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2012年7月30日 星期一

The Limits of Ignorance 8

Cont'd

In the earlier parts of this blog on the subject of ID, I said that creation of the universe by God is probably a myth and that it's doubtful if the Bible is the literal word of God as so many Christian fundamentalists believe. What is the basis of this claim?

1.  There are two different accounts of the genesis story (Gen. 1-2:24)

Genesis 1:

1  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome/vault in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7So God made the dome/vault and separated the waters that were under the dome/vault from the waters that were above the dome/vault. And it was so. 8God called the dome/vault Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, ‘
20 And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind* in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,* and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
27 So God created humankind* in his image,
   in the image of God he created them;*
   male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ 29God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. 31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2

1. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,* and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man* there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
   and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,*
   for out of Man* this one was taken.’
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

    Here we see that in Gen. 1: 1-23, God created the world in six days by merely saying "Let there be..." blessed them after they appeared and then on the 7th day, he rested. If God were almighty and all powerful, as we have been taught, why did he need to take a "rest", just like a man after some hard work.? 

    Order of Creation: in the first account (Gen 1:1–1:2–3), man is created "after" the animals on the sixth day and in the second account (2:4–3:23) which follows the account of the 7th day, mankind was created first. In the first account, it appears he made both man and woman together. In the second account, he created man first, then woman. Also in the second account, God appears to have made heaven and earth on the same "day", not so in the first account. If they were truly the words of God, as the Christian fundamentalists believe, would God contradict himself. If the words were 'inspired by God", are they suggesting that God, who is supposed to be all knowing, all powerful and all good, would deliberately mislead his faithful servants whom he "inspired "to write the "history" of his relations with mankind? If not, are they suggesting that God is above reason, above logic, as they are understood by his prize creation, mankind using terrestrial reason or logic? If so, then Christians can no longer claim that their religion is based on "reason" understood in the conventional sense. They cannot have their cake and eat it!

Biblical scholars tell us that the Pentateuch, of which the Genesis forms part, was probably written in 6th or 7th century BC from two sources, the Jahwist source (Gen. 2:4-24) and the Priestly source (Gen1: 1-23).  From the way the Genesis is written, which seem to suggest two different accounts of the creation  from two different Judaic traditions, what the scholars suggest seems credible. If so, then they are the work of man, not of God.

2. There is evidence that the Jewish race, which first emerged as a distinct people in history around 1,200 BC is much younger than the Persians or Babylonians and the Egyptians and their Bible and creation myths followed more or less the kind of order in the prior creation myths common at the time of its creation. According to Mark S Smith, "We may identify three major models of creation [creating by divine power, with divine wisdom or with some form of the divine presence] all related to kingship...Power, wisdom and presence (especially in the place) are all attributes associated with kings. In addition, the king is responsible for building temples. In accordance with these ideas, various creations accounts present God as a warrrior-king, as a wise ruler, or as the great monarch presence in his palace or builder of his sanctuary space. All of these were old ideas in the ancient world well before the historical emergence of Israel around 1200 BCE" (Priestly Vision of Genesis I Fortress Press 2009 11-12) And according to Edward T Babinski,"as kingdom succeeded kingdom, sacred myths were recycled, re-edited, or combined with others."and the names of the winners in these myths were changed to match the name of the gods worshiped by the new regimes"  (Babinski in his "Cosmology of the Bible" ("CB") in "The Christian Delusion" ed. John W Loftus Prometheus Books 2010 110)

3. Note the similarity of the some of the accounts of the creation of the world by Marduk and the attributes and doings of the respective God of the Babylonians, Marduk and that of the Jews as reflected in the Genesis and their Bible:

1. "Marduk shall be Lord of All the Gods...No one among the gods shall [make him equal] to him" Enuma Elish Tablet VI: 141 VII: 14
    "Our God is above all gods...God of gods...Lord of Lords"  Psalm 135:5 and 136:2, 3
2. "Marduk established the holy heavens...Creator of the earth above the waters, establisher of things on high...who made the world's regions...He created "places" and fashioned the netherworld"  Enuma Elish Tablet VII: 16, 83, 89, 135
   "[God] established the heavens...insribed a cricle on the face of the deep...made firm the skies above...marked out the foundations of the earth" Proverbs 8:
  27-28
3. "Marduk patterned the days of the year..established the positions of Enlil and Ea [referring to the rotation of stars in the sky]...made the moon appear, entrusted [to him] the night...assigned to the crown jewel of nighttime to makr the day [of the month]...Marduk defined the celestial signs [for religious festivals]...the doorbolt of sunrise...the watches of night and day " Enuma Elish Tablet V: 3, 5, 8, 12, 13, 23, 44, 46
"God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons [the literal Hebrew means religious festivals] and for days and years...And God mad two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth." Gen. 1: 14, 16-17
4. "Marduk made mankind...creatures with the breath of life...creator of all people" Enuma Elish Tablet VI: 33, 129 & VII:89
    " God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" Gen 2: 7
5. "Marduk shall be shepherd of ...his creatures" Enuma Elish Tablet VI:  107
    "The Lord is my shepherd. Psalm 23:1
6. "Creation, destruction, absolution, punishment. Each shall be at Marduk's command" Enuma Elish Tablet VI: 1: 31-32
    "The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity" Isaiah 45: 7
7. "Marduk's word is truth, what he says is not changed, Not one god has annulled his utterance." Enuma Elish Tablet VII: 151-52
"Has God said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?" Numbers 23: 19
8. "Word of Marduk shall endure, not to be forgotten" Enuma Elish Tablet VII: 31-32
    "the Word of our God shall stand forever"  "Isaiah 40:8
9. "Marduk's beneficent roar shall thunder over the earth." "Enuma Elish Tablet VII: 120
    "God's mighty thunder...rumble from his mouth...under the whole heaven, and his lightning to the ends of the earth" Job 26:14 and 37:2-3
10. "Marduk crossed vast Tiamat [sea goddess] back and forth in his wrath, Spanning her like a bridge at the place of single combat" "Enuma Elish Tablet VII:
74
"God tramples down the waves of the sea"  JOb 9: 10 and "God's way was in the sea, and his paths in the mighty waters" Psalm 77:19
11. "Marduk, profound of wisdom, ingenious in perception, Whose heart is so deep that none of the gods can comprehend it" "Enuma Elish Tablet VII: 117-118
"God does great things, unfathomable, and wondrous works" Job (:10 & "Among the gods there is none like unto thee O Lord " Psalm 86: 8

This is how Smith explains the evolving nature of the creation story in the Bible:
" Genesis I built on and supplanted other Israelite versions of creation that understood the primordial universe as  a field of battle between two divine wills. It envisions instead a royal-priestly power beyond all powers, enthroned over the world understood as a holy place similar to a sanctuary...The royal politics of creations expressed in texts such as Enuma Elish and Psalm 74 were replaced partially in Genesis I with a priestly order imbued with the proper religious life of the Sabbath ['rest on the seventh day'] and festivals of the priestly calendar [the appointed times] of Gen 1.14" (Smith 11-12)

