Sunday, June 2, 2013

Confirmation bias versus following the evidence

I've been noticing something in some of my recent discussions with theists.  While I'm really not bothering to debate things with Biblical-literatlist types, I've noticed something that they all do - from your scientifically illiterate creationist to your more thoughtful, introspective theist.  Essentially, they don't seem to realize that it's pretty bogus to start with a conclusion and then work your way backward.

When it comes to the extreme end of theism, young Earth creationists, they pretty much come out and admit that they start with the conclusion.  Check out the Statement of Faith from Answers in Genesis, but be forewarned that the circular reasoning might give you vertigo.  Some highlights include the following:
By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
I couldn't write something so obtuse if I tried.  Basically, nothing can contradict the Bible no matter what.  We have all the answers we need.  And you gotta love the idea that scientific evidence is subject to "interpretation by fallible people" (which is true) there is absolutely no way that The Bible could have been changed about as it was written, copied, translated, and interpreted by those same fallible people.

I also love the following:
The final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself.
Wow.  If circular reasoning didn't work, then how come it works?  Seriously, if you sit and read this sentence and nod your head like it means something, then there is no hope for you.  You are beyond reason in the same way that any cult member is.

I seem to recall a comic strip on the AiG website where it had a fossil and a creationist on one side and an "evolutionist" on the other.  The creationist thinks to himself, "Great evidence for creation!" and the actual scientist thinks "Great evidence for evolution!"  Essentially the narrative that they're trying to create is that we all have a starting point, and those who look for creation will find it, and those who look for evolution will find it.  Of course, this is complete malarky for the simple fact that there IS NO EVIDENCE FOR CREATION.  And you may be thinking:  "Oh, but Lance!  There is!"  And to you, I must say:  "No, there is not.  Stop.  Just stop.  Seriously, stop."  I could elaborate, but I've done this dance too many times only to find out that the other person lacks basic scientific literacy, is using a bit of supposed "evidence" that's been long-since debunked, or is engaging in some sort of "God of the Gaps" fallacy (not to mention pretty much every other logical fallacy that one can imagine).  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me for the billionth time, and I'm Don frikken' Quixote.

Anyway, so I don't really talk to these types all that much, mainly because the opportunity rarely presents itself, and secondarily because I could better spend my time smashing my head into a brick wall.  No, the theists with whom I converse are a bit more of a slippery species of fish.  It's kind of hard to nail them down on exactly what it is they believe in the first place, but they essentially play this same game where they elevate their position to the same status as the atheist by claiming that we're just looking at the universe from different perspectives.

Because see, when your starting point is that you believe in God, then it's easy to see His work in the universe.  It's all fine-tuned for life and blah blah blah.

Essentially, they give the very definition of a confirmation bias, and then they try and put me on the same level as though I do the same thing.  After all, don't I start with the assumption that there ISN'T a God?  And isn't that why I don't see His work?  Hmm...maybe.

But let's break that down and replace the word "God" with something else - pick something, whether it be hobgoblins, gremlins, or Cthulhu.  Is the reason why I don't see evidence for these things because my starting point is that I don't believe them?  Or is it that I don't believe them because I don't see any evidence for them?  The second one sounds more likely, doesn't it?

Oh, but we're talking about God!  It's different!  I have a personal relationship!

No, it's not any different at all.  And I always have to remind them that I grew up as a believer, so I know exactly what it's like to see evidence for Him all around me.  In other words, my "starting point" was as a believer.  But then I started to realize that I accepted reasons for the existence of God which I would not accept for the existence of anything else.  In other words, I realized my own confirmation bias.  Now I just go where the evidence goes, and it's not going to any kind of theism.  That's right, not even Shinto.

Assuming the non-existence of something is not the same as assuming the existence of it.  There are a billion things that could get me to change my mind.  And what would change the mind of a believer?  Go ahead and ask one some day.  I have yet to get anything approaching a straight answer to this question.  I either get a straight-up evasion along the lines of:  "I'd hate to even think of not believing!" or answers to questions that are somewhat similar but not quite the same.  I was once accused of asking the theist to prove a negative, but that's not the same thing.  I'm not asking: "What would disprove God?"  I'm asking:  "What would change your mind?"  Again, I can give you answers to this for each and every thing which I believe and accept about the world.  Go ahead, put me to the test.

