TheoreticalBullshit : Why I don't Debate Creationists
Most quotes not directly quoted but summed up from memory, and TBS is giving the lines of Creationist Nick in his version:
Crea-Nick: small changes need not accumulate to large changes. If you move back and forth between two poles you will be doing very many small changes of position but not accumulate them to getting far away from where you started.
TBS: The analogy fails to adress evolution. We do get a large way on it, that is precisely the kind of change we are talking about. You are presuming changes are regressive, which in this case they are not.
Mind if I bump in? Here: one standard creationist argument against the possibility of evoloution is precisely that changes we have observed are regressive. Try to breed smaller and smaller chihuahuas, they won't get smaller but either stop breeding or start getting bigger instead. Try to breed bigger and bigger Golden Retrievers, after a while the same thing will happen there: they will start getting smaller or stop reproducing.
His argument is basically that as evolution (macro-wise) never happened because it is impossible. Yours is that evolution is possible because it happened. Which begs the question of knowing whether we have other evidence it happened.
Just as he could as easily have said: we know creation happened, so it is obviously possible for God to create ex nihilo, where you would have answered that God never did that because everything getting into existance needs what a Thomist would call a material cause and what you would simply call material. Which is short for precisely material cause, and the older word for material was matter (causa materialis respectively materia in Latin).
Here is how Saint Thomas Aquinas dealt with that, wonder if Lane Craig mentioned it:
I answer that, As said above (Question 44, Article 2), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from "not-man," and white from "not-white." Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the "not-being" which is "not-man," so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the "not-being" which is "nothing."
Source: I, Q 45, A 1 of ST=Summa Theologiae.
And where in A1? corp.=in corpore articuli, in the body of the article
as opposed to "ad 1" or any other "ad n", which is replies to objections
Next article, I quote obj 4 and ad 4:
Objection 4. Further, infinite distance cannot be crossed. But infinite distance exists between being and nothing. Therefore it does not happen that something is made from nothing.
Reply to Objection 4. This objection proceeds from a false imagination, as if there were an infinite medium between nothing and being; which is plainly false. This false imagination comes from creation being taken to signify a change existing between two forms.
Hope this makes better sense to you than Mr Craig did. Before we get on, just to eliminate mere verbal misunderstandings between you and any Thomist whatsoever (and if he did not explain this to you, but only commented over your head, I think that was rude and certainly not what St Thomas would ahve done):
Every table (to take your exemple) has four causes. Each efficient cause is the carpenter, except in so far as some efficient causes are tools in his hand. He is obviously more primary than they. They are secondary to him. Secondary efficient causes are, expecially if lifeless, called instrumental causes.
Each final cause is what you want the table for. Put plates and glasses and a hot dish on? Put a computer on and a mousse and a mouse mat or even to serve as mouse mat if such is absent? It may slant if you want to put writing or drawing material on it.
Formal cause is the property in the table which is intrinsic as a product of efficient cause and as an adaptation to final cause, like slanting for writing or being straight horizontal to eat on. It means having one leg with a big foot or four legs or two double legs that are foldable, and so on.
And material cause does so not mean an efficent cause that is a material thing but is the other intrinsic cause of the table, namely what it consists of as pre-existing material. To the table that would very often be wood, but it could also be glass and metal.
Actually, the wood in relation to the table made of it are not a perfect example of the relation material cause and thing. Because the shape of the table is not a form per se, it is a form per accidens. Wood is at once a material cause per se for a tree, while it lives, just as muscle tissue is for a man, and a formal cause in relation to things like cellulose, lignine and such matters as are included in all living things. Between wood and lignine etc. you have what is formal in relation to lignine etc. but material in relation to wood, namely things like cells and the grain. You know the lines that you use a saw across but a hatchet along.
When you say that "man is 75% water" you are referring to the material cause of a living person. And here is a funny thing: while a creature is living, every part of it is being exchanged on the material account. Your total amount of chemistry's atoms may be exchanged for every period of seven years while you live. For water, the total exchange is going much faster than that. So, is the formal cause yourself identical or not after the seven years when the material cause most certainly is not? That is a matter for thought, right? Thomism says, yes it is, and also, the more that is true of a being the more essential is its formal cause, the more essential is its essence, the nobler it is. And as all variations of degree are between extremes ranging from null to maximum, there is such a thing as the noblest thing, and that is God (forth way of St Thomas' five ways, see I, Q2, A3 for them all, and remember St Thomas uses 43 questions between proving God exists and proving that when being emanates to something else it does so by creatio ex nihilo).