Genesis 1:2, states, like Enuma Elish, that in the beginning nothing had yet been formed:  "And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.". Creation stories told by Israel's neighbors start in a similar manner--with a big splash rather than a big bang, out of which heaven and earth are eventually made (cf. 2 Peter 3:5 in NT). The deep is mentioned not only in Gen. 1:2 but also in Gen 49:25 which lists blessings of various divine figures, including the blessing of Heaven above, blessings of Deep crouching below (see also Deut. 33:13) and "Deep" in the passive was feminine as was the Babylonian sea goddess Tiamat. Moreover, heaven and Deep are both divinities related to cosmic origins in earlier West Semitic tradition" (Smith 59) . To Smith, it is not necessary to see a particular Mesopotamia background at work behind Genesis 1 to compare the Hebrew word tehom (Deep) with Tiamat. The word for Deep or the ocean occurs in the Ugaritic texts not only in the god lists, but also in mythological contexts ...and tehom in a battle context is an old West Semitic idea and not just a Mesopotamian one." (ibid 69, 239)

4.    That the Bible is not meant to be read as a scientific text is quite obvious. In Genesis 1: 3-5. "Let there be lights in the dome/vault of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome/vault of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day." We know now that the day and night depends on the revolution of the earth around the sun. Yet at that point, the sun and the moon had not yet been created nor set in the firmament. Where did the light come from if not from the sun, the moon, the stars? The Jews appear to be repeating the same kind of mistake made by their neighbor: in texts from the ancient Ugarit, Israel's west Semitic neighbor, they also mentioned gods of light as well as gods of darkness, gods of Dawn and Dusk that are separate from gods of Dawn and gods of Dusk.(CB 120) All teachers know that when a "mistake" is repeated in two different papers by students, one of them must be a work of plagiarism! Since the Jewish version of their Bible appeared much later, it is obvious who copied from whom! Is the Jewish Bible and now Christian Bible the original word of God or "inspired" by God? Or the creation of ignorant ancient men who copied with scant regard to consistency?

If faith should not be based on the "Word" (what the Greeks called "Logos" and adopted by St. John), what is the proper basis of Christian faith? What does "belief" in the Christian God mean? Does it consist in merely "believing" in the sense of assenting to certain propositions about the nature of God, the purpose of human life, the human soul, sin, heaven and hell, the role of our "mother church", following a mass and doing Sunday worship, helping with church work and doing "charitable" works in our spare time? Is it that easy? If you think so, perhaps you should read Sören Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death and his Fear and Trembling.

2012年7月29日 星期日

Cyber Port

Although the Cyber Port had been around for quite some time but save for a dinner there with our Spanish teacher just before he went back to Spain, I haven't been there. So I decided to give it another look over. Our Cyber Port is a "joke". It was an obvious gift by our Government to the richest man in Hong Kong. As far as I am concerned, the only thing "cyber" about it is the "look" of its shopping arcade, which seems quite different from the run of the mill shopping arcades. The clouds outside it seem far more interesting.



This is my first view of the sky outside of the Cyber Port



There was a "garden" close by the seaside. But it was not very well maintained. There were hardly any flowers there. It looked more like just wasteland!



I was fascinated by the cloud formations.



They look as if there were waves of charged particles around our north pole.



A close up of one of the cloud streams

P7280671a

More of the polar type of solar wind clouds.



I couldn't get enough of them



It seemed to be getting dark already and there was a clear split into the lower dark and the upper white clouds.


As it was quite late, the sun was about to set. One could see the tinges of yellow and orange creeping in close to the horizon.



It looked as if there were winds coming from different directions high up in the sky



It was magnificent.


The night was closing in fast.




Soon the clouds turned into a whorl.


Before long, the clouds had turned darker and darker and an anvil cloud appeared presaging perhaps some pretty drastic air current conditions.



a clam in the clouds?



Soon the orange got fainter and fainter as I reached the end of the park



The sky as I walked further and further towards the Shopping Arcade



Time to move out to have a bit of grub.



I was moving landward towards the buildings



My first sight of the pedestrian bridge leading to the Shopping Arcade



The canopy of the arcade



I went up into the terrace of the Shopping Arcade



I looked around



There were three floors of shops and restaurants. This is one of the steps leading to the first floor.



This is a window looking out on to the other buildings



There is a cinema inside the Shopping Arcade. This is the entrance.



There were many shops selling home furnishing, furniture etc.



A furniture shop



And a shop selling various types of artwork. But the needs of the stomache seemed vastly more urgent. So perhaps next time.


2012年7月28日 星期六

Saturday Jokes

Just finished watching the opening of the London Olympics 2012. The computerised light display and music was simply amazing. The Olympics is now in the air. That reminds me of some jokes about the atmosphere over Beijing 4 years go. Here's one from David Letterman:

There's excitement in the air over the Olympics...also lead, arsenic, benzene. Now you think I'm
exaggerating, but they had a practice today in Beijing for the Olympics
and a javelin thrower threw the javelin up into the air and it stuck.


And what about the 2012 London Olympics?

1

A Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman want to get in, but they haven't got tickets.

The Scotsman picks up a manhole cover, tucks it under his arm and walks to the gate. "McTavish, Scotland " he says, "Discus" and in he walks..

The Englishman picks up a length of scaffolding and slings it over his shoulder. "Waddington-Smythe, England" he says, "Pole vault" and in he walks.

The Irishman looks around and picks up a roll of barbed wire and tucks it under his arm. "O'Malley, Ireland " he says, "Fencing."


2.
 
The President of Mexico has announced that Mexico will probably not participate in the London Olympic Games and when asked why, he says, "Pretty much everyone who can run, jump, or swim has already left the country."

3.

At the Olympic Games, Rhoda meets a man carrying an eight-foot-long metal stick.
'Excuse me,' says Rhoda to the man. 'Are you a pole vaulter?'
'No,"' says the man, 'I'm German, but how did you know my name is Walter?'

4.

Olympic Boxing Analyst: Sure there have been injuries, and even some deaths in boxing, but none of them really that serious.
Olympic Football commentator: If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again.
Olympic Basketball analyst: He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces.


5.

The French, German, and Hungarian fencers are arguing over who is the best in their sport.

The Frenchman pulls out his foil: “I will show you all!” He targets a fly buzzing around, and with one swipe of his blade, the fly falls to the ground, cut neatly in half.

The German smiles. He locates another fly, and with two swipes, it falls to the ground, its wings neatly removed.

Now it’s the Hungarian’s turn. Lifting his foil, he takes three swipes at a fly, which flutters off, undisturbed.

The others laugh, but the Hungarian holds up his hands. “That fly,” he says, “will never procreate again.”


6.

