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Farms The Monolith Upsets Another (non?) Reader


gtaggart

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If the people at FARMS feel their ears burning, this might be the reason:

14. Yes, how can FARMS trash good history (Todd Comptonâ??s book), endorse bad science (ID), and still expect to be credible? They are unwittingly forcing a correspondence between â??faithful historyâ? (the sort of history FARMS endorses) and â??intelligent designâ? (the sort of science FARMS endorses). Faithful history has enough of a hill to climb without attaching a fundamentalist ball and chain to its leg.

One of the few strong replies that Latter-day Saints have to secular criticism that lumps Mormons in with Evangelicals/fundamentalists is that the Church does not oppose evolution and that BYU teaches evolution as part of its biology curriculum. Evangelicals are the anti-intellectuals; Mormons encourage their kids to get science degrees and PhDâ??s. Publishing Sherlockâ??s article is a step in the wrong direction for FARMS because it links Mormons to the Evangelical ID agenda. Like we need one more problem to deal with.

Comment by Dave â?? August 21, 2007 @ 11:58 pm

One problem Dave might deal with first is to recognize that publishing a view is not endorsing a view. The next problem he might work on is learning to read a little closer. No, Todd Compton didn't get a free pass by those who reviewed his book, but neither did they "trash" his book. In fact, I remember a number of positive comments about what he wrote, including the opinion of Anderson and Faulring that Compton's book was deserving of the best book award it had received from the Mormon History Association. In general, the reviewers were complimentary of Compton's exhaustive research, critical of some of his methodological choices and that he speculated too much, and disturbed by what they perceived as the overly negative of the book.

The best answer to Dave's ID complaint comes best from the Great Doughnut's mouth:

Two substantial essays in this number consider the interface between Mormonism and science. First, physical chemist Robert R. Bennett responds to a work by a former Latter-day Saint written to demonstrate that Mormonism (often poorly understood, and just as often taken in the most boneheadedly literalistic way) and Latter-day Saint scripture (often sloppily misread) are incompatible with science (sometimes just as poorly understood). Bennett demonstrates that the book's author has failed to interact with faithful Latter-day Saint scientists and with believing scientific theists generally (of whom there are many), who have been giving solid thought to the issues that the book raises for a very long time.

Second, Utah State University philosopher Richard Sherlock examines the subject of "intelligent design"â??very controversial at the momentâ??from the perspective of a believing Latter-day Saint. I expect that he will receive considerable criticism for having written such a piece and that we will come under attack, from some quarters at least, for the sheer act of publishing it. That's perfectly fine with me. Candidly, I've been astonished at the consistent inaccuracy with which ID theory, as it's sometimes called, has been depicted in the press, and at the knee-jerk and caricaturizing negativism with which some believing Latter-day Saint scientists have responded to it. It seems to me, whether ID is ever shown to be correct or not, or whether it can even be formulated as a truly scientific hypothesis or not, Latter-day Saints, of all people, should not automatically dismiss it as a possibility. We have no obligation, whatever the surrounding culture may say, to accept the notion that naturalism is the default setting for scientific and scholarly discussion. Why hand such an advantage to critics of the gospel and the restoration without even seriously considering the question? Sometimes, it seems to me, we Latter-day Saints are so terrified of being thought provincial and backward that we are much too quick to signal our submission to reigning cultural and intellectual dogma. But such submission will never convince any of our cultured despisers that we're not backward rubes . . . and a hasty and uncritical zeal to ape our "betters" may only serve to confirm that we are, indeed, insecure provincials.(emphasis mine)

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I donâ??t want to suggest that Latter-day Saints adopt the viewpoints advocated by the â??IDâ? crowd. To the contrary, there is much wisdom in avoiding any such alliance. Nevertheless, regardless of how an individual views organic evolution as the method by which God created life on this planet, it would appear (according to the scriptures) that it was directed to one extent or another. That, to me, signifies intelligent design.

My reading of Moses and Abraham leads me to believe that the building blocks of life were introduced into the matrix that was prepared, and then the creators shepherded the process as necessary until the desired results were obtained. I do not see how any scripturally-based theory of the creation can ignore the fact that there was intelligent, directed design at its root.

