Creationism, Evolution, and Orthodoxy

Do you believe that the acount of genesis in the Old testament should be taken literally?

  • Yes

    Votes: 73 16.8%
  • No

    Votes: 163 37.6%
  • both metaphorically and literally

    Votes: 198 45.6%

  • Total voters
    434

Jonathan Gress

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Returning to the topic of science demystifying the universe, I think the inference many take from science's explanations for things is that, once some thing is explained as the product of the interaction of different parts, or as determined and conditioned by external forces, it almost seems as if the thing itself loses reality. When we discover that liquid water changes physical state depending on temperature and pressure, becoming gaseous or solid and crystalline, it seems much less likely to be a fundamental element of the universe, as ancient natural philosophy held it to be, and consequently loses some of its emotional significance for us. Likewise, when we discover that the water molecule is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, elements that occur elsewhere independently, again it no longer seems like a basic element, but an almost accidental juxtaposition of different things. Part of our emotional appreciation of the mystery of Baptism is the idea of such a basic element as water being sanctified for cleansing sins and regenerating human nature. When we know more about the physics and chemistry of water, however, it seems more like an accident that we use Baptism with water, rather than any other substance.

I admit I sometimes get the same feelings about the use of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Surely this is an accidental result of the origin of our faith in the Middle East, where bread and wine are basic foodstuffs. If our faith had originated in northern Europe, we would no doubt be using milk instead of wine; if it had originated in Central America, maize rather than wheat would almost certainly be the element that would become the Body of Christ. It's hard to take seriously the argument that bread and wine are used because they are the best or most basic foods, because what is the best or most basic food is culturally dependent and rather arbitrary.

Of course, if we think in terms of Divine Providence, you could say that, even if water is not a fundamental element, or even if bread and wine are the products of certain cultures, rather than universal to humanity, nevertheless we have to allow that Providence chose this particular compound chemical, water, over others to be the regenerating medium of Baptism, and that Providence chose the basic foodstuffs of a particular culture over that of others to be the elements consecrated by the Holy Spirit as the perfect Sacrifice.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Returning to the topic of science demystifying the universe, I think the inference many take from science's explanations for things is that, once some thing is explained as the product of the interaction of different parts, or as determined and conditioned by external forces, it almost seems as if the thing itself loses reality. When we discover that liquid water changes physical state depending on temperature and pressure, becoming gaseous or solid and crystalline, it seems much less likely to be a fundamental element of the universe, as ancient natural philosophy held it to be, and consequently loses some of its emotional significance for us. Likewise, when we discover that the water molecule is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, elements that occur elsewhere independently, again it no longer seems like a basic element, but an almost accidental juxtaposition of different things. Part of our emotional appreciation of the mystery of Baptism is the idea of such a basic element as water being sanctified for cleansing sins and regenerating human nature. When we know more about the physics and chemistry of water, however, it seems more like an accident that we use Baptism with water, rather than any other substance.

I admit I sometimes get the same feelings about the use of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Surely this is an accidental result of the origin of our faith in the Middle East, where bread and wine are basic foodstuffs. If our faith had originated in northern Europe, we would no doubt be using milk instead of wine; if it had originated in Central America, maize rather than wheat would almost certainly be the element that would become the Body of Christ. It's hard to take seriously the argument that bread and wine are used because they are the best or most basic foods, because what is the best or most basic food is culturally dependent and rather arbitrary.

Of course, if we think in terms of Divine Providence, you could say that, even if water is not a fundamental element, or even if bread and wine are the products of certain cultures, rather than universal to humanity, nevertheless we have to allow that Providence chose this particular compound chemical, water, over others to be the regenerating medium of Baptism, and that Providence chose the basic foodstuffs of a particular culture over that of others to be the elements consecrated by the Holy Spirit as the perfect Sacrifice.
Or, one could turn this principle the other way. At any given time, each of us has trillions of carbon atoms in our body that were once part of Christ's.
 

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Sauron said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Returning to the topic of science demystifying the universe, I think the inference many take from science's explanations for things is that, once some thing is explained as the product of the interaction of different parts, or as determined and conditioned by external forces, it almost seems as if the thing itself loses reality. When we discover that liquid water changes physical state depending on temperature and pressure, becoming gaseous or solid and crystalline, it seems much less likely to be a fundamental element of the universe, as ancient natural philosophy held it to be, and consequently loses some of its emotional significance for us. Likewise, when we discover that the water molecule is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, elements that occur elsewhere independently, again it no longer seems like a basic element, but an almost accidental juxtaposition of different things. Part of our emotional appreciation of the mystery of Baptism is the idea of such a basic element as water being sanctified for cleansing sins and regenerating human nature. When we know more about the physics and chemistry of water, however, it seems more like an accident that we use Baptism with water, rather than any other substance.

I admit I sometimes get the same feelings about the use of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Surely this is an accidental result of the origin of our faith in the Middle East, where bread and wine are basic foodstuffs. If our faith had originated in northern Europe, we would no doubt be using milk instead of wine; if it had originated in Central America, maize rather than wheat would almost certainly be the element that would become the Body of Christ. It's hard to take seriously the argument that bread and wine are used because they are the best or most basic foods, because what is the best or most basic food is culturally dependent and rather arbitrary.

Of course, if we think in terms of Divine Providence, you could say that, even if water is not a fundamental element, or even if bread and wine are the products of certain cultures, rather than universal to humanity, nevertheless we have to allow that Providence chose this particular compound chemical, water, over others to be the regenerating medium of Baptism, and that Providence chose the basic foodstuffs of a particular culture over that of others to be the elements consecrated by the Holy Spirit as the perfect Sacrifice.
Or, one could turn this principle the other way. At any given time, each of us has trillions of carbon atoms in our body that were once part of Christ's.
You mean because of receiving the Eucharist? I suppose that's right. :)

I was surprised once when I found canons that say what to do when the consecrated Body grows mold, e.g. during Lent when it's only consecrated on the weekend. It almost seems blasphemous to suggest the Body of Christ could grow green and moldy like ordinary bread, but then if His body behaves chemically like ordinary bread in other respects, e.g. by tasting and smelling of bread, it shouldn't be surprising that it behaves like bread in this respect. The scholastics would call this the "accidents" of the consecrated Body, while the "substance" remains the Body (the commentaries on this canon use these scholastic terms, which reminds me of another thread where someone pointed out that the Eastern Church was not always so dogmatically anti-scholastic as some like to think).

This again is related to what I was talking about above: in Orthodox thought, we attribute a reality (substance) to things that is independent of the thing's parts or properties (its accidents). I guess there's an element of Platonic philosophy here, the idea that an object partakes of some ideal reality that is different from the interacting parts. But here I guess Plato was right in a fundamental way: water is really water, even if at the same time it is composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a particular physical configuration. While our scientific analytical tools can break down most things into their constituent parts, this does not mean that the whole things do not have a reality and a substance of their own. In physical terms you could say that we attribute reality to the interactions of particles, and not just the particles.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Sauron said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Returning to the topic of science demystifying the universe, I think the inference many take from science's explanations for things is that, once some thing is explained as the product of the interaction of different parts, or as determined and conditioned by external forces, it almost seems as if the thing itself loses reality. When we discover that liquid water changes physical state depending on temperature and pressure, becoming gaseous or solid and crystalline, it seems much less likely to be a fundamental element of the universe, as ancient natural philosophy held it to be, and consequently loses some of its emotional significance for us. Likewise, when we discover that the water molecule is chemically composed of hydrogen and oxygen, elements that occur elsewhere independently, again it no longer seems like a basic element, but an almost accidental juxtaposition of different things. Part of our emotional appreciation of the mystery of Baptism is the idea of such a basic element as water being sanctified for cleansing sins and regenerating human nature. When we know more about the physics and chemistry of water, however, it seems more like an accident that we use Baptism with water, rather than any other substance.

