Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rusty Nails 5/12/05...

New Camera Update I recently purchased a Canon Rebel XT dSLR. I've posted some new images at Imago Articulus that I've taken with this camera. First impressions are that the camera is very versatile and opens up vast new vistas for serious amateurs. It's been a while since I've shot seriously with my SLR. So now I'm finding that I need to tune up my SLR techniques once again. I'm also finding that I need to learn the ins and outs of the digital medium of RAW format. Many fun days lie ahead.
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Genetically determined In the comments to my Transcendant Naturalism post there seemed to be a bit of confusion over how I view the role of genes and evolution, and of genes and behavior. I am aware of how gene expression can vary physical features on an organism and how said features may give said organism a survival advantage. One need only look at the beak of the finch and how a variation in seasonal rainfall effects its survivability by means of beak size. Yet, the finches remain finches nonetheless, and it is only through unwarranted extrapolation do we hear of the ability for these minor variations to produce completely new and different species. Genes and their effect on behavior is something of a quandary. The naturalist will tell you, with a straight face no less, that an abstract concept, such as love, is derived from gene expression. The love gene, I suppose. The implication being that virtually all our behavior is due to the mechanics involved within our genes. While I would argue that behavior is not entirely determined by genetics, we can certainly find behavior that is altered by genetic rearrangement. But, and here is the catch, does the fact that a behavior is potentially caused by genetic structure alter how we should view the behavior itself? If a person’s behavior is determined by the same physical interactions that determine their hair color, then by what authority can we declare p_dophilia immoral and altruism moral? Inasmuch as we see no moral difference between two different hair colors, we should not see a difference between p_dophile and altruistic behavior. Or, one could turn the tables around and logically conclude that it is permissible to declare people with blue eyes inherently immoral, worthy of imprisonment or death. Of course we would need to address the concept of logic itself and, if it too is genetically determined, the logical conclusion that it is, therefore, not a binding concept. Hence, one would use logic to dismiss logic. Naturalists cannot consistently live out the implications of their worldview without sneaking abstract concepts in the back door. They know that love exists in the abstract sense, and attempt to tie this abstract concept to physical behavior, whose existence they continue to attribute to genetic combinations – the same type of genetic combinations that produce one’s hair color. If they cannot, or will not, declare that love is morally good; there is no reason not to consider it to actually be vile and immoral. If they do declare that love is a moral good, they have no transcendant authority with which to base their claim. The bottom-line is that it makes no difference whether or not behavior is determined by genetic combinations, for it is the abstract concepts, that we know exist, with which we must deal with.
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Gotta get the shot After seeing this photo of Bonnie, from Off the Top, getting that perfect shot, I decided to post this pic I took of two photogs, going that extra mile, to frame their shot just so. Of course, being in the right place, at the right time, sometimes helps - hence, my shot.
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No ACLUnacy here You're walking through an open-air market and spy a rug for sale that has an image of Jesus on it. Close by you notice another rug with an image of the Virgin Mary. While public displays of anything religious may eventually be forbidden here in the United States (despite our First Amendment), it seems that such displays are permissible in the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. (HT: a friend of mine living in Abu Dhabi)
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Search engines: no thinking required Do an advanced search on Google with all of the words:
qualities required in a candidate for a dermatologist post
and you'll get this blog on the return.
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Cambrian Explosion? What Cambrian Explosion? From a FoxNews interview of Stephen Meyer, of the Discovery Institute, and Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, we get the following:
GIBSON: Ms. Scott, I, for instance, have read several pieces written by scientists who question the Cambrian explosion, in a relatively certain period of time, a sudden profusion of a gazillion different life forms, for which evolution doesn't seem to have enough time. What is wrong with raising that question with students? SCOTT: The so-called problem of the Cambrian explosion and it being a problem for evolution is nonsense. If you talk to paleontologists who actually study the Cambrian explosion and the Cambrian evolution of invertebrate body forms, they will tell you it's a fascinating puzzle, but it has no problem for evolution, even evolution through natural selection.
One wonders if it started snowing in the studio. Before Ms. Scott tries to pull a fast one like that she'd better do a bit more general research. She could start with On the Origin of Phyla, by James Valentine, an interview with Simon Conway Morris, from Reasons to Believe, and The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang, by Meyer, Ross, Nelson, and Chien (or, even the wimpy explanation from PBS' Evolution series). HT: The ID Update

9 comments:

Tom said...

