Saturday, December 18, 2010

If You're Going to Cite Dawkins' Arguments - Don't be Half-assed!

Richard Dawkins: author of The God Delusion. When are clueless lamebrain pastors going to learn to quote his work completely and correctly?

Once again, like half-baked astrophysicists (e.g. Jason Lisle) we have half-baked "pastors" running around and using short cuts to make specious cases, when they have to know they'll be caught out by someone. In the case of this certain well-known (by now) pastor it is quoting the core point arguments from Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' - but not really quoting them. By that I mean, they cherry pick....errrr, quote only what they want. Let's look at these examples, and see again again why a certain fundie blog can't be trusted.

He writes, claiming to replicate a "summary" of what Dawkins had in his book:

1.One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex , improbable appearance of design in the universe arises .

True, and essentially complete except for the phrase "over the centuries" (after explain)

2 . The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself .

Dawkins actually wrote:

2) The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent designer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.

So we see from this Pastor Perplex has omitted the key words showing why the analogy is false, since a watch is a mechanical contrivance, while wings and eyes are not, and can be accounted for deterministically via natural selection. A point Dawkins has made repeatedly since he notes once gene frequencies are increasing in a genome, then we no longer have random chance operating. But as we know, Perplex never processed points made from one argument to the next.

3 . The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer .

Dawkins actually wrote:

3) The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate something even more improbable. We need a 'crane', not a 'skyhook', for only a crane can do the business of working up gradually and plausibly from simplicity to otherwise improbable complexity.

Again, the deliberate truncation of the point (3) by the pastor means he has omitted a key ingredient in Dawkins' case. (Especially important, as anyone who's read Darwin's Dangerous Idea notes, is the difference between 'cranes' and skyhooks'). Thus, natural selection is a crane because it operates with zero foresight or ideation to aid, abet and even invent processes that accelerate the evolutionary process itself with no need for external agents. A 'skyhook', meanwhile, has to latch literally to something in 'the sky' - or not part of nature itself, to account for nature. Hence, the installation of the "intelligent designer".

But this is a specious intoduction since: 1) no elaboration is ever given on the nature of said designer, including the necessary and sufficient conditions for it to do its work (e.g. why hasn't it "designed" life on Mars, especially if it's supposedly all -powerful?) and 2) no falsification for it is ever included in any way. A genuine science, meanwhile, always includes a test or tests for the falsification of any critical hypothesis.

From the ID crowd, all we get is: Stone silence!

4 . The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection .

Dawkins actually wrote:

" The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Darwin and his succesors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that- an illusion. "(More of this when I get to my blog on how the brain tricks the gullible to believe they have identified "divine evidence"-- but for now please note that "statistical improbability" is relative only, as I showed in the previous blog in terms of confronting Jason Lisle's idiotic reference to a "young Sun" - when I noted the improbability of quantum tunneling to get past the Coulomb Barrier))

5 . We don't have an equivalent explanation for physics .

Dawkins actually wrote:

"We don't YET have an equivalent CRANE for physics . Some kind of multiverse theory could in principle do for physics the same explanatory work as Darwinisn does for biology. This kind of explanation is superficially less satisfying than the biological version of Darwinism, because it makes heavier demands on luck. But the anthropic pcinciple entitles us to postulate far more luck than our limited human intuition is comfortable with."

Note first that the simplistic and egregious substitution of "explanation" for CRANE immediately destroys the basis of the point made by Dawkins. The reason is that the "crane" as I defined it above from Dennett's lexicon is not an explanation but an ontological paradigm. What Dawkins is saying or referencing is that we don't have a wholly internal-based, reductionist equivalent in physics for Darwinian evolution. But Dawkins himself hasn't realized that right now quantum mechanics exactly fulfills that role! (See my earlier instalments on quantum acausal determinism).

Indeed, when we allow the principal quantum number n to go to infinity (n -> oo) we find QM reverts to Newtonian mechanics. We also know there are clear reductionist aspects which are attendant in the collapse of the wave function upon observation. QM even can be applied to the spontaneous origin of the cosmos by invoking the pari production model in terms of the energy-time uncertainty principle. In effect, we can account for the origin of the cosmos via quantum bootstrapping without the need to posit an external agent! Further, a paper has actually been published in a peer-reviewed physics journal to show it! (Padmanabhan, T. 1983, ‘Universe Before Planck Time – A Quantum Gravity Model, in Physical Review D, Vol. 28, No. 4, p. 756.)

Without going into all the complex mathematics entailed (see a more complete rendition on the Integra website), Padmanabhan found that his conformal factor ('alpha') contributes a negative energy density. Thus, the cosmos can be incepted and proceed to expand because of the negative-energy density of the conformal factor. It is also this basis that provides the model for the instantaneous formation of the universe by a possible quantum fluctuation that arises when a particular threshold is crossed near alpha = 0 (from quantum to classical domains) .