Two college basketball players were taking an important final exam. If they failed, they would be on academic probation and not allowed to play in the big game the following week. The exam was fill-in-the-blank.

The last question read, "Old MacDonald had a ________."

Bubba was stumped. He had no idea what to answer. But he knew he needed to get this one right to be sure he passed.

Making sure the professor wasn't watching, he tapped Tiny on the shoulder. "Pssst. Tiny. What's the answer to the last question?"

Tiny laughed. He looked around to make sure the professor hadn't noticed then he turned to Bubba. "Bubba, you're so stupid. Everyone knows Old MacDonald had a FARM."

"Oh yeah," said Bubba. "I remember now."

He picked up his No. 2 pencil and started to write the answer in the blank. He stopped. Tapping Tiny's shoulder again, he whispered, "Tiny, how do you spell farm?"

"You are really dumb, Bubba. That's so easy. Farm is spelled E-I-E-I-O."


Now, have a fun weekend watching the Olympics.

2012年7月27日 星期五

The Limits of Ignorance 7

Cont'd

Why do I say that there is a secret agenda in the ID advocates in pushing for the teaching of ID in American high schools? Let's look at what they want every high school kid to read in their biology class in the Dover district schools, the subject of the litigation:

"Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's views. The reference book "Of Pandas and People " is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves discussion of the origin of life to individual students and their families".

Imagine what would happen if a high school student were to read such a statement. The following inferences and implications would mostly likely be drawn by them:

1. since this is a statement passed out by the school which they implicitly trust would have their interest in mind, they would think the statement is put out for their benefit ie. for their academic benefit.
2. It emphasizes that Darwin's theory is "just" a theory and not a "fact",  The implication is that it should be accorded much less credibility than a "fact"
3. It points out that it may be a "defective" theory because there are gaps in the theory for which there is no evidence. Since what exactly the "gaps" are is not specified, the "general" impression must be that the gaps must be quite "serious", certainly "serious" enough to merit such special "warning" . This further undermines the "credibility" and "validity" of Darwin's theory.
4. It mentions "Intelligent Design" twice as an "alternative" theory AS IF it enjoys "equal" theoretical status as "Darwin's theory", (they are careful to use the expression "Darwin's theory" and not "Darwinian theory" or "the theory of evolution" or "the evolutionary theory" because "Darwin's theory" can be read both ways. The ambiguity is probably deliberate. By using "Darwin's theory", IF they are challenged about  what they say about the gaps, some of which has since been filled, they can argue that "Darwin's theory" refer to the "original" theory as first proposed by Darwin in the 19th century. Probably because they know that if they were to use an expression like "Darwinian theory", they would have much less justification for making that "bald statement", without any qualifications, that "Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence" in the way they actually did because of the huge amount of subsequent confirmatory evidence discovered by evolutionary scientists since Darwin first proposed his theory, and thus "justifying" the ID advocates' criticism of his theory)
5. Not only do they put Darwin's theory in doubt, they actively "suggest" or "recommend" the students read a book written by ID advocates on the same topic IF they are interested to explore the matter further.
6. Students are reminded to keep an "open" mind on the subject. There is nothing wrong with it as such. But in the context, to keep an "open" mind can mean only that they give both ID and Darwin's theory "equal" time and "equal" attention.

They speak with a forked tongue. This is what George Orwell would describe as "double speak" and what lawyers would call "innuendos". ie. subtle suggestions in the text which are not "explicitly" stated but which in the specific context of the text, people reading them would likely "understand". It was a meticulously planned statement done with a motive which is not "immediately" apparent. It must be intended as a "trap" and a "bait" for the unwary average high school student. This is why I said earlier that their methods are "dishonest" and "devious".

In thinking what I am thinking, I have the support of Kenneth R Miller, the expert called on behalf of the Plaintiff in the Dover case, who says in respect of this statement and other points made by the ID advocates at the trial:
(1)  it calls special attention to just one scientific theory, the theory of evolution. The effect of citing evolution, and only evolution, in this way has the obvious effect of suggesting to students that the scientific support for evolution is weak, and that students should hold this particular theory up for special scrutiny. In reality, evolutionary theory enjoys the same status as other well-tested explanations in science and there is no rational basis for suggesting that it and it alone, should be mentioned in the context of doubt and skepticism that pervades this statement from the Dover Board.
(2) The Board's statement telling students that "The theory is not a fact" is clearly designed to mislead students about evolution. The Board's emphasis that evolution is not a fact might be appropriate if they had pointed out instead that no scientific theory is a fact, and that all scientific theories continue to be tested in light of new  scientific discoveries....The important point to be made is that scientific theories don't ever become facts; rather, scientific theories explain facts....The Board's language clearly has the effect of promoting student misunderstanding as to the nature and validity of scientific theories.
(3) ID theory argues that an unnamed "designer" must have been responsible for much of the process, although it presents no evidence for the actions of such a "designer". This means that "ID" is an entirely negative concept, since the case of "design" is made entirely by assembling a selection of arguments that call the validity of evolutionary mechanisms into question.
(4) ID advocates often cite the complexity of living cells as a reason to invoke the hypothesis of design. While this may seem to account for any unexplained problem in biology, it does so only by abandoning the scientific method and making "design" the solution to every such problem. An explanation of this sort, which can explain any conceivable evidence, in fact explains nothing. Since the "design" explanation is not testable, it falls outside the realm of science and places it in the realm of theology, where non-natural explanations are an accepted part of the explanatory landscape. Theological explanations may be correct, of course, (as when I believe that a loving God hears my prayers and acts in my life to answer them) but they cannot be tested by the methods of science and therefore they are not science."
(5) "Irreducible complexity"  is defined by its author, Michael Behe, as follows: "...a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute  to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning" (DBB 39)...An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional...Since natural selection can only choose systems that are already working, then if a biological system cannot be produced gradually, it would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell swoop, for natural selection to have anything to act on". Speech Discovery Institute's God and Culture Conference, Seattle, WA Aug. 10 1996) The scientific literature contains counter examples to any assertion that evolution cannot explain biochemical complexity (Kenneth R Miller Finding Darwin's God 1999 147)
(5) ID advocates relies heavily on the work of another of its advocates William Dembski in his recent book No Free Lunch  2002, using information theory and mathematics to show that life is the result of intelligent design and asserts that living organisms contains what he calls "complex specified information" (CSI") and further that the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection cannot produce CSI and that therefore any instance of CSI in a living organism must be the result of intelligent design and living organisms are chockful of CSI. He says that Behe's "irreducible complexity" is a "special case of "specified complexity". But in fact, Demski's calculations show that "he assumes what he is trying to prove"!  At one place in his book, even Behe admits as much: "we may not know enough to determine all the relevant chance hypotheses" upon which his probability calculations are based and even if we think we know the relevant chance hypothesis, we may later discover that we missed a crucial one. "In the one case, a design inference could not even get going; in the other, it would be mistaken". ( No Free Lunch 123 n 80). What Demski is telling us is that in order to "detect" design in a biological object, one must first come to the conclusion that the object could not have been produced by any "relevant chance hypotheses" (meaning evolution). Then and only then, are Demski's calculations brought into play. "Stated more bluntly, what this really means is that the "method" first involves assuming the absence of an evolutionary pathway leading to the object, followed by a calculation "proving" the impossibility of spontaneous assembly. This faulty a priori reasoning is exactly the sort of logic upon which the new "science" of ID has been constructed" and Demski's arguments have been repeatedly criticized on this issue and on many others. (H A Orr "The Return of Intelligent Design" Nature Bosteon Review 27 Summer 2002; B Charlesworth "Evolution by Design" Nature 418 2002 129 and K Padian "Waiting for the Watchmaker" Science 295 2002 2373-4)
(6) Of People and Pandas  the recommended text which pretends to be an open, objective examination of the pros and cons of evolutionary biology, is nothing of the sort. It is instead, " a collection of half truths, distortions, and outright falsehoods that attempt to misrepresent biology and mislead students as to the scientific status of evolutionary biology". Miller then cites a few examples of such misrepresentations and falsehood in respect of the fossil records and the age of the earth about which not a single word is said and there is nothing about the scientific techniques used by geologists to determine the age of the rocks and fossils.It says, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abrupt through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact--fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings etc. Some scientists have arrived at this view since fossil forms first appear in the rock record with their distinct features intact, rather than gradually developing" (Of People and Pandas 1993 99-100)("Pandas") but in fact the fossil records show the gradual appearance of a wide variety of physical adaptations eg. the vertebrate limb, the earliest known fish were quite different from those we find today including jaws, paired limbs and bony internal skeletons and there is strong evidence that land vertebrates evolved from lobe-finned fish eg. acanthostega gunnari which though clearly a land-dwelling animal, retained an unmistakable sign of aquatic ancestry: internal gills so that  it could breathe under water, just like a fish and could also breathe on land, using lungs, a true "transitional form". Pandas implies that fossils like these have never been discovered.  In 1997, another fossilised fin was discovered by Edward B Daescheler and Neil Shubin containing 8 well-formed digits, just like the digits of Acathostega ie. the limbs of land vertebrates did not appear suddenly as if designed but began to appear gradually, in the ancestors of land vertebrates, as if they evolved. (Fish with Fingers   Nature 391 1997).  In addition, Pandas fail to address the issue of why some species are extinct at all. But evolution theory provides a simple explanation for it: extinction is a major evolutionary mechanism. Miller concludes that Pandas was " a document that contrived not to teach, but to mislead: it misstates evolutionary theory, skims over the enormous wealth of fossil records and ignores the sophistication of radiometric dating"