Back to the young-Earth creationists, there are a lot of scientists who refuse to debate them for the simple fact that doing so elevates the creationist to a level with the scientist - a level which he has not earned.  After all, you don't have geologists debating flat-earthers, do you?  To what end?  Of course, a lot of creationists interpret that as cowardice on the part of the scientists, but you really can't waste your time with every crackpot idea.

I'm starting to think though that even debating theists in general is akin to this idea.  By engaging them in the debate over the existence of God, you've just given their side a legitimacy which it has not earned.  The only thing that they have going for them is tradition and majority opinion - neither of which is a foundation for a legitimate belief system.  On the other hand though, I'm sure that I'll still engage in conversations with theists - as I find myself doing that more than "debating" lately.  Otherwise, how do they even know why we atheists don't believe in the first place?  Sure, you might not change their minds, but you definitely won't get anywhere if all they hear is the echo chamber of their particular religious faith.






15 comments:

Tony from Pandora said...

I'm sure I fall the into the 'scientific illiterate creationist' more than the 'thoughtful, introspective theist' But because you don't accept my evidence, the best way I can describe my belief is with a dialogue from the movie 'Contact' with Jodie Foster, based on the novel by Carl Sagan (imagine that being said in a Mary Catherine Gallagher voice... superstar!):

Senator: You come to us with no evidence, no record, no artifacts. Only a story that, to put it mildly, strains credibility... Are you really going to sit there and tell us that we should just take this all on faith?
Ellie Arroway: Is it possible that it didn't happen? Yes. . . . As a scientist I must concede that. I must volunteer that.
Michael Kitz: Then why don't you simply withdraw your testimony and admit that this journey to the center of the galaxy, in fact, never took place?
Ellie Arroway: Because I can't. I had an experience... I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever... A vision of the universe that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how ... rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are not — that none of us — are alone! ... I wish I could share that. I wish, that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe, and humility, and hope! But ... that continues to be my wish.

And I hope you DON'T stop conversing with religious people, you're much more interesting to talk to than many people I know...

Lance Johnson said...

" But because you don't accept my evidence..."

Tony, I accept any and all evidence, but it actually has to BE evidence. If you're sitting on something that hasn't been rejected by the vast majority of the world's scientists as evidence, then by all means, you should share (and no doubt collect your Nobel Prize).

Interesting that you'd quote a movie based on a book by Carl Sagan. All I can say is that personal experiences only prove that somebody has had a personal experience, whether it's a Christian's feeling the Holy Spirit, Malcolm X's pilgrimage to Mecca, or Sammy Hagar being kidnapped by aliens. Ultimately, while they may communicate something profound on the individual level, they say nothing about the actual reality of the world we live in.

Tony from Pandora said...

I have much respect for Carl Sagan... unlike some scientists (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) that seem to have a 'militant' agenda against religion, Sagan seemed more 'open minded' to a possibility of a god in some fashion, though certainly NOT the personal God I believe; but still he seemed to genuinely search for truth.

"I accept any and all evidence, but it actually has to BE evidence."
I think this may be our biggest issue. I regard personal experience AS evidence. Not the be-all end-all for my conclusions, but I certainly weigh it in. There is no scientific proof I love my wife. I can't 'prove' it. Any actions done out of love can't be proven to be done so out of love.
God's primary way of communicating is through personal experience, not through nature. So having had that personal experience (which I admittedly can't 'prove' by any means you will accept) with God, I recognize nature has His handiwork and can see God in that creation.

"They have nothing to say about the actual reality of the world we live in."