I admit I sometimes get the same feelings about the use of bread and wine in the Eucharist. Surely this is an accidental result of the origin of our faith in the Middle East, where bread and wine are basic foodstuffs. If our faith had originated in northern Europe, we would no doubt be using milk instead of wine; if it had originated in Central America, maize rather than wheat would almost certainly be the element that would become the Body of Christ. It's hard to take seriously the argument that bread and wine are used because they are the best or most basic foods, because what is the best or most basic food is culturally dependent and rather arbitrary.

Of course, if we think in terms of Divine Providence, you could say that, even if water is not a fundamental element, or even if bread and wine are the products of certain cultures, rather than universal to humanity, nevertheless we have to allow that Providence chose this particular compound chemical, water, over others to be the regenerating medium of Baptism, and that Providence chose the basic foodstuffs of a particular culture over that of others to be the elements consecrated by the Holy Spirit as the perfect Sacrifice.
Or, one could turn this principle the other way. At any given time, each of us has trillions of carbon atoms in our body that were once part of Christ's.
You mean because of receiving the Eucharist? I suppose that's right. :)
Actually, I was not referring to that. If Jesus was fully human, then about 500 kilograms of carbon passed through His body during his lifetime. Right now, you have a few hundred million carbon atoms in your body that were in food that He ate at the Last Supper.

This again is related to what I was talking about above: in Orthodox thought, we attribute a reality (substance) to things that is independent of the thing's parts or properties (its accidents). I guess there's an element of Platonic philosophy here, the idea that an object partakes of some ideal reality that is different from the interacting parts. But here I guess Plato was right in a fundamental way: water is really water, even if at the same time it is composed of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a particular physical configuration. While our scientific analytical tools can break down most things into their constituent parts, this does not mean that the whole things do not have a reality and a substance of their own. In physical terms you could say that we attribute reality to the interactions of particles, and not just the particles.
I don't think that being composed of hydrogen and water is an accident of water, though. It is its substance.
 

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Selam lekulekmu :)
Gebre , mabsoota thank u for the kindness :) it certialy has given me the courage to join the conversation and throw in my .02 cent as I learn a lot from others here.
Heorhij said:
Hiwot said:
though not like Darwin have suggested across species or from one species into another , there is indeed change that we all can see because I think Within creation there is a potential to co create, change, to adopt, to grow into its full potential, this potential itself is the creation of God.
Absolutely. All this potential is in the genome, in the precise sequence of nucleotides in the DNA (or, in the case of some viruses, RNA). Sometimes it is enough for a mutation to change just one nucleotide, and the
mutant acquires very different properties, and they may be heritable. However, evolution is not always "improvement." It depends on the environment. Mutants who have the so-called "s" allele of hemoglobin and
live in the USA are rightly considered to be ill. But the same mutants who live in the jungle in the Amazon basin have an advantage because their red blood cells aren't suitable for the malaria parasite; so, their
illness nonwithstanding, they live longer and have more children than the people with a "good" hemoglobin.
Yes the Environment has a role to play in what becomes advantageous or not. I think science is contributing to our understanding of the physical universe we live in and has also enriched our spiritual understanding of it. What the nature and role of man is . The interconnected destiny of man and the natural world is being agreed upon albeit from two different perspectives.as a Christian I think ultimately  both the scientists and the theologians manage to stay on the right path of what the seek it is inevitable that they meet at the summit of Truth. This perhaps is my naive belief that the truth science discovers will only affirm the theological Truth we hold and even to some limited extent the otherway round too. For science is limited by it's tools to observe the spiritual dimension of reality.
The genome to me says that there is a purpose why we share what we are at a basic level with the natural world.down to the carbon atom or whatever atom it is we share. And at the same time we are very unique and There is purpose in that as well obviously. That we r more than collection of protoplasm one group smarter than the other gives me hope. And I am learning a lot from this forum, realy interesting ideas are being shared.

Blessed day :)
 

Jonathan Gress

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Sauron said:
Actually, I was not referring to that. If Jesus was fully human, then about 500 kilograms of carbon passed through His body during his lifetime. Right now, you have a few hundred million carbon atoms in your body that were in food that He ate at the Last Supper.
I suppose you could be right. Just out of curiosity, how do you estimate this?

I don't think that being composed of hydrogen and water is an accident of water, though. It is its substance.
Are you sure about that? I am not aware that accidence and substance were defined in the terms of modern physics and chemistry. Substance is what something "is", and accidents are the properties of that thing, but who is to say that the chemical composition of a thing is the thing itself, rather than its properties? I would hesitate to declare that the chemical composition of the consecrated bread is the same as that of human flesh, for example. Perhaps it is, and I don't think anyone would be so bold as to subject the Gifts to a chemical analysis in a laboratory. But if we were to do some tests or peer at the consecrated bread under a microscope, I would not be scandalized to find that it looked just as much like bread at the microscopic level as it did to the naked eye.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Sauron said:
Actually, I was not referring to that. If Jesus was fully human, then about 500 kilograms of carbon passed through His body during his lifetime. Right now, you have a few hundred million carbon atoms in your body that were in food that He ate at the Last Supper.
I suppose you could be right. Just out of curiosity, how do you estimate this?
The assumptions are pretty conservative. I will copy and paste from the web page where I first read them some time ago:

Merely mentioning Christ in anything but the most rigidly traditional way rattles some people, but what follows is absolutely orthodox Christian theology. If Jesus was fully human, he ate, exhaled carbon dioxide, and had all the metabolic functions of a normal human being.

We can assume Jesus was a fairly small person in keeping with the general nutritional standards of the time. If he needed 1500 calories a day, and carbohydrates typically contain 6 calories a gram, then he ate about 250 grams of food a day, or about 90 kilograms a year, or about 3000 kilograms over the course of his life. Most biological material is about 18 per cent carbon, so about 500 kilograms of carbon passed through Jesus’ body during his lifetime.

The total biosphere contains about 1016 kilograms of carbon. After 2000 years we can assume that any carbon that passed through Jesus’ body has thoroughly spread through the biosphere (a great deal would have been exhaled as carbon dioxide). So the fraction of biosphere carbon that was once in Jesus’ body is 500/1016. If you weigh 50 kilograms, you contain about 9 kilograms of carbon or 4.5 x 1026  atoms of carbon. That means the number of carbon atoms in your body that were also in the body of Jesus are about 4.5 x 1026 x 500/1016  or 2 x 1013. The actual calculation is more complex because some carbon has become incorporated into rocks, dissolved in the sea, or is still in the atmosphere.

If this calculation makes you feel exalted, bear in mind that we could do exactly the same calculation, and get just about identical results, for Judas, Pontius Pilate, or Herod. In fact, we could do the same calculation for King David, Julius Caesar, Confucius or Buddha.

If Jesus ate 50 grams of food at the Last Supper, about 10 grams of that would have been carbon, or about 1/50,000 of his lifetime total consumption. So of the carbon atoms everyone shares with Christ, one in 50,000 is from the Last Supper. At any given time you have about 400 million carbon atoms in your body from the Last Supper.


