complexity of the cell and the staggering levels of multi-layered information contained in its DNA. It's just that that problem seems to be shoved aside by contemporary Darwinists. It's an "inconvenient truth". That is so because the only presently available answers to that problem lead to more shock than the system can take. Maybe the Darwinist back-story of fundamental simplicity re-organising itself into more complex forms via exclusively natural processes just isn't true.

David Anderson

David normally blogs at More Than Words,


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Neuroscience and the Golden Rule

Brains Are Hardwired To Act According To The Golden Rule, a Science Daily article, notes a form of human behavior that appears to be at odds with the proposition that individuals seek to maximize their chances for survival and by doing so increase the likelihood that their own genes will be propagated. Of course there have been attempts to explain behavior that is counterintuitive from a neo-Darwinian point of view. The linked article would fit that description.

The article cites an incident in which a 55 year old man named Wesley Autrey risks his own life to save a stranger from death. It's an heroic act consistent with the Golden Rule which is: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But what is the selective value of whatever leads to goodness or putting one's own life at risk for a stranger? That this incident is consistent with the view that humans are created in the image of God is obvious. It is not obvious that a blind watchmaker would have developed such traits in humanity.

Looking out for number one is an expected Darwinian paradigm. Besides the fact that it is everywhere in evidence it is also logically consistent with the concept of passing on one's genes to posterity. So conventional wisdom offers an explanation for selfish behavior that aligns well with natural selection. I've also seen the explanations for altruism. There have been efforts to fit these in within mainstream biology. Selection then would explain everything- selfishness and altruism. Beware of theories that explain it all with little more required than conceptual adaptations by theoreticians.

Mainstream biology is wedded to materialism. A capacity to choose between selfish and altruistic behavior involves faculties enabling consciousness and free will. These key aspects to what makes us human have not yielded to explanations based on reductionist approaches. Like the origin of life and the origin of the universe they are destined to remain forever surrounded in mystery made inevitable by science itself.

In response to this Telic Thoughts blog entry by Mike Gene, a commenter said this:

In general you appear to agree with the scientific consensus regarding evolution, but then you make a possibility argument for teleology afterward. But sure, anything is possible. The question is, What are the positive evidences for it?

The Science Daily article reminds us of how little we know about behavior and brain function. Well documented explanations as to how behaviors evolved are rarer still. The wide open possibilities and unanswered questions in neuroscience signify it may yield explanations favorable to ID. Whether this occurs is likely to depend on constrictions imposed on science like a huge boa who, while unable to strangle the elephant he has grabbed onto, is equally unable to acknowledge he never will do so. As long as no intelligence is allowed the scientific dark ages, that have descended on consciousness and origins issues, will continue.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Described, Not Explained

(Cross-posted from "More Than Words").

According to the "New Atheists", the goal of science is to provide an explanation for reality without recourse to the supernatural. Any need for a religious explanation for anything is thus removed, and the old superstitions fall to the ground, outmoded and obsolete.

Well, how are they doing? To hear some of them speak, you'd think that the goal was almost reached. Look at the progress made since the scientific revolution began, they say: we now know so much!

The real answer, though, is "absolutely zero". Science has made tremendous strides forward; but in terms of providing ammunition for atheism, the cupboard's still empty. How come?

Let's taken the law of gravity as an example. This is a case of Newton's second "law" (which we now know isn't really a law at all, but this is just for illustrative purposes). It tells us what we can expect to happen when an object goes up: it comes down again. In more technical terms, there is a force exerted on it by the immense mass of the earth, which causes it to accelerate back to the earth again. It's an inverse square law: the acceleration increases in proportion with the inverse of the distance between the object and the earth multiplied by itself.

