The Cambrian Explosion And Evolution

(George) #42


Isn’t the reason Science can’t detect God is because there is no way to control for “No God”?
It’s a fundamental aspect of reality… not the synthetic result of culture.

And when there is a culture that doesn’t accept that, we get all sorts of scary things! When I was working in one of the Gulf States, there was a really wild article about a woman who was caught attempting to place a magic curse on a neighbor’s house.

She was arrested; I tried to find out what the charges were in the article. Finally I found it. She wasn’t arrested for “public nudity” or “creating a nuisance”. She was arrested for “magic”!

That culture could do with a little bit more “reality”, and less “evidence of the supernatural”.

(Paul A Nelson) #43

Not true of evolutionary theory, which is without question the most theologically-laden science currently going. See, for instance, the work of philosopher of science Steve Dilley (St Edwards University, TX) on the widespread use of theology in evolutionary biology:

(Jon Garvey) #44

Did the magic work?

Neither is there a way to control for “No Randomness”, so science, properly, cannot detect chance. “God” and “chance” (with an also-ran, “pan-psychism”) are alternative explanations for contingency, so that allowing one whilst not allowing another reveals metaphysical commitments, not the nature of Nature.

Paradoxically, of course, the most fundamental science, quantum physics, persuades many of its practitioners that mind is fundamental to reality - possibly more so than matter, whose reality is hard to justify. Whereas the same science finds a place for ontological chance only at the level below the macro-scale.

So making material causes, rather than conscious causes, the default in science is, if anything, swimming agaisnt the evidential stream.

(George) #45


The Evolutionary theory that is theologically-laden is right here, in this forum, and at, and some of the Creationist pages that allow for natural selection.

You and your source are inventing the definition of “theologically-laden” if you think plain Evolution has any.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #46

@paulnelson it is really good to see you here. Thanks for joining.

Sadly I’ve had a poor tract record the last week with accidently misreprenting @CaseyLuskin and @Wayne_Rossiter. I think I gave @johnnyb too difficult of a time too!

Please know that we do have a lot of common ground and this was not intentional. We have large disagreements but you all are welcome here. We are just going to have accept however that I’m not going to agree with ID arguments that seem flawed to me. It is not personal, but just the reality of honest discourse.

Thanks for joining us my friend.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #47

Chance in Mathematical modeling is the portion of the system we cannot explain. We have gone over this before. Science does not or at least should not make claims of ontological randomness, but insteadakea claims of random from a human point of view.

(George) #48


Firstly, the curse apparently didn’t work. She must have aimed badly and hit a mirror with her incantations… because she ended up in jail, not the occupants of the house.

Secondly, I think you are spending too much time alone. Your conclusion is a vast over-statement compared to the nuggets of evidence you are attempting to use.

Your provocative statement about not measuring randomness isn’t really true, right? That’s why scientists take Statistics, so that we can approximate how close to a random finding our test data represents.

And your comment about Quantum mechanics doesn’t seem to fit well with the increasing likelihood that Quantum scientists are rejecting the idea of purely random movement of particles… and more along the lines of “just not knowing enough”.

(Jon Garvey) #49

George - again you should read the Dilley article. Ian Thompson alerted me to it at the Hump back in 2014, and I posted on it here. But the article is available, readable and very well referenced… as well as by someone who is trained and paid to study the matter as a philsopher of science.

(Paul A Nelson) #50

I want to reinforce Jon’s request: please read the Dilley article. This earlier article by Dilley is also relevant:

Or, if you have it on your personal book shelves, open up Stephen Jay Gould’s classic essay, “The Panda’s Thumb” (1980), the title of which was adopted by the main pro-evolution / anti-ID website. Gould writes, as the central premise of his case, that “Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.” (emphasis added)

(Jon Garvey) #51

Sigh I must have done twenty or thirty posts on randomness, so I won’t repeat them here, especially as the last two were only last week. But I will reiterate that randomness is purely an epistemological matter to do with the human mind - it cannot therefore be a cause of anything in the real world. Further reading: William Briggs (statistician) Uncertainty.

As for quantum mechanics, I’d be very much up for resolving their unpredictability, as would the world of physics - it would remove the last instance of ontological randomness from science, and bring back determinism. But if you’re suggesting that hidden variables are coming back into favour, despite being disproven even in principle decades ago, then I might insist on some references.

(George) #52


I’m not sure I understand your insistence. We are not proposing Darwinism here… and we protest when someone starts to propose Darwinism.

Isn’t an article like this pretty much focused on Atheists? Despite the presence of a few of those here, this is a “God-and-Science” shop here… open 24 hours a day.

(Jon Garvey) #53

One only understands being urged to read something by reading it, I find. I’ve learned a lot that way.

(George) #54

What I’m opposing is your conclusion, @jongarvey. You wrote:

Isn’t this a bit of an over-statement.

And since I agree that randomness is a human perception, rather than a reality, how does this jibe with the other part of your posting?

If “randomness is perceived instead of actual”, then I don’t need to worry about hidden variables to have confidence that ultimately, particles operate in a lawful manner (when God is nudging them).

(Jon Garvey) #55

Further to your limiting Dilley’s argument to atheists, I noted a list of those he puts in a footnote who have used theological arguments of the same type as Darwin for evolution.