This relates to the above point I made. Your 'actual reality' won't accept anything that may be 'super'-natural. You have the known universe in this box and refuse to accept a possibility that something outside that box could interact with it. If it does (creation, great flood, virgin birth, the Kardashians, etc) you explain it way as saying, "Well, that's just another part of the box. I think there is MORE than what's in this box (being the physical, tangible world). But my evidence for the supernatural comes from my personal experience, which you don't accept. Why don't you? Because you had the same feeling as a believer, then got over those feelings? Prove it. Prove that your feelings during your time as a believer were the same as mine. That my feeling of the Holy Spirit is the same as what you felt? How can you prove that?

And at this point I know you're saying, "No... Stop. Just stop. Seriously, stop."

I've teetered on the edge of agnosticism/atheism myself, but just like my love for my wife and children, there is overwhelming feeling within me (you call it the result of endorphins, adrenaline, etc. I call the Holy Spirit) that makes me open to things even bigger what this 'big box' has to offer. And like Jodie Foster... that feeling is too true and too real for me to ignore.

So agree to disagree?

Lance Johnson said...

I've written a post about the use of the term "militant" to describe atheists - I think that's a disingenuous term. Unless Dawkins does the equivalent of what you'd call a "militant" Christian or Muslim, which would involve inciting and/or performing acts of violence, then that doesn't work.

"I regard personal experience AS evidence."

But then you're redefining the word. The problem is that if we accept personal experience as "evidence" then we have evidence for completely mutually exclusive world views.

"There is no scientific proof I love my wife. I can't 'prove' it."

I've heard this before - probably even once used it. Love is an emotion. All you have to do to "prove" it is feel it. Saying that you have an emotion and saying that there's a supernatural creator of all existence are two wildly different propositions.

As for the whole "box" thing, that sure doesn't sound like the way I think about things. I demand evidence - actual, verifiable evidence. I will accept the supernatural when I get some, but there is none as far as I can tell.

And again, as for your personal feelings, I'm sorry but they're just that - personal feelings/experiences. I don't doubt your sincerity, but if I am to factor in personal experiences in my assessment of what's real and what's not, then I have to either accept everybody's (which is ridiculous) or nobody's - even my own.

"So agree to disagree?"

Not really, no. You're redefining words at your convenience. If we can't agree on the meaning of words, then we don't have much of a starting point - and this goes along with my thesis, as you've elevated your point of view to a position which it has not earned. Sorry to be blunt, but there you have it.

Tony from Pandora said...

To "militant atheist" being a disingenuous term... take that up with Richard Dawkins... I only borrowed it from him... http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_on_militant_atheism.html

"The problem is that if we accept personal experience as "evidence" then we have evidence for completely mutually exclusive world views"

I did say that it was NOT the be-all end-all in my conclusions. I don't ONLY use personal evidence, but I consider it. If I had a headache, I would certainly do research into drugs that help with headaches... but I would probably first just ask my coworker, "Hey, does aspirin help with your headaches?" and consider that in my decision.

"Love is an emotion"

No... love is a battlefield.

"I will accept the supernatural when I get some"

No you won't... you'll explain it away as part of the 'box', or you won't accept it as verifiable proof.

"...if I am to factor in personal experiences in my assessment of what's real and what's not, then I have to either accept everybody's (which is ridiculous) or nobody's - even my own."

This is my point about the box. There are aspects of God that are revealed only through personal feelings/experience. If you don't accept that as evidence, then you don't HAVE all the evidence.

"redefining words at your convenience"

I don't mean to. I explained what I meant by 'evidence'. Are there other terms I am not using correctly? I don't think I'm asking you to say that red is blue or that east is west... but I do see that if I (in Ohio) say 'Let's point up" to a guy living in Australia, that we are pointing in two different directions...

" If we can't agree on the meaning of words, then we don't have much of a starting point -

Semantics are a problem in communication. It's tough. (and by 'tough' I, of course, mean 'pleasurable and simple'.)

" and this goes along with my thesis, as you've elevated your point of view to a position which it has not earned. Sorry to be blunt, but there you have it."