Thus, the highly speculative "multiverse" is not even needed here- nor is any "anthropic principle". The whole anthropic principle nonsense is based on the fallacy (due to a misunderstanding of physics units, dimensions) that there is an implicit "fine tuning". This in turn depends on a putative "fine precision" - but that is based on the choice of units! Choose a particular set of units, and sure you'll get "precision" - BUT it won't last when yo change the units from say the SI system to the cgs, or British! Thus, saying stupidity like "if the neutrino mass were 1 part in 10^35 smaller there'd be no expansion of the universe" is like saying that if Lebron James were 1 part in 10^16 shorter he'd not have been a great basketball player!


6 . We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics , something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology . Therefore , God almost certainly does not exist .

What Dawkins actually wrote:

6) "We should not give up hope of a better CRANE arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying CRANE to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer."

Note here again how "explanation" is speciously substituted for CRANE - altering the entire meaning of the point and ALSO words are put into Dawkins' mouth by this miscreant. The words "Almost certainly God does not exist" are not part of the point itself, but part of the concluding remarks that follow (6) near the chapter's end, to wit:

"If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the FACTUAL PREMISE of religion - the GOD HYPOTHESIS- is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist"

Note carefully here that the last sentence is contingent on what comes before which the esteemed Perplex has omitted. Had that been included his followers would have seen that Dawkins is basing his conclusion on the failure of the FACTUAL PREMISE, e.g. that the GOD HYPOTHESIS is untenable.

Again, the only real fault with Dawkins' point (6) is that the quantum theory is effectively what Darwinian selection is to biology. Literally, quantum theory underpins everything and can even account for the origin of the cosmos single-handedly without positing a "multiverse". Further, we don't need to have anything abetted by the anthropic principle at all! It is mere dross or effluent to be discharged. (But we can forgive Dawkins as he is not a physicist).

Now let's go on to skewer some of this lame pastor's remarks after his partial posting (and wholesale dismemberment) of Dawkins' points from his book:

He blathers:

"My friends , Dawkins' argument is jarring because the atheistic conclusion , "Therefore , God almost certainly does not exist ," doesn't follow from the six previous statements even if we concede that each of them is true . There are no rules of logic that would permit such an inference . Dawkins argument is plainly invalid "

Actually, there is nothing 'jarring' at all here. Dawkins argument is consistent (for the most part) and valid when one WRITES ALL HIS POINTS AS THEY ARE IN HIS BOOK AND DOESN'T ARBITRARILY SUBSTITUTE WORDS LIKE 'EXPLANATION' FOR CRANE!!!.

And the rules of logic (which this guy wouldn't know since he failed the logic test I put up some months ago) are fully conformed to, again, once one traces the conclusion to the premise through the total argument, and in particular noting Dawkins' point that his conclusion is predicated on the failure of the FACTUAL PREMISE of religion: that the GOD HYPOTHESIS is untenable. Get that? THE HYPOTHESIS IS UNTENABLE!

It is untenable because we have reductionist (crane) bases to account for not only the natural world (via natural selection) but also the cosmos (quantum spontaneous inception) which has been published in an actual physics journal! Thus, given these - the hypothesis of an external "designer" - especially an unnatural one- is superfluous.

Perplex blabbers on:

"At most , all that follows from Dawkins argument is that we should not infer God's existence on the basis of the appearance of design in the universe . But that conclusion is quite compatible WITH God's existence and even with our justifiably believing in God's existence . Maybe we should believe in God on the basis of the cosmological argument or the moral argument . Maybe our belief in God isn't based on arguments at all but is grounded in revelation."

Again, he gets lost in his own circular prose. His limits of Dawkins case to inference only are applicable only because one takes his points of Dawkins (1-6) as HE has written them. But as I showed, he truncated the content from nearly every one - hence negated the arguments by his own hand. Not Dawkins doing! Further, technically, Dawkins' arguments are much more extensive than the mere 6 summary points given but issue from the WHOLE CHAPTER, in particular the flaws in the assignment of "irreducible complexity" (p. 119). Thus, he has barely given ANY consideration at all to Dawkins' actual arguments - confining attention only to his final 6 summary points- when even there he left out MOST of their key content!

Then he has the absolute chutzpah to write:

"The point is that rejecting design arguments for God's existence does nothing to prove that atheism is true or that belief in God is unjustified ."

But given Dawkins has made his case, via the content of his whole chapter, and the pastor has failed dismally in disproving it, it is HE who is unjustified in his belief.

Well, let me clarify that, he's unjustified in his belief based on any known or accepted science (just as his pal Jason Lisle is unjustified in his belief based on anything he does in astrophysics).

He is free, however, to believe based on an unscientific FAITH.

He goes on:

"Step 5 of Dawkin's argument refers to the cosmic fine-tuning . But Dawkins has nothing by way of explanation for it , and therefore the hope expressed in step 6 represents nothing more than the faith of a naturalist ."

Again, totally wrong - since as I showed the whole premise of "fine tuning" is false and based on a selective bias error in the choice of units to compare ratios of constants, or numbers of electrons to protons or whatever. Thus, there is NO need for any explanation of it, since it is a priori not needed. (Again, this is also where Dawkins' breaks down in his arguments vis-a-vis a crane for physics, since we certainly don't need any "fine tuning" or "anthropic principle". )

Hence, "faith of a naturalist" doesn't enter at all. But faith of a supernaturalist does - since if quantum bootstrapping and spontaneous fluctuation can account for the cosmos - why do we need his deity? Or any designer?