As Miller, an evolutionary expert, frankly admits, 'there is a great deal that we do not know about the origin of life on this planet," but he adds, "that does not mean that science is obliged to pretend that it knows nothing or to engage in a kind of scientific relativism, pretending that all speculations about the origin of our species are equally correct."

I really have a great deal of sympathy for the ID advocates in their desperate attempt to hold on to their faith in the light of the advances of modern science but unfortunately, they have been barking up the wrong tree! I understand that many of my Christian friends still subscribe to some form of belief in ID. That is why I am writing this blog. To me, ID is simply a "no go" area, a scientific and religious "dead end", not worth bothering about, a bit like "flat earth" beliefs in the age of the Renaissance, after it was discovered that the earth is not the centre of the universe as it was then taught by the Holy Catholic Church. Christianity may involve certain "beliefs" about how this world came about, some kind of "dogma"  which by definition need not be completely supported by logic because it is something "metaphysical", something which "transcends" purely human reasoning, something which in the final analysis is based upon our subjective personal "experience" of what we believe to be an entity called "God"  as he has been portrayed by the pastors and priests and other "true believers" rather than scientifically testable "objective" material "facts". Such metaphysical speculation and "creation myths" have precious little to do with what true Christianity is all about: how we should live as true "human" beings in this "vale of tears", and for Christians, "as Christians", modeling their lives on the life of the Christ of their faith, and not the Jesus of human history. It may help if Christians were to look upon Jesus Christ as a "model human being" and if they were to concentrate their efforts on "practising" their faith and make it a" living faith" in concrete acts of tolerance, understanding, openness, humility and charity preached by that exemplar of all that is most noble in man, viz. Jesus, whom they worship, instead of treating the "dogmas" of their faith as if they were some kind of "scientific" propositions to be argued and debated and intellectually defended. with the tools of secular logic or the tools of scientific logic The Bible is not a book of "natural science", nor a book of human history, although it has certain statements which "may" be read as such. There is no "compulsion" to so read the Bible. The Bible was written as a "teaching tool" about the "Christian" message of love and the hope of "human" salvation from what they regard as human "sins", which in ordinary non-religious human language simply means the "wrongs" we do to other human beings, to ourselves and to the universe. Why are they so adamant that their God should have his finger in every pie?

I understand that there is another campaign by right wing Christians in Hong Kong to solicit support to oppose the efforts by some of our legislators to make new laws to give more rights to people with different sexual orientations, something which I think would be within their human rights.  They incite fear into the hearts of the ordinary people by spreading alarmist claims that once we allow equal rights to the "gays" and "lesbians", our one-man-one woman family will break down. My immediate response is:  if such families could so easily break down, does that not say something about the worth of "preserving" and "keeping" them? If not, why don't we live and let live? Will the gays and lesbians cause any harm to them? If so, in what ways? Why can't they allow those who hold different sexual preferences to live the way they want, just like everybody else and enjoy citizen rights just like everybody else? I suggest that their energies for "doing good" to their "neighbor" (in Jesus' admonition to "love thy neighbor" but not narrowly defined) could be better spent by helping those whose sexual orientation are unlike themselves to integrate into our society socially and economically, by making it easier for them to live a bit more like an "ordinary" human being in a complex modern metropolis in the same way that we should allow people of different ages, races, religious beliefs etc to live amongst us. After all, Jesus always welcomed and treated kindly the "outsiders", the minority, the social sub-groups, the "underdogs", so to speak, the people living at the margins of Jewish society of his day: the widows, the lepers, the Samaritans (second class Jews from abroad), tax collectors, the fishermen etc. even whores!