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I don’t want to suggest that Latter-day Saints adopt the viewpoints advocated by the “ID” crowd. To the contrary, there is much wisdom in avoiding any such alliance. Nevertheless, regardless of how an individual views organic evolution as the method by which God created life on this planet, it would appear (according to the scriptures) that it was directed to one extent or another. That, to me, signifies intelligent design.

Don't even get me started on those "creation science" folks, who have recently restyled themselves as "Intelligent Design." Their version of science is that the Genesis 1-2 account, in the King James translation, as they interpret those few few words, is exactly how the Earth was created. They then proceed to hypothesize mechanisms to describe the physical record on the Earth, which mechanisms fail many, many scientific tests. They nevertheless purport them to be uncontrovertable fact, and that their theories prove false much of the legitimate science out there.

As someone who is connected to science, and a Christian (of the Mormom variety), I am highly embarrassed by the way these "creation scientists" make the rest of Christianty look like flaming idiots.

Regarding what you say about Intelligent Design, I rather suspect that a great many species were "placed here as they were on worlds we have heretofor formed" during the time of the "Cambrian Explosion."

As far as what has happened since then, I don't purport to know whether it has been evolution on autopilot, "guided evolution", or if additional species have been placed here on a regular basis.

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An apple has always been an apple.

There is no intelligent design in LDS theology ==>> the creator is following a template that has existed for eternity. Each step in the creation process has always existed.

I suppose there is room for creativity on the "furnishings", similar to an interior designer with an earth to decorate, rather than a single room.

(Sounds abit like Plato, as I remember.)

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An apple has always been an apple.

There is no intelligent design in LDS theology ==>> the creator is following a template that has existed for eternity. Each step in the creation process has always existed.

I suppose there is room for creativity on the "furnishings", similar to an interior designer with an earth to decorate, rather than a single room.

(Sounds abit like Plato, as I remember.)

Does that also mean that a tangelo has always been a tangelo?

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I donâ??t want to suggest that Latter-day Saints adopt the viewpoints advocated by the â??IDâ? crowd. To the contrary, there is much wisdom in avoiding any such alliance. Nevertheless, regardless of how an individual views organic evolution as the method by which God created life on this planet, it would appear (according to the scriptures) that it was directed to one extent or another. That, to me, signifies intelligent design.

My reading of Moses and Abraham leads me to believe that the building blocks of life were introduced into the matrix that was prepared, and then the creators shepherded the process as necessary until the desired results were obtained. I do not see how any scripturally-based theory of the creation can ignore the fact that there was intelligent, directed design at its root.

Will

As a biologist and biochemist, having done research for thirty years in topics related to evolution, I agree with you completely. To deny God's hand in the creation process is to deny the existence of God. This however, is exactly what most evolutionists are attempting to convince non scientists of as a proven fact.

Attempts by ID supporters to explain God's participation, however, I find forced and in some ways ludicrous. We have no idea what means and energies that God has available for his use in the process of creating worlds with out end. We are also ignorant of the processes (terraforming) He may have available to catalyse (enhance) the rate at which these processes occur. Studies of the rate of catalysed processes in the absence of any knowledge of the catalyst involved in the process will always be in error, usually in the direction of thinking the process is much slower than it actually is.

An example is a log of wood which if left alone will rot before it ever burns unless you apply kindling, tinder and most important a spark.

The best we can do is admit that God was involved and leave it at that.

Larry P

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Don't even get me started on those "creation science" folks, who have recently restyled themselves as "Intelligent Design." Their version of science is that the Genesis 1-2 account, in the King James translation, as they interpret those few few words, is exactly how the Earth was created. They then proceed to hypothesize mechanisms to describe the physical record on the Earth, which mechanisms fail many, many scientific tests. They nevertheless purport them to be uncontrovertable fact, and that their theories prove false much of the legitimate science out there.

I would suggest that, unless one at least gets "started" on reading about Intelligent Design theorists, one should avoid commenting on them.

The characterization of them given above is wildly untrue in virtually every respect.

As someone who is connected to science, and a Christian (of the Mormom variety), I am highly embarrassed by the way these "creation scientists" make the rest of Christianty look like flaming idiots.

