Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kumbaya Alert: Noah Millman Edition

Yesterday, I wrote about the "Kumbaya Gang" (Robert Wright, Francis Collins, et al.) who want to create a comprehensive peace between Darwinists and believers. And what are the terms of such a peace? The believers must accept Darwinism and - in return - the Darwinists will kindly tolerant them. And what concessions do the Darwinists offer in return? Nothing - besides tolerance, of course. Swell deal.

Anyhoo...Apparently, the new Robert Wright book sparked an online debate between pro-Darwin professor Jerry Coyne and Jim Manzi (who's Jim Manzi? I have no idea. Apparently, he's a contributor to The American Scene). Today, another American Scene contributor - Noah Millman - decided to inject his wisdom into the evolutionary debate.

And how much wisdom did he provide? Not much. Apparently, Mr. Millman is eager to join the "Kumbaya Gang," but it's not clear if the Gang will accept him. Why?'d think the Gang must have some intellectual standards, right?

Anyhoo...I decided to write the following comment

There's so much flawed thinking in this post, I'm not sure where to start. Some of the claims (like Darwinism is the "basis of all modern biology") are totally false and have been refuted convincingly and frequently. Therefore, I won't waste much time on them here (if you're interested, you can visit my website).

Instead, I'll focus on just one of Noah's mealy-mouthed, confused statements.

He writes...

"We have to distinguish between factual and hermeneutical claims...With hermeneutical claims, the question that arises is not truth but persuasiveness...The Anthropic Principle and the Many Worlds Hypothesis are competing hermeneutical frameworks for “answering” the question of why we live in a universe with intelligent life as opposed to one without intelligent life...These are hermeneutical rather than factual claims, because they cannot, in principle, be tested."

Umm, here's a factual claim: The universe is real! Oh, here's another one: There's no evidence - zilch - of any universes besides this one. Therefore, the Anthropic Principle is superior to the Many Worlds Hypothesis because it deals with something factual (OUR universe) rather than something that is speculative (OTHER universes).

I apologize in advance for my arrogant tone, but I'm not sure how else to react when such sloppy thinking is articulated in such a casual way.


This lead to an exchange with "Chet," a pro-Darwin advocate. I won't repost Chet's comments (you can read them here), but needless to say I wasn't impressed.

My first reply to Chet...

Chet: You’re repeating talking points from your college biology professor. Please study this issue before using cliches. Even an honest Darwinist would admit that this claim is bogus.

For example, take the pro-Darwin Penn University Professor Dr. Phillip Skell, who wrote a Feb. 2009 article in Forbes magazine, The Dangers of Selling Evolution.

One quote from his article will suffice:

“Experimental biology has dramatically increased our understanding of the intricate workings within living organisms that account for their survival, showing how they continue to function despite the myriad assaults on them from their environments. These advances in knowledge are attributable to the development of new methodologies and instruments, unimaginable in the preceding centuries, applied to the investigation of living organisms. Crucial to all fruitful experiments in biology is their design, for which Darwin’s and Wallace’s principles apparently provide no guidance.”

To repeat: Darwinism offers “no guidance” to experimental biology.

I’ll also quote from Dr. Cornelius Hunter, who admittedly is a Darwin skeptic, but his quip is too good to ignore: “The only area of thought in which evolutionary studies has a significant role is evolutionary studies. One could fit into a thimble the important scientific advances made possible by evolution.


And here's my second reply...

Chet: Repeating the same points over and over again isn't going to make them true. No, biology was NOT stamp collecting before Darwin. For example, Grey's Anatomy (the textbook, not the TV show) was published BEFORE Darwin.

You wrote, "The structure of DNA could not have been elucidated by Watson and Crick without knowing that it was the molecule of heredity – and why would anyone assume there was a mutable molecule of heredity except for Darwin?"

Again, this shows distortion and wishful thinking. The principles of genetic heredity were established by Gregor Mendel, NOT Darwin. In fact, Darwinists ignored Mendel's work for decades because it was believed to contradict Father Darwin. For more, see the Wikipedia entry on Mendel.

You wrote, "Why do all organisms (with nearly no exceptions) use the same 22 left-handed amino acids?" You use this as evidence of Darwinism. Actually, this is evidence for the idea of "common descent." Common descent does not equal Darwinism. Dr. Michael Behe, for example, one of the strongest Darwin critics, supports Common Descent, for example.

But I'm glad that you raised the issue of amino acids. What is most interesting is not the physical substance of amino acids, but the information CONTAINED INSIDE the physical substance.

The best way to understand DNA is through Information Theory. DNA is a code. A language. To quote Bill Gates, "DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we've ever created."

The computer you're using now wasn't created by accident, was it?

No. It was created by design. Purposeful design.


And lastly...


In the words of Fred Hoyle (an esteemed astronomer): “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way [natural selection] is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.

Draw your own conclusions.



Chuck said...

Dude, i'm not sure if you're christian or a follower of some other sect that believes in Heaven/Hell, but if so, you undermined your whole argument in this passage:

"Umm, here's a factual claim: The universe is real! Oh, here's another one: There's no evidence - zilch - of any universes besides this one."

I mean, I don't even have to explain the contradiction.

Todd White said...

Chuck, with all due respect, what the heck are you talking about??

Chuck said...



you say there's no evidence of any other universe besides this one but you believe in another realm for which there is no evidence either - Heaven and Hell.

Todd White said...

Chuck, you wrote: "There's no evidence of any other universe besides this one."

Yes, there is NO material evidence. I challenge any materialist to argue otherwise.

Then you wrote, "you believe in another realm for which there is no evidence either - Heaven and Hell."

Actually, I'd prefer to call it "the afterlife." But anyway, yes, there is evidence for that realm. I gave you some of that evidence last week, but you rejected it.

Chuck said...


your "evidence" is that of Near-Death Experiences, which by the very definition of the term *Near*-Death precludes any observations made *during* death.

Todd White said...


I was (and I guess still am) willing to discuss the merits of the NDE evidence with you, but based on our very brief touching on that subject last week, you didn't strike me as someone who was open-minded about it (at least not yet).

Chuck said...


write a post on it. the discussion can follow from that.

Todd White said...

I'll post something soon. It'll be a new entry.