(To be Cont'd)

The Limits of Ignorance 6

Cont'd

There is a history of the teaching of ID/Creationism. According Eugene C Scott, ID arose in the last decades of the 20th century and although "claimed to be a qualitatively different set of ideas from creation science--the earlier and arguably, most important form of twentieth century anti-evolutionism--ID is a subset of creation science" and though It ignores many creation science contentions such as the age of the earth or the reality of Noah's Flood, ..it does not present any unique ideas not previously found in its ancestor. " (Creation Science Lite: "Intelligent Design" as the New Anti-Evolutionism" in SCC 59-109)

The movement was started by one Henry M Morris, a Baptist who wrote That You Might Believe (1946) and then The Bible and Modern Science (1951) and the movement crystallized in 1961 when he published The Genesis Flood which he co-wrote with theologian John C Whitcomb in which they proposed that there is scientific evidence that earth is less than 10,000 old and that therefore evolution is impossible and to promote such view, they founded the Creation Research Society (CRS) and started in 1964 to publish The Creation Research Society Quarterly. They propagated the view that God created everything in the universe, including the solar system, earth, plants and animals and humans in their present form, over 6 24-hour days and that God created the "kinds" of living things with limited genetic variability. (SCC 60) such that there can be variation or evolution "within kinds" but not "new kinds" . But ID creationism started with the publication of The Mystery of Life's Origins: Reassessing current theories (ed.C B Thaxton, W. L Bradley & R L Olsen with a preface written by D. H. Kenyon 1984) which claims that we cannot explain life without without reference to an outside, intelligent cause (SCC 60) but without relying directly on the Bible, with no reference to a universal flood, to special creation of Adam and Eve or any other creature or to a young earth. They started an organization called the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE) in Dallas to promote the idea. The term "Intelligent Design" first appeared in the book Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins ( P W Davis and D H Kenyon 1989, published by the FTE as a supplement to high school biology texts written from the Darwinian point of view setting out 6 case studies comparing Darwinian and ID explanations to see which better fitted the data,  with the ID explanations always prevailing. This the book was proposed for adoption as an approved textbook (thus eligible for purchase using state funds) in at least two states viz. Idaho and Alabama and in several school districts.There "intelligent design" is defined as a frame of reference that "locates the origin of new organisms in an immaterial cause: in a blueprint, a plan, a pattern, devised by an intelligent agent".

Then in 1991, the ID movement received a boost with the publication of Darwin on Trial by Phillip E Johnson, a Presbyterian law professor at the University of California (Berkeley) in which he criticized Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker (1986). In the Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins says: "Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeless form of all life. It has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker." ( pp5-6). In his book, Johnson complains against Dawkins for using the assumption of naturalism as the only legitimate way of doing science, an assumption which he claims unfairly limited the range of possible explanations and ruled out a priori any consideration of theistic factors. The book was dismissed by noted biologist Stephen J. Gould as "scarcely more than an acrid little puff." I do not think that Johnson's criticism against Dawkins is justified for the simple philosophic reason embodied by what has been called "the
Occam's razor", which states that for reasons of economy, where one hypotheses is good enough for a particular purpose, there is no need to add a further and new hypothesis i.e. we should not multiply hypotheses unnecessarily. If the hypothesis of naturalism is reasonably sufficient,why add a further "supernatural" hypothesis of God to explain "natural" phenomena? Whatever the truth may be, the ID movement received another boost when in March 1992, a conference at the Southern Baptist University was held under the title "Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference" including presentations by Johnson and ID proponents like Michael Behe (author of Darwin's Black Box: the Biochemical Challenge to evolution 1996 published by the Discovery Institute), William Dembski ( author of The Design Inference: Eliminating chance through small probabilities (1998) No Free lunch: why specified complexity cannot be purchased without intelligence (2001) and Stephen C Meyer.

Public opinion polls show that in America, more than 85% of the population profess themselves as Christians and the majority of them believe the Book of Genesis to be inerrant ( G. H Gallup Jr. 1990 Religion in America , G Wills 1990 Under God: Religion and American Politics; and E J Larson and L Witham 1997  Scientists are still keeping the Faith in Nature 386 435-36)  and and only one in ten believe in naturalistic evolution. Therefore conservative politicians know that they can get a lot of milage out of supporting the anti-evolution electorate especially in the mid-American states, the so-called Bible belt states. This is what Ronald Reagan and Bush did in their election campaigns. Both of them wanted equal time for ID in the American high school biology class. But what is the reaction of the naturalist evolutionists to ID? According to Petto and Godfrey, their reactions to ID were, as expected, overwhelmingly negative ( See R. C Pennock ed. 2001 Intelligent Design creationism and its critics: Philosophical, theological, and scientific perspectives; B Forrest & P R Gross 2004 Creationism's Trojan Horse: The wedge of intelligent Design).(SCC 54) They think however, that "as long as the Bible remains the most trusted and widely read text in America and scientists maintain their considerable cultural authority, consensus seem unlikely even if desirable." (SCC 54).

(To be cont'd)

2012年7月26日 星期四

The Limits of Ignorance 5

Cont'd

I've been talking about the controversy surrounding the teaching of ID in American high schools and how it failed to get the American federal court's approval  for doing so. What do ID advocates have against Darwin's evolutionary theory? Behe's main complaint is that modern evolutionary science could not give a "detailed account of how the cilium or vision or blood clotting or any complex biochemical process might have developed in a Darwinian fashion" (DBB 187). He argues that if something is not put together gradually, then it must have been put together quickly or even suddenly and that if adding individual pieces does not continuously improve the function of a system, then multiple pieces would have to be added together. He then discusses two ways of rapidly assembling a complex system proposed by modern biology and how they are unsatisfactory.

The first alternative to gradualism was championed by Lynn Margulis who proposes advancement by co-operation and symbiosis whereby organisms help one another and accomplish together what they could not accomplish separately. A eukaryotic cells is full of complex "molecular machines" tidily separated into many discrete compartments the biggest of which is the nucleus, with one fifth of the volume of the typical cell containing about 2000 smaller compartments called "mitochondria" each of which contains machinery needed to capture the energy of food consumed and to store such energy in a chemically stable but readily available way. Such mitochondria uses a flow of acid to power its machines which shuttles electrons among half a dozen of carriers and such operations require an exquisitely delicate interactions between many components. Margulis suggests that at one time on the ancient earth, a larger cell would "swallow" a bacterial cell, roughly the size of the "mitochondria" but did not digest it so that we have one smaller cell living within a larger cell. The smaller cell would receive nutrients from the larger host cell and in return would pass on to its host some of the chemical energy it made and when the larger host cell reproduced, the smaller one did too and the smaller cell and its descendants would continue to reside in body of the larger host cell and over time, the symbiotic cell would lose many of the systems that free-living cells need e.g a mouth and specialized more and more in providing energy for its host and eventually it became a mitochondria. Behe asks: "can symbiosis explain the origin of complex biochemical systems?" He says that it cannot because the essence of the symbiosis is the joining of two previously separate cells or two separate systems, both of which are already functioning. He complains that neither Margulis nor her followers gave any "detailed explanation" of "how the pre-existing cells orginated" (DBB 189). To him, symbiosis may help to explain the "development" of life on earth but not the "ultimate origins" of complex systems. (DBB 189)

