Wednesday, November 24, 2010

God Needs A Quality Control Department 2.6

This is Part VI of my thoughts on the debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Dembski on November 18, 2010, in Plano, Texas. The focus of the debate is this question: does a good god exist? In this clip I'll review Dembski's first rebuttal. Dembski wastes a couple of minutes attempting to show that Hitchens was wrong in asserting that atheism predates "evolutionism." But it's not a complete loss if you can get a good laugh out of it, right?

<Clip 05 - 03.21 - 03.23 - Evolution joke 01>
<Clip 05 - 03.29 - 03.49 - Evolution joke 02>

I had to watch this about six times to be sure of what he's saying. He is claiming that myths like the cosmic egg story are evolutionary accounts, because they "go from simplicity to complexity." Can you believe the nerve of this guy? I'm starting to think that the organizers of this event intended to de-convert their members rather than converting any unbelievers.

<Clip 05 - 03.50 - 03.57 - Losing, gaining>

Another lie. Either way, you start with variation. If that variation lets you produce more viable offspring than someone without it, then the variation will spread in a population. Above ground, being able to sense light even rudimentarily confers an advantage. Below ground, building a functional eye is a liability. The mechanisms are exactly the same.

<Clip 05 - 04.20 - 04.24 - Appendix>

This is why I referred to Hitchens' minor mistake in his opening remarks. Dembski says that talk of vestigiality is an argument from ignorance. Well, he might even be correct in some sense. So we thought that the appendix was vestigial, we added that tiny datum to the massive body of evidence that supports evolutionary theory. Now we discover that we were wrong about the appendix. Does anyone notice that a beach is diminished when you take home a few grains of sand in your shoe?

<Clip 05 - 05.27 - 05.40 - Totalize 01>

Well, sort of. It would be more accurate to say that we look at a theory and ask whether it can be generalized. Rather than answering the question by fiat, we look for facts that support generalization, we look for facts that would negate generalization, and we follow the facts. Newtonian mechanics is a perfect example. For centuries we "totalized" Newtonian mechanics, applying it to everything, with huge success.

<Clip 05 - 05.42 - 05.49 - Totalize 02>

Exactly. Einstein came along and discovered that Newtonian mechanics is simply an approximation that doesn't work in all cases. We now know when we can apply Newtonian mechanics usefully, and when we have to bring in relativity. If there were any reason to narrow the scope of evolutionary theory down to "micro-evolution," we would do so, of course. But you guys could help: just show us some facts that disprove "macro-evolution". Show us by what mechanism "micro-evolution" stops happening just shy of becoming "macro-evolution". Finally, Dembski moves on to his main point.

<Clip 05 - 06.31 - 06.36 - Goodness>

Astounding, isn't it. He actually has the nerve to pretend that he has established the existence of a god. Oh well, let's pretend that he has, and see whether he can make a case for this god being good.

<Clip 05 - 08.04 - 08.08 - Deny goodness.mp4>

Given only existence, it makes no sense either to assert or deny goodness, and it makes no sense either to assert or deny malevolence. We need more information. Are you really going to claim that existence implies goodness, with no support whatsoever?

<Clip 05 - 08.31 - 08.44 - Objective MS>

People don't really know what they mean when they talk like this. Consider the story, in Genesis 21:8 - 20, where Abraham sends his slave Hagar and her son into the desert alone. When they run out of water, Yahweh rescues them. Do you cringe when you read this? Does it upset you? Does it demand an explanation? No. Now consider the story, in Genesis 7, where Yahweh floods the earth, and we see in Verse 21 that "all mankind" except Noah's immediate family is killed. Infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, kind people, unkind people, everyone. Not to mention kittens, puppies, piglets, lambs, etc. In the Hagar story, you approve of Yahweh's actions without even realizing that you're doing so. But in the Noah story, some part of you awakens. You have to address it. You have to explain it somehow. My point is this: every single one of us believes in a morality that is above any god. No, we can't seem to agree on an objective morality, but every one of us judges this god according to an internal standard of goodness. Everyone has his or her own moral standard. If you really believed that your god is good by definition, then you would accept the terror of the Noah story unconsciously, just as you do the Hagar story.

That's Part II(g). Thanks for watching.

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