Reason.tv: From Priest to Scientist - An Interview with Dr. Francisco J. Ayala

“Science and religion are not in contradiction, they don’t need to be,” says Dr. Francisco J. Ayala. “They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”

Dr. Ayala is the recipient of the 2010 Templeton Prize; given to a person who has made an exceptional contribution to the study of spiritual realities. He donated the $1.5 million monetary portion of the prize to the University of California, Irvine, to create a scholarship fund.

Ayala has the unique experience of studying both science at Columbia University and theology at a seminary in Spain. Since leaving his graduate studies, he has become a leader in the world of genetics and evolution. He now teaches and conducts research in evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine.

Topics include keeping science and religion separate in schools, the morality in human cloning and whether humans have free will. Approximately 9 minutes.

Interviewed by Ted Balaker. Shot by Hawk Jensen and Zach Weissmuller. Edited by Paul Detrick.

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  • Philip Jones||

    “Science and religion are not in contradiction, they don’t need to be..."

    I find science works best when you make a theory your religion.

  • A is Awesome||

    You're missing a word, but I'm not sure what.

  • Philip Jones||

    It is probably the accent. No need to file an FIOA request. See if this works for you:

    I find science works best when you make a scientific theory your religion.

  • Max||

    Make little Max bigger.

  • Min||

    Make big Min smaller.

  • Mean||

    Down with Mean.

  • dfd||

    “They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”

    Maybe if one of the windows is painted over with scenes of unicorns, dragons, tooth fairies, Santa Clause and Bigfoot while the other is clear, if slightly distorting and perhaps a big opaque in a few places, in need of some cleaning and polishing, but otherwise transmitting a reasonable view of what's outside, then yeah... they're like two windows through which we view the "world."

  • Slap the Enlightened!||

    So tell us - on whose say so have more tax dollars been wasted - the priests or the scientists?

  • ||

    Really? You want to include the last 3000 years of history there, buddy?

  • Yonemoto||

    In nominal terms, I think the answer is clear.

  • ||

    So tell us - on whose say so have more tax dollars been wasted - the priests or the scientists?

    Do we include foregone tax revenue due to the tax exempt status of favored churches as "wasted"?

  • Yonemoto||

    Broken windows.

  • A is Awesome||

    "This is a perfectly useless discussion," said Eve Layton. "No intelligent person believes in free will anymore. It's dated. The future belongs to social planning. Compulsion is a law of nature. That's that. It's self-evident."

    When Ayala proves the existence of God I will accept his moral views.

  • ||

    I am not quit getting the connection between the death of free will and Ayala proving the existence of God.

    The Rand quote is a really good one. And it is something people ought to ponder before they start worshiping at the alter of evolutionary biology. If evolutionary biology is valid, then we really don't have free will. And if we don't have free will, then the world is a pretty grim place. Rand does a great job of laying out the logical consequences of denying free will.

    But I am not getting how that has anything to do with Ayala's ability or lack there of to prove the existence of God.

  • Warty||

    I don't see how evolutionary biology has anything to do with free will. Why would being descended from apes mean that we can't think for ourselves?

    It seems to me that deterministic physics would the death of free will, if it were true. I.e., if the interactions between physical particles can be exactly characterized by a mathematical model, and your thoughts are nothing but the aggregate of a large number of collisions of subatomic particles, then every thought you'll have and thus every action you'll ever take was determined at the moment that the universe was created.

    And, for that matter, it's not like the existence of God necessarily means we have free will. I think the Calvinists argued that everything is predestined, right?

  • ||

    Good point about the Calvinists. And I meant evolutionary psychology, not biology. If evolutionary psychology is correct, I don't see how we have free will. I can't be ruled by my genes except when I decide not to be. And if I can decide to ignore them, the what do they matter?

  • Les||

    I think a lot of evolutionary psychology can be correct and we can have free will. Evolutionary psychology can help to explain why I want to have sex with young women, but my free will prevents me from doing it (along with my black belted, Latina wife). Evolutionary psychology can help explain why we have "fight/flight" reactions, but free will allows us to resist them. So, I don't see it as an either/or situation.

  • ||

    But that is pretty thin gruel. It strikes me as just a fairy tail. Perhaps I like women because I do? And I run because I see life as preferable to death, unless I don't, which in some cases I don't (see men dying in wars as an example).

  • Yonemoto||

    clearly you weren't evoloved with the capacity to spell corectly.

  • ||

    I am just a superior mutation. Spelling is a superfluous human ability.

  • Yonemoto||

    Touche. It is true that orthographic languages suck. Someday we will all be writing in japanese characters, although the world will all be english.

  • Warty||

    D'oh, forgot to finish the last thought.

    Although I don't remember if John Calvin was arguing that all events were predestined, or just who went to heaven. I think the former, though, because I know that my Covenanter ancestors wouldn't vote. It was an affront to God to vote, after all, since the outcome of the election was predestined.