I don't think that being composed of hydrogen and water is an accident of water, though. It is its substance.
Are you sure about that? I am not aware that accidence and substance were defined in the terms of modern physics and chemistry. Substance is what something "is", and accidents are the properties of that thing, but who is to say that the chemical composition of a thing is the thing itself, rather than its properties? I would hesitate to declare that the chemical composition of the consecrated bread is the same as that of human flesh, for example. Perhaps it is, and I don't think anyone would be so bold as to subject the Gifts to a chemical analysis in a laboratory. But if we were to do some tests or peer at the consecrated bread under a microscope, I would not be scandalized to find that it looked just as much like bread at the microscopic level as it did to the naked eye.
Yes, I am sure. The answer to your question in bold is, chemistry is to say. Otherwise, there is no such thing as chemistry.

"Substance" is "what" while "accident" is "how". Wetness, for example, would be an accident of water in its liquid form. Many other things are wet, and water is not necessarily wet e.g. when it is in solid or gaseous form. However, water being composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom is "what" it is, it's very substance. Nothing else can be water, and water can be nothing else.

The question regarding the Eucharist is a mystery. Science cannot answer that mystery any more than it can detect through examination whether or not a person has been baptized or indeed if the person even has a soul. Those are supernatural matters and are therefore outside the scope of the scientific method.
 

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I would dispute that anything is wet which does not involve water in some form. Or would you say that one who is drenched in oil is wet? I wouldn't, but perhaps you would. By wet do you mean liquid?

The scholastic distinction between substance and accidence is simply not used or useful in modern science, so you need to cite some authorities for your equation of substance and chemistry. A chemist would not attribute much significance to wetness as a property of perception, e.g. it is an accident of some thing that we feel it is wet. Wetness is interesting insofar as it describes an objective property that is not merely dependent on our subjective perception, but can be verified objectively by experiment, and which we describe in terms of chemical and physical behaviors and properties. So something is truly wet because it contains water, and therefore reacts with other things chemically as we expect water to do, and changes physically according to the environment as we expect of water. Or if you are defining wet as liquid, then yes, water shares this property with other chemicals, indeed with just about most chemicals, if we take into account all the possible variations in temperature and pressure.

I know perfectly well that the mystery of the Eucharist lies beyond scientific analysis. But my impression is that you are asserting that the chemical composition of something describes its very substance, as defined by your scholastic theologians, which necessarily entails that, when the bread is transformed into Christ's flesh, it must necessarily take on the chemical composition of human flesh, something which I find a little absurd to maintain so long as all its apparent chemical properties continue to be those of bread (e.g. it looks like bread, it smells like bread, it tastes like bread, it feels like bread) and certainly not necessary to my faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In short, I don't agree that modern chemistry allows us really to perceive the true substance of reality. The substance of water is not defined as two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom. How would we then understand the mystery of the Great Blessing at Theophany, in which we believe the nature of the water is changed to make it sanctifying and purging of sin? Does it perhaps gain an atom or a particle, or lose one? The analytical approach of science invites us to break down what we see into ever smaller interacting parts, which can prevent us from perceiving the whole at once, and it is the whole at once which is the reality.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
I would dispute that anything is wet which does not involve water in some form. Or would you say that one who is drenched in oil is wet? I wouldn't, but perhaps you would. By wet do you mean liquid?
I just realized something, "The spirit of God over the waters" in Genesis and that one must be "baptized with water and spirit".

Sorry minute connection that I wish I picked up on earlier, thanks Jonathan for this.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
I would dispute that anything is wet which does not involve water in some form. Or would you say that one who is drenched in oil is wet? I wouldn't, but perhaps you would. By wet do you mean liquid?
I do not think your dispute is well taken. Wetness occurs whenever a liquid is in contact with a solid surface. Yes, one drenched in oil is wet (do you think they are dry?), but I presume you would concede that a rag soaked in gasoline is wet, yes?

The scholastic distinction between substance and accidence is simply not used or useful in modern science, so you need to cite some authorities for your equation of substance and chemistry. A chemist would not attribute much significance to wetness as a property of perception, e.g. it is an accident of some thing that we feel it is wet. Wetness is interesting insofar as it describes an objective property that is not merely dependent on our subjective perception, but can be verified objectively by experiment, and which we describe in terms of chemical and physical behaviors and properties. So something is truly wet because it contains water, and therefore reacts with other things chemically as we expect water to do, and changes physically according to the environment as we expect of water. Or if you are defining wet as liquid, then yes, water shares this property with other chemicals, indeed with just about most chemicals, if we take into account all the possible variations in temperature and pressure.
I agree that the accident/substance distinction is pre-scientific, but to call for the citation of authority to say that "what water is" is H2O displays a rather fundamental ignorance of what a chemical is. But, as I explained above, wetness does not require water. Saying "truly wet" is a true Scotsman fallacy. Gasoline is actually wetter than water.

I know perfectly well that the mystery of the Eucharist lies beyond scientific analysis. But my impression is that you are asserting that the chemical composition of something describes its very substance, as defined by your scholastic theologians, which necessarily entails that, when the bread is transformed into Christ's flesh, it must necessarily take on the chemical composition of human flesh, something which I find a little absurd to maintain so long as all its apparent chemical properties continue to be those of bread (e.g. it looks like bread, it smells like bread, it tastes like bread, it feels like bread) and certainly not necessary to my faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In short, I don't agree that modern chemistry allows us really to perceive the true substance of reality. The substance of water is not defined as two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom. How would we then understand the mystery of the Great Blessing at Theophany, in which we believe the nature of the water is changed to make it sanctifying and purging of sin? Does it perhaps gain an atom or a particle, or lose one? The analytical approach of science invites us to break down what we see into ever smaller interacting parts, which can prevent us from perceiving the whole at once, and it is the whole at once which is the reality.
Yes, the substance of water i.e. what water is, is defined as H20. I don't understand how anyone who has been inside a chemistry classroom can claim otherwise. (although in honesty, my undergraduate science training was in physics)
 

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We're talking at cross-purposes. The question of what something "is" seems to be a philosophical, rather than a scientific one. You say that a chemist defines water as H2O, but it seems to me equally true to say that a chemist labels the combination H2O "water". Water is just a name, not an actual thing, according to the latter. The substance/accidence distinction is an artifact of a particular philosophy which holds that things have true substances which are logically prior to the labels we give them. My impression of the philosophical underpinnings of modern science is that scientists today generally assume a kind of nominalism, e.g. when biologists say that species do not exist (because a "species" is not immutable, but simply the label we give to any population of organisms that breed among themselves but not with neighboring populations), or when a generative linguist says that languages do not exist (because all languages with their different grammatical systems are simply superficially different instantiations of Universal Grammar, so a "language" is simply the label we give to some linguistic system shared by a community that is intelligible within the community but not to neighboring communities).

Now I basically accept the philosophical underpinnings that invoke a distinction between substance and accidence. But I don't agree with you that we need to equate the philosophical notion of "substance" with the formulaic definitions of modern science, since I don't see evidence that modern science shares your or my philosophical assumptions about the existence of substance. To me, it is just as consistent with your philosophy to say that the formula H2O is an accident of water as it is to say that it is its very substance.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
We're talking at cross-purposes. The question of what something "is" seems to be a philosophical, rather than a scientific one. You say that a chemist defines water as H2O, but it seems to me equally true to say that a chemist labels the combination H2O "water". Water is just a name, not an actual thing, according to the latter. The substance/accidence distinction is an artifact of a particular philosophy which holds that things have true substances which are logically prior to the labels we give them. My impression of the philosophical underpinnings of modern science is that scientists today generally assume a kind of nominalism, e.g. when biologists say that species do not exist (because a "species" is not immutable, but simply the label we give to any population of organisms that breed among themselves but not with neighboring populations), or when a generative linguist says that languages do not exist (because all languages with their different grammatical systems are simply superficially different instantiations of Universal Grammar, so a "language" is simply the label we give to some linguistic system shared by a community that is intelligible within the community but not to neighboring communities).
If so, then the question is not a useful one.