In one footnote he cites examples from Jerry Coyne, Francis Collins, Stephen Jay Gould, Elliott Sober, Francisco Ayala, Kenneth Miller, Philip Kitcher, Michael Shermer, Douglas Futuyma, Arthur Peacocke, Jean Pond, Howard Van Till, Ian Barbour and John Haught. I could add to that, off the top of my head, Richard Dawkins, Karl Giberson, and Darrel Falk, and I’ve no doubt you could add some of your own.

I’ve bolded those who, as far as I know, did so from a theistic perspective

(George) #56


Are you sure you understand what I meant by the reference to Athiests. I have opened the article and have managed to get through 4 or 5 pages.

If the point is to show that Darwin held (at least at the beginning?) deeply religious views - - or at least used them as part of his presentation - - isn’t that pretty much what we are doing here on these Peaceful boards, at the Camel’s Hump and at BioLogos?

What seems clear is that modern science rejects the use of theology as presented in the article. And @swamidass and I are of one mind in agreement on that. But only for the pursuit of science, not for the pursuit of one’s Faith.

(Jon Garvey) #57

Contingency has two possible causes - choice, and chance - if one excludes deterministic laws, which only give the illusion of contingency. So if chance is purely epistemological, then what cannot be reduced to law can only be cause by someone’s choice - and that chooser we call “God”.

As to quantum events, I have always excluded them from the discussion because, (a) according to the best science, they have no cause within material reality and (b) most scientists believe their “randomness” is at most an infinitesimal effect on the macro scale. But of course, if they have no cause within science, their precise statistical predictability arises either from sheer dumb luck, or by the hand of God. But equally, because they are deemed non-material causes, that conclusion lies outside science.

(George) #58


Yes, agreed. That works for me real fine.

Perhaps in a few centuries, we can begin to pretend that we know enough of some natural laws, that we think we can “see” those things which cannot be reduced to law. But for now, we know too little to do anything like that, right?

So… I think we should go back to talking about some other things that might be productive… like the article on Darwin and his theological stance.


Hi Paul.
I think this is generally true of most studies into origin or areas where previously, theological dogma held sway and there was a long tradition of religious thought on the subject that seemed counter to where the science was heading. So there will undoubtedly be ‘thesis / anti-thesis’ dynamics involved. Questions related to the age of the Earth and the universe clearly had some strong theological interactions as well. I’m not sure why the medical sciences are generally free of theological-overtones except perhaps because it appears more direct and tangible to more people. Maybe medical science seems more tangible to most people because everyone knows at least a few medical professionals if not scientists involved in medicine. Cornelius G. Hunter certainly goes overboard with the claim that evolutionary biology is all theology. And for the mundane in evolution, like common descent among mammals, including humans, I don’t feel that the science is unduly determined by a particular theology.

(Paul A Nelson) #60

If by “modern science” we include evolutionary biology as it is currently taught and explained to students, that’s false. One cannot open an evolutionary biology textbook without finding detailed references to what God or an optimizing designer would have done (e.g., in creating the genetic code, the cetacean pelvis, the human airway, or the panda’s thumb). Theology thus plays a central role in the grounding or justification of evolutionary theory.

If you have the book, take a look at Jerry Coyne’s widely-cited Why Evolution Is True (2009):

“Every species is imperfect in many ways…What I mean by ‘bad design’ is the notion that if organisms were built from scratch by a designer – one who used the biological building blocks of nerves, muscles, and so on – they would not have such imperfections. Perfect design would truly be the sign of a skilled and intelligent designer. Imperfect design is the mark of evolution; in fact, it’s precisely what we expect from evolution.” (p. 81)

This form of theological argument extends from biology textbooks to popular articles (e.g., Gould’s famous “panda’s thumb” essay) to the primary research literature. You are focusing too much on the personal opinions of this or that scientist, or what is said on this site or at BioLogos; I am trying to draw your attention to the actual content of evolutionary theory, from 1859 to the present. Theology is ubiquitous there, far more than in any other currently-practiced science.

Gotta run, no more comments from me today.

(Paul A Nelson) #61

This is exactly what Gould himself said to me, in March 1990, when I visited him at his office in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. ‘Paul,’ he said, ‘I’m just trying to explicate how Darwin used the conceptual and rhetorical tools available to him, as a young man growing up in natural theology-soaked England. Had Darwin been born on the Continent,’ he continued, ‘doubtless he would have built his case for evolution using different materials.’ True enough – but strictly irrelevant to Gould’s own experience. He was born and grew up as the child of atheist (Marxist) parents in New York City, and was himself an agnostic – yet he deployed theological assumptions all throughout his popular and scholarly writing.

Thought experiment: we send Jerry Coyne with a team of Earth scientists to the intelligent beings inhabiting a planet in the Alpha Centauri system. The occasion is an interplanetary seminar on natural science. The Earth physicists and chemists present their best summary of our physics and chemistry, and the friendly ETs nod in polite agreement: yes, we’ve discovered all that too.

Then Jerry gets up to explain evolutionary biology. He starts with a whole bunch of God-talk, just as he lays it out in Why Evolution Is True – this is imperfect, that’s suboptimal, that structure is not what a wise Creator would have done, blah blah blah – and the ETs scratch their heads in embarrassed silence.

They turn to the physicists. Is this a theologian or a biologist? they ask.