  • ||

    In theory, every possible action in the entire universe is mathematically predetermined by subatomic particle vectors from the Big Bang; that is, since there is no "random" in physics, if you can map the original path of every particle in the universe, you can predict everything it will ever do.

    The question becomes: are our thoughts based on particles? Electrons, right, which are particles?

  • Warty||

    I've read a few Stoic consolations, and they use predestination as an argument. "So your wife died? Well, every particle in the universe was set on an unalterable path at the moment of its creation, so your wife was doomed from birth. Quit your fucking whining. You'll die soon enough too."

  • ||

    Maybe you can quit your fucking whining too?

  • Warty||

    My consolation is that you'll be raped to death by a sasquatch soon enough.

  • ||

    STEVE SMITH NOT SASQUATCH! STEVE GIGANTOPITHECUS, YOU UNEDUCATED DIME STORE PHILOSOPHIZER!

  • zoltan||

    Everyone is doomed from birth.

  • ||

    Actually, no, you're incorrect. On the quantum level, at least, there IS randomness. For some fun (seriously) reading, try Googling "many worlds" and "quantum mechanics" or just go to Wikipedia. Some serious interpretations of quantum mechanics postulate what I'd loosely describe as an ever-increasing infinite number of universes reflecting the infinite number of possible outcomes multiplied by all the particles in the universe multiplied by every instant of time...

    As for religion and science, unless someone's religious beliefs contradict scientific observations within the field in which that person works, why would there be a problem? To take Catholicism for an example, whatever other problems it has, it has none with evolutionary biology - if someone thinks that God acts through evolution, and someone else is an atheist, but they both come to the same result because they base their work on the scientific method, why should I accept one's research and not the other's?

  • Warty||

    I didn't say I believed that physics is deterministic. Current theories have randomness at the quantum level, but it's possible that those are effects of some deeper phenomena which are deterministic. I don't know enough to have an opinion, but I imagine there's some non-deterministic things happening.

    why should I accept one's research and not the other's?

    A lot of lazy idiots think that ad hominem and insult mean the same thing.

  • Warty||

    The goddamn fucking stupid shitty gay-ass indenting made me think this was a reply to me. You're correct, David, that Episiarch is an irredeemable buffoon.

  • ||

    "Some serious interpretations of quantum mechanics postulate what I'd loosely describe as an ever-increasing infinite number of universes reflecting the infinite number of possible outcomes multiplied by all the particles in the universe multiplied by every instant of time..."

    Yes there are. And the reason for that is that they are desperately trying to find an interpretation of the data that doesn't include some kind of creator. There is no reason why our universe has to have the physical laws it does. You can mathematically model all sorts of universes that are entirely consistent with the known theories but also are entirely different from our own and inconsistent with the development of intelligent life. The chances of there being only one universe that just happened to have this set of physical laws that allowed intelligent life to evolve are astronomically low.

    Given that, you have two alternatives; either believe that some being cooked the books and that the universe is a put up job or believe that there is an infinite number of universes thus explaining how ours exists.

    Since you as yet cannot observe God or other universes, we will never know which explanation is true.

  • ||

    I don't believe in God, and that's why I believe in free will. Perhaps if there was an omniscient omnipotent being who knew all and could calculate everything instantly, my actions would appear to be predetermined. But there isn't and there really can't be one. So I have free will, in spite of the possibility my every thought is a predictable epiphenomenon of various particles and doohickeys and whatnots.

    In short, I don't especially see the point in believing in something (predestination) that you must disown in your daily life, since for whatever reason our brains seem so hellbent on creating the perception of free will.

  • kilroy||

    "There is no reason why our universe has to have the physical laws it does. You can mathematically model all sorts of universes that are entirely consistent with the known theories but also are entirely different from our own and inconsistent with the development of intelligent life. The chances of there being only one universe that just happened to have this set of physical laws that allowed intelligent life to evolve are astronomically low."

    Quit babbling gibberish, John. You are amazed that you live in a universe that evolved in a way that you could live.

    It's called the Anthropic Principle. I don't care if you want to believe in fairy tales but stop trying to convince people it's necessary.

  • ||

    Go read the literature about alternative universes. There is nothing that says they have to have the same physical constants that our universe does. Change the constants and everything changes. There is no reason why our universe should have the physical constants it does. It just does. And explaining that is a problem. One way to explain it is that there are lots of universes with different constants and we of course live in the one where they are consistent with life.

  • kilroy||

    Are you or are you not asserting that, because we live in a universe that has the specific properties that allow us to evolve as we are, there must be a creator/designer?

  • ||

    This argument is like saying it's amazing that of all the women in the world, it's amazing that the one who gave birth to you happened to be your mother.
    How else was that supposed to go?