Regarding labels, one could call H2O "water", "水", "agua", or "Uncle Charlie". That wouldn't change a thing about water. Water existed long before a human ever came along to call it anything.

"when biologists say that species do not exist" What biologist(s) say that? I have only seen that claim in creationist literature. Immutability is not a condition of existence.

What linguist says that languages do not exist? If they don't exist, how can they differ?

These are not rhetorical questions, by the way. Please name three biologists and three linguists who say "species do not exist" and "languages do not exist", respectively. Bonus points if you can find such a claim in a peer-reviewed article. (a Google Scholar search yielded no scholarship on either of these positions)

Now I basically accept the philosophical underpinnings that invoke a distinction between substance and accidence. But I don't agree with you that we need to equate the philosophical notion of "substance" with the formulaic definitions of modern science, since I don't see evidence that modern science shares your or my philosophical assumptions about the existence of substance. To me, it is just as consistent with your philosophy to say that the formula H2O is an accident of water as it is to say that it is its very substance.
My philosophical assumptions about substance are materialist. A chemical is what its chemical formula and structure are, nothing more. I don't know how you ever got "it is just as consistent with your philosophy to say that the formula H2O is an accident of water as it is to say that it is its very substance" from any of my posts.
 

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I admit I got those phrases "species do not exist" and "languages do not exist" from one of my professors. In the latter, he claims to have been paraphrasing Chomsky, although I don't have a citation for that, and in the former he may have been paraphrasing his own interpretation of Darwinism. I'm sorry I can't give you a better source than this, and I think it is interesting that these phrases don't turn up on Google searches. They're clearly not as widely used as I thought they might be.

However, I think my professor's point is that the differences between species and languages are real, but they are fluid rather than rigid. The fact that German and English are not mutually intelligible is not because of some divinely ordained fundamental difference in nature between the German and English languages, but because one population of Proto-West-Germanic speakers remained in Germania Ultra Rhenum, while another population sailed across the North Sea to Britannia, and the expected incremental changes in speech over time, and contact with different neighboring languages, resulted in mutually unintelligible systems. And it's more or less the same deal with the evolution of different species. The differences between humans and apes are real now, but they weren't always real, and in the future we can't say what new divergences or convergences may result with respect to the human species.

It is quite possible that people like my professor take this too far and conclude that there are no real distinctions. I like your point that immutability is not a condition of existence. The ackowledgment of evolution, however, whether biological or linguistic, forces us to consider whether the moral norms that hang on these differences are absolute or relative, e.g. what is "correct" grammar, or what is it to behave humanely. If there are certain moral norms appropriate to human behavior, they can't always have been the norms, given that humans evolved out of something that was not human. And assuming this evolution was gradual, it kind of implies the norms must have evolved gradually, too. If some individual shares characteristics of both apes and humans, is he entirely bound by human moral norms, or is he completely absolved of them as an ape, or does he submit to the norms only partially? I think these are the philosophical questions that occur to many people when they think about how distinctions among things evolved over time, rather than being instituted at once by divine ordinance.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
I admit I got those phrases "species do not exist" and "languages do not exist" from one of my professors. In the latter, he claims to have been paraphrasing Chomsky, although I don't have a citation for that, and in the former he may have been paraphrasing his own interpretation of Darwinism. I'm sorry I can't give you a better source than this, and I think it is interesting that these phrases don't turn up on Google searches. They're clearly not as widely used as I thought they might be.

However, I think my professor's point is that the differences between species and languages are real, but they are fluid rather than rigid. The fact that German and English are not mutually intelligible is not because of some divinely ordained fundamental difference in nature between the German and English languages, but because one population of Proto-West-Germanic speakers remained in Germania Ultra Rhenum, while another population sailed across the North Sea to Britannia, and the expected incremental changes in speech over time, and contact with different neighboring languages, resulted in mutually unintelligible systems. And it's more or less the same deal with the evolution of different species. The differences between humans and apes are real now, but they weren't always real, and in the future we can't say what new divergences or convergences may result with respect to the human species.

It is quite possible that people like my professor take this too far and conclude that there are no real distinctions. I like your point that immutability is not a condition of existence. The ackowledgment of evolution, however, whether biological or linguistic, forces us to consider whether the moral norms that hang on these differences are absolute or relative, e.g. what is "correct" grammar, or what is it to behave humanely. If there are certain moral norms appropriate to human behavior, they can't always have been the norms, given that humans evolved out of something that was not human. And assuming this evolution was gradual, it kind of implies the norms must have evolved gradually, too. If some individual shares characteristics of both apes and humans, is he entirely bound by human moral norms, or is he completely absolved of them as an ape, or does he submit to the norms only partially? I think these are the philosophical questions that occur to many people when they think about how distinctions among things evolved over time, rather than being instituted at once by divine ordinance.
Reductio ad nauseum. Everything can be reduced to such basic elements that eventually nothing has meaning, and can thus be interpreted with the desired point.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
I admit I got those phrases "species do not exist" and "languages do not exist" from one of my professors. In the latter, he claims to have been paraphrasing Chomsky, although I don't have a citation for that, and in the former he may have been paraphrasing his own interpretation of Darwinism. I'm sorry I can't give you a better source than this, and I think it is interesting that these phrases don't turn up on Google searches. They're clearly not as widely used as I thought they might be.
This is a good lesson in the truth (or lack thereof) contained in "things my professor said."

However, I think my professor's point is that the differences between species and languages are real, but they are fluid rather than rigid. The fact that German and English are not mutually intelligible is not because of some divinely ordained fundamental difference in nature between the German and English languages, but because one population of Proto-West-Germanic speakers remained in Germania Ultra Rhenum, while another population sailed across the North Sea to Britannia, and the expected incremental changes in speech over time, and contact with different neighboring languages, resulted in mutually unintelligible systems. And it's more or less the same deal with the evolution of different species. The differences between humans and apes are real now, but they weren't always real, and in the future we can't say what new divergences or convergences may result with respect to the human species.
I agree that the line between species can be blurry at times and that each person speaks his own ideolect. That doesn't mean there is no such things as species or languages, though. I don't understand the purpose of this paragraph, frankly.

By the way, you might get deemed a heretic here because you didn't say that different languages come from the Tower of Babel.  ;D

It is quite possible that people like my professor take this too far and conclude that there are no real distinctions. I like your point that immutability is not a condition of existence. The ackowledgment of evolution, however, whether biological or linguistic, forces us to consider whether the moral norms that hang on these differences are absolute or relative, e.g. what is "correct" grammar, or what is it to behave humanely. If there are certain moral norms appropriate to human behavior, they can't always have been the norms, given that humans evolved out of something that was not human. And assuming this evolution was gradual, it kind of implies the norms must have evolved gradually, too. If some individual shares characteristics of both apes and humans, is he entirely bound by human moral norms, or is he completely absolved of them as an ape, or does he submit to the norms only partially? I think these are the philosophical questions that occur to many people when they think about how distinctions among things evolved over time, rather than being instituted at once by divine ordinance.
I think that it would be folly to say that evolution should in any way inform social mores. Regardless, I don't see how it is apropros to the fact of evolution.
 