Now back to your video and your dialogue with "Crea". Or rather to your enumeration of what you consider his strawmen.
TBS: strawman, like 1) asserting that natural selection has a goal.
Mind if I bump in? Here: If natural selection has no goal, how come it could: a) anyway make small changes it produces fortuitously lead up to a large change such as walking a far way from home by taking several small steps away? And b) produce certain things like - eyes. (Fifth way of St Thomas is by the way=Intelligent Design AND Government of Nature).
Before going on to the other strawmen, lets get on with natural selection:
TBS: Natural selection explains big changes. Crea-Nick introduced a new strawman about "direction of survaviability", but survivability is no direction it is a feature. Genetic changes occur, and because of the environment they either are survivable or they aren't.
Mind if I bump in? Here: That does not make "survivability" a feature of a creature, but rather a sum of features that together tend to net result actual survival. Just as infallibility in the Pope is not a feature in his mentality, but a net result of features excluding pertinacious heresy which together with special protection make fallacious definitions non-occurrent. But you might call "infallibility" also a feature of features in the Pope's mentality, i e of those he choses to share with all faithful as binding in faith, like Christ being of same substance as the Father, according to the Godhead. And similarily you may refer to survivability as a feature either of any feature produced by mutation or of any feature already present before mutation.
Now, in that sense survivability could not have the same direction time after time after time, except by chance. Which is why survivability has no overall direction. Which is why small changes over time do not add up to big changes, because they are regressive as environment changes.
You could of course have answered that "being a better hunter" is one feature with a constant direction which again and again is likely to have survivability. That is how one evolutionist does explain the rise of mammals.
TBS: The evolution of whales is not the result of a movement towards survivability. It is not a result of movement towards anything. If a population can procreate it already has survivability.
Mind if I bump in? Here: Oh?
TBS: If they have to live in water, you can bet that mutations advantageous to swimming and diving are passed on and those that are not are not.
Mind if I bump in? Here: Oh? First of all, you seem to be giving survivability a direction. Not a once and for all same direction in all animals - this direction being obviously obverse to the one counted by evolutionists in Crossopterygia and Tiktaalik up to Amphibians - but a certain direction in a certain environment.
And for another thing, saying that survivability goes in a certain direction does not guarantee that mutations will actually occur in that direction.
TBS: ... Because members (of the population) without such an advantage will not be able to compete for food and will not live long enough to procreate.
Mind if I bump in? Here: Two things. First of all this seems to be a scenario in which every species is in constant food shortage and mutations saving species from extinction continually occur quasi miraculously so evolution can go on, but somehow this never fixes the problem of continual food shortage.
I do not believe that for a moment. Neither the food shortage, nor that time after time when it occurs species after species is saved by mutation into clearly different not just species but kinds. The obvious result to be expected of a shortage in which a species dies out if it does not mutate is that it does not mutate in the needed direction far enough and so dies out.
But if you speak only of food shortage in unmutated exemplars in the situation of having to compete with such as had made an advantageous mutation, again that won't do. Such mutations are not all that common. If it does not occur, the unmutated ones are at no disadvantage because there is no mutant competition.
TBS: There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no net survivability and all life is funneling toward it.
Mind if I bump in? Here: There is very much net survivability in the kinds as extant. Without mutations or without mutations that are very changeful. A change of colour here, a change of pattern (in feathers or scales or whatever) there, et c. Very much back and forth. Back and forth between what environments the colours melt into or contrast with, back and forth between need of camouflage in order not to get eaten and need of conspicuousness to attract females. If you have read Dawkins, the Greatest Show on Earth, you will know what I am referring to. But even when there is no back and forth, as is maybe the case with the crabs in Japan, referred to by Sagan and disbelieved by Dawkins, if these have got shield patterns more and more like faces of Samurais, mutations and natural slection are basically "skin deep."