  • ||

    On the quantum level, there may be randomness. But we can't measure anything there, so we don't know. We're not capable of seeing what's going on in an orbital, so we just don't know.

  • Tony||

    What definition of free will are you assuming?

  • JEP||

    there is a philosophical argument in which free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive.

    Calvinists also have a concept of God's permissive will. God's plan will become to be, regardless of what actions that we take, but that doesn't mean that God is determining what we do.

    As a Christian, God will let me make decisions that will leave my life in utter ruin. If God restricted me from doing evil, then I'm not really free.

    I don't think anyone is going to be able to reduce thoughts, ideas, and emotions down to particle interactions. For one thing, most discoveries in science raise many more questions than they answer. There also seems to be a kind of irreducible complexity, ie, we create the model of an atom(supposed to be the smallest thing), but then we find out it has neutrons, protons, and electrons in it, then we find all these other particles, etc

    Not to mention that we can't even model anything larger than a hydrogen atom because it's too complex - it's all just theory once you get to helium, etc.

    I'm not saying we'll never be able to do these things, just that the trend isn't in our favor.

  • ||

    As a Christian, God will let me make decisions that will leave my life in utter ruin. If God restricted me from doing evil, then I'm not really free.

    WOW!!!! God is a Libertarian! That ought to be a bumper sticker.

  • ||

    It should be and it is true. God has rules, but God never forces anyone to live by them. That is up to you. And God never said sin lead to hell, just death.

  • ||

    I am cool with that.

  • Tony||

    But God knows everything, including whether you'll live by His rules or not, so how are people truly free?

  • ||

    I know my dog is going to wag her tail and run to the door when i come home tonight. That doesn't mean I am in control of he doing it.

  • JEP||

    Tony,

    Just because someone knows what I'll choose, doesn't mean that person has any influence in what I choose. They are separate concepts. I still have to make and understand the decision.

  • ||

    Tony,

    You're putting an infinite God in the context of space time. You're presupposing God in a human context and, therefore, taking an interpretation of God not far removed from the most extreme fundamentalist.

  • Tony||

    Either God is infinite in power and knowledge or He isn't. If He is, then free will is impossible. If He's not, then He's not God.

  • Yonemoto||

    Tony:

    You don't understand the mathematical concept of higher-order logical systems, do you?

    Do you understand how hypervisors work?

  • Tony||

    Yonemoto,

    Only vaguely--how is it relevant to the discussion. I'm genuinely interested, though I've been in a lot of headache-inducing religion conversations with computer geeks.

  • Skid Marx||

    I've always looked at it as if the univers is God's on-line video game. Kind of like what I assume the Sims is like or one of those build your own civilization games.

    He has a plan and a desired outcome, but the characters can do just as they please, which causes God to constantly reconfigure his plan in order to keep it on the right track.

    God: Damn, Sugarfree just killed Max which means that Max will not be able to give AIDS to that john with the grand political schemes as I was expecting. Guess I just gotta find a way to work around that. Hmmm...so what if....?

    The dude can't just be listening to harp music all day.

  • Yonemoto||

    if there was ever any question, read 1 Samuel 8:10-18

  • Metazoan||

    I agree with Warty about evolution having little to do with free will. Actually, as one who strongly supports both individual liberty and evolution, I see both as manifestations of the same magnificent ability of the universe to organize itself. It is interesting that many of those who doubt evolution claim to support a free market, allowing for spontaneous order there but not in life itself. Perhaps even more interesting is the reverse, understanding the presence the most incredible form of spontaneous order, yet denying that a society of intelligent beings can organize itself.

    I also second Warty's comment about physics is correct as well. Biomolecular computing, such as that which occurs naturally in all living cells, is fundamentally probabilistic. Besides, we aren't completely controlled by our genes. Expression thereof is probably the truly significant factor, and we do have control over that in some way, as the way we act and think ostensibly changes transcriptional patterns in our brains.

  • A is Awesome||

    @John the quote was for fun, my main point was that I want Ayala, or any theist really, to rationally prove God. But, since that can not be done, I do not believe in Him, and so accept no religion-based morals.

  • ||

    But there are not any rationally based morals either. You can't made a rational case for what the perfect set of morals are. Ethicists have been trying for 1000s of years and can't agree.

    So in the end, you are left with deciding for yourself. Since you can't base it purely on reason (for if you could there would be one ethical system all rational people could agree was proper) you are left making it on faith or will, depending on how you look at.

    We all live on faith in our own way.

  • A is Awesome||

    Objectivism comes the closest to that "impossible" rationally-based moral system. I agree that morals are something to discover on your own, however they should be based on rationality because the only tool we humans truly have is our mind, which can only function in two ways: rationally or off.

    On a side note, faith is wrong because it is a leap in logic (or a rejection of logic), meaning that it rejects thought.