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Here's something a little more substantial than "what my professor said", but conveys more or less the same point, and you can find it in your library (Ray Jackendoff, Foundations of Language, Oxford, 2002, pp. 35-6):

However, once we acknowledge that people do not necessarily have identical internalized cognitive structures for language [i.e. the same idiolect—JG], the question arises of what constitutes, say, "English"—or even "Standard American English." I suggest that the use of language names is a harmless reification of the commonality in the linguistic f-knowledge [i.e. functional knowledge; approximately speaking, unconscious knowledge—JG] of a perceived community of speakers. When we get down to dialect or individual differences, we can drop the idealization insofar as necessary without any problem. Again, this is common practice in linguistics.

I imagine, then, that to speak of a language in linguistics is a bit like speaking of a species in biology: one acknowledges that members of a species are not genetically identical; and cases sometimes arise where what is apparently one species shades off imperceptibly over some geographical range into another. Does that mean there are no species? Some biologists think so. But as long as we regard the term as a convenient first approximation, there seems no harm in it.

It is worth mentioning, though, that this first-approximation reification of language very easily passes over unnoticed into a harder idealization, especially in everyday parlance. It is this idealization that, for instance, leads people to say that "the language" is degenerating because teenagers don't know how to talk anymore (they were saying that in the eighteenth century too!). It is also behind seeing the dictionary as an authority on the "correct meanings" of words rather than as an attempt to record how words are understood in the speech community. Even linguists adopt this stance all the time in everyday life (especially as teachers of students who can't write a decent paragraph). But once we go inside the heads of speakers to study their own individual cognitive structure, the stance must be dropped.
It is opinions like these that give me the distinct impression that modern science is governed by a kind of nominalism, i.e. "language" and "species" do not actually exist in the abstract, but they are simply labels we give to rather gradient and fuzzy real-world phenomena. However, I think even the most nominalist scientist would have to concede that there is some concrete, objective reality that lies behind the labels we give. While we may not be able to rigidly demarcate one species from another, we must nevertheless acknowledge that aggregated genetic differences exist that can impinge upon the ability of two populations to breed together. Likewise, while languages in real life merge with each other diachronically and diatopically, we must acknowledge that aggregated differences in grammar and vocabulary exist among different communities that are significant enough to impede communication.

To me, patristic language concerning species or even language often seems to presuppose the kind of hard idealizations that Jackendoff and other scientists oppose, and with which so much evidence now seems to conflict, for example the following from St Basil (Hexaemeron, 9.2; quoted in Fr Seraphim Rose's essay "Genesis and Early Man"):

The nature of existing objects, set in motion by one command, passes through creation without change, by generation and destruction, preserving the succession of the species through resemblance until it reaches the very end. It begets a horse as the successor of a horse, a lion of a lion, and an eagle of an eagle; and it continues to preserve each of the animals by uninterrupted successions until the consummation of the universe. No length of time causes the specific characteristics of the animals to be corrupted or extinct, but, as if established just recently, nature, ever fresh, moves along with time.
Instead of simply dismissing St Basil's opinion concerning the permanence of species as scientifically erroneous, I wonder if it's possible to reconcile the theological understanding of St Basil and others with our contemporary scientific knowledge on the basis of recognition of the real, if mutable, differences among species that we can observe today. In other words, what should matter to us is not whether the ancestors of humans and other animals were identical in the past, but the fact that they are different now. I suspect this is what Sauron has been trying to get at all along.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Here's something a little more substantial than "what my professor said", but conveys more or less the same point, and you can find it in your library (Ray Jackendoff, Foundations of Language, Oxford, 2002, pp. 35-6):

I imagine, then, that to speak of a language in linguistics is a bit like speaking of a species in biology: one acknowledges that members of a species are not genetically identical; and cases sometimes arise where what is apparently one species shades off imperceptibly over some geographical range into another. Does that mean there are no species? Some biologists think so. But as long as we regard the term as a convenient first approximation, there seems no harm in it.
It is opinions like these that give me the distinct impression that modern science is governed by a kind of nominalism, i.e. "language" and "species" do not actually exist in the abstract, but they are simply labels we give to rather gradient and fuzzy real-world phenomena. However, I think even the most nominalist scientist would have to concede that there is some concrete, objective reality that lies behind the labels we give. While we may not be able to rigidly demarcate one species from another, we must nevertheless acknowledge that aggregated genetic differences exist that can impinge upon the ability of two populations to breed together. Likewise, while languages in real life merge with each other diachronically and diatopically, we must acknowledge that aggregated differences in grammar and vocabulary exist among different communities that are significant enough to impede communication.
Unfortunately, the Jackendoff quote is not any better than "my professor said" for the proposition that "some biologists say no species exist". He simply says "some biologists" yet fails to name one. (I presume there was not a footnote or endnote for that sentence) Again, I note that the idea seems to appear nowhere in peer-reviewed literature. I have only seen the notion in creationist literature about baraminology. I think you are setting up a straw man to knock down, but I do not know why.

We can't rigidly demarcate polar bears from apple trees? What?

To me, patristic language concerning species or even language often seems to presuppose the kind of hard idealizations that Jackendoff and other scientists oppose, and with which so much evidence now seems to conflict, for example the following from St Basil (Hexaemeron, 9.2; quoted in Fr Seraphim Rose's essay "Genesis and Early Man"):
But scientists don't oppose speaking of species or languages. I don't know why you keep saying that.

What does "with which so much evidence now seems to conflict"?

The nature of existing objects, set in motion by one command, passes through creation without change, by generation and destruction, preserving the succession of the species through resemblance until it reaches the very end. It begets a horse as the successor of a horse, a lion of a lion, and an eagle of an eagle; and it continues to preserve each of the animals by uninterrupted successions until the consummation of the universe. No length of time causes the specific characteristics of the animals to be corrupted or extinct, but, as if established just recently, nature, ever fresh, moves along with time.
Instead of simply dismissing St Basil's opinion concerning the permanence of species, I wonder if it's possible to reconcile the theological understanding of St Basil and others with our contemporary scientific knowledge on the basis of recognition of the real, if mutable, differences among species that we can observe today. In other words, what should matter to us is not whether the ancestors of humans and other animals were identical in the past, but the fact that they are different now. I suspect this is what Sauron has been trying to get at all along.
I think what I have been trying to get at is that St. Basil has as much to say about biology as Stephen Jay Gould has to say about theology.

You know how the Bible says to submit to the lawful authorities? When it comes to describing the physical universe, scientists, not theologians, are the lawful authorities. St. Basil, for example, believed that the earth was immovable and located at the center of the universe. (See, e.g., Nine Homilies on the Hexameron, 10) He was far from alone in this wrong belief. Of course, we know now that the solar system is heliocentric and that the universe has no center, in fact.

By the way, would you mind not using the "quote" tag when quoting someone who is not actually participating in this thread? It just adds another layer of quotes to sift through. Thank you for indulging me. I cut my teeth on Usenet so the practice is just cumbersome and odd to me.
 

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Sauron, you yourself said that evolution is a "fact", by which I presume you mean you believe in the common ancestry of all species. It follows that, when you extend your view of the current variety of species back in time, they merge and cease to be distinct. If you go back far enough time, then, it is certainly the case that apples and polar bears cease to be demarcated from each other. The distinctions you rightly acknowledge are only apparent at any given moment in time; over time they cease to exist, or develop into completely new distinctions. I think it is the recognition of the temporal contingency of these distinctions that makes some people wonder about what importance really lies behind these distinctions as they appear now. Moral precepts predicated on a human nature seen as constant and unchanging perhaps need to be revised in an era when human nature is seen as fluid and variable. Or perhaps these precepts don't need to be revised, but at least the possibility of revision needs to be considered.

