Friday, June 29, 2007

Paul Davies: "The Universe Looks Suspiciously Like a Fix"

Paul Davies recently had this to say:

Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth - the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient "coincidences" and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal. Fred Hoyle, the distinguished cosmologist, once said it was as if "a super- intellect has monkeyed with physics".

To see the problem, imagine playing God with the cosmos. Before you is a designer machine that lets you tinker with the basics of physics. Twiddle this knob and you make all electrons a bit lighter, twiddle that one and you make gravity a bit stronger, and so on. It happens that you need to set thirtysomething knobs to fully describe the world about us. The crucial point is that some of those metaphorical knobs must be tuned very precisely, or the universe would be sterile.

He then goes on to conclude that intelligent design is not the proper explanation. But go read the article to see if you think his alternative explanation is plausible.

Also ask yourself some more questions: Is his explanation a full explanation, or does it just move the big questions back a little bit? Does his explanation just raise new and bigger questions?

Which parts of his essay are "science" and which parts are philosophical speculation? Is his philosophical speculation more scientific than intelligent design? More plausible?

Other posts on Paul Davies can be found here and here and here.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cornelia Dean: Using Pseudoscience to Proselytize For Atheism

I thought I would provide some quotes from the Cornelia Dean article that was the subject of my last post, and follow them with some comments:

For many scientists, the evidence that moral reasoning is a result of physical traits that evolve along with everything else is just more evidence against the existence of the soul, or of a God to imbue humans with souls.

Great! Thanks for the new evidence. Now let's see the scientific evidence supporting the existence of the soul, or of a God to imbue humans with a soul. Ah, right, that kind of evidence is banned, or deemed "not science." How convenient! These scientists are drawing philosophical and religious inferences from the evidence, and they have every right to do so. Just don't enforce a double standard.

The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is “unassailable fact,” the journal Nature said this month in an editorial on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought. A headline on the editorial drove the point home: “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.”
Let's see all those experiments demonstrating that man was not created in the image of God. Again, a philosophical inference not demonstrated by any empirical evidence.

Or as V. S. Ramachandran, a brain scientist at the University of California, San Diego, put it in an interview, there may be soul in the sense of “the universal spirit of the cosmos,” but the soul as it is usually spoken of, “an immaterial spirit that occupies individual brains and that only evolved in humans — all that is complete nonsense.” Belief in that kind of soul “is basically superstition,” he said.

Let's see all those scientific experiments demonstrating that belief in that kind of soul is basically superstition. Again, this is a philosophical inference not demonstrated by any empirical evidence. This also demonstrates a great ignorance about the various theological ideas about the soul. More remedial education needed for this scientist.

And now for the King of Darwinian Fundamentalism:

For people like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, talk of the soul is of a piece with the rest of the palaver of religious faith, which he has likened to a disease.

Finally, pure science. Pope Richard speaks infallibly.

So which of these wise observations can be taught in public schools? According to Cornelia Dean, all of them apparently, since it is all science.

There is no mention of ID proponents in the article. Not even a quote from Francis Collins. They are invisible in this New York Times article, and Dean and her ilk believe they must be banned from public schools. This is stunning hypocrisy and a double standard that reeks of bigotry.

This is more evidence that there is a concerted movement to establish philosophical materialism as the established worldview of the public school system, if it is not already. Needless to say, this would violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cornelia Dean's Brave New Rules For Science

Based on her past articles and this current article, one can reasonably infer the following rules from Cornelia Dean:

1. Any scientific evidence or theory from which one can infer support for theism or a theistic worldview is not science, may not be presented to public school students and should not be discussed in the New York Times.

2. Any scientific evidence or theory from which one can debunk theism or a theistic worldview is good science, should be presented to public school students and should be discussed in the New York Times.

Please obey the rules.

As one person put it:
And I find it hard to suppress a chuckle at the sheer brass of books like Richard Dawkins's recent The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), which seem untroubled by traditional boundaries between religion and science as long as the intrusion is going their way.

Here is a link to a post about another "stunning hypocrisy" and double standard.

Plausibility Survey Redux

I thought I would post a new request to readers to take my Plausibility Survey, which you can find here. All you need to do is type in seven numbers in the comments section. Feel free to do it anonymously. Any additional comments are welcome. Thanks to all who have already commented.

Preliminary results can be found here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

William Provine On Eminent Evolutionary Scientists Who are Philosophically Unsophisticated

William Provine had this to say about the philosophical sophistication of eminent evolutionary scientists as compared to students in introductory evolution classes, based on a survey:
One of us (Provine) has been thinking about human free will for almost 40 years, has read most of the philosophical literature on the subject and polls his undergraduate evolution class (200-plus students) each year on belief in free will. Year after year, 90 percent or more favor the idea of human free will for a very specific reason: They think that if people make choices, they have free will. The professional debate about free will has moved far from this position, because what counts is whether the choice is free or determined, not whether human beings make choices. People and animals both certainly choose constantly. Comments from the evolutionists suggest that they were equating human choice and human free will. In other words, although eminent, our respondents had not thought about free will much beyond the students in introductory evolution classes.

It is not surprising then that many of these scientists do not understand intelligent design or are even aware of their own a priori philosophical commitments. I support further testing and remedial courses in general philosophy and philosophy of science for all evolutionary scientists, as necessary.

Hat tip to Mike Gene on the article. His comments are here.

Michael Egnor's comments on the same article are here.