The second alternative to gradualism is "complexity theory" (chaos theory), one championed by Stuart Kauffman. According to this theory, a large number of interacting components would "spontaneously organize themselves into ordered systems and sometimes there are several patterns available to the complex system and "perturbations" of the system can cause it to switch from one pattern to the other. Kauffman proposed that chemicals in the pre-biotic soup in the beginning of the earth's history organized themselves into complex metabolic pathways and further proposed that the switch between cell "types"( like how a fertilized egg goes on to make liver cells, skin cells etc) is a "perturbation" of a complex system and results from the spontaneous self-organization he supposed. Kauffman compares the situation to what happens when very complex computer images can be produced by introducing "random changes" to some originally very very simple computer programs but repeated over a long period of time. Kauffman describes it thus: "most mutations have small consequences because of the system's [change-resisting] nature. A few mutations, however, cause large cascades of change. Poised systems will therefore typically adapt to a changing environment gradually, but if necessary, they can occasionally change rapidly. These properties are observed in organisms."  (Antichaos and Adaptation Scientific American August 1991 82) (DBB190) ie. small changes in a computer program may cause large changes in the computer output, something now popularly called "butterfly effect". By analogy, Kauffman proposed that small changes in the relevant DNA can produce large co-ordinated biological changes. Behe complains that Kauffman did not go into a lab and test if his hypothesis is right by doing experiments to see if "self-sustaining metabolic pathways spontaneously organize themselves." (DBB 190). Behe asks, even if we were to "assume" that Kauffman is right, "can this explain the origin of complex biochemical systems?". No. he says, because "no eukaryotic cell can turn on pre-existing genes and suddenly make a bacterial flagellum because no pre-existing proteins in the cell interact that way. The only way a cell could make a flagellum is if the structure were already coded for in its DNA.". In short, he is complaining that even if Kauffman were right, Kauffman could not explain the ultimate "origin" of life. All Kauffman could do was to explain how "life" could have "developed" after it started! This is, I think, a fair criticism.

To me, Behe's arguments against both Margulis and Kauffman merely rehearse the familiar philosophic argument about "infinite regression": even if we succeed in explaining an effect E, by giving cause C1, we can always ask what is " cause" of "cause C1" and suppose that further cause is "cause C2", we can go on to ask what is the cause of "cause C2" and so on ad infinitum. If he thinks this is unacceptable and unsatisfactory, then I can apply the same logic that he is using to what I think he is driving at and supposing he were to say that the ultimate cause of life is the "intelligent designer" ie. God, I can following his logic, pose the question "what is the cause of God" or "who made God? ". The theological answer, based on nothing but "doctrine", is that God is the ultimate cause, the first cause, the cause of itself/himself/herself but is the cause of every thing else in the universe. This is a metaphysical answer, based on nothing but belief, not on logic or reason nor on what non-Christians, non-Muslim, non Jewish faith followers, would regard as "evidence".  It is certainly not a "scientific" answer. Science does not concern itself with metaphysical questions and science operates on the "assumption" that all "natural" phenomena have "natural" causes, not "supernatural" causes, a cause of complaint by another ID advocate Phillips E Johnson, whom I shall deal with later..

What we are dealing with in evolution theory is a "scientific" theory, not a "metaphysical" or "religious" theory of existence. We are dealing with the "evolution" of life, not the ultimate "origin" of life, including, in particular,  something of interest to the followers of Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity, who worship the same God), the origin of "human beings", part of what Christians call "special creation": whether human beings started "human" life as a result of "evolution" from apes or whether he was created in more or less the form that he is from the very beginning. But the advocates of ID have a secret agenda: that all life began with creation by their Christian God as the "creator" and "lord" of the universe.

The attack on the theory of evolution by Christians did not start only in the 20th century. It started soon after Darwin proposed it in the 19th century. There was a famous debate  between Aldous Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce in which the latter asked rhetorically whether Huxley was descended from apes on his paternal or his maternal side! The promotion of the ID thesis was the work of the Discovery institute, founded in 1991 by conservative politician  and its president Bruce Chapman, whose public relations arm is the Creation Research Society's Centre for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC) founded in 1996 ( renamed Centre for Science and Culture ("CSC") in August, 2002, dropping the word "Renewal") , and Chapman stated very clearly what the goals of the CRSC were in a letter to his subordinates: " To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God...Accordingly our Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks to show that science supports the concept of design and meaning in the universe--and that design points to a knowable moral order" (Chapman B 1998 Letter from the President, Seattle, Discovery Institute quoted in SCC 65). It quickly replaced the FTE as the hub of ID activities. Its real religious and political motives cannot have been stated more clearly!

(To be cont'd)

2012年7月25日 星期三

The Limits of Ignorance 4

Cont'd

The chief scientific advocate of ID is Michael J Behe, a bio-chemist. He wrote a book called "Darwin's Black Box", (1996, 1998) ("DBB") to try to throw doubt about the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. As he says in chapter 1 of the book, his book is "about an idea--Darwinian evolution--that is pushed to the limits by discoveries in biochemistry" which to him, is "the study of the very basis of life: the molecules that make up cells and tissue, that catalyze the chemical reactions of digestions, photosynthesis, immunity and more." (DBB3) He says that "when foundations are unearthed, the structures that rest on them are shaken; sometimes, they collapse. When sciences such as physics finally uncovered their foundations, old ways of understanding the world had to be tossed out, extensively revised or restricted to a limited part of nature." (DBB 3) I have no quarrel with that. Then Behe asks, "Will this happen to the theory of evolution by natural selection?"

This is his understanding of Darwin's theory of evolution: "Like many great ideas, Darwin's is elegantly simple. He observed that there is variation in all species: some members are bigger, some smaller, some faster, some lighter in color, and so forth. He reasoned that since limited food supplies could not support all organisms that are born, the ones whose chance variation gave them an advantage in the struggle for life would tend to survive and reproduce, outcompeting the less favored ones. If the variations were inherited, then the characteristics of the species would change over time: over great periods, great changes might occur" (DBB 3-4) He notes that for more than a century, Darwin's idea has been used to explain finch beaks and horse hoofs, moth coloration and insect slaves and the distribution of life around the globe and through the ages. As far as I understand, Darwin bases his theory not only upon evidence of plants and animals but also evidence of geology, fossil records, biogeography, embryology, animal behavior, plant and animal breeding practices etc. No matter what, Behe says, s that evolutionary theory has been stretched by some scientists to explain why desperate people commit suicide, why teenagers have babies out of wedlock, why some groups do better on intelligence tests than other group and why religious missionaries forgo marriage and children. He claims: "there is nothing--no organ or idea, no sense or thought--that has not been the subject of evolutionary rumination".(DBB 4) His is a favourite argument technique( which goes by the name of "knocking down a strawman"): to exaggerate what appears to be "illegitimate extension" of a theory as a "good" reason to attack the "basic/core" idea of the relevant theory: thus causing the reader to confuse the "periphery" of the evolutionary theory with its "core" idea viz. how accidental variation of the genes of a species which give it a survival advantage over its rivals help to "preserve" such genetic characteristic of the species over long stretches of time.