Jackendoff is distinguishing between "soft" idealizations of things like language and species, according to which distinctions among the two can be recognized now but need not be held to have always existed or to remain indefinitely into the future, and "hard" idealizations, according to which distinctions are seen as eternal and immutable. It is the "hard" idealizations he is objecting to. Are you trying to defend "hard" idealizations against myself and Jackendoff, or are we talking at cross-purposes?

I don't understand your problem with my use of the quote tags. Is it forum regulations that they are only to be used when quoting other posters? Otherwise, I think it makes for far easier reading when dealing with large block quotations, though not with short ones.
 

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Here's a concrete example of where evolutionism might trigger a change in moral thinking. We Orthodox believe that cannibalism is wrong, but eating the flesh of other animals is permitted. Why? Because other humans share our nature, and it is "unnatural" to eat the flesh of our own nature. Other animals have a different nature, so eating their flesh is not unnatural. But how do we know that other humans share our nature, while other animals do not? If we go by shared ancestry, the prohibition against cannibalism makes sense if we believe Adam and Eve were specially created by God and are not genetically related to other animals. We cannot eat the flesh of those that share a common ancestor with us, in other words. But Darwinism teaches us that in fact we do share ancestors with all other animals, so that on this basis one could argue that it is immoral to eat any meat, on the grounds that if we are to follow the precept of not eating the flesh of our relatives, we therefore cannot eat the flesh of any animal. I found a discussion on another forum that touches on this:

http://board.freedomainradio.com/forums/t/30076.aspx

Perhaps we shouldn't base our definition of nature on shared ancestry, but on some other criterion. Maybe humans have a different nature because we can breed amongst ourselves but not with other animals, and this demonstrates the demarcation of natures? There certainly seems to be little evidence that humans ever breed with other species, but the same can't be said for many other animal species. See e.g.:

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/05/species-do-not-exist.html

Not only that, but in the distant past there is evidence that humans mated with closely related hominids. Do these facts impinge on our ethics now? Maybe, maybe not, but I think we need to talk about it. For my part, I believe that our traditional moral precepts can stand in the face of these facts. Such facts only mean that we might expect some fuzzy cases now and then where the strict application of our ethics is unclear. If, for example, an ape-human hybrid ever were to appear, we would then have to think about what extent such an individual would be subject to human moral norms. Until then, it's not an issue we urgently must consider, but it remains a biological possibility, however remote.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Sauron, you yourself said that evolution is a "fact", by which I presume you mean you believe in the common ancestry of all species. It follows that, when you extend your view of the current variety of species back in time, they merge and cease to be distinct. If you go back far enough time, then, it is certainly the case that apples and polar bears cease to be demarcated from each other. The distinctions you rightly acknowledge are only apparent at any given moment in time; over time they cease to exist, or develop into completely new distinctions. I think it is the recognition of the temporal contingency of these distinctions that makes some people wonder about what importance really lies behind these distinctions as they appear now. Moral precepts predicated on a human nature seen as constant and unchanging perhaps need to be revised in an era when human nature is seen as fluid and variable. Or perhaps these precepts don't need to be revised, but at least the possibility of revision needs to be considered.
No need for the scare quotes. It is a fact. Allele frequencies do change over time.

I don't think that the fact that every event in the universe did not happen at once i.e. time exists has anything to do with it. We don't have to go very far back in time to find a moment where you cease to be distinct from your parents. Care to argue that you do not exist?

It does not matter if there was a time when there were no polar bears. They clearly exist now. If polar bears exists, species exist.

Jackendoff is distinguishing between "soft" idealizations of things like language and species, according to which distinctions among the two can be recognized now but need not be held to have always existed or to remain indefinitely into the future, and "hard" idealizations, according to which distinctions are seen as eternal and immutable. It is the "hard" idealizations he is objecting to. Are you trying to defend "hard" idealizations against myself and Jackendoff, or are we talking at cross-purposes?
I frankly don't know what you mean by "hard idealizations". The expression reeks of the anti-scientific post-modernism that was sweeping certains areas of academia when I was in graduate school in the mid/late-90s.

(for those not familiar with the "science wars", it was a time when the postmodernists argued that scientific theories have nothing to do with reality and were just social constructs. This idea has died down a fair bit but it is still out there.)

Could you please draw the logical chain between "species exist" and "distinctions are eternal and immutable"? Thanks! Frankly, I don't think anyone says the latter. Nothing in the physical universe is eternal or immutable. While atoms are very old, even proton decay will occur one day.

You have still failed to produce a biologist, let alone the three I asked for, who says, "species do not exist".

Bold should be "me", btw.

I don't understand your problem with my use of the quote tags. Is it forum regulations that they are only to be used when quoting other posters? Otherwise, I think it makes for far easier reading when dealing with large block quotations, though not with short ones.
It makes it far easier to respond to what was quoted when the quote tags are not used. Then again, I think that I may just come from a different time in Internet history. (e.g. I hate replying above a message)
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Here's a concrete example of where evolutionism might trigger a change in moral thinking. We Orthodox believe that cannibalism is wrong, but eating the flesh of other animals is permitted. Why? Because other humans share our nature, and it is "unnatural" to eat the flesh of our own nature. Other animals have a different nature, so eating their flesh is not unnatural. But how do we know that other humans share our nature, while other animals do not? If we go by shared ancestry, the prohibition against cannibalism makes sense if we believe Adam and Eve were specially created by God and are not genetically related to other animals. We cannot eat the flesh of those that share a common ancestor with us, in other words. But Darwinism teaches us that in fact we do share ancestors with all other animals, so that on this basis one could argue that it is immoral to eat any meat, on the grounds that if we are to follow the precept of not eating the flesh of our relatives, we therefore cannot eat the flesh of any animal.
Cannibalism is taboo in almost all of the world's cultures that have ever existed.

Your argument is essentially a reductio ad nauseum. I am genetically related to both my wife and my sister, although in different degrees. Guess what? There are things I can do with my wife that would be taboo to do with my sister. I suppose if you wanted to really do an absurd reduction, you could argue that since we are all made of physical matter that we are all some sort of collective with the entire universe like the Great Link in Deep Space Nine, but I don't know what that would get you.

Perhaps we shouldn't base our definition of nature on shared ancestry, but on some other criterion. Maybe humans have a different nature because we can breed amongst ourselves but not with other animals, and this demonstrates the demarcation of natures? There certainly seems to be little evidence that humans ever breed with other species, but the same can't be said for many other animal species.
I don't know what you mean by "we shouldn't base our definition of nature on shared ancestry". A star is part of nature, but I do not think I have shared ancestry with it. Who says that?

(yes, I realize that I am made of atoms that exploded out of a previous generation of stars, but that would really be an absurd reduction)

Not only that, but in the distant past there is evidence that humans mated with closely related hominids. Do these facts impinge on our ethics now? Maybe, maybe not, but I think we need to talk about it. For my part, I believe that our traditional moral precepts can stand in the face of these facts. Such facts only mean that we might expect some fuzzy cases now and then where the strict application of our ethics is unclear. If, for example, an ape-human hybrid ever were to appear, we would then have to think about what extent such an individual would be subject to human moral norms. Until then, it's not an issue we urgently must consider, but it remains a biological possibility, however remote.
It is unclear to me what the discussion has to do with whether or not evolution is a fact. It strikes me as intellectual self-abuse.
 
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There is no fallacy in a reductio. Certainly not necessarily, anyway.

