|Will creationist Lucy allow humanist Charlie Brown to address the football? You know the answer.|
Creationists have a peculiar habit of starting with facts and then extrapolating from them wildly. I call this "the Creationist Is/Ought." They'll begin, for instance, with a statement on how amazing a living cell is or how fantastic a galaxy is. But then they use this statement to argue that the very first-ever living cell or the very first-ever galaxy had to come about because of the magic of their god.
It goes the other way, too. They'll make the obvious point that Atheists reject the existence of gods and then go on to claim that Atheists think life is meaningless and empty. This second part is bunk for me as well as for many Atheists I talk to.
But this is why it can be so difficult to argue with creationists. They have lots of the facts, but they're also cramming these facts into a pre-set agenda. They argue their unwarranted extrapolation, denigrate the more reasonable limitations allowed by the facts, and "orientalize" a more empiricist bent. Plus, creationists don't want their agenda out on the surface, so they try to couch the facts and the speculations carefully.
For example, when intelligent design creationist William Dembski argues, as he did in his recent debate with Christopher Hitchens, that --
We now know that every cell (and all life is composed of cells) is a vastly complicated assembly of interconnected technologies that argue for intelligent design. We need to be engineers to understand what’s inside the cell, and the level of engineering we find there far exceeds anything humans have invented. (emphasis added)he applies the language of ingenuity and intent to frame the cell (and all life) as, ultimately, an invention of a being that far exceeds the capabilities of the human. Dembski's language, not his facts, reinforces a design hypothesis. His use of "engineers" is interesting, too, because it seemingly promotes technical understanding while not mentioning at all biological and historical understandings. No doubt, we should should seek to understand what's inside the cell from the standpoints of the technical (what parts, what structure, what local function), the biological (what process, what role), and the historical (what precursors, what changes or differences).
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The Creationist Is/Ought is an argumentative bait-and-switch. You think you're getting a straightforward argument but what you're actually getting is evangelism. The evangelism can be of the soft-shoe variety, as with Dembski, or it can be more of the Torquemada sort, as with a character called "GEM of The Kairos Initiative," who describes himself as "A Caribbean-based applied scientist, educator and strategic change/ transformation advocate and facilitator." Here is an example of his style:
Nor, am I merely giving metaphors. If you do not know that the genetic code is a 4-state discrete code, you are utterly too ignorant to be a part of this discussion. If you do know that, you know or should know that such an entity is an instantiation of a digital code based system.
Further, as just one example, the protein manufacturing process using mRNA, AA-loaded tRNA and ribosomes is a step by step, code driven finite process that takes in inputs and generates defined outputs. That is, it is a physically implemented algorithm. If you don’t know that, you are not ready for this discussion. Kindly, go do a 101, starting from the linked above.GEM recently made the following argument to me:
If you do, and try the “metaphors” dismissal, you have no excuse for the above “metaphor” remark.
Rhetoric ruses into reality: CRUNCH!
We live as contingent creatures amidst a world of other contingent creatures, in an observed cosmos that is evidently finely balanced at an operating point that allows for C-chemistry cell based, intelligent life.GEM goes on (and on), but I want to pause here because our discussion quickly became de-railed partly because of an offhand comment I had made.
Such a contingent cosmos implies a necessary being as its ultimate ground. That necessary being would be the ultimate reality.
GEM’s argument is familiar enough. In the end, it’s a Cosmological Argument: a contingent cosmos presupposes having been caused by a necessary being. The extra stuff -- fine-tuning, ultimate ground, ultimate being -- is window dressing. The relevant objections to GEM’s argument, then, are that (1) the causal relationship between the cosmos (even a finely tuned one) and the necessary being is suspect and that (2) the existence of a necessary being requires justification per the principles of causation or sufficient reason.
The Creationist Is/Ought happens in the transition from the fact -- a contingent cosmos -- to the unwarranted speculation -- the necessary being (i.e., God). That first paragraph talks of contingent creatures, fine-tuning, and "C-chemistry cell based, intelligent life." And then in the next paragraph, boom! A "necessary being" with no obvious connection to what's come before and with no explanation as to why or how the necessary being arrived to become the cause of the contingent cosmos.
But GEM and I never got into these issues because the discussion got de-railed. How? Well, it started when I said --
Implies? I disagree. In any case, I wouldn’t hang my hat on an implication.My primary aim in this comment was to disagree that there was a clear and present implication from the contingent cosmos to the necessary being. Implication requires a reasonable connection between the antecedent (contingent cosmos) and the consequent (necessary being), and in GEM’s argument this connection was based only on assumption. My point, then, was that GEM needed to explain how we know that necessary beings cause contingent universes to exist.
My second statement, however, was made off-handedly. What I meant by the statement was that implications are funny things, and we need to keep some perspective on them. Implications can be strong or weak. They can be clear or muddy. They can be misleading, depending on how one gauges the relevance of the conditions to the consequences. No one should “hang their hat” on an implication in argumentative discourse because implications are not automatically iron clad; indeed, they are very much in the realm of interpretations. When people assert implications, they also better do a good job of connecting the dots between antecedent and consequent. Simply asserting “X implies Y” is not itself compelling, and asking someone to accept an implication on its face is intellectually dirty.
But I guess this point didn't make it through to GEM, who in response to my statements became indignant and accused me first of “selective hyperskepticism” --
Going further, do you understand what implication means, i.e. P = > Q?And then of rejecting the very basis of reasoning --
[P is sufficient for Q so that if P holds P will also hold, and Q is necessary for P so that unless Q holds, P cannot hold?]
That every time you depend on an aircraft or airplane or computer or similar designed system with underlying laws and mathematical specifications, you are relying on the power of implication to hold in the real world?
In short, you routinely rely on the logic that you want to reject when it is inconvenient to your preferred worldview.
That is classic selective hyperskepticism.
You are the one who tried to dismiss the logic of implication, which is also closely connected to cause-effect thinking. Indeed, it is foundational to inferential reasoning.GEM seems fairly apoplectic. Questioning a weakly formulated implication is hardly the same as dismissing all inferential reasoning, and it’s not inconsistent at all. We're having a discussion with reasoning as a main part of the subject, for FSM's sake.
What are the lessons in all this? A first lesson is that the logic of the Creationist Is/Ought is poor. One has to call out the issue immediately and not let the discussion proceed until the "ought" is excised. Related to this is the lesson of not getting distracted by other "oughts" or soupy terms, such as GEM's additional gobbledygook on fine-tuning, ultimate ground, and ultimate being. These terms are apart from the main claim being made and so will have to wait for later or another time. Although one's blood pressure might go way up in the presence of nonsense terms like "ultimate ground," one needs to follow the old advice of choosing battles.
A third lesson is the general hysteria of creationists when you aren't playing their game. If you don't get all starry-eyed about "C-chemistry cell based, intelligent life" on the way to their "oughts," they become abusive and belligerent. It's not difficult to see why. People generally don't want to go back and check their math, but especially in what they consider their strong suit.
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UPDATE: But of course I take requests! GEM has asked for some substantiation to my claim that the Uncommon Descent site has "censored" my comments. So, here's an image of what's happening (click to enlarge):
The title of the thread can be seen in the blue stripe at the top of the image. Post #37 remains "awaiting moderation," as does the post before it, which was submitted on 12/14. There's your substantiation.
GEM, your 48-hour demand is amusing and dickish. Settle yourself down and let's have a conversation. Would you like to respond to anything specific in what I've posted here?
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Well, whaddaya know? For some mysterious reason (wink, wink), UD has taken my last comment out of moderation. Funny, that.
Unfortunately, it doesn't help either GEM's argument or style of argumentation.