Before Ms. Scott tries to pull a fast one like that she'd better do a bit more general research. She could start with On the Origin of Phyla, by James Valentine, an interview with Simon Conway Morris, from Reasons to Believe, and The Cambrian Explosion: Biology's Big Bang, by Meyer, Ross, Nelson, and Chien

Rusty,
Let's play Jeopardy. And true to the game, we'll answer in the form of a question.

Tom: "Alex, I'll take 'Frauds' for $500"
Alex Trebek: "Okay, 'Frauds' for $500....The answer is 'Because they're a joke!'"
(Tom rings in immediately)
Tom: "Why don't the guys Rusty listed ever get published in science journals like 'Nature' or 'Science'?"
Alex: "That is correct! You control the board. Please continue..."
Tom: "Hmm...I'll take "Bigfoot, Hobgoblins, & Intelligent Design" for $100...."

And so on.

Tom said...

More seriously, and it's a point I'd love to spend more time discussing, is what I'll call the "Pearls Before Swine" phenomenon I see.

One of the sad things I think for me is that folks like you, Rusty, have really discovered and really understand something important---the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's something beyond me, and a lot of people like me, but I'd be a complete dimwit not to understand its importance to the world for 2000 years. Specifically to kindness, decency, honesty, and compassion in the world. I look to Christian leadership to help me understand what's right and wrong in life. Even if I'm not a Christian.

Somehow this marvelous pearl of yours is tossed into what I believe is the swine of ignorance with basic biology. I don't quite know how to say this without maybe sounding pretentious or condescending, but I've been in conversations with reasonably intelligent, decent, and usually religious (especially Catholic and Jewish) folk who say things like, "Boy these 'Evangelicals' are really stupid and ignorant, aren't they?...They can't figure out basic science?"

And I know you and your God don't need my help---a confirmed agnostic and borderline atheist---a bit, but I swear I'm always the one to tell these jackasses. "No, you're wrong. Evangelical Christianity is one of the brightest lights of our world in the main, or in the big picture. Yes, they're wrong about this anti-evolution stuff, but that doesn't mean they're wrong about their core values of truth, justice, and compassion."

But the mud from this swine issue, anti-evolution thinking, splashes up all over the Pearl. The anti-evolution Evangelicals get painted with the label of "ignorant." Your Christianity seems to be wasted and lessened by letting it mix with basic bio research.

And you probably can't help me resolve this , Rusty, but I just want to tell you what's on my mind.

386sx said...

Cambrian Explosion? What Cambrian Explosion?

You seem to be under the impression that she is claiming that there was no supposed Cambrian "Explosion". Looks to me like she's just saying it's not a problem. Who's pulling the fast one here?
So let's recap: it looks to me like she's saying that a Cambrian "Explosion" wouldn't be a problem, but it doesn't look to me like she's saying that there was not a Cambrian "Explosion".

in a relatively certain period of time, a sudden profusion of a gazillion different life forms -- Mr. Gibson

Doh, okay Mr. Gibson. Thanks a lot, there.

welcometotheplanet said...

Rusty-
Enjoy the dslr...I know that I have loved mine so much (nikon d70), that I would have trouble going back to anything else. RAW does take some time, but once you learn it, it is great, especially for important shots you don't want to screw up.

LotharBot said...

Tom, remember, not all evangelicals are anti-evolution.

Tom said...