PS: Jonathan is using "nature" in the sense of my keyboard having the "keyboard nature", not in the sense of "the natural world".
 

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akimori makoto said:
There is no fallacy in a reductio. Certainly not necessarily, anyway.
Good thing I did not mention fallacy, although there is certainly such a thing as reductive fallacy.

You know what it always a fallacy? Pious fraud, which is always in the room when creationism is discussed.

PS: Jonathan is using "nature" in the sense of my keyboard having the "keyboard nature", not in the sense of "the natural world".
I have no idea what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean. It sounds like Platonic "substance" to me.

Will you be taking over Jonathan's argument from this point forward? It feels kind of like those cases I sometimes have where a pro se party gets a lawyer.
 

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Sauron said:
akimori makoto said:
There is no fallacy in a reductio. Certainly not necessarily, anyway.
Good thing I did not mention fallacy, although there is certainly such a thing as reductive fallacy.

You know what it always a fallacy? Pious fraud, which is always in the room when creationism is discussed.

PS: Jonathan is using "nature" in the sense of my keyboard having the "keyboard nature", not in the sense of "the natural world".
I have no idea what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean. It sounds like Platonic "substance" to me.

Will you be taking over Jonathan's argument from this point forward? It feels kind of like those cases I sometimes have where a pro se party gets a lawyer.
Sauron, you don't seem to have a whole lot of respect for those who are trying to converse with you, so I wonder why you care enough to continue arguing/berating them ...
 

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jckstraw72 said:
Sauron said:
akimori makoto said:
There is no fallacy in a reductio. Certainly not necessarily, anyway.
Good thing I did not mention fallacy, although there is certainly such a thing as reductive fallacy.

You know what it always a fallacy? Pious fraud, which is always in the room when creationism is discussed.

PS: Jonathan is using "nature" in the sense of my keyboard having the "keyboard nature", not in the sense of "the natural world".
I have no idea what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean. It sounds like Platonic "substance" to me.

Will you be taking over Jonathan's argument from this point forward? It feels kind of like those cases I sometimes have where a pro se party gets a lawyer.
Sauron, you don't seem to have a whole lot of respect for those who are trying to converse with you, so I wonder why you care enough to continue arguing/berating them ...
Could you please indicate which part(s) you feel was not respectful? I truly do not understand what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean, or what bearing it has on whether or not allele frequencies change over time. Thank you very much.
 

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Sauron said:
jckstraw72 said:
Sauron said:
akimori makoto said:
There is no fallacy in a reductio. Certainly not necessarily, anyway.
Good thing I did not mention fallacy, although there is certainly such a thing as reductive fallacy.

You know what it always a fallacy? Pious fraud, which is always in the room when creationism is discussed.

PS: Jonathan is using "nature" in the sense of my keyboard having the "keyboard nature", not in the sense of "the natural world".
I have no idea what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean. It sounds like Platonic "substance" to me.

Will you be taking over Jonathan's argument from this point forward? It feels kind of like those cases I sometimes have where a pro se party gets a lawyer.
Sauron, you don't seem to have a whole lot of respect for those who are trying to converse with you, so I wonder why you care enough to continue arguing/berating them ...
Could you please indicate which part(s) you feel was not respectful? I truly do not understand what "keyboard nature" is supposed to mean, or what bearing it has on whether or not allele frequencies change over time. Thank you very much.
Look at your previous quote. The tone is not a conversation, but a lecture to a halfwit.
 

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Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.

I agree with jckstraw. Sauron's tone is marked by condescension and rudeness. He insists on misunderstanding everything I say just so he can continue his polemical attitude, e.g. I never said myself that species do not exist, but that the mode of their existence raises questions about how we define and differentiate them. It was in the latter sense that statements by others like "species do not exist" should be understood. He should know that the definition of species is highly problematic in biology precisely because the boundaries between them are so fuzzy. He seems to think anyone who doesn't agree with him is an idiot. You know, Sauron (why this name, btw?), a lot of very intelligent people have struggled with the dogmatic and moral implications of evolution, both from the side of atheism and the side of Christianity. It's not as straightforward as you seem to think.

Take cannibalism. It is certainly taboo in many, perhaps most societies, but not in all societies. A true universal should admit no exceptions whatsoever, so this needs some explaining. The fact that some societies permit cannibalism certainly does not entail that cannibalism is OK in an absolute sense, but it requires us to think more deeply about why cannibalism is wrong, rather than simply asserting it is so on the basis that everyone in the world feels that way about it (which is empirically false).
 
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Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
 

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laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
Negatory.

The original meaning of the word "evolution" was used within the RCC to refer to a God planted 'seed' of creation that develops with God's help. Similar in thought to ID.

Natural Selection, in and of itself, is not evolution. It's natural selection. Charles Darwin makes this point clear, as he himself believed in God, in his work on Natural Selection.

Evolution today means some form of development from simple proteins to life. The developmental theory may differ from on a variety of variables including, but not limited to, natural selection.

In the end, the hardest proponents of evolution haven't been able to prove that inert compounds can develop into hundreds of proteins that must interact to develop the most basic cell. Yet, there is 'faith' that this is possible, it only hasn't been discovered, and is much better than the strawman of the 'bearded man in the sky'.
 
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Azurestone said:
laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
Negatory.

The original meaning of the word "evolution" was used within the RCC to refer to a God planted 'seed' of creation that develops with God's help. Similar in thought to ID.
Well, I wasn't discussing etymology, I was talking about the Theory of Evolution.

Azurestone said:
Natural Selection, in and of itself, is not evolution. It's natural selection. Charles Darwin makes this point clear, as he himself believed in God, in his work on Natural Selection.
I didn't say natural selection was evolution.

Azurestone said:
Evolution today means some form of development from simple proteins to life. The developmental theory may differ from on a variety of variables including, but not limited to, natural selection.
Yes.

Azurestone said:
In the end, the hardest proponents of evolution haven't been able to prove that inert compounds can develop into hundreds of proteins that must interact to develop the most basic cell. Yet, there is 'faith' that this is possible, it only hasn't been discovered, and is much better than the strawman of the 'bearded man in the sky'.
Yes.
 

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laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
No I think you're right. There is supposed to be a difference between microevolution, which is observed and which causes small changes within species, and macroevolution which causes changes from one species to another. But I would expect that most biologists would consider the very wording "one species to another" misleading, since there is no actual boundary that is crossed. It's not as if Adam's father was an ape, but that an ape-like ancestor begat a less ape-like and more human-like child, with successive generations making the full transition from ape to human. The distinction between apes and humans is only apparent after evolutionary divergence has occurred.
 

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And this brings us back to the point I've been feeling my way towards. Can a belief in the existence of a true human nature accommodate the possibility of transitional beings? Evolution, and our increasing ability to artificially manipulate genetics, raises the possibility of creatures that are partly human and partly something else. Do such possibilities undermine our faith in the reality of human nature, just because the boundaries between humanity and other creatures are fuzzy and not rigid?
 
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Jonathan Gress said:
laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
No I think you're right. There is supposed to be a difference between microevolution, which is observed and which causes small changes within species, and macroevolution which causes changes from one species to another. But I would expect that most biologists would consider the very wording "one species to another" misleading, since there is no actual boundary that is crossed.
A "micro" and "macro" distinction also does not exist in biology.

Jonathan Gress said:
It's not as if Adam's father was an ape, but that an ape-like ancestor begat a less ape-like and more human-like child, with successive generations making the full transition from ape to human. The distinction between apes and humans is only apparent after evolutionary divergence has occurred.
Actually, humans are apes. Any species that is within superfamily Hominoidea can be described as an ape.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
Evolution is the change in allele frequencies over time, nothing more. QED.