  • Tony||

    You have to have premises, but they don't have to be arbitrary. The most arbitrary moral premises are found in religion. "Because God says so" is one of the most arbitrary premises I can think of.

  • ^||

    Name one instance where science disproves the existance of God.

  • Tony||

    Um, never heard of the Babel Fish?

  • Warty||

    Show me someone who demands that science disproves something, and I'll show you someone who doesn't understand what science is.

  • ^||

    And here I was thinking that science was about disproving all possibilities to prove a theory is correct. You assholes are way too smart for me or God.

  • Warty||

    And here you don't know what the fuck you're incoherently babbling about. Science never absolutely proves a goddamn thing, you unwashed anus. Only math does that, retard. Science can tell you that a theory is likely to be correct, within certain tolerances and given certain assumptions. Like someone paraphrased Hume upthread: if the sun rises every day for 5 billion years, you can be pretty sure it will rise tomorrow, but you can never be absolutely sure.

    Furthermore, it's not possible to prove a negative, you cumstained nitwit. Go fuck yourself, and fuck your friend in the sky.

  • ^||

    I feel your pain Warty. You have two hopes. Bob Hope and no hope. Sorry Bob Hope is dead so you only have no hope.

  • A is Awesome||

    Ever heard of not having to prove a negative? There is no proof positive, therefore he does not exist.

  • LeSigh||

    You're guilty of the same logical fallacy as the grandparent.

  • Warty||

    His version of religion is extremely tolerable, because it's seemingly not interested in forcing things on people. That makes it a historical anomaly, to say the least.

  • ||

    There is a great story about Napoleon and the Catholic church. I don't know if it is apocryphal. But if it is, it shouldn't be. It goes like this.

    Napoleon told a Cardinal in Rome that he was going to destroy the Catholic Church. The Cardinal responded by saying "what makes you think that you can do that when we Catholics have been trying to 2000 years and still haven't done it?"

    Christianity was never supposed to be about forcing anyone to do anything. Christians have just managed to fuck it up royally for 2000 years now.

  • A is Awesome||

    A lot Religion-embracing scientists don't really follow churches or organized religion. That's a good thing. They are essentially merely Deists, making them slightly more tolerable.

  • Yonemoto||

    Most of them follow the church of the NIH (or NSF) grant review panel.

  • ||

    Once again a well-meaning man of goodwill has fallen into the trap of becoming convinced that "intelligent design" is non-scientific. Most who reach that conclusion do so as a knee jerk, and not after considered study of the interconnected theories that fall under that general subject heading. I've been following the skeptical literature for a number of years now--"Evo-devo" and all the rest--and have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation of irreduceable complexity. Anyone with a true intellectual interest in intelligent design (as opposed to those merely seeking to summarily dismiss it) would do well to read Darwin's Black Box by Prof. Michael Behe. There's nothing "unscientific" about it, and those who would quash any and all discussion of I. D. are enemies of academic freedom and of free thought and inquiry.

  • Tony||

    It is totally unscientific to attempt to satisfy an alleged mystery by proposing an even more mysterious force to explain it.

  • Yonemoto||

    was it you or chad that was the PhD?

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.....p;SRETRY=0

    Perhaps it's unfair; I have advance knowledge that this article is going to be retracted.

  • ||

    SS, the scientific method consists of obervation of reality, followed by an hypothesis that you think explains reality, followed by experiments to test the hypothesis.

    It seems to me that ID has done the first two, but rather neglected the third.

  • ||

    Of course when it comes to consciousness and speciation, evolution is guilty of the same thing.

    Humans have spent thousands of years selectively breeding animals. We have produced an amazing variety of animals. Thing of the dog. From what started with a few species of wild canines that bonded with man, we now have everything from tiny hairless dogs to huge hairy ones and everything in between.

    But man has never, despite all his efforts, even gotten a horse to produce a tiger or a rose to produce a oak tree. They are still all dogs, horses and roses.

  • Tony||

    Then of course there's all that pesky DNA and fossil evidence.

    No, a horse will never give birth to a tiger, and a rose bush will never give rise to an oak tree. Every time anything reproduces it spawns a member of its own species. A very genetically similar one at that. Only over many, many generations can populations diverge into separate species.

  • ||

    "Only over many, many generations can populations diverge into separate species."

    Something which has never been recreated artificially which was my point. You say that is what happened. But at best it is an article of faith. Basically it is a story you tell yourself to explain the facts you know. It may or may not be true. Until you can recreate it in a controlled environment, it is nothing more.

  • ||

    You can't create a star in a lab yet... are they not real either?

  • Yonemoto||

    Earthquakes, too.

  • ||

    Of course they are real. But we are not talking about things, we are talking about explanations. Unless you can see or recreate the process that made stars what they are, your explanation for their existence is nothing but a guess or a story.

