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Consider the Odds

Entry 1663, on 2014-07-02 at 20:39:08 (Rating 3, Skepticism)

When I debate people who believe in superstitious and pseudoscientific stuff there are a few fundamental flaws in their reasoning process I see over and over again. It doesn't matter what the origin of the particular belief is, the reasoning tends to be the same. And it's not necessarily that the errors they make are completely outrageous and obvious, in fact they obviously aren't or I guess they wouldn't be making them!

So what are these errors? They tend to reduce to poor handling of probability questions. Evaluating probability is important because, as I have often said in this blog, we can never be 100% certain about anything in the real world. Since nothing is ever totally certain when evaluating truth claims (and absolute truth claims should never really exist) it all gets back to evaluating chances.

Let's look at some examples...

1. I'm not totally certain that evolution is the true explanation for the diversity of life on Earth but I am very confident that it is, and anyone who really looks at all the evidence fairly should reach the same conclusion. And I know that the origin of life is unknown and might always be uncertain because it happened billions of years ago and produced no fossils, but there are extremely viable theories which fit in with existing science so I see no reason to doubt them.

2. I'm not totally certain that global climate change is true and that humans are the major cause of it, but I am quite confident that it is (not quite as sure as I am of evolution but still quite confident).

3. I'm not totally sure that there is no need for a supernatural element to be introduced to explain all of the phenomena we see in the universe but currently there is insufficient reason to doubt conventional physical processes so that's what I use as my working theory.

Note that it's necessary to look at all the evidence and treat it all with the respect it deserves (and that will vary depending on its source) before deciding what the conclusion should be. If I wanted to pick and choose the evidence I could find "proof" for absolutely anything, and yes, that includes a flat Earth, alien reptile overlords... anything!

Climate change deniers are great at this, and because climate change is one of the least well proven theories it is even easier. But if you are convinced by the negative evidence try this: forget what you think you already know and do some searches for evidence using neutral phrases. Make a note of the evidence for and against and do take the credibility of the source into account.

Note the critical phrase here: "forget what you think you already know". That's the key because the underlying cause of the phenomenon I have already described is arriving at the conclusion before looking at the evidence.

And that is the real problem even though most people deny it. Obviously if biased people admitted that bias it wouldn't be as strong, but it is always there, and that does include rational skeptics like me. I admit I assume the conventional scientific explanation is correct before I go looking but I make a real effort to look at the contrary evidence as well.

The advantage I have is that being a skeptic and science supporter I have no emotional attachment to any particular idea. People who deny science almost always have a political, religious, or some other irrational belief which leads them to that conclusion.

It's fair enough to retain some degree of doubt over any idea. As I indicated above, I'm not totally sure about any scientific theory, but if I wanted to present a credible alternative to an established scientific theory I would need really good evidence. And cherry picking evidence from established opponents of mainstream science really isn't good enough because these people's ideas are generally well known to the community and have already been found lacking.

So if you want to disprove climate change don't go quoting the ideas from a Canadian gardener (as one opponent of mine did) and if you want to disprove evolution don't quote completely discredited pseudoscience from a religious site, and if you want to reject the findings of neuroscientists regarding the current scientific theories of mind don't quote the musings of a retired philosopher.

We've heard it all before, OK? It wasn't convincing when these points were first made and it is no more convincing now. Repeating the same discredited points over and over doesn't make them more credible, it makes the person making them less!

So yes, I agree there are people who have alternative theories to evolution, there are some fairly credible people who doubt climate change, and there are some who think dualism has some merit, but look at these ideas on balance. Assign a probability to them. When almost every expert in the field and every expert in unrelated fields agrees something is probably true you should take notice even if you can find a few contrary opinions. The majority of experts aren't always right but that is always the best way to bet!

If you still disagree with me then try this: think of an idea that you think is very unlikely to be true but isn't totally crazy. For example, if you are a Christian then try Islam. Now do some research on evidence which is claimed to support this idea while ignoring the counter-evidence. Quite convincing, isn't it? But you know it's not true (or very unlikely to be) because you know you're only getting one side of the story, right? Well that's exactly how a neutral observer sees your claims.

The so-called evidence for Islam looks exactly like the so-called evidence for Christianity to a neutral observer like an atheist. You know the Muslims are deluded. Is there any chance that you are deluded in exactly the same way?

Think about it. And consider the odds.

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Comment 1 (4072) by richard on 2014-07-09 at 00:38:21: (view recent only)

As usual, this is an interesting post, containing some good points, but there are some ‘surprising’ (ok silly) claims too snuck right in amongst the good ones making it very hard to comment on them briefly. So with sincere advance apologies for the length of this reply, here we go…

1 - "Look at all the evidence... (I take that to mean BOTH for and against btw) ...and treat it with the respect it deserves". Absolutely agree!

2 - "That will vary, depending on it's source" - Sorry - not so good - at least it needs clarification. I get you are suggesting that some 'so called evidence' is possibly less reliable from some sources - and I agree this can occur. It is a well known problem in a court of law for example. However, the Oxford dictionary definition of evidence is 'the available body of facts or information indicating whether a proposition is true or valid'. Under that definition, if the 'evidence' is not sound (i.e. not facts), then it simply isn't evidence at all, and rightly it doesn’t deserve ‘respect’. So asking us to reject any dodgy 'evidence' based purely on its source, is a logical redundancy – it already gets the lack of respect it deserves, when you can (indeed must) supply and justify the reliability of the counter evidence. On the other hand, rejecting ‘sound factual’ evidence based purely on its source is different – that’s just unscientific snobbery. So the resulting truth is - either way, the evidence source is clearly irrelevant to the truth of any conclusion arrived at using sound evidence.

3 - ‘I could cherry pick evidence as proof for absolutely anything’ – Again, I am amazed you seriously think this is the case?! I would love to see your reliable evidence (remembering that’s the only sound ‘proof’) for a flat earth that successfully trumps the reliable counter evidence currently available. The same goes for alien reptile overlords! I’d suggest you are employing a very very wide definition of ‘proof’ to maintain this claim, and suspect in reality this is a cheap ploy to make certain alternatives look far more outrageous than they really are by unjustified association with obviously discredited ideas. I have far more trust in the ability of sound evidence to inform us of truth than you appear to.

4: So, what ‘evidence’ can you provide to support the idea that you being a skeptic and ‘science supporter’, have no emotional attachment to a particular idea? – As an aside btw – ‘science supporter’? That’s your typical word play right there - as if those with other views on politics or religion automatically do not ‘support science’. Unfair – there is no scientific basis for that claim, so I treat that with the respect it deserves. To answer the first question though - I’d suggest none, because until science can accurately map ‘internal emotion’ none is possible. You may have no emotional attachment to lots of your ideas, but that isn’t sound proof of no emotional attachment to ‘some other particular idea’ as you specifically claimed. Of course the same goes for us all. Now sure - I do believe you personally are very careful to try to remove any emotional attachment in your scientific analysis – as I do, so am not suggesting otherwise. However, I choose to believe you because I am aware it would be extremely unfair of me to assume otherwise after you have assured me about it. In the same way however, it is equally unfair of you to assume that it must only be emotion driving any disagreement with your (or even mainstream) beliefs. It is even quite fair to label that assumption unscientific bias, given there is simply no evidence available to justify your belief wrt emotional bias on any specific subject. The resulting take home truth: This claim is simply another red herring that doesn’t help get to the truth one way or the other on any specific topic. Getting there just comes right back to sound evidence treatment. Actually, as I have stated before, it is evidentially supported that in many cases it is ones interpretation of particular scientific evidence that causes one to accept certain religious or political views, not the other way around, as you suggest.

5: This is where we seem to be getting to the surprising heart of your ‘Consider the odds’ post – that someone is ‘denying science’ if they disagree with the current majority opinion and we shouldn’t do it. The entire history of scientific development would suggest otherwise, namely that the vast majority of currently accepted scientific truths were at one point in time, the ‘minority opinion’ among the scientific community. in fact there was a time when each widely accepted idea of today had only one scientist in support of it!

Of course I do agree with you Owen, that such majority evidence quite rightly should cause us to have far more cause for concern if proposing an idea that is against the majority, but in many cases more concern and diligence is being applied. To suggest it is necessary to reject an idea because it is not held by the majority, would stop science in it’s tracks! Where would we be today, if that method of truth determinism was strictly applied for the last 500 years?!

Yet again – it’s back to evidence, evidence, evidence, and not the majority interpretation of that evidence that necessarily is always the deciding factor. Unfortunately, you seem to ‘repeat these same (4&5) discredited points over and over’ in your posts. It doesn’t make them any more credible with repetition… ;)

6: Similarly, in your strange example asking a Christian to ‘examine evidence claimed to support Islam, while ignoring counter evidence’?! What?! Why on earth would you want to ignore counter evidence against Islam (or against Christianity, or Climate change) when trying to make a truth assessment?! Your advice was: Take any evidence for ANY theory and ignore all counter evidence – sounds convincing doesn’t it – why yes – you are right - so it does. That’s hardly headline news. :) Of course it’s the assessment of all sound evidence for and against all ideas that is being asked for here - at least by me any way.

7: ‘The so-called evidence for Islam looks exactly like the so-called evidence for Christianity to a neutral observer like an atheist’. Apart from being cheeky to slip in the word neutral (as per you did with ‘science supporter’ in 4), the claim itself is also rubbish. It looks the same ONLY to an extremely poor observer (whether atheist or theist!). Firstly, all ‘so-called evidence’ can be ignored (as in point 2 above), and any remaining evidence that may be harder to reject (given the different and slightly more subjective methods used to assess the validity of historical evidence) shows so many differences between the two, your claim is simply remarkable. As an aside - I wonder what sort of majority response I’d get from the ‘qualified experts’ on whether Islam ‘looks like’ Christianity.

8 – Finally, this post was actually promised in response to a previous post (Can Computers Think) that admittedly veered off just a bit to an origin of life discussion where I made a very straightforward evidence claim. Namely that the statistical odds were so much against life originating via purely chance, that fairly considering those odds meant rejecting that notion for ‘some other explanation’. So, I was expecting (and looking forward to) a considered evidential response that refuted the validity of the odds ‘evidence’ mentioned. Clearly this wasn’t it…disappointed...

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Comment 2 (4073) by OJB on 2014-07-09 at 10:08:57:

1 and 2. I agree that the idea of giving evidence credence based on its source is a difficult one to define properly and is open to abuse. In an ideal world we would look at all the evidence from every source and apply proper validation to it all. The evaluation of sources is really just a short-cut to save some time. For example, I probably wouldn't worry too much about what Answers in Genesis says about evolution because in the past every claim they have made has turned out to be false, however if I had unlimited time I would check new claims from AiG just in case they had finally got something right!

3. If you cannot see that you cherry pick then I think you had better have a critical self examination as soon as possible! Just one example: all the evidence from modern studies of brain function indicates the mind is a process created by the brain. You cherry pick one book from a retired philosopher to support your belief. You do this over and over. I could give other examples. I do agree the possibility of a non-physical mind is greater than the possibility of alien overlords but the process is the same.

4. Which of these two scenarios do you think is more likely the result of emotion: the belief that the universe is a big, uncaring place with no special place for humans; or the belief that the universe was made by a caring, loving father figure who made it especially for us. Come on, is this not obvious?

You can't really be religious and be a science supporter at the same time. The two are opposites. I know you support science as long as it doesn't contradict your religious beliefs but that's not really supporting science. If you really support it you follow its findings to the logical conclusion: that religion has no relevance to reality.

5. I don't think I said we should never disagree with the current consensus. I believe I said that if you do you need a really good reason to do so. I don't see any anti-evolutionists, climate science deniers, anti-vaccination, etc having even moderately good evidence and definitely not strong evidence. Until they do they should support the accepted view.

6 and 7. You really can't see it, can you? You can't see how you give any evidence that supports your Christian views far more credibility than it deserves while rejecting alternative views. You are doing exactly what every other believer in a superstition does. When I was in Sydney I debated evolution with a Muslim and he made exactly the same mistakes as you and rejected Christianity for exactly the same reasons as you reject Islam. You really need to experience this as an outsider (atheist) to see it, I guess.

8. There is absolutely no evidence which can convince someone they are wrong if that person is dedicated to a view based on emotion. It's exactly the same for global warming deniers, creationists, Muslims, alien overlord believers, and Christians. Very few of these people ever change their mind because they just don't want to know. Fair enough, it's still an interesting exercise to try!

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Comment 3 (4074) by richard on 2014-07-10 at 17:41:38:

1&2 - LOL, every claim? I'm certainly not defending AiG or any particular source. (I hardly look at them myself). I understand your point though.

3 - You missed my point. I wasn't defending cherry picking, just refuting your remarkable claim to be able to justifiably defend a flat earth or alien reptile overlords by cherry picking. Sure I do agree you can highlight one-sides 'bad evidence' by cherry picking. But that's easy to refute with the 'good evidence'. Just don't equate repeating the same evidence with cherry picking WHEN that evidence has NEVER been satisfactorily refuted. Just stating it has been refuting is not sufficient, that's just wishful thinking.

And also - No - I did NOT 'cherry pick a retired philosopher' to defend dualism at all. Go back and re-read the thread again and get back up to speed. I used that source to fairly refute a different claim you made. Namely (quote): No one ever does an experiment and says "well, that shows natural abiogenesis is impossible, we better start looking for some form of intelligent intervention". (endquote). The reference to the work by the retired philosopher (source being irrelevant though remember, so why keep using it - doesn't help your case, just makes you look desperate) contains numerous references to scientists doing exactly that - and I clearly explained that in Comment 38 of that thread and said that's the only application of this reference being applied here. It is fair use of that reference and completely refutes the specific point you made. Even whether you agree with those scientists or not, it is completely irrelevant to this point of basic logic. So why do you keep making that simple mistake? Either you are being deliberately dishonest with this trickery, or you are susceptible to being conveniently 'forgetful' of facts which don't suit your philosophical point of view. Which explanation do you prefer?

4a - Nonsense - if this logic were really a factor, there are plenty of religious doctrines in my world view that would have been ditched long ago don't you think. No - it's not emotional attachment - as I have said many times, I'd be happy to be an athiest, if I could fully reconcile that with the evidence. But that's not even the point of that comment either if you read carefully.

4b - Also Nonsense - Though again it's true that the term 'religion' needs precise definition. Put it this way - There are a great many scientists who take exception with a view that the 'knowledge' obtained via the scientific method, is the ONLY reliable source of all valid knowledge. And of course many scientists feel that following science to it's logical conclusion leads to a rejection of materialism, which in turn has philosophical/religious significance. So your claim is of course (again) purely subjective opinion.

5. I completely agree with sentence 1. As for the 2nd, I agree with a large and ever growing group of scientists that see very little good solid conclusive evidence for macro-evolution (specifically and only). I see plenty of good solid evidence for micro-evolution and natural selection which is inappropriately extrapolated into circumstantial evidence that relies on both circular arguments and a prior philosophical commitment to support it. Just watch Episode two of Cosmos (the new one) for examples of using micro-evolution (breeding dogs) as evidence for macro-evolution (full 'tree of life')! then read for example Darwins Doubt, regarding the difficulties now recognised with the Cambrian, now that we better understand what's needed to drive that level of change. But anyway, point is in this thread is simply 'Like it or not it's again subjective'. But hey, that's what helps motivate scientists and progresses our knowledge. :-)

6 & 7 - You really can't see it can you? - We weren't 'supposed to be' discussing any particular claim or idea in this thread. They are just examples used to discuss 'considering the odds'. The silly claim that I refuted in 6 was essentially you trying to suggest, 'If I examine any false idea without looking at counter evidence it looks convincing. So why not reject your idea - because it too looks convincing when you ignore counter evidence'. Well... your Nobel prize must be in the post! :) As for your chat in Sydney what does that prove?! See #8 below - you haven't actually raised any of my mistakes yet? Why is that exactly?

8 - Actually I agree with sentence 1 - IF they are dedicated to a view for ANY reason other than the evidence. It goes both ways of course. A nice (the second we should note) dodge of my simple request even though it (my request) shows clearly I am actually interested in viewing the evidence against my view?!

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Comment 4 (4075) by richard on 2014-07-10 at 17:47:36:

Apologies - In 5. I meant that I completely agree with your first 'point' (which you nicely clarified with two sentences not one). This means I do agree with the 2nd sentence too - but then I already made that clear in my first post. Cheers!

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Comment 5 (4076) by OJB on 2014-07-10 at 20:31:36:

1 and 2. Well yes, I cannot think of a single claim in AiG regarding evolution which isn't essentially untrue. In fact just about the whole site is a series of deliberate lies and delusions. At least you see my point: some sources are just inherently less reliable than others (still not a guarantee they're wrong, I agree).

3. Read this blog entry regarding evidence for a flat earth.

OK, if you insist, looking through a brief description of the work it seemed to be more related to dualism. Either way it is irrelevant. I haven't read the book (have you?) so I can't judge these alleged experiments showing abiogenesis is impossible. Since in all the podcasts, web sites, etc I have access to I have never heard of a single experiment suggesting abiogenesis is impossible I would be very skeptical.

4a. Nonsense, really? Do you not agree that between the two world views one is clearly more likely to involve an emotional attachment than the other? Come on, be honest here.

4b. I'm not sure how many a "great many" is and I'm not sure what type of "knowledge" they are referring to. The only type I can think of is "emotional knowledge" AKA knowledge which isn't true! Let's evaluate this knowledge acquired through religion: can you name a single instance when a scientific fact has been replaced with one acquired through a religious process? How about the other way around?

5. So, "a growing group of scientists who don't see evidence for macro-evolution." What a pathetic joke! Really, are you sure you haven't been spending too much time at Answers in Genesis, because that is classic creationist propaganda, almost word for word.

6 and 7. I don't know what you're talking about.

8. There is huge evidence against your view but you cherry pick irrelevant and discredited evidence to support it (such as the musings of a retired philosopher with close to zero credibility). That's what I mean by consider the odds. For example, regarding evolution: do you trust practically every biologist on the planet and the vast majority of all scientists, or some pathetic lie form a creationist site like "an increasing number of scientists reject macroevolution". Still, if believing that crap makes you happy...

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Comment 6 (4077) by OJB on 2014-07-10 at 21:20:19:

Here's a source showing the real support for evolution instead of your fantasy world nonsense, and here's a summary of some of the evidence for macroevolution.

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Comment 7 (4078) by OJB on 2014-07-10 at 21:23:47:

And just one more thing. Do you agree the Earth is billions of years old? (I'm honestly not sure, it's entirely possible you don't). And you do agree that micro-evolution (which isn't even a real scientific term but let's use it anyway) has been observed happening both in nature and in the lab? If micro-evoluition is seen over a period of years what could possibly stop macro-evolution happening over billions of years? They're the same thing, just to a different degree.

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Comment 8 (4079) by Richard on 2014-07-13 at 10:23:32:

Thanks for the references. :) Will read them and comment. Just a couple of quick responses first: Again, you seem to miss that whether you like the scientists work or not isn't relevant to the truth claim that I refuted that they 'are doing experiments and making a claim'. Though in some cases these may be 'mathematical' experiments as in 'considering the odds'. Do you agree that you don't actually have to physically toss a coin a thousand times to calculate the probability of getting 1000 heads in a row, is very small? Or a million times? Not once you know the probability 'rules'.

You somewhat cleverly state that you "have never heard of a single experiment showing abiogenesis is impossible". I suggest ALL the scientific experiments ever performed by undoubtedly highly qualified scientists to leap even the most ridiculously simple hurdles on that immense journey have not just failed in spite of all the 'Intelligent Design', brought to bear on it, they have actually MADE the case of it's impossibility! This is not akin to say all previous experiments in flight failing before it was finally achieved, because in that case while not 'simple', it was 'simply' a matter of understanding the physics involved. In the case of 'life' we understand the material 'physics' of life extremely well, right down to the molecular level and it is precisely that new knowledge that shows us the actual probability issues involved. The more experiments we do, the more probability problems emerge. Science IS telling us something... Some just don't want to hear...

Of course I understand Dariwns basic premise of Macro-evolution, as an extrapolation of variation within a species via natural selection, (a non controversial idea), over about 13 billion years. Sure, Micro-evolution is just a convenient term used to talk about that as the alternative, being the ONLY form of evolution actually witnessed by Darwin (or anyone) and the only form ever reproduced in the lab by anyone in all the science experiments ever performed to date, again even though these experiments are performed on subjects like bacteria and fruit flies etc with vey fast reproduction rates mean that countless generations have been observed. And this is also in spite of the fact that evolutionary biologists are immensely motivated to demonstrate evidence for the extrapolation you ask us to believe. So again it is science that is telling us something else here, not me. The premise that this process has been extrapolated, is Darwins position, and is the one Neil DeGrasse Tyson confirmed is still the position held in Cosmos using breeding dogs. Darwin didn't have the benefit of today's research and knowledge, so he is excused. This premise now has serious flaws, in almost every area of science. Firstly, as above we have never been unable to reproduce even any initial signs of it, over countless generations. In all cases, once genetic mutation occurs to a point that could even be speculated to produce what 'might be considered' a significant change, it also causes damage and death to the organism, so 'life' actively restricts such change, at least that's just according to the evidence! Secondly, the fossil record when observed carefully and without bias (in the manner you asked for in this post, namely without prior conclusion for the evolutionary view) leads us to reject it. There is no sound evidence of the VERY gradual climb up Mount Improbable that Dawkins tries to suggest in the fossil record. We should see an almost continuous line of fossils documenting ALL that change as it happened. But clearly, we do not see that at all. This is obvious, as punctuated equilibrium (pretty much rejected now) would never have even been suggested, as explaining this very 'strange observed evidence'. The significance of the fossil evidence cannot be overstated, but of course Cosmos, doesn't mention any of that. That's just two of the issues. Consider the odds. I look forward to reading your links to see if they resolve these problems, thanks.

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Comment 9 (4080) by Richard on 2014-07-13 at 11:06:57:

To answer now your age qn. I will be as honest and clear as I can, to avoid your anticipated responses, but knowing my philosophical view I know this raises lots. I am currently in the old earth camp, which obviously has no problem with most of the evidence we have to date for an approx 13 billion year old universe and earth. Probably the most compelling of these evidences for me is starlight.

Of course while an old earth is absolutely required for an evolutionary view to be true, the opposite is not true, I.e. A young earth is not absolutely required for the Christian/biblical worldview to be true. Yes of course there is debate about that among biblical scholars, and the young earthier disagree, but suffice to say without an even longer post, the basic premise is that there is nothing in the Genesis account which requires without doubt that the 7 creation 'days' referred to, must be literal 24 hour days. The quickest and simplest argument is that a day by definition is marked by a sunrise and a sunset, and the Earths sun wasn't created until the 4th 'day'. So what exactly we're the first 3? Put simply, the point of the Genesis account as a description of creation by God, (not a detailed science lesson), isn't lost at all, if the days mentioned are not 24 hrs in length, but actually mark different categories of 'creative effort'.

The word for days has lots of different applications within the Bible, both 24 hrs, and many other periods of time, so while either is 'possible', I have no problem using our natural evidence to draw a conclusion as to which interpretation best fits. In the same way, I don't hold to a geo-centric view because the Bible says somewhere that the sun 'rises and sets'. That is a perfectly common way of expressing the experience, (it does after all' from our pov), but the quote isn't about being an astronomy lesson, nor is it required to be. There is no theological necessity for the Bible to provide all the 'natural' knowledge we have been given both the ability within nature (the privileged planet argument is an intriguing one), and the ability and motivation (to wonder, and delight over) to discover for ourselves. Hope that answer your query. Cheers.

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Comment 10 (4081) by OJB on 2014-07-13 at 20:50:04:

Re comment 8...

I never said anything about liking or not liking results. The critical thing is the quality of the work and the degree of support for the results. I agree that theories can be devised about the real world but the only real way to test those theories is through experiment. Your coin tossing idea works for a theoretical coin but one in the real world could be subject to unexpected effects (and in fact is, hence the need for experiment).

Well you think the science shows abiogenesis is impossible but all the qualified experts disagree. Hope you don't mind if I give more credibility to experts instead of someone who believes a fairy story!

So all the nonsense aside in that huge monolithic paragraph, what exactly is it that stops macro-evolution form happening?

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Comment 11 (4082) by OJB on 2014-07-13 at 20:58:38:

Re comment 9...

Well the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and the Earth 4.5 billion, just to clarify that point. Yes, the starlight thing is compelling. You should see the creationists try to answer that one. A real laugh!

Yes, you're right, the Christian story works independent of the facts like the age of the Earth because it's not a theory, it's a childish fairy story which makes no real predictions and where the details can be changed to suit whatever purpose is required. I would refer to your meaningless explanation of Genesis as a classic example. What garbage!

Yeah, I have no problem with the Sun rising and setting thing either, after all it's just part of a myth not a real statement of fact, so it can be as poetic as it wants.

No, you haven't answered my question, so I'll ask again: if you accept micro-evolution happens, and you accept the age of the Earth, and you accept macro-evolution is the same thing as macro-evolution, what could possibly stop macro-evolution from happening?

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Comment 12 (4085) by richard on 2014-07-15 at 18:19:43:

RE Comment 10: Hmm - now your 3rd post relying on the weight of numbers instead of simply supplying the evidence. Am still waiting for the obvious evidence from all those qualified experts that shows abiogenesis is feasible...won't hold my breath. Remember that abiogenesis, is the 'creation' (natural or otherwise) of life from basic physical matter, and completely distinct from the macro evolution topic. Abiogenesis has no sustainable genetic material to 'select' and no purpose to select it.

RE Comment 11: Please Owen, why should I bother to answer your obviously baiting questions, only to expose myself to completely unhelpful comments like 'What Garbage'. What does that mean exactly? What in particular about that explanation is garbage (given we already know that your view is that it's all a fairy tale - so hopefully you are past pounding the podium with that old chestnut)? I was trying to be helpful and answer your anticipated response about how can you possibly be a Christian theist, and not a young earth creationist - that's all. That reconciliation is clearly a theological (biblical) one, not an physical science one. Fairy tale or not - doesn't change the justification for the reconciliation of the two ideas. Be reasonable. I tire of having to remind you of basic argument logic. :)

OK - Sorry you feel I did not answer that question - I did, but it's perhaps too hidden there in that huge monolithic paragraph. Fair enough, To clarify - I never ever said that micro is 'the same thing' as macro (evolution) at all. You (and all your qualified experts), are trying to suggest that but this is actually the very issue at hand! They are in fact very different in that:

a) There is only scientific evidence for micro, not macro! The ability of organisms to adapt to the degree that Darwin observed (in response to the changes in environment that occur naturally) is evidence of brilliant 'design' - just as we (usually) try to build the very same adaptability and redundancy into the machines we build. It works because the genetic information required to produce these various observed changes is (in the vast majority of cases) already present within the gene pool within the species (and/or genus). So these different expressions occur (yes at 'random') all the time. Natural selection works (as described by evolutionists, and I agree with their interpretation wrt evolution) - mindlessly, without ANY goal or purpose, by eliminating the unfavourable expressions, thus leaving the more favourable ones. So it works actively to REDUCE the information present in the genes, it does NOT work at all to produce NEW expressions. In short - evolution accounts for the 'survival of the fittest' but does not account for the 'arrival of the fittest'.

b) All experimental attempts to date that try to suggest they are the same, have failed completely to do so - what they actually show is that organisms die before changing to any large degree even over many thousands of generations. They actively self regulate, in site of our best (intelligent) efforts!

c) The true scale of changes in the information systems (genetic code) that ARE required (as evidenced by simple scientific study of gene differences) to cause the completely new body plans we 'scientifically observe' to get from bacteria to man say (again simple science only required), is relatively easy to compare with the (scientifically observed) rate of actual changes that occurred across those many thousands of generations. The verdict is quite clear: Even IF species didn't appear to self regulate (stopping significant changes, so that actually no amount of time will be long enough) 13.7 billion years, is a completely insufficient amount of time to even speculate a remote possibility for the naturally occurring mutation rates, to cause the observed diversity.

d) It's much worse than that actually - (as you know) - science shows that the majority of the major body plan changes observed in the fossil record, occurred during the 'Cambrian explosion' which science declares to be over a TINY period of geological time - only about 30-50 million years. There is no fossil record detailing the HUGE increase in complexity from proposed first life to these more complex organisms as observed in the Burgess Shales, (the site which first documented the Cambrian, and also the latest companion Cambrian find in China). Likewise there is absolutely no current scientific accounting for the new genetic information required to 'produce' these organisms.

Any one of the above serves to make one seriously consider the odds. Together the case is even stronger! The foundation of the evolutionist view to declare we are all cosmic accidents is the presumption that micro is the same as macro (evolution). Unfortunately, this is not supported by evidence, it is just that - a (philosophical) presumption. Cheers.

Having said that - sorry - I haven't had time to read your links yet - this might all be answered in those - can't wait to find out! Cheers, Rich.

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Comment 13 (4086) by OJB on 2014-07-15 at 22:01:15:

I was fairly sure I referred you to some interesting experiments in this area in a previous post. I guess I could find them again, or you could use Google. Again, in all my listening and reading of science blogs, papers, podcasts, etc I have never heard a single scientist suggest abiogenesis was unlikely through natural processes.

My comment "what garbage" referred to meaningless stuff like "different categories of 'creative effort'". Never heard that one before. I mean, honestly, do you really think Genesis has any basis in reality at all, whatever crazy idea you want to try to explain the time periods? It's embarrassing really. It's a silly myth created by bronze age desert nomads, and nothing else.

There is piles of evidence for macro-evolution: the fossil record and molecular genetics being the two major areas. Note that these two come from completely different areas of science yet they still generally agree on dates of evolutionary events. That's powerful evidence that they are true.

Oh please, you're not going with the old "reduce information" nonsense are you? Perhaps if you visited more science sites and less creationist sites you might understand the processes involved. Should I find a reference for you or can you use Google?

Please give me a reference to the scientific sources for your claims in a, b, c, and d.

And you still haven't answered my question which I will ask for the third time: if you accept micro-evolution happens, and you accept the age of the Earth, and you accept macro-evolution is the same thing as macro-evolution, what could possibly stop macro-evolution from happening?

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Comment 14 (4087) by OJB on 2014-07-15 at 22:24:54:

Sorry, just reading back through your comment you seem to be denying that micro- and macro-evolution are the same so my previous question might not be quite relevant.

But tell me this: if we can see significant changes happening over a period of just years then accumulating those same types of changes over millions of years must lead to major evolution surely. After all, the difference in the human and chimp genome is only about 5%

And that's a good point too. How does that fit in with the creationist "theory" (which isn't a theory at all, of course). Oh, and just one other thing for you to Google: endogenous retroviruses. Fit in pretty well with evolution, don't you think? Creationism, not so much!

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Comment 15 (4090) by richard on 2014-07-23 at 18:42:11:

Firstly, yes I apologise. When I began by saying you didn't provide some actual evidence for your pov, but again was relying on merely a weight of numbers argument, I had responded to the text of comment 10, and forgotten that you supplied the link earlier. Remembered tho at the end, and forgot to remove the first line. My bad.

Secondly, thanks for recognizing that the question of whether micro=macro is the primary question under debate, so of course I deny they are the same, not from any philsophical requirement to do so, but simply because the evidence suggests it.

Fossil record: A straight forward look at the fossil record with a huge range of discrete creatures but a similarly huge lack of intermediaries showing the full path (continuum) of transition is a serious problem here, when you consider the transition via evolutionary mechanism must have been very slow and gradual (climbing mount improbable). Just finding a lot of similar creatures is not conclusive for one view - similar creatures will occur both ways, but the lack of so many of the transitional forms is a serious problem for only one view. And btw - the burden of proof as to why the fossil record is not actually fatally flawed in this respect as it very simply appears to be, is yours not mine.

Similarly, molecular genetics is not a conclusive pointer for your view, but a circumstantial one. Why shouldn't similar genetics be expected in 'similar' creatures however they arise? The genetic evolutionary pathways evidence was simply assumed to mirror the 'tree of life'. To a certain extent even that is a circular argument, precisely because the 'tree' was/is still often based on physiological similarities which as above we should not be surprised at all could be caused by similar gene coding. But ignoring that, more and more research is actually revealing genetic evidence that compromises a 'tree of life' view that is pretty important to a theory of universal common descent as is apparently evidenced by the fossil record. See this paper in Trends in Genetics for just one example, where this problem is at least acknowledged: http://www.cell.com/trends/genetics/abstract/S0168-9525%2813%2900086-3 or this one orginating from New Scientist, but handily summarised here in Phys.org (so we can read it without the subscription): http://phys.org/news152274071.html#nRlv . A key summary is: "In the early '90s, scientists had hoped that gene sequencing would help them piece together the tree of life, but instead it showed conflicting results. For instance, some species that are closely related based on their DNA are not closely related at all based on their RNA."

The basic point is, there are more and more discoveries where the two evidence streams (fossils and genes) are in fact unexpectedly conflicting. This shows at least the the possibility that these sources have previously been subject to circular arguments where both have been interpreted assuming the common descent evidence claimed of each other. Basic premise is that all line of evidence must provide a consistently cumulative case.

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Comment 16 (4091) by OJB on 2014-07-23 at 20:35:36:

You think there is evidence that micro- and macro-evolution are different? OK, let's see what it is, with sources please. You still haven't told me a single thing that would stop a lot of small changes over a long period of time becoming a big change. It's really that simple.

Please Google "transitional fossils" or just go straight to the Wikipedia page. I'm pretty sick of creationists saying there is a lack of transitional fossils. It's simply not true.

Your view of molecular genetics is very simplistic. You're just so totally determined to deny the facts that you start looking a bit silly, I'm afraid. The paper you quote doesn't disprove evolution, the point they are making is that gene transfer happens horizontally instead of just down through generations.

More and more discoveries showing the two "evidence streams" are wrong? Yet another wild and completely unsubstantiated claim from a creationist site, I presume?

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Comment 17 (4092) by OJB on 2014-07-23 at 20:42:44:

Can I ask something? Were those two papers quoted on a creationist site because they fit the standard creationist style of lying perfectly. They in no way detract form the truth of evolution, just the way it works, but a superficial read through them seems to make evolution look doubtful. So whoever originally gathered them was either ignorant of dishonest... probably both. You're not stupid, surely you can see this?

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Comment 18 (4095) by richard on 2014-07-25 at 01:58:20:

Well I guess I did only tell you that the results are already out there for all to see - the best efforts of intelligent designers (scientists) to help the 'macro' process along and prove your case have all failed spectacularly, because for some unknown reason, species (note the word!) seem to self regulate. If YOU have evidence to the contrary, then by all means produce it.

Transitional Fossils on Google or Wikipedia. Hmm - did that (or similar sources available before them) too many years ago to recall. I prefer to head to the quite extensive reference sites you kindly provided earlier in Comment 6, which should be a much more persuasive account. Now don't get me wrong, that is a very nice article, and I respect alot of the information in there that provides the circumstantial case being made. I note it does does seem to be quite pre-occupied at times with finding examples of dissent from darwin to specifically respond to, (motivation?) rather than simply providing what should have been a perfectly persuasive case on it's own.

Don't you find it in the least bit remarkable though that from the entire transition from the pre-cambrian to today, one must go to great lengths to find such examples where there are a smattering of fossils that could possibly be considered transitional. The article even goes to length to try and suggest its fair to expect that the fossil record is (quote) 'demonstrably incomplete'. Or reminds us that some forms have unchanged for well over 100 million years. That's fair enough, but even granted this 'odd' yet additional demonstration of species stability as described above, it is not an account of why a far more complete transitional record should not be found in abundance.

Look, if common descent were true, it should not be observed in the record rather like us seeing only the seven distinct colours of the rainbow, when we know that a close examination of refracted white light contains the complete spectrum of wavelengths, and can observe this when we make the effort. Similarly the fossil record should contain examples of the full spectrum of changes - at least to a far far far higher degree of accuracy than it actually observed.

I understand you trying to minimise the implications of the molecular genetics results being found which cause upheavals in the pre-supposed phylogenic classifications. These are quotes from the original papers - from source that have nothing to do with 'sites that may doubt common descent' (as opposed to the creationist label you choose to wield purely for it's rhetorical force).

I do realise that individual examples do not necessarily cause a huge problem either way (for either view) in themselves, but the point was simply that this problem is only getting worse, as more and more of these are appearing and only time will tell what the end result will be for the theory. Cheers.

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Comment 19 (4098) by OJB on 2014-07-25 at 11:09:41:

You are still avoiding the question. I will ask yet again (4th time?): what is to stop many small changes (so called micro-evolution) over a long time period leading to big changes (macro-evolution)? If you have no answer please just say so, but I think this is a critical point in this discussion.

So you completely dismiss the lists of transitional fossils with some irrelevance. Really?

To the uninformed, the so-called lack of transitional fossils might seem odd but remember that only a tiny fraction of living things ever fossilise. Also remember that "transitional fossils" isn't a particularly helpful term because every living thing is transitional. Can I also suggest that your reluctance to accept the science on this is just an example of the fallacy of argument from personal incredulity?

So I take it from your comment that those papers did come from creationist sites! Can I suggest that by sourcing information from there you aren't genuinely trying to get a balanced view?

The problem (which doesn't exist) isn't getting worse at all (except on creationist sites). There is no debate in science. Evolution is a fact.

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Comment 20 (4099) by Anonymous on 2014-07-25 at 11:30:45:

OJB is being unfair here. Can he not see that there is a question to be answered and that creationism or ID is a reasonable attempt at answering it? Being close-minded about alternatives is doing what he says his opponents do. Ironic much?

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Comment 21 (4100) by OJB on 2014-07-25 at 11:54:16:

I don't think I am. I realise there are many questions to be answered but that doesn't mean that I need to accept answers based on superstition which have been discredited many years ago. The problem that I see is that creationism/ID was a possible answer to origin questions but has been shown to be false through scientific testing. It's time to move on to other possibilities but creationists just can't accept this.

If creationist had anything new instead of just parroting the same old lies (there are no transitional fossils, something can't come form nothing, etc) I would take their ideas seriously. Until then I treat creationism with the contempt it deserves. I don't mean to be unkind to people like Richard but unfortunately sometimes criticism of the idea can extend to criticism of the person holding that idea too.

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