Friday, October 8, 2010

I Tried to Warn Him! (1)

Well, I did try to warn any and all atheists reading this blog not to take Pastor Mike’s bait and answer his 10 questions (actually eleven) until he answered ours! But, I see in his penitent comment to my blog on that:

Caleb Shay admits he got snookered. He honestly tried to give answers but was then snake-bitten by the wily pastor’s commentary that followed. Did he really truly believe it would be different? That he’d have his unencumbered say without the guy interfering and distorting the answers? Look back at all his past performances! It never happens!

Well, since Caleb asked nicely for me to now deal with these comments, I decided this blog (and the next) would be an opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone: 1) vindicate all (or most) of Caleb’s responses and 2) shoot down the nonsense of the fundie blogger once more.

I don’t plan to go over again how and why there are TWO types of atheist, implicit and explicit- so will not revisit Q. 1 again, just suffice it to say the implicit atheist withholds belief in a claim already made, the explicit atheist simply disbelieves the claim for a deity outright. The agnostic simply defers any response (though he may well withhold belief) but this is based on his “lack of adequate knowledge”.

Now, let’s proceed to Q. 2:

Q2 : Do human beings have a finite mind ? YES OR NO !


The pastor then remarks (after giving credit to Caleb for honesty):

However , he (like ALL atheists ) , concede that the human mind is finite , yet they unequivocally state there is NO God ! That simply doesn't make sense ,as by the atheist stating there is no God , he or she is essentially saying that they know ALL there is to know in this universe - and beyond ! Common sense dictates that we don't know , what we DON'T know ! To say different is claiming to be "God."

Again, he misrepresents the view of the implicit atheist (having already loaded the dice by only allowing a Y-N answer to Q. 1), but then this is his shtick, his chosen repertoire. In fact there is no “unequivocal” about it, and had Caleb been allowed, I'm sure he would have sided with withholding belief, not dogmatic disbelief. So, to set things aright, the implicit atheist isn’t saying or asserting at all he accesses “all there is to know”, he's merely saying that based on the flimsy empirical evidence god believers have provided him , the most rational response is to simply withhold acceptance of their claim already made.

This is no different than if a neighbor came over to assert invisible aliens inhabited his attic. One withholds belief in the claim until such time the neighbor delivers the goods! One doesn't believe merely because the neighbor says he has aliens in his attic, or that he has evidence for them being there. We demand he show us the evidence! We demand the same for god believers!

He goes on:

Now , the atheist may turn that around and say the Christian is saying the same thing - but we're NOT ! We're simply saying we believe in God because there is more evidence ( archaeological , historical , and scientific ) for God than there is for atheism proper . Simply because the atheists refuse to accept that evidence , doesn't make it invalid .

But again, he puts the cart before the horse! Merely saying “there is more evidence ( archaeological , historical , and scientific ) for God than there is for atheism proper” doesn’t cut it. What IS the evidence? Spell it out in detail! Each type and each source! Also, atheists don’t assert "there is evidence for atheism proper" , only that the absence of evidence on the OTHER side discloses the probability is extremely high (approaching 1) that there is no god. Up to now the other side hasn't even delivered the necessary and sufficient conditions for their entity to exist, so why accept it?

Q3 : Have YOU ( personally ) , EVER witnessed MACRO-EVOLUTION ? YES OR NO ! ( If yes , could you please explain ? )

CALEB'S ANSWER : YES! In fruit flies during a 6 month biology study at Caltech. (Fruit flies with large mandibles evolved to fruit flies with small ones)

The Pastor’s predictable response?

WRONG CALEB !! What you describe is NOT MACRO-evolution ! It's MICRO-evolution , which refers to the changes in the percentage of individuals in a population that have a particular trait . Such evolution is more properly called adaptation . In these cases , as well as the one with your fruit flies , there is no new genetic information being produced .”

And, of course, I dealt with this in 2 previous blogs and showed how erroneous this is (and bear in mind, this is from a guy who couldn’t take the basic evolution test I assigned some months ago!)

In my blog on this error:

I specifically noted:

The definition of micro-evolution from an actual text on it by an expert (Strickberger, on Evolution) is as follows:Changes in the genetic makeup in a population that usually gives rise to differences between populations of a given species in the form of gene frequency changes or chromosomal variations.