  • Yonemoto||

    The way it's taken care of in Astronomy is that you make a prediction that something interesting your model predicts exists (that hasn't been observed yet) and then you go out look for it to confirm that it exists. It seems to me evolutionary biology takes this tack.

  • Tony||

    Universally accepted scientific fact, John. Let's not be silly.

    Oh, here.

  • nobody||

    Speciation has been observed many times in the laboratory, specifically in bacteria. Just because you don't view that as something remarkable doesn't make it not true. We've only been working on this stuff for a short time, and there are few types of living things that have generational spans short enough to produce quick results.

  • ||

    They have done it with bacteria. But that has also been under enormously artificial circumstances. Speciation is alleged to have produced every form of life in existence. You would think it would be a little easier to do. Maybe someday they will get horses to breed and give birth to a new mutated species on their own without our help via genetic engineering. But they haven't yet.

  • Yonemoto||

    It's not easy to speciate in non-bacterial species. I mean, seriously. Bacteria divide every 20 minutes. Big animals divide every 20 years. So, a bacterial experiment that would take 10 years (like the LTEE) would take thousands of years in animals, notwithstanding the fact that higher organisms have protective factors that limit their mutation rate.

  • ||

    That is a good point. But we are reaching the 1000s of years point with horses and dogs. And if not horses, how about yeast or something that is more complex that bacteria but still breeds like crazy.

  • Yonemoto||

    "higher organisms have protective factors that limit their mutation rate."

    I learned from a high school student at the science fair this year that yeast have an enzyme called photolyase that takes light and uses it to repair DNA. Sneaky bastards.

  • ||

    John, I'm going to try and say this in a nice way: you don't know Jack Shit about molecular and cellular biology or genetics, so you really ought not to be talking about shit you know absolutely nothing about. You don't understand even how mutation works, clearly from your comments, so really, give it a rest before you look really stupid.

  • ||

    Then enlighten us Episiarch. And explain why it is that we haven't been able to reproduce such things.

    And further even if you could that doesn't say anything about the existence of God. Nothing prevents God from using evolution as his means to produce man. I don't know that evolution is not true. It probably is. It is just not quite the perfect paragon of truth its defenders claim it is.

    You in contrast seem terrified of the possibility that it might not be true? Why is that. The mere possibility that perhaps we have it wrong or that we have more work to do in understanding this turns you into Max.

  • nobody||

    John, I like you, and I think you're a smart guy and passionate about what you believe in, but on this you just sound silly and completely uninformed. You should really do some research on this topic. When you rail against economically illiterate liberals I nod along, but when you write things like "Maybe someday they will get horses to breed and give birth to a new mutated species on their own without our help via genetic engineering" I just shake my head.

  • ||

    Why? Isn't that really what speciation is? For whatever reason one species gives birth to a mutation that is better adapted to the circumstances and eventually wins out over the older model. And gradually you get enough of these and go from mud skippers to Apes and eventually to humans.

  • Tony||

    Species diverging happens population-wide over many generations. John, you have a cartoon view of evolution.

  • Yonemoto||

    Actually, I'd bet it happens pretty quickly. That pesky exponential function propagates itself over, say, a few billion strong, in under 40 generations.

  • ||

    When you die, John, you are going to rot in the ground. Accept this. There is no voice in the sky that will take you to a happy place. You will cease to be.

    Sucks, but hey, that's life.

  • Warty||

    Don't be so close-minded, Epi. He may rot on a stake or in a gibbet instead of in the ground.

  • ||

    That is what is funny Epi. You claim that but you don't accept it. You run around and act like any of this matters and that there is any such thing as morality or meaning.

    It is called nihilism without the abyss. And it is why modern atheists are some of the saddest and most comical people in history.

  • nobody||

    I'm neither sad nor comical.

  • ||

    Part of being that way is not knowing it.

  • ||

    You're so desperate for meaning that it's really very sad, John (if I were capable of feeling that). You twist and struggle against every logical thing we say, because to you, if there's no God, then you have no purpose in your mind.

    I'm not you. Never, ever forget that. I can have morality and meaning without it being forced on me by a supreme being, because I'm not just a marionette that needs to have its strings pulled, which evidently you seem to think you are.

  • ||

    "I can have morality and meaning without it being forced on me by a supreme being,"

    Well bless your sweet little heart. No, you can do the same thing everyone else does, make up shit and pretend your shit is somehow different and special from anyone elses. If you have no higher authority to appeal to, you are just making it up and enforcing it on the world by your will.

    And maybe there is no higher authority. But if you claim there isn't, at least stop pretending it is you.

  • Tony||

    If you have a so-called higher authority to appeal to, you are equally just making shit up, and a lot of deities have had substantial armies enforcing their wills.

    The best we can do is to work on being as empathetic as possible and muddle along.

  • ^||

    Wrong. There is one animal that can be totally wiped from existence and in 9 months another one will be born. Ponder on it.