"Tom, remember, not all evangelicals are anti-evolution. (Lotharbot)

Good point. I might be wrong with my impression, but I think Evangelical Christianity is getting stereotyped as "anti-evolution." And that's too bad. You're right. Like I said earlier, Mark Noll http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/religion/faith/statement_02.html , one of the great intellectual religious minds around in my opinion, is a confirmed evangelical.

Rusty said...

Of course, if "evolution" is taken to mean a grand philosophical Explanation of Everything based upon Pure Chance, then I don't believe it at all. But as a scientific proposal for how species develop through natural selection, I say let the scientists who know what they are doing use their expertise and whatever theories help to find out as much as they can. - Noll

Not exactly unswerving and full fledged support of the theory, nor is it indicative that he believes the theory to be correct but, I suppose, it's better for you than an outright denial.

The problem is, the logical conclusions of Naturalism do entail a grand philosophical Explanation of Everything based upon Pure Chance. Dawkins and Dennet recognize this (as did Sagan and Gould). Darwinists continue to accuse the ID movement of dishonesty... one would expect them to at least acknowledge the implications of their own faith system.

Of course, were Noll to post an outright denial, then Darwinists would simply move him into the category of "moronic evangelical who has no business speaking on that which he knows nothing about."

Tom said...

Rusty,
re: "The problem is, the logical conclusions of Naturalism do entail a grand philosophical Explanation of Everything based upon Pure Chance. Dawkins and Dennet recognize this (as did Sagan and Gould). Darwinists continue to accuse the ID movement of dishonesty... one would expect them to at least acknowledge the implications of their own faith system."

I'm not familiar with the religious leanings of Dennet, Sagan, and Gould. I do know that Dawkins claims he, himself, is an atheist.

But certainly because one of the most notorious spokesmen for evolution is an atheist, does not mean that evolution is atheistic---"atheistic" meaning that it's based on a proof that God does not exist.

That's the core problem here, Rusty. We're right at the heart of the debate, aren't we? The God you hold dear to your heart and soul---that you've bet your and your loved ones' spiritual lives upon...in your definition of evolution that God cannot exist.

But instead, please consider that your assumption of the impossibility of God in the theory of evolution is wrong.

You're probably familiar with the defenders of evolution when it's under attack. One of the best of them is Ken Miller out of Brown University. He's a Christian, Rusty. You probably knew that.

One of the most interesting arguments of this Christian Ken Miller is that evolution is a excellent mechanism of God if He desires free will for His human creatures:

"A believer in the divine accepts that God's love and gift of freedom are genuine - so genuine that they include the power to choose evil and, if we wish, to freely send ourselves to Hell. Not all believers will accept the stark conditions of that bargain, but our freedom to act has to have a physical and biological basis. Evolution and its sister sciences of genetics and molecular biology provide that basis. In biological terms, evolution is the only way a Creator could have made us the creatures we are - free beings in a world of authentic and meaningful moral and spiritual choices.

Which leads directly into the beautiful ending of Miller's book "Finding Darwin's God"

[Freshmen biology students] probably figure that Professor Miller, trying to be a nice guy and doubtlessly an agnostic, is trying to find a way to be unequivocal about evolution without offending the University chaplain.

There are always a few who find me after class and want to pin me down. They ask me point-blank: "Do you believe in God?"

And I tell each of them, "Yes."

Puzzled, they ask: "What kind of God?"

Over the years I have struggled to come up with a simple but precise answer to that question. And, eventually I found it. I believe in Darwin's God.


http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Brown_Alumni_Magazine/00/11-99/features/darwin.html

Rusty said...

Tom,

I've not said that it is impossible for God to use evolution. It is certainly possible (as it is certainly possible that He created the earth and everything in it in 6 24 hour days). My arguments against Theistic Evolution stem off the logical conclusions that come from Naturalistic Evolution; off the theological errors I believe TE's are making; off the lack of explanatory power that evolution has; and off of the decidedly pluralistic and subjective box that TE confines us to (just to name a few).

I've read Ken Miller's book and, as you might imagine, don't agree with him.

BTW, I believe in the God of the Bible.