Since the latter DO incorporate genetic changes, then these micro-evolutionary changes can ultimately accumulate and lead to taxonomic or macro-evolutionary changes.Thus, it is incorrect to asset “there is no new genetic information” being produced.As an example let’s focus in on the pesticide resistant bedbug population and show that their resistance is also a genetic change, not merely a genotype-less “adaptation”.

I also noted, however, that:

Variation must be genetically inherited. Thus, for natural selection to result in evolutionary change, the selected differences must have a genetic basis

In other words, we can’t be sure if what Caleb calls “macro-evolution” is really that (though the taxonomic changes suggest it) unless he can show the altered mandible characteristic is genetically inherited.

But whether so or not, there is new genetic information!

The Fundie again, as wrong as ever:

"Rather , you were simply seeing the selection of pre-existing information . These types of changes actually fit within a creationist framework in which God created different kinds of organisms with a range of variation and the ability to adapt to changes in environmental conditions ."

And as I showed in the previous blog I did (link) there can't be any "pre-existing information" if the actual genetic frequency is changing to enhance the relative fitness! As an illustration - again!- consider that at a particular time a gene frequency ‘snapshot’ of the bedbug population under study yields: p(B) = 0.60, q(b) = 0.40, i.e. the favored allele B is reproducing at the ratio 3:2 relative to the disadvantaged one, b.

As before, the selective value s = 0.50. A simple table showing the declining gene frequency of b relative to B is shown appended. On average over time let each bb and Bb individual produce one offspring, and each BB produce two. These average numbers can be used to indicate the genotype’s absolute fitness and to project the changes in gene frequency over succeeding generations. The relative fitness (w) is meanwhile given by:

w = 1 for BB
w = 0.5 for Bb

w = 0.5 for bb

The selection values, relative measures of the reduction of fitness for each genotype, are given respectively by:

s = 1 – 1 = 0 for BB

s = 1 – 0.5 = 0.5 for Bb

s = 1 – 0.5 = 0.5 for bb

As we expect, the pesticide-resistant bedbug genotype displays zero reduction in fitness, and hence maximum survival rate. Hence, the latter, in conjunction with the enhanced gene frequency shows it is not simply "adapting to changes in environmental conditions ."

Q4 : Assuming you're honest , and you really DON'T believe in God , why do you ( personally ) spend so much time and effort to disprove the existence of God ? Would you put forth the same time and effort disputing someone who seriously believed in a Santa Claus , Easter Bunny , or Tooth fairy ?

CALEB'S ANSWER : To defend against religions USING God to get their own way, as in political areas – stopping abortions, stopping porn shops from opening, stopping stem cell work, and so on.

Pastor Misanthrope writes in reply:

Well gee , I wonder what type of "excuse" ( as opposed to an "explanation" ) , you'd have if Christians did NOT do all the above you mention...hmmm. What you are saying here , whether you admit it or not , is that even IF you ( and your ilk) got their own way in this world , like spoiled brats who really need to be taken to the proverbial woodshed , you would ALWAYS find asinine "excuses" to do whatever your little hearts desired , huh ? Which explains why it is impossible to have any type of intelligent debate with you fascist atheists .:”

Well the response here certainly shows he (like the 28% of white male evangelicals in a recent survey) embraces an authoritative deity – the type that takes his children “to the woodshed”. But as grownups, our job is to get rid of these authoritarian embolisms in our heads, and act authentically and with self-autonomy, not under fabricated super-authority! Caleb actually gives a decent response.

Again, the issue isn’t “to do whatever our little hearts desire” but to retain rights and privileges given under formal LAWS. (I.e. Roe vs. Wade permits abortions, the fundies would try to overturn that if they could. Similarly, zoning and other laws allow porn shops to exist – even if religious freaks may not want them – but that is a matter under LAW not “doing whatever one desires”)

But such inflammatory conflations and rhetoric are what this guy is all about! Also, rendering it hilarious when he calls us the “fascists” when clearly anyone who’d overturn liberal laws –legislation for much more restrictive ones is the fascist!