  • ||

    John,

    Evolutionary biology does not claim that a horse will ever morph into a tiger.

    I would be willing to bet that, given enough time and with isolation from the general dog population, one could create a new species of "dog" using only selective breeding.

  • ||

    "I would be willing to bet that, given enough time and with isolation from the general dog population, one could create a new species of "dog" using only selective breeding."

    We haven't yet. And we have been selectively breeding dogs for a very long time.

  • Yonemoto||

    we haven't been trying to create a new species of dog that can't breed with other dogs.

    John, you should familiarize yourself with this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....experiment

  • nobody||

    But we haven't been breeding them specifically to produce new species.

  • ||

    I think we have. We have made dogs into animals that serve a completely different function than their ancestors.

  • Yonemoto||

    function != speciation.

    Speciation in eukaryotes is largely a function of chromosomal organization. Viable chromosomal rearrangements are relatively rare.

  • ||

    True.

  • Tony||

    You can accept that there is a pathway that leads to both a saint bernard and a poodle, yet you reject the idea of species diverging? I'd have to ask exactly what mechanism prevents species from diverging, given enough time.

  • Law Student||

    "for a very long time"

    No its been a miniscule amount of time and as you've said we've already created a very diverse number of breeds.

  • ||

    "No its been a miniscule amount of time and as you've said we've already created a very diverse number of breeds."

    That is just begging the question. "It hasn't been long enough". Well, when it has been then you will have proven something.

  • Yonemoto||

    John: That is just begging the question. "It hasn't been long enough". Well, when it has been then you will have proven something.

    You're absolutely right.

    Although you ought to consider that you're asking for two things which are impossible. If I conduct an experiment which selects for a dog that will actually speciate (or any controlled-experiment), then you will complain that the experiment I've done was by the hand of man.

    So you're asking science to prove by controlled experiment something that happens "naturally". This is fundamentally, not possible.

  • Yonemoto||

    The biochemist in me will say this:

    No mechanism can ever be proven. You can only feel really really good about it, and that the other mechanisms that have been postulated suck ass.

  • ||

    "No mechanism can ever be proven. You can only feel really really good about it, and that the other mechanisms that have been postulated suck ass."

    I absolutely agree with that. My problem is not with evolution. It is a good theory and it explains a lot. My problem is with the people who substitute it for religion and hold it out to be the kind of ultimate truth that science by its very nature cannot provide.

  • Tony||

    If science can't explain something, then by definition you can't know it, you can only speculate randomly. There is no means better than science to explain the universe, so if science can't explain something it either doesn't exist or will be forever beyond our grasp.

  • Yonemoto||

    I don't know, there's some shit that i just KNOW without having to prove using science, like the fact that my ex girlfriend is a total bitch.

  • Law Student||

    "That is just begging the question. "It hasn't been long enough". Well, when it has been then you will have proven something."

    I plan to be dead long before enough time has passed unless I manage to get put in a robot body (with giant metal teeth but only 5 feet tall). Why so small?

    Seriously, when contemplating evolution and speciation you have to adjust your concept of what "a long time" is just as you do for geology or astronomy.

  • ||

    But so what? That is just another way of saying you can't prove it.

  • Law Student||

    I think there is enough evidence already without need to reproduce it with dogs. Darwin's observations of finches is the most famous but there have been many studies of speciation. With genomic technology we are beginning to be able to observe it at the genetic level. Before I was a Law Student I was an evolutionary biology student. I worked in a lab where where I used distinct markers to show that two species of Macaque in South East Asia have not completely diverged yet. At the boundries of there ranges there was some overlap of the markers that in the rest of the range were completely distinct. Pretty fucking cool. Why the hell am I in law school?

  • Yonemoto||

    Yeah, especially since the law is the one place where there is more of a labour glut than the sciences. Bad move.

  • ||

    You are ten years too late. Back in the 1990s you could have become a patent lawyer and printed your own money. But I hear that is even drying up.

    Beyond that, why do law when you can do something productive? I would leave law in a minute if I could afford it.

  • Law Student||

    Well mainly because I didn't want to be a biologist for a living and also because I'm making more at my summer job than many people make in a year.

  • Yonemoto||

    I'm making more at my summer job than many people make in a year.

    you're one of the lucky ones. Don't ever forget that.

  • Law Student||

    I am aware that luck played a part. I didn't get the job till close to the start of the summer. However, networking and perserverance played a bigger role than luck. Not to mention hard work in the past that got me into a good enough law school to get my foot in the door.

