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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 05/15/2012 :  12:36:13  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You might have read a bit lately in the blogosphere about a talk that philosopher Elliott Sober gave. For examples of what people say, see here, here and here.

Sober essentially talks about the compatibility of science (in this case evolution) and religion. Since theories aren't causally complete, he argues it is indeed possible that one can accept science and still believe that there is a god who does things. What is important to note here is that Sober is not saying that he finds it likely that there is a god doing anything, merely that evolution doesn't rule it out. In a separate paper, Sober also talks more closely about how one should interpret "god" in this discussion:
Although evolutionary theory is silent on the question of whether there is a God, it is not neutral with respect to logically stronger hypotheses about God. Consider, for example, the statement

Life appeared on earth about 10,000 years ago due to divine intervention.

This statement is inconsistent with evolutionary theory.


I left some comments on Sandwalk on this very topic and thought that the following part of that exchange needed highlighting; Not because it is central to the discussion at hand but because the person ("Negative Entropy") I was "arguing" with seems to lack a certain ability to reason. In my last comment at Sandwalk, I invited "Negative Entropy" to come to this thread to defend his position. Anyhow, here is the exchange:



Negative EntropyThursday, May 10, 2012 7:59:00 PM

For a god to cause mutations such a god would have to exist in the first place. Sober is an imbecile.

HawksFriday, May 11, 2012 7:33:00 PM

Negative Entropy wrote two sentences:

(1) For a god to cause mutations such a god would have to exist in the first place.

(2) Sober is an imbecile.

I would be interested how his conclusion in (2) follows from (1).


Negative EntropySunday, May 13, 2012 4:26:00 PM

Hawks,

Yup. It follows.


HawksSunday, May 13, 2012 5:19:00 PM

Rrrrriiight. An imbecile would probably be more likely to think that (2) follows from (1).

But seriously, for those of us who aren't allowed to make our own rules of logic, there is something missing in your statement. Would you care to enlighten us?

Negative EntropyMonday, May 14, 2012 9:36:00 AM

I thought you read/heard the whole thing. Larry's post, Sober's talk, probably the stuff going on at Jerry's site, my comment. That should help you figure out how (2) follows from (1).

Note here: previously, "Negative Entropy" claimed that (2) followed from (1). Now one also need additional information. And, surprise, no such information is provided.

HawksMonday, May 14, 2012 1:24:00 PM

I have read it. I even understood some of it. What I can't understand is your silly conclusion that Sober is an imbecile. YOU have not justified this conclusion what-so-ever. And no, pointing out that there is stuff written on the subject is not a justification. That is just pure laziness. So, Negative Entropy, justify your conclusion. I bet you can't...

Negative EntropyMonday, May 14, 2012 8:02:00 PM

It is pure laziness, but not on my part. The conclusion is too obvious. I love the "I bet you can't ..." Reminds me of those old elementary school days. Are you by any chance a creationist?


That last sentence made me lose all respect for "Negative Entropy" (not that I had that much before).

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HalfMooner
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Posted - 05/15/2012 :  22:58:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I would agree with you that Negative Entropy did not back up his statement that Elliot Sober is an "imbecile". He was dumb/lazy in stating that his second, "imbecile" statement follows from his first statement about god and mutations. If it does follow, he left out some vitally important points.

But Elliot may yet be an imbecile, or at least not entirely Sober. I'm trying to load the talk and, if I can, I'll comment further. (If Sober gets frisky with quantum interventionism by a god, I will indeed consider him an imbecile or worse, though I may not present that thought as a formal syllogism.)

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
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Posted - 05/16/2012 :  08:25:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I also agree that Negative Entropy didn't back up his silly "(2) Sober is an imbecile" statement. And there seems to be plenty of evidence that Sober isn't an imbecile. I'm a bit puzzled as to why Sober would spend a lot of time on a proposition that is not a game changer in any way that I can see. Maybe it's the thrill of philosophy? Any agnostic or agnostic/atheist has already conceded that intervention by a supernatural power can't be entirely ruled out on any empirical grounds. The most we can say is that any outside intervention is an unnecessary hypothesis for evolution to work as it appears to work, and by way of Occam's razor, we can legitimately discount the idea.