Okay? So?
1. I'm not trying to earn anything, except maybe some superficial online relationship... I have atheist friends who honestly aren't nearly as poignant and intelligent as you are. I genuinely enjoy discussing these differing viewpoints with you.
2. What 'position' am I striving to earn?
3. Who developed this standard by which this position is measured?
5. What criteria is needed to earn it?
4. Why am I beholden to this standard?

Lance Johnson said...

I don't have time to watch Dawkins' entire spiel on militant atheism, but if he thinks that's a good word to use, then I disagree with him.

"you'll explain it away as part of the 'box', or you won't accept it as verifiable proof"

Tony, if suddenly all of my Christian friends disappear in the Rapture, a dude turns a staff into a snake, or Thor saves me from a Frost Giant, then I will have absolutely no choice but to say: "You know what? Looks like I was spectacularly wrong."

Your "box" analogy isn't working.

"There are aspects of God that are revealed only through personal feelings/experience."

Replace "God" with Shiva, vampires, leprechauns, whatever. Unless you can clearly set up some criteria that distinguishes your "personal experience" from a delusion or from the personal experiences of other faith systems, then it's NOT evidence. Evidence is objective and verifiable, which is why I keep insisting that what you call evidence is, in fact, not evidence.

"I explained what I meant by 'evidence'."

I'll let Enigo Montoya respond.

"2. What 'position' am I striving to earn?"

That our viewpoints are both based on evidence.

"3. Who developed this standard by which this position is measured?"

I'm going by the scientific method - don't think it was invented by one person. We know it's a good one for the simple fact that it works in a completely non-subjective and verifiable way. (The fact that you're reading this proves it.)

"5. What criteria is needed to earn it?"

Objective evidence that can be verified by anyone.

"4. Why am I beholden to this standard?"

Well, if you don't care about what's real and what isn't, then you're not.

Tony from Pandora said...

Concerning 'militant atheism', I hope you know I'm not including you in that group. When I search youtube or read up on this sort of thing, it's the more extreme viewpoints that seem easier to find... it's hard not to click on 'em and see what they have to say...

Concerning the 'box' analogy. I'll disregard it... it worked better in my head than it did in text form...

Concerning evidence, scientific method, and Frost Giants...

What I'm going to say here will probably cause you to want to end this discussion. I understand that, so I won't be offended... I can already hear you say, "Stop, just stop. No, really, stop."

I think I'm fairly well read (for a layman) in the area of biology and evolution. For my nursing degree, I've received quite a bit of education in microbiology, chemistry, anatomy, etc. And because I simply like reading, I've read up on books, articles, etc. concerning evolution. While this doesn't give me any authority on anything, it shows that at minimum, I've been exposed to the terms and verbage used in these fields and have sense of what they mean...
What's called 'evidence of evolution' I simply don't accept. And I'm not using the word 'evidence' wrong here. I do disagree with your phrase 'Objective Evidence'. There is no such thing. Evidence is NOT objective and verifiable. Facts are. Facts can then be used AS evidence... but the word 'evidence' inherently contains a preconceived conclusion.

When a murder investigation takes place, the cops look for 'evidence' for the murder. They already know the murder took place, and are looking for evidence for it. You say there's evidence for evolution. I say evolution is being framed for a crime it didn't commit.
You believe evolution took place so when you see objective verifiable facts, you interpret them as evidence for theories of 'common descent' and evolution. I look at the same facts, and interpret them as evidence for 'common descent' from Adam & Eve by creative design.

You say once you're saved by Thor from a Frost Giant, you'll believe in Frost Giants. But what if I told you that I was saved by Thor? And a thousand other people told you they were also? I'm guessing you still wouldn't believe it. But evolutionary scientists are saying they found Frost Giants, and you're believing them.

I DO care about what's real. But back to the 'Contact' movie, my personal experience is factored in by what facts I gather, and my personal experience is just as real as fossils are. But your reality doesn't accept feelings/experience as part of reality... and from there we are at an impasse... so we must have a final battle of wits... I'll get the Iocaine powder.

Lance Johnson said...

"I think I'm fairly well read (for a layman) in the area of biology and evolution."

No offense, but you really don't seem to be.