  • ||

    One example of natural speciation:

    The third mechanism of speciation is parapatric speciation. This is similar to peripatric speciation in that a small population enters a new habitat, but differs in that there is no physical separation between these two populations. Instead, speciation results from the evolution of mechanisms that reduce gene flow between the two populations.[191] Generally this occurs when there has been a drastic change in the environment within the parental species' habitat. One example is the grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, which can undergo parapatric speciation in response to localized metal pollution from mines.[200] Here, plants evolve that have resistance to high levels of metals in the soil. Selection against interbreeding with the metal-sensitive parental population produced a gradual change in the flowering time of the metal-resistant plants, which eventually produced complete reproductive isolation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution

  • Metazoan||

    Have we been selectively breeding for 4.5billion years? Nope!
    Besides, and I'm sure someone has said this (sorry) there are many observed instances of speciation. Irreducible complexity is the most pathetic argument ever invented. It goes something like, "Well, gee, I can never figure out how that worked out! I guess God did it!" Just because you (or I) can't figure it out doesn't mean it can't be figured out.
    Besides, you don't need lots of variation in genes to change species. We share a large fragment of our genome with fellow mammals. I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that homeotic genes and the way they control expression is basically what separates many animals (and perhaps multicellular organisms) from each other. Therefore, you'd really just need mutations in the regulatory sequences there, not a whole new genome.

    I must ask, John, are you trolling? If you're not, don't be afraid to see the tenets of evolution and the truth they contain. It's just my personal opinion, but evolution, evo-devo, molecular bio, cell bio, neurobio, etc.- all the stuff you just trashed- are the most amazingly beautiful things in the universe- orders of magnitude better than someone waving a magic wand. It's spontaneous order, like the free market, but with molecules :)

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sean,

    Once again a well-meaning man of goodwill has fallen into the trap of becoming convinced that "intelligent design" is non-scientific.

    It is unscientific when the basic argument behind it begs the question: Just because something looks designed, it does not mean it was designed, nor can one then conclude the existence of a designer.

  • ||

    Actually, I would argue that life is "designed", but I would also argue that it is natural selection that did the design work. A harsh, but meticulous designer.

    John mentions above that perhaps natural selection is simply God's tool. Maybe so. I don't buy it, personally, but if it lets atheists and theists bridge their philosophical divide amicably then that's OK by me.

  • zoltan||

    Harsh, meticulous, and elegant.

  • Old Mexican||

    As someone who has debated creationists, I have always asked them this question: How in the world does evolutionary biology negate the existence of God?

  • Warty||

    Jesus, this guy is more terrifying than Steve Smith.

  • JEP||

    If the existence of God could be proven scientifically, then it would destroy the notion of a personal God. Meaning that God's relationship with humanity would be based on a God-community relation instead of a God-individual relation. My experience of God is completely different than yours, ineffable.

    Science and religion are two separate things and have separate purposes.

  • A is Awesome||

    The purpose of religion is to prevent you from actually realizing your purpose.

    Religion is purposely illogical and mystical, so that it prevents you from thinking rationally and being self-sufficient.

  • JEP||

    That's not how I see religion at all.

  • nobody||

    Behe? Really? What years is this, 2002?

  • ||

    Despite the claim that ID is not necessarily an appeal to supernatural or unscientific causes, in the fine-tuning argument, it must always amount to such. While proponents might posit natural designers, such as aliens, the problem still remains. If the designer is a natural living being then, according to the fine-tuning argument, it must also have a designer. This would result in either one of two conclusions. The first is an infinite regression of natural beings, each being designed by the one before it. The second is a line of natural designers that began with a supernatural designer. Neither of these conclusions can be classified as scientific.

  • ||

    We have the same problem with the universe as a whole. Life was much easier back when we thought the universe has always been here. But once Hubble figured out that it was expanding, that meant that it wasn't always here. At some point you have to hit bedrock where you say it or something was always here or just occurred without cause.

    Even without God, you have the same problem. At some point you have to call something either the first cause or the steady eternal state of things.

  • Yonemoto||

    quite frankly I find the poincare conjecture terrifying. In a few quadrillion quintillion gazzillion years, we will be back here again, participating the exact same online thread.

    Talk about hell.

  • Yonemoto||

    By which I mean the poincare recurrence theorem.

    Although battlestar galactica is pretty cool.

  • Yonemoto||

    By which I mean the poincare recurrence theorem.

    Although battlestar galactica is pretty cool.

  • ||

    No, you only have that problem, if you claim to know "how it all began," as IDers do.

    Darwin's Black Box was a hilarious read because IDers like Behe own the biggest Black Box of all. Confidence in their preconceived notions make IDers blind to their hypocrisies.

  • ||

    Science is not compatible with religion for the simple reason that theories that can't be proven or explained thoroughly are thrown out.

  • ||

    Unless those theories relate to global warming. Then they are kept.

  • Tony||

    I think we should take your word on that, given the stunning level of understanding of evolution you displayed above.

  • ||

    That's ridiculous; do you know how much effort is going into testing global warming theories as we speak?

  • Yonemoto||

    effort != productivity

    I think it's rediculous to think that global warming scientists are somehow saintly enough to rise above the shit, that, say, plagues biophysics.