Perhaps, like the NCSE, he's trying to make theists see that evolution isn't such a threat to their beliefs, and I'm not horrified by that kind of accommodation to theistic beliefe. Sober rejects NOMA because there really are religious beliefs that absolutely do run counter to what is observed in the study of nature which makes NOMA a severely flawed argument. But not being an anti-theist myself, I don't really care what some people think, even if I doubt what they believe, as long as it's science being taught in science classrooms. But then, there already those who subscribe to theistic evolution, and don't let their theism bias the science they are doing, or learning about. They just inject an unnecessary proposition for their own comfort that adds nothing to actual scientific pursuit. Why should I care as long as the science is being done correctly and that it's science and not theism that is being offered up for publication in scientific journals?

On the other hand, not really understanding the thrill of the pursuit of purely philosophical ideas, maybe Sober get's a charge out of identifying ways that god could plausibly insert himself without detection into a process of nature. But isn't that something we at least pretty much understand even if it's not specifically about the rate or kind of mutations occurring as one of the main drivers evolution? And isn't every evolutionary biologist who also holds theistic beliefs already on that wavelength?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Hawks
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Canada
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Posted - 05/16/2012 :  18:51:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Kil and HalfMooner,

Sober certainly is no imbecile. He has written extensively on both evolution and intelligent design and makes some very good arguments for why the "science" of ID is not ... science. Personally, I do get a "thrill" from philosophy, so these kinds of discussions interest me. What Sober is saying isn't massively novel or even controversial (or, at least, it shouldn't be), which is why I'm quite surprised at the negative (sometimes VERY negative) attention he has managed to gather. What he has done is put some previous lines of thought into a more formal format; "God of the gaps" has essentially become "theories aren't causally complete" and since theories are silent on the question of whether there is a god doing anything in the causal gap of our knowledge, science and religion are compatible. I.e. one can accept science and still hold the view that god does things.

Sober himself does NOT think that the proposition that there is a god doing something is true or even plausible. He would reject that proposition for a reason that is similar to why he rejects ID (at least, this is what I think Sober would do given his previous writings) - we have no independent evidence what such a god (or designer) would want in the first place - or even that it exists. And this is the reason that I got into this discussion with "Negative Entropy" in the first place.

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Hawks
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Posted - 05/16/2012 :  19:28:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Negative Entropy and I made one more post each at Sandwalk:

Negative EntropyTuesday, May 15, 2012 7:45:00 PM

This is sweet from you Hawks. Question, which is the "last sentence" that made you lose respect for me (not that you had much respect for me anyway)? The question about whether you are a creationist, or that your kinder-garden "I dare you" statement reminded me of those old school days? If the former, well, the latter is typical of creationist modus operandi. So, maybe you should rethink a bit about your self-respect.

I could not register to the forum, might try another day. Traveling now. (Your link "explaining" what "should be understood by God" by Sober does not say anything about what should be understood by God. Maybe you linked the wrong paper. I am being serious, no sarcasm or anything about your mistake. Just an observation so that I can read the right paper and realize that Sober is not that much of an imbecile after all-provided the paper made sense of the apparent imbecility. But if the link is correct, I stand by my assessment.)


HawksWednesday, May 16, 2012 9:25:00 PM

which is the "last sentence"

The last sentence was the creationist one.

"I dare you" statement reminded me of those old school days?

That's your problem. I said that you can't do it because I can't see how you CAN do it.

So, maybe you should rethink a bit about your self-respect.

I fail to see why.

Your link "explaining" what "should be understood by God" by Sober does not say anything about what should be understood by God.

The link (and the quote) essentially states that god does not refer to any specific religious deity but rather religion in general.


At Sandwalk, I didn't point out to "Negative Entropy" that if there is anything that is creationist modus operandi then it is to (1) refuse to supply evidence and (2) claim that there is evidence available if one looks for it elsewhere. So, I suppose that we should suspect that "Negative Entropy" is a creationist. Personally, I find this reasoning quite unconvincing, mainly for the reason that there is no other evidence present that either of us are creationists.

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sailingsoul
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Posted - 05/16/2012 :  21:47:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sailingsoul a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Since theories aren't causally complete, he argues it is indeed possible that one can accept science and still believe that there is a god who does things.
True! as he puts it, it is indeed possible that one can accept science and still believe but so what?
There is NO scientific basis for the belief in God or Gods, any number of them. The answer to where we came from is not God, at least not from a scientific stand point. The belief in Santa Clause is just as valid as the belief in God, to all children who are taught that there is a Santa Clause because it is based on Faith. Just like the belief in God. Which is what every belief must be based on when there is NO scientific evidence to base a belief on. I haven't heard there is a God based in science from anyone who knows what science is about or how the scientific method works. If there is I'm all ears.