I'm embarrassed by the grotesquely inaccurate things that people routinely say about ID thinkers -- things that even a nodding acquaintance with the actual writings of Dembski, Behe, Johnson, Denton, Berlinski, and others would prevent.

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I am one of those young earth flaming idjits and with my so simple mind, I have always wondered what those who want a God, but also a naturalistic, evolutionary creation, have God doing for all those billions of years? Is the argument deistic that He started it all then backed off for 15-18 billion years with arched eyebrows thinking "this is the best I could do?? ok remember...watched pot never boils...go read a book..are we there yet???"

As an idiot I honestly would like to know and when did He re-interfere with the earth?

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I am one of those young earth flaming idjits and with my so simple mind, I have always wondered what those who want a God, but also a naturalistic, evolutionary creation, have God doing for all those billions of years? Is the argument deistic that He started it all then backed off for 15-18 billion years with arched eyebrows thinking "this is the best I could do?? ok remember...watched pot never boils...go read a book..are we there yet???"

As an idiot I honestly would like to know and when did He re-interfere with the earth?

Basically, what does our time mean to God?

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I am one of those young earth flaming idjits and with my so simple mind, I have always wondered what those who want a God, but also a naturalistic, evolutionary creation, have God doing for all those billions of years? Is the argument deistic that He started it all then backed off for 15-18 billion years with arched eyebrows thinking "this is the best I could do?? ok remember...watched pot never boils...go read a book..are we there yet???"

As an idiot I honestly would like to know and when did He re-interfere with the earth?

How much does he interfere with us or force our progression? To help us fill the measure of our creation He allows us to play a part; whether he has to or not, the fact remains, our improvement takes time as well.

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I rather suspect that a great many species were "placed here as they were on worlds we have heretofor formed" during the time of the "Cambrian Explosion."

As far as what has happened since then, I don't purport to know whether it has been evolution on autopilot, "guided evolution", or if additional species have been placed here on a regular basis.

I think you are exactly right. I hit on this in an earlier thread, but there seems to be little to no evidence of evolution as imagined by Darwin, and some scientists are starting to come around to this. Prior to the Cambrian Explosion there is very little fossil history, with the exception of simple worm like organisms, to suggest that anything evolved at all. Then suddenly, bam, tons of life-forms walking around doing their thing. To date, we have yet to find any connection of fossils that show any kind of evolutionary track from the pre-Cambrian era.

So, the question is, why do so many scientists insist, despite the alarming lack of evidence, that this was what happened? Who is being dogmatic (I thought only religous nuts were dogmatic). Perhaps they have "faith" that Darwin was correct, and that the evidence will eventually surface. Maybe so, who knows.

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One problem Dave might deal with first is to recognize that publishing a view is not endorsing a view.

Certainly publishing an article doesn't entail an official endorsement, but it does indicate that the reviewers considered the arguments and evidence to meet scholarly standards. In the case of Sherlock's article, they were wrong, IMO. Sherlock, who appears to specialize in ethics, manifests a poor understanding of the ID debate and of scientific methodology. This can be demonstrated fairly easily if anyone is interested.

Daniel Peterson:

We have no obligation, whatever the surrounding culture may say, to accept the notion that naturalism is the default setting for scientific and scholarly discussion.

Science deals only with issues that lend themselves to empirical research. If that's what is meant by "naturalism", then it's a defining feature of science. If "naturalism" means something else, then it's irrelevant to science. Either way, I see no controversy in this regard between LDS and the surrounding culture.

Why hand such an advantage to critics of the gospel and the restoration without even seriously considering the question? Sometimes, it seems to me, we Latter-day Saints are so terrified of being thought provincial and backward that we are much too quick to signal our submission to reigning cultural and intellectual dogma.

Again, I don't know what cultural and intellectual dogma Daniel is referring to. The question of ID has been considered extensively, and it's viewed as pseudoscience not because of its religious or supernatural implications, but because it doesn't meet scientific standards.

[Edit: typo]

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Certainly publishing an article doesn't entail an official endorsement, but it does indicate that the reviewers considered the arguments and evidence to meet scholarly standards. In the case of Sherlock's article, they were wrong, IMO.