What Newton has helped us to do there is to describe the motion of a falling body. What has this, though, to do with the atheist goal? Description is not explanation. To say that the object falls because of Newton's law is precisely the wrong way round. Newton's formula is an attempt to describe, the predictable and repeatable phenomena of gravity. It tells us nothing, though, about the fundamental questions of explanation, such as:Just why does gravity obey an inverse square law? Why not an inverse cube law? Or a linear square law? What exactly gives rise to this force which Newton observed? Where does it come from, and what's driving it? Objects do not fall because Newton's law tells them to; Newton's law is the after-the-fact description of what just happened, not the theory that tells us how it could have happened.

When Newton originally proposed his law, it was opposed for philosophical reasons - it posited an "occult" force which managed to act at a distance. Somehow, the object thrown up has knowledge about the earth and how far away it is at any one particular moment, through some kind of magical instantaneous communication. In fact it seemed to strongly imply that materialist atheism couldn't be true - because materialism cannot account for instantaneous immaterial communication.

Deists from Newton's day and onwards took his law to imply that the universe was a gigantic machine. They supposed that there was no need for God, because it implied that once started (which they allowed God to do), the universe just carried on according to a fixed set of rules. This was another colossal philosophical error, because as explained above it made the description into an explanation. You might observe that Mrs. Anderson lives in the same house as me. Good spot. That's not why she's my wife though, or how she came to be my wife. It's merely an observation of one of our marriage's consequences.

The area in which atheism needs to make advances is in explanation, particularly of origins. That means things like the following:
  • What is the cause of the "laws" by which we describe physical reality?

  • Why do those laws exist in just the form that they do, and not another?

  • How do those laws (e.g. gravity, magnetism) manage to operate at a distance, instantaneously and without material communication?

  • Why is it that these laws take such elegant mathematical forms? Elegant mathematics is intimately connected with minds - we have minds which understand this elegance; how did it arise in nature if not by a mind?

  • How did life originate? What about self-consciousness? What is the origin of the vast quantities of biological information, co-ordinated with itself at multiple levels?

  • Why do time, space and matter even exist in the first place? Where have they come from?
On the real questions which atheists need to give a naturalistic scientific answer to in order to argue that science is slowly but surely abolishing the credibility of the supernatural, the score so far is a big fat zero. Atheists who are perverting science to advance their cause are involved in a bait-and-switch. They lead us to marvel at all that science has described; and then they pull the wool over our eyes by implying that these are the same things as science has explained. Don't be fooled.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Purine Construction Viewed in Living Cells

Recently, and for the first time, the construction process which yields guanine and adenine (purines) has been viewed occurring in the cell. Purines make up one half of the nitrogenous bases that line the interior of DNA, the other half being pyrimidines.

By attaching fluorophores to six enzymes known to be involved in the process of purine formation, a research team was able to witness this enzyme cluster formation in the cellular environment. In the absence of purines (and during the proper stage in the cell's life), the enzymes will cluster to commence purine production. A fluoroescence microscope is used to view the fluorophores that are now attached to the enzymes of interest.

One benefit of understanding the nature of purine formation, along with seeing the enzyme cluster needed to begin this process, would be in potential avenues for cancer treatment. Cancerous cells replicate at a high rate, having the ability to intentionally gum up the enzymes involved in the process of forming half of the needed ingredients (the purines) for the replication of cancer cells would be very useful.

All of these enzymes have been studied individually and away from their cellular context. This is the first time they have been viewed as an aggregate, working together to produce purines.
If purines are currently available for the cell to use there is no reason for the enzymes to cluster. One question of interest would be when and how this cluster would have evolved, allowing it the ability to produce purines. Such an important process would be more than necessary for continual cell propagation.

DNA Building Block Construction

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

An Archeological Find

First Temple seal found in Jerusalem, an article from The Jerusalem Post, tells of the discovery of a stone seal during an archeological excavation. The seal bears the name of a family who were servants in the First Temple, exiled to Babylonia and then returned to Jerusalem. The name Temech is engraved on the seal which is about 2,500 years old. The Temech family is mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah.