Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sam Brownback: Creationist schwaffler and spinmeister

Let’s just deconstruct his New York Times creationism column while seeing how many logical errors and fallacies we can find.

He begins by talking about “belief” in evolution:
In our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days.

This is one of the most disingenuous ploys of creationists. Frankly, you do not “believe” in evolution like you do in creationism.

Did Galileo “believe” in a heliocentric solar system theory? Did Newton “believe” in his theory of gravitation? Of course not.

Next, there’s this illogical false dilemma:
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Actually, of course, many people, including professional theologians, believe in some sort of theistic evolution that has plenty of room for macroevolution without considering it to rule out a divinity, etc. Note carefully the word “exclusively,” used (and I’m sure quite deliberately) to set up this false dilemma.

And, of course, “materialistic” is a four-letter word in this scenario.

Beyond that, we see the old false dichotomy between microevolution and macroevolution. The only thing missing is the word “kinds.”

Then, going beyond evolution to cosmology, Brownback talks about "facts," without talking about the actual facts, to avoid either huge lies or huge pants-crapping about the Big Bang and the date of the universe.
Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.

And, he stops there and never mentions a single cosmological fact.

He then concludes with a diktat of faith thrown out as supposedly having empirical support, but again without listing any facts.
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.

What if man's likeness IS unique? So is that of a giant squid, or a planarium. As for the “likeness and image” of Genesis, theologians still have no consensus on what that even means.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Let the faith healing begin?

You’ll never believe what I got in the mail today

It’s a genuine faith-healing prayer handkerchief. I’m supposed to place it underneath my bed tonight, along with a sealed Bible prophecy, after writing all my needs on the second page of a letter that was also in the mailing, and …

Voila! My needs will be met!

Being a good empiricist, I’ll of course give it a test.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Atheism is NOT reductionism, be it scientific or philosophical

And speaking of “scientific or philosophical,” I think the two leading representatives of those schools as public speakers on issues atheistic, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, need to remember this, be reminded of this, called out on this, or whatever.

On issues both philosophical and mathematical (and extending toward evolutionary biology), Douglas Hofstadter presents the case for a holistic naturalism well in “Gödel, Escher, Bach.”

And, though evolutionary psychology, let alone Evolutionary Psychology, wasn’t riding high on the radar screen at the time of GEB, Hofstadter’s writing puts paid to the capital-EP philosophy vs. the small-ep science.

In fact, beyond its metaphysical bent, I believe that’s one of the main problems with Ev Psych. Per Dennett’s comments in some of his books about warranted vs. unwarranted reductionism, I believe Ev Psych engages in unwarranted reductionism.

Back to this post’s title.

So do many of the varieties of atheism plied today by intellectual leaders. No, we don’t know everything yet about evolutionary biology, let alone evolutionary psychology. The same is true of cognitive science. Too strong a degree of reductionism is unwarranted on lack of epistemological grounds alone.

Given that Hofstadter and others (chaos and complexity theories, Malcolm Gladwell’s pondering in this areas, etc.), the Dawkins/Dennett degree of reductionism is also unwarranted as a logical inference.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why I am who I am

Shakespeare reference aside, it’s true about the sun’s influence.
Professor Jayanti Chotai, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at Umea University in Sweden … found that men born from October to January have low dopamine levels and are most likely to be gentle and reflective types.

My birthday? Dec. 26, right in the middle of this cycle.