"What's called 'evidence of evolution' I simply don't accept."

Just curious, but why is your understanding so much better than 98% of the world's biologists?

"Evidence is NOT objective and verifiable."

Sigh. You are twisting yourself in knots here. If a person was murdered, and the dead body was lying on the ground, I could see it for myself. Then I could get other people to see it. There wouldn't be any argument that there was a dead body. Nobody would be saying, "No, I think it's a living sea monkey." It's totally objective, and it's totally verifiable. Come on, dude.

" I say evolution is being framed for a crime it didn't commit."

I'm sorry, but you're wrong, and the fact that people even consider this to be a debate in the year 2013 is scary. The evidence is overwhelming and it's the very foundation of biology.

"you interpret them as evidence for theories of 'common descent' and evolution. I look at the same facts, and interpret them as evidence for 'common descent' from Adam & Eve by creative design."

No, no, no, no. This is such a completely bullcrap point. You're starting with a conclusion and working your way backward. That is not how the theory of evolution came to be, and it's not the reason why I accept it. (I "believe" it the same way that I "believe" gravity.) Geez, this point you're making is the very thing that I was countering in the original post! I'd say that I had psychic powers to predict that you'd do this, but this is always the fallback of creationists.

"But what if I told you that I was saved by Thor? And a thousand other people told you they were also? I'm guessing you still wouldn't believe it."

What if I told you that people were saved by L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology? What if I told you that people have been saved by Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.? So what? My point with Thor and the Frost Giant is that at least that way, I could show you the dead body of a Frost Giant, and I would have no doubt snapped some photos of Thor wielding his Mjolnir. In other words, there would be OBJECTIVE evidence.

"But evolutionary scientists..."

We just call them "scientists".

"...are saying they found Frost Giants, and you're believing them."

I don't believe them because they say it. I believe them because they provide objective evidence. For Pete's sakes, go to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian some time. You can see the evidence for yourself, and nobody tells you that you need to believe it first.

There are a billion things that would convince me that evolution is bunk. I have yet to see any of these things happening though.

" But your reality doesn't accept feelings/experience as part of reality..."

What you're not addressing is that if I were to do that, I would have to accept all feelings/experiences as "evidence". Therefore, Sammy Hagar has evidence that aliens kidnapped him.

What I find is that Christians don't so much have a problem that I won't accept personal experiences as evidence, but the fact that I'm not willing to give theirs special treatment.

Tony from Pandora said...

Part 1.
"No offense, but you don't seem to be. (concerning reading biology & evolution)"

Okay. But is that because I am using terms incorrectly, or because I'm referring to evolutionary ideas in the wrong sense, or is that that if I WERE well read, I would agree with it? I never claimed any authority or intelligence on this... only that i've read it and think I've understood it... and disagree with the conclusions.

"Why is your understanding so much better than 98% of the world's biologists?"

I'm sure a biologist can pinpoint the DNA code that makes a salamander's tail grow back. I'd have no clue. He can even point to a similar code in an extinct salamander-saurus rex. I don't accept this as evidence for evolution. If he shows me the codes and how similar they are, and says, "See, this is evidence for evolution!" I say, "How do you know it wasn't simply designed similarly because it performs a similar function?"

"Nobody would be saying, "No, I think it's a living sea monkey." It's totally objective, and it's totally verifiable. Come on, dude."

Let me clarify the metaphor. We agree that there's a body (i.e. earth.) This is fact. You see facts (smoking gun, lipstick on a glass, i.e. fossil record, DNA comparisons among differing species) and interpret that as evidence for WHO murdered the victim. I see the same facts, and interpret them as evidence for a different murderer.

" That is not how the theory of evolution came to be, and it's not the reason why I accept it

It may not be why you accept it, but that IS more or less how Darwin developed it. Darwin couldn't 'believe' that acts of seemingly senseless violence and suffering in nature could be done by the type of God he learned about. So (without saying it) his theory was this; "Because the God I grew up learning about wouldn't have a reason to create spiders that eat their parents, there must be no God. So... if there is no God... how might this have happened?" I say God DID create a world that allows spiders to eat their parents. So there's no need for an alternative explanation.