And another thing! what does the fact that "theories aren't causally complete" have to do with ANYTHING else than the specific theory that is not complete. That argument fails. Whether Evolution is complete or not has no baring on anything else beyond that theory. To state our understanding of the theory of Evolution is incomplete so therefor there is a God is an asinine statement. Sorry but it is. That certainly doesn't stop people from saying it and believing so.

It's all a bunch of double speak from those who want to continue the ignorant (uneducated) belief that science and the belief in God has a connection. Can anyone think of one? I would love to hear just one because I have not that I'm aware of.

There are only two types of religious people, the deceivers and the deceived. SS
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
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Posted - 05/17/2012 :  06:00:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The I have been unable to view that video. I can see now by comments that Sober's comments are not extreme in any way. I hope Sober isn't saying that the mere reality of cognitive dissonance means that science and religion do not always clash. The "ability" of people to ignore contradictions is no measure of reality, but rather a shortcoming in their thinking.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
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Edited by - HalfMooner on 05/17/2012 06:05:12
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Hawks
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Canada
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Posted - 05/17/2012 :  16:23:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by sailingsoul
True! as he puts it, it is indeed possible that one can accept science and still believe but so what?


So, anyone who claims otherwise would be wrong.

There is NO scientific basis for the belief in God or Gods, any number of them.

Sober certainly isn't arguing that there is. Evolution (and other scientific theories) are SILENT on whether or not there is a god doing anything in our gaps of knowledge. Therefore, rejection of theism is philosophical rather than scientific.

To state our understanding of the theory of Evolution is incomplete so therefor there is a God is an asinine statement.

It's a good thing that that argument was never used by Sober.

It's all a bunch of double speak from those who want to continue the ignorant (uneducated) belief that science and the belief in God has a connection.
Are you talking about Sober or someone else?

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Hawks
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Posted - 05/17/2012 :  17:39:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

The I have been unable to view that video. I can see now by comments that Sober's comments are not extreme in any way. I hope Sober isn't saying that the mere reality of cognitive dissonance means that science and religion do not always clash. The "ability" of people to ignore contradictions is no measure of reality, but rather a shortcoming in their thinking.
I don't see why there would be any cognitive dissonance here. There is only a claim of what scientific theories don't say. And they don't say that there is scientific evidence against theism.

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sailingsoul
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Posted - 05/17/2012 :  20:25:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sailingsoul a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Hawks



It's all a bunch of double speak from those who want to continue the ignorant (uneducated) belief that science and the belief in God has a connection.
Are you talking about Sober or someone else?
Ummm, someone else obviously. Seems I was keeping Ted Williams company over in left field. So to quote Ms. Rosanne Rosannadanna "Oh! Never mind!".

There are only two types of religious people, the deceivers and the deceived. SS
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/18/2012 :  07:15:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Elliott Sober may indeed be a sound philosopher of science. But get
him lubricated (Elliot Drunk, on the right), and he's anything but.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
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Negative Entropy
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Posted - 05/20/2012 :  06:33:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Negative Entropy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hey Hawks,

I do not know where to start. But I shall try:


  1. If you read/listen to Sober's talk, read what he wrote, and et cetera, then add my comment "for a god to cause mutations it would have to exist first," it naturally follows that Sober is an imbecile.

  2. See that symbol at the end of "Are you a creationist by any chance?" Well, that's called a question mark. So, I did not conclude that you were, I was just asking if you were a creationist given the "I dare you" statement.

  3. How can be your "I dare you" statement my problem if you are the one who wrote it?



Now let's quote you!

At Sandwalk, I didn't point out to "Negative Entropy" that if there is anything that is creationist modus operandi then it is to (1) refuse to supply evidence


I did not refuse, the evidence was all over the place.

and (2) claim that there is evidence available if one looks for it elsewhere.


I fail to see how the very same discussion where I commented can be interpreted as "elsewhere."

So, I suppose that we should suspect that "Negative Entropy" is a creationist. Personally, I find this reasoning quite unconvincing, mainly for the reason that there is no other evidence present that either of us are creationists.


Agreed. This is why I asked. Though you added yet another item for me to suspect you: you kinda misrepresented me in the above.