Q5 : If humans really did "evolve" from apes , then why are there still apes around ? ( One would think that after several "millions" or "billions"of years , they would be extinct , right ? )

CALEB'S ANSWER : Um..…because both the current living apes (primates) and humans evolved from a common ancestor 5 million years ago which is no longer around. In other words, the current apes and humans are separate species that arose from a common one no longer existing. You’re right, the common ancestor (probably Homo Habilis) is extinct though!

Pastor Perplex responds:

Here again , Caleb , you've been brainwashed into the "gospel' of Darwin . As I stated in a post last month ; Darwin proposed that new species could arise through a process of natural selection . When the reproductive capacity of an organism is higher than can be sustained by the environment , those individuals best suited to the prevailing conditions will survive to reproduce . Those that are less fit will tend to die off and leave fewer offspring . The process of natural selection is analogous to that of artificial selection , whereby a breeder selects the desired traits . However , natural selection is a passive process , with no guided input beyond the environmental conditions . Natural selection is a conservative process and only capable of elimination . New traits are supposed to come about through random mutation , or changes in the hereditary instructions found in an organism's DNA

And once again shows he understands nothing about natural selection! (But again, what would you expect from a guy who can’t pass a basic test on evolution?)

Natural selection has nothing to do with artificial selection- but is one of the primary NATURAL mechanisms by which inherited traits are passed on, which can include genetic drift . The key to natural selection is that an initial random event, say a mutation induced by a cosmic ray, can become permanently embedded into the organism’s genome (see my earlier example for bedbugs surviving all approved pesticides). The key indicator this is occurring is a change in the gene frequency over successive generations. (See Table) If there is such a change, then natural selection is proceeding and with it, micro-evolution.

Natural selection can be seen and proven to be occurring when the initial allele (say resulting from the random mutation) becomes embedded in the genome of the organism and ushers in changes in the gene frequency. As the gene frequency enhances allowing higher proportions of the favored allele to appear (as I showed to do with bedbugs) we see much more than a “passive process” but a very dynamic process. As for “guided input” no there isn’t any, but that doesn’t mean evolution isn’t occurring!

Again, as so many of us have noted before (e.g. Frank Zindler in ‘Creation science and the Fact of Evolution’) creationists make careless mistakes by confusing questions such as ‘Has evolution occurred?’ with ‘What is the cause of evolution?’ The genuine scientific answer to the first is ‘yes’ and to the second, ‘natural selection occurs so long as we can measure and determine an organism’s genotype’s fitness exhibits changes in gene frequency over succeeding generations.'

Q6 : I'm sure you all believe in love , e.g., you "love" your spouse , parents , children , etc , but isn't THAT believing in something you can't see , feel , hear , or touch ? Can YOU put "love" in my hands so I can see it and feel it ? Ditto , with the wind . We ALL believe wind exists , but we can't see it - we can only see the EFFECTS of it ( e.g., trees blowing , hair blowing , etc. ) . Can you show me the wind ?

CALEB'S ANSWER : We know Wind exists because we know it is air in motion. We know air molecules (O2, N2) cause it because we can duplicate it in a wind tunnel and send it against an object and measure the thrust, which can only come from the O2, N2 particles

Pastor Makeup stuff again:

"Well , in true to life atheist form , you 'dodge' the first part of the question ( "I'm sure you all believe in love , e.g., you "love" your spouse , parents , children , etc , but isn't THAT believing in something you can't see , feel , hear , or touch ? Can YOU put "love" in my hands so I can see it and feel it ?" ) , and run right to the last part , “

Actually, Caleb ought to have been able to answer that first part and I’m disappointed he didn’t! The most recent work using positron emission tomography shows that the regions of the brain that elicit emotions such as love, can be identified clearly in PET scans. To that extent, YES, one can see and detect love. (Well, at least its physical manifestations in the brain). In the particular experiments, subjects were wired to a positron emission tomography machine and given photos of loved ones to examine, then their responses monitored on the PET machine. The closer the person the greater the degree of PET energy lighting up the scans!