Behe asks, "Can all of life be fit into Darwin's theory of evolution?" (DBB 5) The answer obviously is not. He claims, "The complexity life's foundation has paralyzed science's attempt to account for it; molecular machines raise an as-yet-impenetrable barrier to Darwinism's universal reach" Then he makes a few disclaimers: "Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism...belief in the an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular." (DBB 5) He dissociates himself from such a belief. "For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that the physicists say it is. Further I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it...I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world." (DBB 5) There we have it. My Christian friends who want to push ID should note that their "hero" does not dispute the basic accuracy of Darwin's evolutionary theory. So, what is ID all about? Behe says: "Although Darwin's mechanism--natural selection working on variation--might explain many things, however, I do not believe that it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (DBB 5-6) The "black box" referred to in the title of his book is "molecular life" and " how life works". This is how he explains his "black box": " Black box is a whimsical term for a device that does something, but whose inner workings are mysterious--sometimes because the workings can't be seen, and sometimes because they just aren't comprehensible. Computers are a good example of a black box." (BDD 6) Behe says, "Biochemistry has pushed Darwin's theory to the limit. It has done so by opening the ultimate black box, the cell, thereby making possible our understanding of how life works. It is the astonishing complexity of subcellular organic structures that has forced the question. How could all this have evolved?" (DBB 15)This is something that he claims Darwin could not explain.

Is Behe right? Most certainly. But I must add two comments:
(1) Behe thinks that there are many gaps in the evolutionary theory. He uses the analogy of "jumps" in the theory. To him, " the word "jump" can be offered as an explanation of how someone crossed a barrier, but the explanation can range from completely convincing to totally inadequate depending on details such as how wide the barrier is. second. long journeys can be made much more plausible if they are explained as a series of smaller jumps rather than one great leap. And third, in the absence of evidence of such smaller jumps, it is very difficult to prove right or wrong someone who asserts that stepping stones existed in the past but have disappeared." (DBB 14) He says, "the word evolution has been invoked to explain tiny changes in organisms as well as huge changes. These are often given separate names: roughly speaking, microevolution describes changes that can be made in one or a few small jumps, whereas macroevolution describes changes that appear to require large jumps. The proposal by Darwin that even relatively tiny changes could occur in nature was a great conceptual advance....on a small scale, Darwin's theory has triumphed...But it is at the level of macroevolution--of large jumps--that the theory evokes skepticism. Many people have followed Darwin in proposing that huge changes can be broken down into plausible, small steps over great periods of time. Persuasive evidence to support that position, however, has not been forthcoming. ...With the advent of modern biochemistry, we are now able to look at the rock bottom level of life....Like a fractal pattern in mathematics, where a motif is repeated even as you look at smaller and smaller scales, unbridgeable chasms occur even at the tiniest levels of life." (DBB 15) To me, the fact that we have not yet been able to find evidence for ALL the "missing links" does not mean that we shall never find them. Our scientists are working hard to do so at this very moment. In fact, since Behe wrote his book, many new evidence of how animal's forelimbs may be turned into birds wings have been found.
(2) At the time Darwin proposed his theory i.e the mid-19th century, the biochemistry
which we now have simply did not exist. But science has since moved on.Many of the things about which Darwin had absolutely no idea about e.g.the structure of the DNA, the RNA and the data of the Human Genome Project and the kind of comparison we can make between human genes andthe genes of certain types of apes, were simply not available to Darwin.
So what is Behe complaining about? That Darwin lacked the foresight about the way genetic science could have advanced in the 20th century? And because Darwin's could not explain the details of the mechanism of the molecules of life, that his theory about evolution of the species must be rejected and thrown out? Yet he has admitted he had no problem with basics of Darwinian theory. If so, is all this hullabaloo about the teaching of ID in American high school "much ado about nothing"? He says, "On a small scale, Darwin's theory has triumphed...But it is at the level of macroevolution--of large jumps--that the theory evokes skepticism" (DBB 15) Here we must be careful about what he means by "micro" and "macro". "Macro" in the context of Behe's arguments means "big jumps" in observed structures of what we would normally call "micro" changes at the molecular level, and as he says, "at the tiniest levels of life", and NOT Darwin's evolutionary theory AS A WHOLE. His terminology is confusing IF people do not read him carefully. I do not know if that is deliberate because religious fanatics anxious to preserve what they take to be the "scientific" basis of their theory of the creation of the world based on the Bible may very well quote him "out of context" and take his skepticism about  "macroevolution" as meaning Darwin's theory of evolution "as a whole."

Behe explains what he is really after. "Now that the black box of vision has been opened, it is no longer enough for an evolutionary explanation of that power to consider only the anatomical structures of whole eyes, as Darwin did in the nineteenth century (and as popularisers of evolution continue to do today). Each of the anatomical steps and structures that Darwin thought were so simple actually involves staggeringly complicated bio-chemical processes that cannot be papered over with rhetoric....Thus biochemistry offers a Lilliputian challenge to Darwin. Anatomy is quite simply, irrelevant to the question of whether evolution could take place on the molecular level. So is the fossil record or whether the record is as continuous as that of US presidents. And if there are gaps, it does not matter whether they can be explained plausibly. The fossil record has nothing to tell us about whether the interactions of 11-cis retinal with rhodopsin, transducin and phosphodiesterase could have developed step by step. Neither do the patterns of biography matter, nor those of population biology, nor the traditional explanations of evolutionary theory for rudimentary organs or species abundance." He is careful not to go too far. He says, "This is not to say that random mutation is a myth or the Darwinism fails to explain anything (it explains micro-evolution very nicely) or that large scale phenomena like population genetics don't matter. They do. Until recently, however, evolutionary biologists could be unconcerned with the molecular details of life because so little was known about them. Now the black box of the cell has been opened, and the infinitesimal world that stands revealed must be explained."  This is the crux of the problem, to Behe. He is concerned that evolutionary biologist should explain  what we would normally call "micro" details of the evolution of a particular mechanism within the human eye ! I have no problems with that. Science should be based on evidence. I don't think the evolutionary theory should be an exception. But is this what the advocates of ID in the Dover School Board were concerned with, in their eagerness and in their own opinion righteously, to do the right thing by God i.e. to promote their Christianity under the guise of teaching high school kids "science" ? To say the least, that is dishonest, if not devious.  If it is devious, then they are devious, in the eyes of the ID advocates, for what they believe to be a noble cause, a higher cause, the cause of the God they worship. Does the end justify the means or vice versa?  Or should religious concern necessarily become scientific concerns? Is there any conflict between science and religion or if there is, should there be?

