Swamidass and Cram: Common Ground?

I’d love for you to invite them. Go for it. We can even set up an Office Hours if they come. It is more likely they will come if you invite them. If you want to do office hours, tell me the dates they ageee too and I’ll set it up.

It doesn’t have anything to do with convincing you or not convincing you. It has to do with how you treated me. And how you treated James Tour. You were determined to paint me as someone outside of science who doesn’t deserve a hearing. And you did the same thing to Tour claiming that he was writing for a Discovery Institute publication, as if that alone is reason enough for no one to read what he wrote. If you are going to be successful with this endeavor, you are going to have to treat people with more respect. if you they don’t convince you, then tell them what evidence you would like to see. But the arm-waving and the ill-treatment isn’t helping your stated objectives.

9 posts were merged into an existing topic: Thinking About Falsifiability and Abiogenesis

That is some real common ground. I want to know more.

  1. When and how did you realize the effort to change the education system?

  2. Why do you think changing the education is the wrong focus? How did you come to that position?

  3. What were there scientific misses that you identified?

I am surprised and intrigued. You are not merely “ditto”, sorry I misunderstood you. Tell me more.

  1. Any history of Discovery Institute will tell you about the purpose for which they were created. Philip Johnson is an attorney. He’s the author of the “wedge strategy” paper. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillip_E._Johnson

  2. Litigation is the wrong focus, because science will win out over lawsuits. Focusing on high schools down to elementary schools is the wrong focus, because students will learn more science at the university. If you win at the research level at universities, then will trickle down to high school and elementary schools.

  3. Discovery Institute tries to be the “big tent” and include both OEC ideas like Hugh Ross and YEC ideas like Dean Kenyon, who I believe is still a fellow at Discovery. YEC has been falsified by both the distant starlight problem and geology. But no matter, Discovery Institute still embraces the model. Also, Discovery Institute has some spokespeople who are not scientists. They give public talks and make mistakes describing a theory as making predictions when in reality the theory was only fitted to the data. It’s important for a theory to fit the data, but we can have a lot more confidence in a theory that fits the data and also makes predictions that end up coming true. These speakers don’t get that.

1 Like

So true. How did they miss this obvious fact?

Most litigation these days is to keep creationism in all its forms out of the public education systems. There are over 1000 complaints a year from all over the country where creationism is intentionally injected into public secular education.

1 Like

I know. It is a recipe for legal morass. Even a victory is a quagmire.

I don’t know. You would have thought the Scopes trial would have been lesson learned.

I’ve been pretty hard on their scientific positions. Their scientific statements have to be broad enough to encompass both the OEC and YEC position. I think that can be really sloppy. But it is necessary for them because so many of their contributors are YEC. That said, I should probably balance it by pointing out that their science doesn’t always miss.

One ID book I can praise is A Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards. The book covers much of the same ground as Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Ward and Brownlee and Improbable Planet by Hugh Ross. Ward and Brownlee are, I believe, agnostics and so their book is more palatable to atheists. Hugh Ross’s book is good but A Privileged Planet doesn’t just show that our planet is specially equipped for complex life, it is also specially equipped for intelligent inhabitants to do science.

I’ve read this book and it has a staggering amount of information showing the our planet is unique in the solar system for doing science. Our planet could easily support complex life but not be a good location for doing science. Mars and Venus might not be good for complex life, but could conceivably be good for conducting science - but they aren’t.

Unfortunately, Gonzalez was attacked for writing the book and lost his position at the university. Thankfully, he has a new position in academia and is doing well there. If you haven’t read this book, you should.

Another book that I understand is quite good is Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer. I haven’t read it yet and so I can’t defend it, but a non-ID scientist I know told me that it was surprisingly good. One of the criticisms of Discovery Institute is that they only try to poke holes in evolution and don’t attempt to put together a viable model of their own. But Signature in the Cell is different. I glanced through the book and saw that it offers a model and a number of predictions based on this model.


I do not know all the details, but this may be one of the cases driven primarily by anti-ID bias, without clear evidence of stubborn error or aggressiveness on Gonzalez part. It seems his primary error was associating with the Discovery Institute. As an untenured faculty in a secular institution, that is pretty much career suicide, no matter what you write. I’m glad he eventually got a job.

That may be right. I have not heard about any fallacious arguments he has made. Some have convinced me he has done a better job than Hugh Ross too. I’ll have to go back and read it closely, it is on my shelf. Don’t interpret this as an endorsement of the claims in the book, but just saying that I haven’t heard controversy about his claims.