----

Now, as for Sober. His talk can be summarized as:

As long as you can think of some form of an interventionist god in a way that its work is indistinguishable from that of a non-interventionist god, which would be indistinguishable from no gods at all, believing in it is possible.


That's imbecilic enough even for considering giving a talk about it. However, I am giving him too much credit.


  1. He used the word "God" with a capital "G." Why not "god(s)." That would have been a tad less imbecilic.

  2. Hiding god(s) behind positive mutations at a rate indistinguishable from random is pure nonsense. You first have to show that there is god(s). So, god(s) have to exist before you propose what they may or may not be doing.

  3. Why the verbal diarrhea to say something that simple? Oh, sorry, he is a philosopher. Now, don't take me wrong here. I think that a good understanding of philosophy is a good thing to have, but philosophy today seems like an exercise of futility and stupidity. These guys run after such loads of bullshit. Just the other day I read some stuff at the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy about materialism/physicalism (which was useful), but was disappointed to read the "proposed problems with physicalism." Why? Because they were too obviously fallacious. Yet, there they are. As if bullshit deserved being listened/quoted within such a context.



Then, you pointed to that link, and I read it, and despite you clarify that all Sober was saying is that he was talking about a theistic god, that does not solve any problems with his presentation and philosophy. I stand by my conclusion.

Now, I can accept being wrong about stuff. So far, you have shown me no reason to retract. (2) follows from (1) if you understand the context.

Have a good Sunday.
Edited by - Negative Entropy on 05/20/2012 06:42:42
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26015 Posts

Posted - 05/20/2012 :  07:55:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Negative Entropy

He used the word "God" with a capital "G." Why not "god(s)." That would have been a tad less imbecilic.
Seriously? Argumentum ad capitalization and pluralization?
Hiding god(s) behind positive mutations at a rate indistinguishable from random is pure nonsense. You first have to show that there is god(s). So, god(s) have to exist before you propose what they may or may not be doing.
No, god-concepts are free and cheap when discussing logical consistencies. I don't need to produce evidence of an actual circular square before talking about whether it's a logically consistent concept. Similarly, Sober doesn't need to produce evidence of a god which hides behind evolution before discussing how such a concept isn't logically inconsistent with the science.
Why the verbal diarrhea to say something that simple? Oh, sorry, he is a philosopher.
Indeed. And if he can make a living being a philosopher and pumping out such trivially true stuff, he's not an imbecile.

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Negative Entropy
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Posted - 05/20/2012 :  17:43:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Negative Entropy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Hi Dave,

Seriously? Argumentum ad capitalization and pluralization?


Nope, argumentum at don't be that ridiculous. The capitalization makes the word suspiciously particular, rather than the more generic god Sober might have been pretending to discuss about.

No, god-concepts are free and cheap when discussing logical consistencies. I don't need to produce evidence of an actual circular square before talking about whether it's a logically consistent concept. Similarly, Sober doesn't need to produce evidence of a god which hides behind evolution before discussing how such a concept isn't logically inconsistent with the science.


Well, if you start talking about square-circles hiding behind gaps in knowledge, and produce tons of verbal diarrhea about it, well, I would say that before doing that you need to be explicit about why would you even consider talking about square-circles before thinking whether they exist. If you have no reason to believe that they exist, why put arguments on top of such nonsense?

Indeed. And if he can make a living being a philosopher and pumping out such trivially true stuff, he's not an imbecile.


Meh, I have seen imbeciles making a living on trivial stuff all of my life. But this alone is not the reason why I conclude on his imbecility, I hope you notice.

So far no reason for me to retract. I suspect you guys are not that skeptical.
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Dave W.
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Posted - 05/20/2012 :  18:26:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Negative Entropy

I suspect you guys are not that skeptical.
A personal insult. How boring.

Perhaps we need to know what (if any) objective definition of "imbecile" you use before we can agree that Sober meets it. You seem to think that that is the only logical conclusion, in which case you should be able to provide an argument which requires no subjective decisions.

Sober's argument is trivially true, and he indeed spewed much "verbal diarrhea" to make it. I think we can agree on these points. I do not agree that they alone can make the descriptor "imbecile" appropriate.