I disagree.

Sherlock, who appears to specialize in ethics, manifests a poor understanding of the ID debate and of scientific methodology. This can be demonstrated fairly easily if anyone is interested.

You're entirely free to attempt to make the demonstration.

If you care to do so, you can even submit your demonstration to the FARMS Review for possible publication.

Science deals only with issues that lend themselves to empirical research. If that's what is meant by "naturalism", then it's a defining feature of science.

That's not what is meant by naturalism.

If "naturalism" means something else, then it's irrelevant to science.

That's rather the point, in my opinion. Science should not be tied to a naturalistic dogma that exceeds its empirical warrant.

The question of ID has been considered extensively, and it's viewed as pseudoscience not because of its religious or supernatural implications, but because it doesn't meet scientific standards.

I remain unconvinced.

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You're entirely free to attempt to make the demonstration.

I'll address Sherlock's poor understanding of the ID debate in this post and the next (split to avoid formatting problems). Sherlock mischaracterizes both sides on key issues, and some of his arguments involve old ID canards that experienced ID proponents avoid. Here are a few of the problems I see in his paper:

1. False dichotomies/trichotomies

Randomness vs. design:

Would it be that the random action of physical forces came together in a strange new way to create it, or would it be that it was designed and constructed by an intelligent agent or agents?
Like our scientists far away, intelligent design thinkers do not believe that it is reasonable to hold that complex features of living beings can be best explained by randomness.
If those scientists ignore design as a relevant hypothesis and just assume randomnessâ??for example, â??this is just another meteorâ?â??they will ignore a vast and relevant line of investigation.
A nonrandom (i.e., designed) process would account for the discrepancy...
Third, intelligent design or irreducible complexity does not require an either/or dualism as the court implies: either my theory or yoursâ??either Darwin or design. It only claims that there are phenomena that design explains better than randomness. If a third theory such as self-organization as presented by those associated with the Santa Fe Institute proves fruitful, let it come forward with a third alternative. Let the debate begin.

That last statement is strange indeed. Even if by "randomness" Sherlock means RM+NS, I have never known any ID proponent to say that ID favors design over RM+NS only, leaving the door open for other natural evolutionary mechanisms. I have no idea where Sherlock got this notion, and it's easy enough to find statements to the contrary by ID leaders. Dembski's approach, for example, ostensibly eliminates all relevant non-design hypotheses.

"Randomness and natural selection" vs. design:

(Note: It's difficult to figure out what Sherlock includes under the rubric "randomness and natural selection". By randomness, does he mean mutation and recombination? Does he include mechanisms that are partially random? If so, it would seem that all mechanisms fall into this category, but Sherlock excludes self-organization in his statement above.)

The focus of intelligent design is, instead, on the second part of the evolutionary framework: the idea of randomness and natural selection as the whole story about the mechanism of evolutionary change.
But accepting intelligent design as a critique of and alternative to the complete sufficiency of randomness and natural selection does not commit one to either one of these propositions that define young earth creationism.

Randomness vs. brute necessity vs. design:

We observe things in our world for which the best explanation is not randomness or brute necessity but intelligent design.

2. False Voyager analogy

â?¢ With artifacts like Voyager, we know that the type of complex structure we see goes beyond what the material elements themselves have the capacity to produce.

â?¢ We know that the best explanation for this complex structure is that artifacts are designed.

â?¢ With living things it seems that the complex structure we see also goes beyond what the material constituents themselves have the capacity to produce.

â?¢ Therefore, living things are best understood as designed.

Sherlock's first statement reflects the fact that the Voyager spacecraft has no mechanism for evolution of form or function; in particular, it doesn't reproduce. Living things, on the other hand, are known to reproduce with variation, which renders Sherlock's third statement pure question-begging and invalidates his analogy.

3. Anthropic bias

Sherlock commits the classic anthropic fallacy:

At this point it appears that divine design is the best explanation since there is only one beginning to the universe or one data point, and it is perfectly set up to create the universe we have.