His big mistake, it seems, is that he associated with ID. In my more anti-ID days, I had less sympathy for him. Maybe age is softening me some, but I think it seems more like a shame he made the strategic error. I wish him well and hope he can emerge from hiding when he gets tenure.

Himm, so the only sceintific complaint is that they tolerate YEC arguments? Do you defend all their anti-evolution arguments then? For example, lets take the IC argument. Which Irreducible Complexity Argument? Do you think that argument is valid? (which one?)

I don’t really have an opinion on the irreducibly complex argument. I think the argument may have promise in skillful hands pointing to the right examples, but I also think that sloppy thinking could be problematic.

1 Like

Okay, this question really is not a trap. It is really new, and I’m open to see where it goes. What do you think of: Winston Ewert: The Dependency Graph of Life? Just curious how you think about things like this.

I appreciate you drawing my attention to the paper. At first glance it appears this paper is a more sophisticated version of the common design explanation. It will take me a long time to fully digest the paper and the critiques to the paper. But it looks interesting.

1 Like

Joshua, don’t you consider it a shame that this paper by Ewert had to be published in an ID journal rather than a mainstream journal?

1 Like

Not really. Why does that matter? He likely didn’t even try to publish elsewhere.

In the current DI, his work is also guaranteed to be over interpreted. Among other things 100% in their control, until ID get’s its polemicists like @Cornelius_Hunter in line, most journals would just rather avoid the controversy, no mater what is in the paper. The polemics is self-defeating. It neither convinces the crowds outside their camp or scientists. All it does is stroke the base, and piss everyone off.

They should think about playing to win, instead of playing to lose. That means backing off the politics and the polemics. It is a longer path, but more durable.

It is interesting. Can you tell us about Factbridge? Maybe @purposenation might join in too.


I’d be happy to tell you about Factbridge. About 2011, I read a statistic that said 70-75% of students raised in Christian homes who went away to university stopped going to church. That bothered me. I did more research and learned the about 20% of those students had planned to stop going to church when at university before they ever left. But that means that 50-55% of students had planned to attend church while at university but stopped.

I knew decades ago while I was at university that some students raised in Christian homes stopped going to church. I would have put the number at 20-25%. Why the huge increase? What was different? I also knew that many of those who stopped during their university years came back to church after getting married and having children. But according to the statistics I was reading, students were not coming back to church after their university years. Why the change? What’s going on at the university that is so corrosive to faith?

Then I read that many university professors see the secular university as a factory producing secular graduates. This quote is a good example of that attitude:

“Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion, should be done and may, in fact, in the end, be our greatest contribution to civilization.” - Steven Weinberg

So I put together a survey of 11 questions and began surveying students. Questions like “Is it ever possible to know absolute truth about anything?” “Is the Big Bang supportive of the idea of a Creator God?” Is the fine-tuned universe supportive of the idea of a Creator God?" “Does God exist?”

At the end of the survey, I said “Thanks for taking part in the survey. Did you find the questions interesting?” We would have a nice conversation. Then they would turn it around on me and ask “why are you doing this? Are you a Christian? Are you a pastor?”

Almost invariably I would hear something like “Too bad Christianity is a dying religion.” I would ask why they said that and they would say “Christianity is a dying religion because no educated adult would become a Christian. The only Christians left are those who haven’t yet been educated out of their superstition.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t true, but I also knew that the atheist professors at the university were very comfortable talking about their worldview while the Christian professors at the university were far less likely to talk about their faith or the reasons for their faith. As a result, students were only getting one side of the evidence. What was needed was bridge made of facts that would transport students and faculty from disbelief to belief.

I wrote a little booklet called Why Three Brilliant Atheists Became Christians and it tells the conversion stories of Francis Collins, Allan Sandage and Lee Strobel. You can read it free online at http://factbridge.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/WhyBooklet.pdf

If you want to give away hard copies of the booklet, you can order copies at https://priorityliving.webconnex.com/factbridge-books

Since then we have run focus groups at universities around the country. At the focus group, the students are asked to take the survey, then read the booklet and then take the survey again. In that way we can see how much the booklet has changed their opinions. The booklet has been shown to strengthen the faith of Christians and to make non-Christians more open to the gospel message.

But this is just the beginning for Factbridge.


Factbridge also sponsors events on university campuses. We encourage the Christian faculty to publicly state the reasons they believe and we bring in outside speakers like Hugh Ross for events. Here are some short videos from our events.

Focus groups

Hugh Ross event at Chapman

Christian faculty at Chapman

1 Like