"Evolution ...very foundation of biology."

Yes and no. Biology, real bio (life) -ology (study of) studies the chemical makeup of organisms, and the interactions these chemicals have within an organism as well as how the organism as a whole interact with other organisms and to its environment. Evolution is not needed for that. I remember my freshman science class imitating Mendel's genetic work on wrinkled vs. smooth peas. He did that work BEFORE Darwin, and he was a freakin' monk who disagreed with several of Darwin's theories. I'll agree that evolution theory is currently the driving force behind 98% of biology research. I'm okay with that thought. I'm even okay with the argument that religion has often gotten in the way of scientific discovery. But motives of scientists or religious people hold no bearing on the truth.

Tony from Pandora said...

Part 2.

"What if I told you that people were saved by L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology? What if I told you that people have been saved by Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc."

The existence of counterfeits doesn't deny the existence of the genuine. If you have a fake $20 bill, that doesn't mean there are no real $20 bills. I agree, there are bogus religions... let them argue for themselves... I welcome the discussion. I'm not seeking a position of approval from anyone.

"For Pete's sakes, go to the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian some time. You can see the evidence for yourself, and nobody tells you that you need to believe it first"

I was there in 1996. I spent half the day in there... after I saw Fonzie's jacket, of course. I heard they took that down, though.

"What you're not addressing is that if I were to do that, I would have to accept all feelings/experiences as "evidence". Therefore, Sammy Hagar has evidence that aliens kidnapped him."

I'm not asking you to "accept all feelings/experiences as evidence." I'm asking that you realize that some things can only be ascertained through feelings/experience/relationships.
So yeah, hear Sammy out... then decide... don't assume there's no aliens and refuse to listen.

"What I find is that Christians don't so much have a problem that I won't accept personal experiences as evidence, but the fact that I'm not willing to give theirs special treatment."

While that may be true of many Christians? Being an atheist or Christian or Buddhist or Tom Cruise doesn't matter. I only ask that you include feeling and experience in your data collecting to ascertain the truth. I ask this because, again, I think there are truths that science simply can't answer, and these truths can only be ascertained by considering, not accepting, but considering feeling/experience/relationship in your data collection. By not doing so... you're limiting yourself. So yeah, I'm asking you to consider Christ, Creation, hobgoblins,the Bifrost. Ask Sammy Hagar about the aliens, and ask him why he can't drive 55. But don't make up your mind and close off the communication.

I guess that's all I REALLY wanted to say... don't close off the communication.

And in saying that...I will be on vacation for a couple weeks... so I probably won't read any response you may give for some time...

And feel free to drop it altogether and we can talk about the new Superman movie when I get back...

Lance Johnson said...

This is one of the things that's so ridiculous about religion - it gives laypeople a ridiculous amount of confidence. Even though the people who are experts in this subject (biology) will tell you - overwhelmingly - that it's as close to fact as anything gets in science, you think that your interpretation is just as valid as their understanding.

And the way you describe the DNA evidence makes me think that you're not very well read on exactly what it proves. Ever hear of Francis Collins? Dude's a Christian, mapped the human genome, and will tell you that even if we had no fossils, our DNA is all we need to conclusively prove that evolution has occurred.

"I see the same facts, and interpret them as evidence for a different murderer."

No, you're more like a guy who's insisting that even though he has a knife in his back, he probably died of natural causes.

As for your description of Darwin and his theory, I don't know what creationist websites you're reading, but that's so far off the mark that I don't even know where to begin. I realize that you're not necessarily indicating an exact quote, but where the hell did he ever say something even remotely like what you're attributing to him?

" If you have a fake $20 bill, that doesn't mean there are no real $20 bills."

Two problems with this analogy:

1. We have an objective way to tell the difference between real and counterfeit $20 bills.

2. Counterfeit $20 bills didn't exist before actual $20 bills.

"But don't make up your mind and close off the communication."