As a response to the problem of anthropic bias, Sherlock offers another false analogy:

Some have claimed that such a precise order tells us nothing because if it had not happened we would not be here to think about it. Though true, this is hardly a sufficient response. Suppose you went into a casino and played a dollar on ten consecutive dollar slot machines in a row and hit the jackpot on each one. Would you shrug your shoulders and say â??thatâ??s nothing, if I had not been here I would not have won.â? Of course not. You would quite naturally believe that someone had rigged the machines for you.

Anthropic bias hinges on the impossibility of an observer existing in a multiverse that precludes the existence of observers. There is no analogous impossibility, or even improbability, in Sherlock's casino scenario. It's certainly possible to be in a casino and fail to win 10 slots in a row.

4. Shifting the burden on evolutionary scenarios

[Frank Salisbury] is unimpressed with and critical of the responses to Behe. Most of them amount to what he, like Behe, calls â??just soâ? stories. As noted earlier, such a criticism goes like this: Behe, or someone else such as Salisbury himself, presents an example of an irreducibly complex mechanism or event like the origin of life on earth or the blood-clotting mechanism. The critic responds by saying â??it might have evolved (or started) like thisâ? without showing that it did or without even showing in detail how it might have. Salisbury is rightly unimpressed.
Since Behe's claim is that certain structures could not have evolved gradually, the onus is on Behe to falsify proposed evolutionary scenarios. To counter Behe's claim, one needs only point out how it could have happened, not how it did happen. Therefore, Behe's complaint about just-so stories doesn't hold water, as has been pointed out repeatedly in the ID debates. Ironically, Behe's alternate "theory", that of design, hasn't even been fleshed out to the level of a just-so story.

5. Getting Dembski wrong

The second and more important point is that intelligent design relies on one of the most widely used patterns of reasoning in all of science: abduction.
And yet Dembski, the leading mathematician and logician of ID, eschews abductive inference to design, claiming that design hypotheses cannot be compared to natural hypotheses (see Design by Elimination vs. Design by Comparison).
The general Cambrian explosion required a rapid and quite extraordinary increase in biological information or what design theorists call complex specified information. It is complex like that of any protein and specified because it is directed to a specific end of producing a specific body plan or form.
"Complex specified information" is one of Dembski's key concepts, but Sherlock's explanation of it is inaccurate. The word "complex" does not refer to complexity per se, but to improbability. To show that something is "complex" according to Dembski's redefinition of the word, you have to show that it's improbable under all relevant chance and/or necessity hypotheses. Nobody has ever claimed to show such "complexity" for any biological structure other than the bacterial flagellum. Also, Sherlock's characterization of specificity does not match any of Dembski's definitions. It should be noted, however, that his depiction of complexity and specification elsewhere in the paper is faithful to Dembski's.
Latter-day Saints, along with others, should not â??baptizeâ? any specific way of identifying design. No design theorist I know, including those like Bill Dembski who have offered a specific way of identifying design, asserts that the final chapter has been written.
But Dembski does indeed claim that his way of identifying design should be "baptized". In this paper, Dembski says:
In this piece I want to consider the main criticisms of specified complexity as a reliable empirical marker of intelligence, show how they fail, and argue that not only does specified complexity pinpoint how we detect design, but it is also our sole means for detecting design. Consequently, specified complexity is not just one of several ways for reinstating design in the natural sciences-it is the only way.
and
Consequently, if there is a way to detect design, specified complexity is it.

6. ID's history

Intelligent design as a specific alternative to neo-Darwinism is no more than twenty years old.
When ID proponents are explaining ID's lack of scientific output, they characterize ID as young. When they want to depict ID as an established paradigm, they characterize it as going back to Paley or even Plato. The fact is that the arguments that comprise ID certainly go back more than twenty years. According to Henry Morris, they were used by creationists before the ID movement started touting them (see http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articl...iew&ID=476). Sherlock himself mentions a 1969 article by Frank Salisbury, calling it "the essential core of an intelligent design critique of Darwinism."

7. Appeal to weak authority

A list of scientists who doubt the complete sufficiency of Darwinism now comprises over six hundred names and is growing.
Nitpick: Not everyone on the list is a scientist.