He goes on:

where you STILL don't answer the last part "Can you show me the wind ? "

Caleb did! Or just watch it blowing trees! One doesn’t have to meet the condition of show VISUAL directly – as to see the actual entity, but to see its effects! Wind is air in motion as any imbecile knows so to play fast and loose with words and aver a wind machine doesn’t show the wind is to play too cute by half. However, IF you were determined on this score to see the actual wind, yes it is feasible (but extremely impractical) to devise a set up whereby moving air particles can pass through a thin film or capillary tube and be photographed using an electron microscope. (Though the cost of managing this is so formidable I seriously doubt anyone has attempted it yet)

HE prattles on:

“Also , by your own admission in your answer above , you state (correctly ) , that the wind can only be "duplicated." Duhhh...I can "duplicate" a $100 bill , but would you give me five REAL $20 bills for it ? Why not ? After all , we all know ( REAL ) $100 bills "exist." I'll give ya credit for trying , though ( heh...heh...heh...) “

“Heh, heh, heh” on you, Bozo. Because duplication of the form you’re referring to (photocopying or counterfeiting) isn’t the same as the example Caleb gave! In those instances the actual entity isn’t being shown even indirectly – but a facsimile entity is reproduced. What Caleb gave delivered the actual entity (wind) but in terms of its effect on an object in a wind tunnel. But the wind generated by a wind turbine is just as real as the wind generated by differential temperatures on the Earth – since the SAME air molecules (O2, N2) are being pushed.

But again, for the direct view of the wind, see my previous illustration using the electron microscope and a thin film with trapped air.

Q7 : Do YOU ( personally ) have FAITH in anyone OR anything ? Why or why not ?

CALEB'S ANSWER : Yes: faith in the scientific method, that it weeds out bunk!

Pastor Stir Fry once more:

Here again , you contradict yourself , as well as show the atheists hypocrisy . You claim that the Christians "faith" in God is invalid , yet you redefine "faith" when it suits your dogma , as evidenced in your answer that you have "faith in the scientific method."

Actually, what Caleb is talking about (I believe) is the “faith” Einstein referred to in terms of science. Let us look at the actual quotation of Einstein from Ideas and Opinions:

"To the sphere of religion belongs the faith that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that it is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine science without that profound faith.”

Einstein meant that the religious faith he invokes is faith that the universe conforms to a regularity in laws....physical laws. Bear in mind that earlier in the same work Einstein defined the "religion" in which he believes and this must be known in order to parse his meaning above, viz.:

"...knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image - so there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it"

So this is consistent with elucidating his god as the "laws of the universe".(As his biographer Jeremy Bernstein noted in “Einstein”, Fontana Books, 1973) His point here is that if religion lacks this faith in the regularity of physical laws, it's blind. If science lacks the faith element that the physical laws are regular, then science is lame.

Science, objective science, can’t be done properly or trusted implicitly without a visible, recordable regularity in its laws! This is precisely why “miracles” are verboten, because they would disclose a basic irregularity in scientific laws! (Imagine if the value of g, the acceleration of gravity changed by 10% or 20% on one day or other! NO one would be able to do a proper measurement of it! ) What Einstein therefore meant is that without such implicit faith in the regularity of scientific law, scientists would lack the confidence to formulate their laws in the first place! They’d merely adopt formulaic, conditional approaches with no generality.

More to come!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Actually, Caleb ought to have been able to answer that first part and I’m disappointed he didn’t! The most recent work using positron emission tomography shows that the regions of the brain that elicit emotions such as love, can be identified clearly in PET scans"

But you know already how PM will play this? He'll say that love wasn't really seen only its effects. These are games he plauys all the time using false equivalencies to argue that well, if you can't see love you also can't see God so why believe in either?

He misses the point that what we call 'love' is actually a hormonal response that is triggered from the brain. You can't see it directly because it doesn't exist as a separate entity in reality but in association with brain chemistry, neural pathways, electgric impulses. Take those substrates away, and there is no such thing.

That's why we call love a contingent existent: to exist it is contingent on physical organs, chemistry in the body.

God is supposed to be a non-contingent existent, depending on nothing else to exist so there is a higher threshold of proof which he hasn't met up to now.

But he won't stop using these tricks to try to make his absurd arguments.

Btw, great defense of Caleb's answers overall!

No one should answer any more of his questions until he not only answers the ones you put up but also takes that basic evoolution and passes it with at least 70%. He certainly doesn't know what natural selection or micro-evolution is!