People make a big deal about "direct observation" in the context of evolution. I do not know why. If you were to come home and find your house ransacked, would you not call the police because you did not observe the robbery?

I agree with jckstraw. Sauron's tone is marked by condescension and rudeness. He insists on misunderstanding everything I say just so he can continue his polemical attitude, e.g. I never said myself that species do not exist, but that the mode of their existence raises questions about how we define and differentiate them. It was in the latter sense that statements by others like "species do not exist" should be understood. He should know that the definition of species is highly problematic in biology precisely because the boundaries between them are so fuzzy. He seems to think anyone who doesn't agree with him is an idiot. You know, Sauron (why this name, btw?), a lot of very intelligent people have struggled with the dogmatic and moral implications of evolution, both from the side of atheism and the side of Christianity. It's not as straightforward as you seem to think.
You said that biologists say that species do not exist. I am waiting for you to name one. Of course, you can always retract that statement as being incorrect.

Why do you continue to set up straw man arguments? I am still waiting for a reply to, "Could you please draw the logical chain between "species exist" and "distinctions are eternal and immutable"?"

The reasons for my screen name are my own. It certainly has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Neither does how rude you think I am.

People talk about "dogmatic and moral implications", but they are completely artificial and man-made. A few hundred years ago, heliocentrism had "dogmatic and moral implications". Today, it has zero. It is the same with evolution. Have you ever wondered why no one talks about the "dogmatic and moral implications" of gravity or the nitrogen cycle?

Take cannibalism. It is certainly taboo in many, perhaps most societies, but not in all societies. A true universal should admit no exceptions whatsoever, so this needs some explaining. The fact that some societies permit cannibalism certainly does not entail that cannibalism is OK in an absolute sense, but it requires us to think more deeply about why cannibalism is wrong, rather than simply asserting it is so on the basis that everyone in the world feels that way about it (which is empirically false).
I never stated an opinion one way or the other about cannibalism. Of course, I do not understand the relevance of that topic to the topic of this thread.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
And this brings us back to the point I've been feeling my way towards. Can a belief in the existence of a true human nature accommodate the possibility of transitional beings? Evolution, and our increasing ability to artificially manipulate genetics, raises the possibility of creatures that are partly human and partly something else. Do such possibilities undermine our faith in the reality of human nature, just because the boundaries between humanity and other creatures are fuzzy and not rigid?
Transitional species do exist. The fossil record is replete with them. So, if someone's belief in human nature does not accommodate the possibility of transitional beings, that belief would be wrong.
 

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laconicstudent said:
Azurestone said:
laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
Negatory.

The original meaning of the word "evolution" was used within the RCC to refer to a God planted 'seed' of creation that develops with God's help. Similar in thought to ID.
Well, I wasn't discussing etymology, I was talking about the Theory of Evolution.

Azurestone said:
Natural Selection, in and of itself, is not evolution. It's natural selection. Charles Darwin makes this point clear, as he himself believed in God, in his work on Natural Selection.
I didn't say natural selection was evolution.

Azurestone said:
Evolution today means some form of development from simple proteins to life. The developmental theory may differ from on a variety of variables including, but not limited to, natural selection.
Yes.

Azurestone said:
In the end, the hardest proponents of evolution haven't been able to prove that inert compounds can develop into hundreds of proteins that must interact to develop the most basic cell. Yet, there is 'faith' that this is possible, it only hasn't been discovered, and is much better than the strawman of the 'bearded man in the sky'.
Yes.
There is not only 'one' type of evolution, which I proved. The end of the last statement "a change through natural selection" leaves question to your understanding of evolution. Because this is not it, hence my statement on natural selection.
 

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Jonathan Gress said:
laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
No I think you're right. There is supposed to be a difference between microevolution, which is observed and which causes small changes within species, and macroevolution which causes changes from one species to another. But I would expect that most biologists would consider the very wording "one species to another" misleading, since there is no actual boundary that is crossed. It's not as if Adam's father was an ape, but that an ape-like ancestor begat a less ape-like and more human-like child, with successive generations making the full transition from ape to human. The distinction between apes and humans is only apparent after evolutionary divergence has occurred.
As laconicstudent has already stated, the microevolution/macroevolution distinction is simply not found in biology. It is an invention of creationists. It is similar to how mathematics does not talk of "microaddition" and "macroaddition".

What creationists call "macroevolution" is nothing more than the accumulation of a bunch of "microevolution". There is no mechanism that prevents that from happening.

And, as laconicstudent also noted, humans are apes. We are the family Hominidae aka the great apes such as chimps, gorilla, and orangutans. So, Adam, me, you, and your and my respective fathers are all apes.
 
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Azurestone said:
laconicstudent said:
Azurestone said:
laconicstudent said:
Jonathan Gress said:
Changes in allele frequencies are observed facts. Common ancestry of all species is not observed fact, but conjecture that happens to fit the fossil and genetic evidence. Hence the scare quotes, since when you speak of "evolution" it's not entirely clear which of the two kinds of evolution you are referring to.
I'm pretty sure there is only one kind of evolution, that of change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
Negatory.

The original meaning of the word "evolution" was used within the RCC to refer to a God planted 'seed' of creation that develops with God's help. Similar in thought to ID.
Well, I wasn't discussing etymology, I was talking about the Theory of Evolution.

Azurestone said:
Natural Selection, in and of itself, is not evolution. It's natural selection. Charles Darwin makes this point clear, as he himself believed in God, in his work on Natural Selection.
I didn't say natural selection was evolution.

Azurestone said:
Evolution today means some form of development from simple proteins to life. The developmental theory may differ from on a variety of variables including, but not limited to, natural selection.
Yes.

Azurestone said:
In the end, the hardest proponents of evolution haven't been able to prove that inert compounds can develop into hundreds of proteins that must interact to develop the most basic cell. Yet, there is 'faith' that this is possible, it only hasn't been discovered, and is much better than the strawman of the 'bearded man in the sky'.
Yes.
There is not only 'one' type of evolution, which I proved. The end of the last statement "a change through natural selection" leaves question to your understanding of evolution. Because this is not it, hence my statement on natural selection.
*patiently*

If you are going to accuse me of not having a high school understanding of biology, you need to at least not misquote me. I understand that it is tempting and it helps make me look like an idiot if you paraphrase, but considering we are communicating via text...

laconicstudent said:
change in phenotype in a population by natural selection.
"by", not "through". There are other mechanisms such as genetic drift, you can read them if you want. I didn't mention them initially because people on the internet tend to be uneducated in science and already have a hard enough time.
 

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If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
- John 3:12

On this thread I made the presumptious statement that this was proof that Jesus ALWAYS took the plain meaning of scripture first. That is presumptious of my part, I cannot make such a statement I believe. I believe that verse backs my view but apologies for saying this is some sort of unbreakable proof of Jesus always taking the plain meaning of scripture first.
 
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The time for saying this has probably passed, but I will say I only felt compelled to enter the dicsussion not because I care very much about it but because I thought Jonathan was doing a really good job discussing the issues with you graciously and without venom and I didn't feel you were doing him the same courtesy.

For the record, I feel you embarrassed yourself when you invited the clear inference that Jonathan was wrong because he was employing a reductio and also when you misunderstood his usage of the concept of nature. What's worse though is how you came out swinging at me for giving someone I perceived to be under attack a bit of a boost (not that he probably needed a defence).

Other people have called you on your tone, so I would like to think I am not imagining the above complaints.
 
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