(To be cont'd)

2012年7月24日 星期二

The Limits of Ignorance 3

Cont'd
 
In the case of Kitzmiller v Dover, one of the points made by Judge Jones is that ID is not a "scientific" theory. I have argued that ID can't be considered a scientific theory because it has not generated any "testable hypothesis". Are there any other reasons why ID can't be considered a "scientific" theory? Let's look at the article entitled "Faith in Theory: Why "Intelligent Design" Simply Isn't Science " by James Q Wilson in the Wall Street Journal 26.12. 2005.

Wilson says that some people disagree with Judge Jones' conclusion by arguing that both "evolution" and "ID" are each equally a "theory" such that students should look at both.  But Wilson says that such a view "confuses the meaning of the word "theory". To him, in science, "a theory states a relationship between two or more things (called "variables") that can be tested by factual observations."  Thus we have a "theory of gravity" that predicts the speed at which two objects will fall toward one another, the path on which a satellite must travel if it is to maintain a constant  distance from the earth and the position that a moon will keep with respect to its associated planet. Such theory has been so rigorously tested that we can now launch a satellite and know exactly where it must be in space to keep it rotating around the earth. But prior to the theory of gravity, many medieval scientists thought that the speed with which an object falls towards the earth will depend on its weight. We now know that that former theory is false and even know the formula of the "theory of gravity" with which to calculate that speed.

According to Wilson, another meaning of the word "theory" is popular but not "scientific". According to the "popular" definition of "theory", a "theory" merely means "a guess", a "faith" or an "idea". If so, it is a "belief" that may or may not be true but its truth may not necessarily be required to be testable by a "scientific" inquiry. One such theory is that God exists and intervenes in human life in ways that affect the outcome of human life. If so, that theory cannot be "scientifically" tested. According to Norman A Johnson in "Is Evolution "Only a Theory"?:Scientific Methodologies and Evolutionary Biology" ("IEOT") in Scientists Confront Creationism  ed. Andew J Petto & Laurie R Godfrey 
2007 ("SCC") "a scientific theory" is not mere speculation, not even
an "educated guess that can be tested ie. a hypothesis" but something
more,: "a coherent set of hypotheses, tested by evidence and reasoning,
that possesses explanatory power" (IEOT 340) and Douglas Futuyama
defines a scientific theory as "a mature coherent body of
interconnected statements, based on reasoning and evidence, that
explains a variety of observations" (Evolutionary Biology 1998 11).Up to now, no one has ever found a way yet to "scientifically" prove that an entity some people call "God" exists. I am sure that had such "proof" existed, it would long have been trumpeted by all religious publications. Religion is not science as such and the Book of Genesis was never intended to be a "scientific" account of how the world and the universe and the human race came about. The Genesis is a tribal myth of the Jews, written in poetic language, borrowed by the Jews from neighboring tribes and further borrowed by the Christians (about which I shall write about if I got time).

By contrast, the "theory of evolution" is a "scientific theory" because it can and has been tested repeatedly by examining the remains of now extinct creatures to see how one species has emerged to replace another. Scientists have found how birds on the Galapagos Island adapt their beak size from generation to generation to the food supplies they encounter. Up to now, it is the only scientifically defensible theory of the origin of species. But such a theory does not "require" one to rule out the idea that God exists. However, it also does not "require" the Christian "God" to exist before the theory of evolution can be continually tested and be functional. Whether "God" exists is in that sense, scientifically "irrelevant" ! Darwin started his life as a deep believer and a student intending to enter the ministry but he abandoned any belief that God has created animal species and replaced that view with his extraordinary and largely correct theory of evolution.

Proponents of the ID theory say that some creatures or features of creatures in the natural world are so "irreducibly complex" that they could not have been created by "accident". Wilson says if so, we must ask them what part of natural life is so "irreducibly complex" that it could not have evolved? So ID proponents suggested their favourite example of the "irreducible complexity" of life: the human eye. But observation by scientist has shown that the eyes must have evolved too. Wilson says: "At first there were light-sensitive plates in pre-historic creatures that enable them to move toward and away from illumination. For a few animals, these light sensitive plates were more precise. This was the result of genetic difference....so then some creatures were able not only to detect light but to see shapes or colors in the light as well. So when those talented creatures lived in a world that rewarded such precision, they reproduced and untalented creatures died out!" However if the "intelligent designer" had created the human eye, He/She made some big mistakes: the human eye has a blind spot in the middle that reduces the eye's capacity to see. The retina is built inside out and and the nerve fibres that carry the signals from the eye's rods and cones ,which sense light and color, lie on top of them and have to plunge through a large hole in the retina to get to the brain, and thus created the blind spot. This is one of the the hundreds of the "accidents" frozen in evolutionary history that confirm the mindlessness of the evolutionary process. If so, the "intelligent designer", if he/she/it exists, could not have been very "intelligent" to have designed such an obviously "flawed " product. Other creatures more dependent on sharp eyesight than we are do not have this blind spot! Some people are born color blind and others have to start wearing glasses from a very young age. All such variations and shortcomings are consistent with the theory of evolution. But none is consistent with the view that the eye was designed by an "intelligent designer".

Wilson admits that evolution, like almost every scientific theory, has some problems but that they are not the kind of problems that can be solved by assuming that an intelligent designer or God created life. There is not a shred of evidence to support the ID theory, according to Wilson. Do the advocates of ID have anything to say to rebut Wilson?

(To be cont'd)


 

2012年7月23日 星期一

Stanley & Chung Hom Kok




I've lived in Hong Kong all my life. I know there's a beach called Chung Hom Kok Beach. I've passed it by many times in various launch picnics. But I never set foot upon it . I did today. It's not something to rave about.



When I arrived at Stanley, my eyes were greeted by these colorful lampshades.



I passed by these two boats on the seaside broadwalk on my way to the relocated Blake's Pier before reaching the Ma Hang Park. 



and found a pair of lovers posing for their now obligatory "wedding photo album" under one of the arches of the Hong Kong Marine Museum.



A butterfly at the entrance to the Ma Hang Park


The head of another one.



I wanted to look at the "Temple of the Lord of the North" (北帝廟)



And found these combination word of "Houseful of Jewelry" posted on a sidedoor.



and this lantern for welcoming "good fortune" and " wealth" outside its external wall.



Apparently, the local deity needs to take a summer vacation break too.



A view from Stanley. Some storm clouds were gathering. But it was not yet raining.



Another view of the bay



So I walked along a seaside path next to the temple.


and came upon some melastomas.



another one preparing to bloom after the shower



the heart of one



and another one about to bloom



You know what? I found these small flowers. They're from a small papaya tree growing beside the path.



Before long, I found myself outside of the park and came upon a rusted lock.



Some worm eaten leaves outside its wire mesh fence.



 Some peonies



A close up of one of them



a morning glory.



A small daisy fighting its way out of some hedge plants.



And I reached my final destination: the Chung Hom Kok Beach and found some unusual cloud formations



It was close to evening. The sea had turned silver.



Another view of the bay



A closer view of the sea. A small desire finally satisfied!