Now, let's go on to the other strawmen of the list.
TBS: strawman, like 2) asserting that speciation can happen in one mutation...
Mind if I bump in? Here: In plants a chromosome mutation of changed polyploidy does produce a new species. That and hybridisation between close species are the two main observed ways of speciation in plants. Obviously a creationist does not deny this speciation, only that this speciation produces another "kind" of plant. And obviously such speciation is not exactly the same thing as asserting a common ancestry for dogs and bears.
TBS: strawman, like 3) asserting that adaptation does not count as change in form unless a new species has been produced, et c.
Mind if I bump in? Here: I am not sure it is a strawman of your position at all. It may be a Thomist position of his own. Some Thomists would argue that the formal cause is the same (though not individually the same) in all men and that the differences are a difference in material cause only. But if Socrates was white and Martin Luther King black due to material cause only, probably they would have the same skin colour if eating the same things, which is not the case. I find a Scotist perspective helpful here.
TBS: which made it clear to me how very uninformed you are about evolution, prompting me to suggest you do some reading. [And lots later:] I am not answering questions about evolution, I am educating you about evolution and I am not educated enough for that. [Admission under video, in description:] I'm kind of a dick in this one.
Here I am no longer bumping in, as I will now continue with my reply till end of this essay.
Creationist Nick, at the very worst, was about as below you in evolution as you were below Craig in Kalam argument. If you complain about being treated unpolitely, being polite yourself might help. However, that is not my main point, and you did make the admission yourself after doing the video.
My main point is this: if you know what an average American needs to know about Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, that means obviously that you can correct misunderstandings of very basic things. For instance, if someone were to say "if 1*1=1, then 2*2=2" or inversely "if 2*2=4 then 1*1=2" you would be able to explain that "times" and "plus" are not the same operation. If a Frenchman would pronounce "shout it out, chief" as "soot it oot, sheff", you might be able to explain that "ou" in English is pronounced, most often, "ow" and not "oo". If a German were to pronounce "boot" as "bawt" and thought it meant something you put into the water and yourself into, even if you did not know that "boot" in Geman is "Stiefel" you would no doubt have figured out that he was thinking about "boat" and you would show him how to spell and pronounce it, adding a voiced example of correctly pronounced "boot" and explaining or showing it is something you put on your feet.
But apparently learning what every American should know about evolution does not help you to attack very basic misunderstandings of evolution.
Which is where I ask myself, is that attitude simply repeating the behaviour of your science teacher towards a creationist in class? I don't know. But judging from how P. Z. Myers dealt with one creationist objector, much same attitude as above, I think it just might be the case.
People with OUR position are not just right, they are EDUCATED. People with the OTHER position are not just wrong, they are IGNORANT. Well, that is not very much like what happens in most areas in life otherwise, but it is very much an attitude which stops debate.
As I speak about P. Z. Myers, I will give you an extra argument - linking to it - that I argued in a comment thread on his blog. I also tried to get it published in Nature/Genetics, but that failed. So far.
Creation vs. Evolution : Letter to Nature on Karyotype Evolution in Mammals
Oh, one more coming back to you. You said that this is not philosophy or theology where everyone is entitled to his own opinion, this is science. If one is no expert one has no hope of getting taken seriously.
Now, how come science is entitled to being dogmatic and theology or philosophy isn't? Because a scientist who was also atheist and evolutionist told you so? Because he told you philosophy and theology have no firm foundation in observed fact? Because he told you evolution has, since "fossiles and genetics prove it" and they are observed facts? Well they are, but does that prove that it is evolution they are proving? Because he told you any story of miracles was written generations later, so miracles are never observed facts? What if they were, how would you know with such an attitude? Wouldn't you just deny the evidence rather than remotely dealing with it, in the fashion I have not much seen among creationists, such as saying fossiles and genetics are made up stuff, you only know that from hearsay, nobody's ever seen that stuff, though some pretend to, and so on? That is how we creationists do not deal with fossiles and genetics, usually, but we see a lot of that among people denying the miracles in the Bible - and in other texts.
Enough for today.
Mouffetard Library, Paris
St John of the Cross,