Bigger problem: The statement that the signatories were endorsing has nothing to do with ID and is uncontroversial. Here is the statement:

"We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Neither sentence poses problems for modern biologists. The National Research Council, for instance, agrees completely with the first sentence:

"Natural selection based solely on mutation is probably not an adequate mechanism for evolving complexity."

And the second sentence is obviously unobjectionable, as most people would agree that careful examination of the evidence should be encouraged for all theories.

Why didn't the Discovery Institute ask these scientists to endorse ID? Even more informative would be a list of scientists who have actually done ID research. Such a list would be virtually empty. If a growing number of scientists are accepting ID as valid science, then why aren't they involving themselves in this revolutionary work? What data has ID research produced?

More from Sherlock:

On the matter of publication, we can also note that a number of key works in intelligent design have in fact been published by major academic presses who have rigorous peer-review standards. William Dembskiâ??s The Design Inference was published by Cambridge University Press. His follow-up key text No Free Lunch was published by Rowman and Littlefield, a major American academic publisher.

It should be noted that The Design Inference was published as a philosophical work, and as such, was reviewed by three philosophers, one of which rejected it. I'm not belittling philosophers, but it's worth noting that Dembski's ID arguments have never passed any kind of mathematical or scientific review, nor have any of the other works that Sherlock mentions. It's also worth noting that Dembski intended to also publish No Free Lunch with Cambridge, but switched to the non-peer-reviewing Rowman and Littlefield when he met resistance from Cambridge.

8. Claiming, without evidence, that ID is dismissed on the basis of a priori faith

Materialism is more than science; it is an article of faith, and its devotees are as protective of it as any religious believer.
The reason is the deeply held faith in materialism and in the equally strong article of faith by some against God or divine design.

9. Evidentiary double standard

[Regarding the multiple universe hypothesis,] the question is why would one want to multiply entities for which we have absolutely no evidence? The reason for the multiplication is not science, for the appeal to hidden entities or forces violates what scientists claim to seek above all else: explanation, not mystery.
Here Sherlock is apparently hoisting science on its own petard. But of course, if Sherlock rejects empiricism and thinks that hidden entities are fair game for science, then his objection disappears. Extrauniversal entities are certainly highly speculative, although they figure into some (thus far untestable) models of physics. It could be (and has been) argued, however, that the existence of universes has one obvious precedent, while the existence of deities has none.

10. Trivialization of critiques

Critiques of intelligent design fall generally into three categories. First is the claim that intelligent design is simply old-fashioned young earth creationism repackaged for a new era.

...

The second line of criticism of intelligent design claims that it is not science because either no body of scientists accepts it or because it has not been published in peer-reviewed forums.

...

A key criticism is that design is a "science stopper."

To think that charges of creationism, lack of authority, and "science stopping" cover the bulk of criticisms of ID is ludicrous. It seems that Sherlock is woefully unfamiliar with the other side of the debate. All of the ID arguments that I'm aware of have been individually answered on their own merits, and hundreds of these responses have been indexed on the talkorigins.org site. These include the arguments that Sherlock outlines, such as irreducible complexity and specified complexity. I also note that sources of ID criticism are listed only in Sherlock's first footnote, which contains a long list of books on the debate, while pro-ID sources are cited throughout the paper.
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That's not what is meant by naturalism.

Naturalism means different things to different people, as Sherlock points out:
Naturalism, however, may not be the best term to describe what the critics are aiming at. As shown by David Hume and John Stuart Mill, among others, nature is an ambiguous term. If it means all that exists or all that can be described by true statements then, for a theist, excluding God makes little sense. The statement â??God existsâ? is as true as the statement â??Water exists.â? If one wants to exclude God one ought to select a more discriminating term.
Science should not be tied to a naturalistic dogma that exceeds its empirical warrant.
What are some examples of "naturalistic dogma", and who is in favor of tying this dogma to science?
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LegalBryan:

but there seems to be little to no evidence of evolution as imagined by Darwin, and some scientists are starting to come around to this.

This is far too subjective to even be useful, let alone that you are simply wrong. You make not like evolution as such, but to mischaracature it thusly is really shooting yourself in the foot.

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