  • ||

    There is no time limit on testing a theory.

  • JEP||

    I guess science needs to throw out anything quantum. Most of the cutting edge theories nowadays can't be thoroughly explained or tested.

  • Yonemoto||

    You should see biophysics. There's a reason why those bastards retract early, and often.

  • ||

    And I think many scientists do have serious problems with quantum theory. String theory is pretty wild speculation with the purpose of explaining very complicated mathematical anomalies in physics. I would call it a hypothesis, not a theory.

  • JEP||

    the only difference between a hypothesis and a theory is that one has been tested more than the other.

    For the sake of this discussion, the difference between the two is irrelevant.

  • A is Awesome||

    They are theories in the making, with a lot research to still be done. Unlike God, who is accepted on faith alone.

  • Yonemoto||

    Actually science requires an article of faith, too. You presuppose that empiricism is valid. To say that the scientific rules shouldn't change because that's always led to productive observables and results is simply begging the question.

  • ||

    Yes you do. That was Hume's point. You can never make it all the way. You can predict. And you can know the past. But you always have to assume that because something has acted a certain way in the past it will in the future.

  • Yonemoto||

    Right, that's why I can respectfully disagree (or sometimes disrepectfully disagree) with guys like you John. But I could be wrong about it all.

  • Yonemoto||

    But then again I'm not an atheist.

  • JEP||

    Not to mention you can't even prove mathematics thanks to Godel.

    Russel and Whitehead(or whoever) gave it their best shot.

    You can never objectively observe a system to which you belong.

  • Yonemoto||

    Goes to figure that Russel was a figurehead of modern neoliberalism. Also he argued that we should nuke russia pre-emptively.

    Didn't some economists try to illustrate an incompleteness principle in economics?

  • JEP||

    Unlike God, who is accepted on faith alone.

    That all depends on what you consider to be certifiable "data." We make judgments all the time in our every day lives without going through the scientific process and establishing theories and experiments.

    My personal experience is different than yours, and I don't accept God on faith only - my decision is based on experience.

    I'm not saying that as a cop out, I'm only saying that not everything that exists can be reduced down to objective, discrete data points and analyzed in a scientific manner.

  • ||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaître

    Not the first example. Remember Mendel, for example?

  • Warty||

    According to Hitchens, the Pope asked him if he wanted the Big Bang made into official dogma, so that everyone would have to believe it. To that, he replied that His Holiness didn't quite understand the point of science. I hope that story's true.

  • ||

    It is possible, taking into account the time when this might have occurred, and the general anti-modernist orientation of the Popes back then.

  • MJ||

    Or it possibly means Hitchens does not quite understand when he is being teased.

  • Les||

    There's nothing "unscientific" about it, and those who would quash any and all discussion of I. D. are enemies of academic freedom and of free thought and inquiry.

    If there was anything scientific about it, there would a lot of research being done on it, instead of philosophical conversations, which is all there is.

    No one is trying to "quash any and all discussion of I. D." That's a poor strawman. But many are trying to make it clear that I.D., like astrology (which Behe said in court would count as science under his broadened definition), doesn't qualify as science.

    Even his own University Department said, "Professor Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of intelligent design. While we respect Professor Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific."

  • Matt Carolan||

    I see you have opened up a hornet's nest on this one. But I say kudos to you for venturing beyond pure political philosophy and policy. I want my Reason.TV.

  • Jack||

    Looks like an interesting discussion, but I wish there were subtitles for the hearing- or heavily accented English-impaired.

  • Pantheist||

    All this discussion and not a single definition for "God".

    Of course, as a pantheist, I know God exists by definition.

  • PanPalinist||

    Of course, as a PanPalinist, I know Sarah Palin exists by definition. Refudiate that!

  • Warty||

    As a panrapist, I know that I'm going to rape you. Don't turn out the lights. Ever.

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  • Qetesh||

    The prominence of people like Ayala and Kenneth Miller suggests it is religion itself that is beginning to evolve, as it often does when society changes. They themselves might deny it, but it is plainly evident to an ordinary churchgoer in the pews.

    The sad thing is that the barrage of generic attacks some corners of the non-religious might slow this evolution by provoking a knee-jerk defensive posture.

  • ||

    "They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”
    Yeah, one is right the other is wrong!

  • ||

    "They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”
    Yeah, one is right the other is wrong!

  • ||

    "They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”
    Yeah, one is right the other is wrong!

  • ||

    "They are like two windows through which we look at the world.”
    Yeah, one is right the other is wrong!

  • ||

    The girl at 2:55 should be doing porn. As to a catholics they should shut the fuck up.

  • ||

    So, this fucking asshole wants to keep 'religion' separated from science because science shows that revealed religion is a scam. That's pretty clever. Not. It's actually just the thing that fucking catholics and other obscurantists do best.

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