I am always willing to change my mind, but again, if I accept everybody's feelings as "evidence" then I'll have to believe pretty much everything. I consider your Christ as much as I consider anything else, but if the best you've got is your feelings, then I'm pretty danged unimpressed.

Tony from Pandora said...

I couldn't help but one last read before I go...

On 'ridiculous amount of confidence'-- it's easy to edit text to eliminate insecurity, but let me assure... confidence isn't my strong point.

On Francis Collins...

Yes, I've read his story a number of years ago. He believes in evolution... and in God. If memory serves me... he says what I've been trying to say, that there is more than physical 'stuff', you must consider personal experience. And from his personal experience he went from being an atheist to a Christian... this was AFTER his genome work...

Darwin... First off, I don't trust creation websites when they talk about Darwin.
Back in my college days, I bout 2 books about Darwin at a used book store (the Book Nook) in Findlay, OH; Darwin's autobiography, and Letters of the Life of Darwin, or something like that. It's either in his autiobiography or in this book of letters that he wrote where he says while in the 'Beagle' he saw insects eating each other and couldn't understand why a God would create nature this way. This led him to try and think of another way. This was 15+ years ago that I've read these (and since sold them, unfortunately) so the details are fuzzy. Anyway... gotta go.

Keep the communication open...

Lance Johnson said...

"confidence isn't my strong point."

And yet you think that your interpretation of the evidence is just as valid as the vast majority of scientists. It's like me going to my auto mechanic and when he tells me it's my transmission, I say that my interpretation of the problem is that it's out of gas. Or, in this case, it's out of something that has yet to be proven to exist.

I'm well aware of the conversion of Francis Collins. The point is that he didn't convert when he mapped the human genome, nor did he put that forward as evidence for a god. His conversion had something to do with seeing a waterfall, and I'm fairly certain that he wouldn't try and put that forward as the same kind of evidence as the evidence for evolution. The point is that one doesn't "believe" in evolution - it's a fact, and the evidence is there.

I'll just take your word for the Darwin story, as it's not really important to his theory. That might very well have been what prompted him to start seeing things in a different way, but it has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. It had more to do with the variations that he saw on different islands. His work wasn't just pulled out of thin air - it has its roots in the works of other scientists as well. And for 150+ years, as more evidence rolls in, his theory has only become stronger.

While I realize it might be a while until you come back, the thing that occurred to me that I should have said is this: the main difference between your "interpretation" of the evidence and the theory of evolution is that evolution is falsifiable. The whole thing could have gone out the window when they started examining DNA, but the more info we get, and the more fossils we find, the theory continues to pan out.

How is believing that a God designed all this - and to be even more specific - the Christian God - falsifiable? Is there anything that can prove it wrong?

Unless you have something, then that's exactly why your interpretation doesn't deserve to be on the same pedestal as the theory of evolution. It belongs with every other unfalsifiable idea - like the Mormons who keep insisting that their holy book is true even though it's demonstrably untrue.

Lance Johnson said...

Forgot to add this link. It's by Ken Miller, a biologist and man of faith who understands that his faith and science don't mix.

Lance Johnson said...

One more bit - I found this site which goes over what Collins has to say about evolution and his faith. While I obviously disagree with his third point, notice the stuff that I put in bold:

"Faith that places God in the gaps of current understanding about the natural world may be headed for crisis if advances in science subsequently fill those gaps” (p. 93). We cannot use causal action by a transcendent intelligence to explain puzzling natural phenomena. In short, no God‐of-the‐ gaps allowed.
“Darwin’s framework of variation and natural selection,” but especially Darwin’s picture of a Tree of Life—the common ancestry of all organisms on Earth—“is unquestionably correct” (141). Universal common descent by natural processes is scientifically non‐negotiable. The theory of neo‐Darwinian evolution cannot rationally be doubted by any educated person.

The best way to reconcile the propositional content of a transcendentally grounded morality with modern evolutionary theory is what Collins calls “BioLogos,” his renaming of “theistic evolution.” BioLogos is “not intended as a scientific theory” (204)...