Undeterred he rambles on further:

" Consider step 3 . Dawkins' claim here is that we are not justified in inferring design as the best explanation of the complex order of the universe because then a new problem arises : Who "designed" the Designer?This claim is flawed on at least two counts . First , in order to recognize an explanation as the best , you don't need to have an explanation of the explanation ."

First, asking "Who designed the designer?" isn''t "flawed" so long as necessary and sufficient conditions for your designer aren't given. After all, how do we know it isn't some advanced ET or alien intelligence? In which case it surely needs a designer! If it's not ET it's even more important to deliver those n-s conditions to differentiate it across whatever set of potential agents remain! Second, while technically true you don't need "an explanation of the explanation", you do at MINIMUM have to be able to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions for the action or existence OF the primary agent USED in your explanation. In this case the "designer". This Dawkins' attackers have consistently failed to do, as Perplex has also failed to do.

He goes on:

" If archaeologists digging in the earth were to discover things looking like arrowheads or pottery shards , they would be justified in inferring that these artifacts are not the chance result of sedimentation and metamorphosis , but products of some unknown group of people , even though they had no explanation of who these people were or where they came from . Similarly , if astronauts were to come upon a pile of machinery on the back side of the moon , they would be justified in inferring that it was the product of intelligent agents , even if they had no idea whatsoever who these agents were or how they got there ."

Here, he introduces two prosaic and natural examples, but they are no use in the ostensible claim for a supernatural designer, since the actions we are talking about - say to generate a planet, flower, universe or dark energy - are not mechanical. Thus there is no logical connection to the point he's making.

Maybe he's even more dim than we thought, as he writes:

"So in order to recognize an explanation as the best , you don't need to be able to explain the explanation . "

However, providing irrelevant examples that in no way meet the key criteria (and also commit false analogy) are no way out either. What you need to do here is either: a) provide an example of a designer for which NO mechanical artifact is made or found, or b) give the n-s conditions for it to operate in this universe. (Which you've consistently dodged)

He goes on with predictable results:

"In fact , such a requirement would lead to an infinite regress of explanations , so that nothing could EVER be explained and science would be destroyed ! For before any explanation could be acceptable , you'd need an explanation of it , and then an explanation of the explanation of the explanation , and then....Nothing could EVER be explained !"

Here he inserts a false requirement (self-referential explanation to explain an explanation) to try to escape. Then he invents the red herring of "an infinite regress of explanations". But in fact, as I already said, we don't expect that of him at all. Again, we need from him either: a) provide an example of a designer for which NO mechanical artifact is made or found, or b) give the n-s conditions for it to operate in this universe.

Leading him to conclude:

" So in the case at hand , in order to recognize that intelligent design is the best explanation of the appearance of design in the universe , one needn't be able to explain the Designer . Whether the Designer has an explanation can simply be left an open question for future inquiry . Second , Dawkins thinks that in the case of a divine Designer of the universe , the Designer is just as complex as the thing to be explained , so that no explanatory advance is made . This objection raises all sorts of questions about the role played by simplicity in assessing competing explanations. "

Here he misses the point entirely. The fact is an "intelligent designer" can't be the best SCIENTIFIC explanation (which is to say, hypothesis) because as Dawkins has noted there is nothing to it. No independent edifice of objective data and published findings, merely picking apart (or trying to) what evolutionists have already produced! In Dawkins' words:

"If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish."

So in other words, the whole "explanation" basis is a hollow one. Without a publication stream to infer credibility (including of sources) ID has nothing, is nothing. Hell, without their own test to falsify their hypothesis, they have nothing!

One can ramble on for eternity about what "kind" of Designer might have created the cosmos, but without scientific papers to back it up - in peer-reviewed journals, there is nothing.

It would be like me saying I have discovered a "new theory of gravitation" but all I've done is poke a hundred holes in Einstein's Theory of General Relavitivity. Maybe I point out that his predictions for lunar precession or the advance of Mercury's perihelion are off, or whatever. But even a million-billion objections don't make an independent theory or explanation! You have to find some original take off point, based on your own data! This ID has not done.

Finally, this piece of horse pockey:

"For example , there are many other factors besides simplicity that scientists weigh in determining which explanation is the best , such as explanatory power , explanatory scope , and so forth . An explanation that has broader explanatory scope may be less simple than a rival explanation but still be preferred because it explains more things . Simplicity is not the only , or even most important , criterion for assessing theories . "

Surely correct, BUT at the very very LEAST, you need to have your "explanations" and data, published in proper journals!

WHERE are your ID explanations published, other than in self-serving mini-tracts from the Discovery Institute, or the Creation Science Institute?

I rest my case here: ID is as forlorn in its own way in terms of trying to "scientifically" prove there's a divinity, as Jason Lisle's moronic efforts to recruit astophysics and deformed relativity to his cause.

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