What Sober surely got factually wrong was the idea that anyone is claiming that a deity who makes undetectable changes to genomes is logically incompatible with evolutionary science. But one mistake (or even purposeful hyperbole) doesn't make a person an imbecile, either. I have yet to see any evidence that he's doubled-down instead of admitting error on that point. Actually, I have yet to see that he's even acknowledged that these criticisms of his talk exist, but I admit to not keeping up with the blogosphere on the weekends.
Well, if you start talking about square-circles hiding behind gaps in knowledge, and produce tons of verbal diarrhea about it, well, I would say that before doing that you need to be explicit about why would you even consider talking about square-circles before thinking whether they exist. If you have no reason to believe that they exist, why put arguments on top of such nonsense?
Apparently, you think that philosophical arguments require some grounding in reality. But philosophy is neither science nor skepticism, and you appear to be trying to insist that philosophers play by rules outside of their field. You seem to fancy yourself a skeptic, would it be logical or fair of me to call you an imbecile for failing to examine an argument for the existence of fairies by the rules set forth in the fields of music appreciation or fire-fighting?

Perhaps you simply think that Sober is an imbecile for wasting time and effort on such an apparently ethereal question. I would agree that it was a waste of time and effort, but I know of nobody who doesn't waste time and effort on something which they enjoy doing. It could be argued that the very fact that it's enjoyable makes it worthwhile, since the world would be a miserable place if everyone were forced to only do those things which are directly and objectively productive for society. If you feel yourself to be beyond such wastes of time, and that's the basis for your use of the word "imbecile," I'll bow out of this discussion and go back to playing Skyrim.

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Hawks
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Canada
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Posted - 05/20/2012 :  21:04:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Negative Entropy
If you read/listen to Sober's talk, read what he wrote, and et cetera, then add my comment "for a god to cause mutations it would have to exist first," it naturally follows that Sober is an imbecile.

So you keep saying.

See that symbol at the end of "Are you a creationist by any chance?" Well, that's called a question mark. So, I did not conclude that you were, I was just asking if you were a creationist given the "I dare you" statement.

Shall we just call it an insult or poisoning the well, then? Because seriously, you weren't merely doing chit-chat.

How can be your "I dare you" statement my problem if you are the one who wrote it?

It's your problem because you misinterpreted what I said. Did I not explain this? Like when I said that I said "I dare you" because I couldn't see how you could do it.

I did not refuse, the evidence was all over the place.

Tsk, tsk. In your head, perhaps. And more to the point, YOU DID NOT PRESENT IT! So don't even pretend that you did.

I fail to see how the very same discussion where I commented can be interpreted as "elsewhere."

Of course you do. But did you not bring in sites like Jerry Coyne's? And in the end, did you not refuse to actually point out WHERE this evidence was? You could perhaps have said that at x minutes into his talk, Sober says Y. Did you? NOOOO.

So, I suppose that we should suspect that "Negative Entropy" is a creationist. Personally, I find this reasoning quite unconvincing, mainly for the reason that there is no other evidence present that either of us are creationists.


Agreed. This is why I asked.

I don't believe you. I think you were simply trying to insult me.

Now, as for Sober. His talk can be summarized as:

As long as you can think of some form of an interventionist god in a way that its work is indistinguishable from that of a non-interventionist god, which would be indistinguishable from no gods at all, believing in it is possible.

No, that's not what he is saying. He is saying that believing in an interventionist god is not necessarily incompatible with accepting science. It would clearly be possible to believe in gods in other circumstances.

He used the word "God" with a capital "G." Why not "god(s)." That would have been a tad less imbecilic.

Did you even listen to his talk? Did he not say he was talking about theism?

Hiding god(s) behind positive mutations at a rate indistinguishable from random is pure nonsense. You first have to show that there is god(s). So, god(s) have to exist before you propose what they may or may not be doing.

If you are doing science, you would. Is Sober saying that believing in this god is scientific? You really don't understand what Sober is saying, do you?

Why the verbal diarrhea to say something that simple?

It's so simple that you can't understand it?

Now, I can accept being wrong about stuff. So far, you have shown me no reason to retract. (2) follows from (1) if you understand the context.

Do you even remember that you originally said that (2) followed from (1) WITHOUT any context? And I don't think you really understand the context, given how you have described what Sober was saying.

...rather than the more generic god Sober might have been pretending to discuss about.

Might have been pretending? Are you really that desperate? You really don't understand this.

I suspect you guys are not that skeptical.

Perhaps we are creationists? Perhaps you haven't got any real arguments? Shall we turn this into an insult-fest? Oh, I just remembered, that's how all this started.

Next time, could you perhaps display that you understand what Sober is saying? Because the evidence for this is severly lacking.

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