Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Phillip E. Johnson lectures on science and the pre-supposition of materialism

Have you all heard of Phillip E. Johnson, the UC Berkeley professor who is the father of the intelligent design movement?

Here is a lecture by Phil in which he explains the relationship with materialist philosophy and the practice of science.

The MP3 file for lecture is here. There is some Q&A at the end.

Topics:

  • Can the diversity of life be explained by purposeless material processes?
  • What can changes over time have scientists actually observed?
  • What is the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution?
  • Has macro-evolution ever been observed?
  • Can observations of micro-evolution be extrapolated to prove unobserved macro-evolution?
  • What causes people to doubt that material processes can account for all of life?
  • Is evolution compatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism?
  • How do scientists respond when you ask them for evidence of macro-evolution?
  • Are observable mutations generally helpful or harmful?
  • How do scientists who pre-suppose materialism deal with dissenting scientists?
  • Why was the theory of Darwinian evolution accepted by early scientists?

Highly recommended. Phil is one of my favorite authors.

The one point you need to take away from this lecture is that if a scientist assumes a philosophy of materialism, then they will never be able to find evidence of intelligent causation in nature. They can look at all the evidence they want, or no evidence at all, and the answer will always be “no-God did it”.

So, consider the Big Bang. No-God did it. The fine-tuning? No-God did it. The origin of life? No-God did it. Molecular machines? No-God did it. Cambrian explosion. No-God did it. Origin of consciousness? No-God did it. Origin of free will? No-God did it. Origin of human rights? No-God did it. Origin of objective morality? No-God did it. Bodily resurrection? No-God did it. Galactic fine-tuning? No-God did it. Planetary fine-tuning? No-God did it. And so on. What else could have done it, once you assume matter is all there is?

The thing to do is to ask them what reasons they have for believing that this pre-supposition of materialism is absolute and undeniable. What is the evidence for it, that does not already assume it?

But many people change their pre-suppositions as evidence piles up that they are wrong. A combined approach is best. Surface their pre-suppositions and make them defend them. Then, stack up evidence against the pre-suppositions, e.g. – how can matter be all there is if science shows us that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing in the Big Bang?

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Wired Science misleads readers on what Galapagos finches really prove

Here’s the article. (H/T Neil Simpson)

Excerpt:

On one of the Galápagos islands whose finches shaped the theories of a young Charles Darwin, biologists have witnessed that elusive moment when a single species splits in two.

Well, that would be very interesting… if it were true. But whenever I’ve heard these finches mentioned, it turns out that what actually happened is that populations of different kinds of finches increase and decrease in response to changing environmental conditions. No finch’s beak actually changes size! Some finches with beaks more adapted to the environmental conditions survive and leave more offspring than other finches who are not as adapted. When conditions change, the changes in populations reverse themselves and return to equilibrium.

Evolution News explains:

The deeper problem with the Wired Science report is not its perpetuation of the legend of Darwin’s finches, but its false claim that biologists have now “witnessed that elusive moment when a single species splits in two.” This is not what Peter and Rosemary Grant reported in their scientific article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 6

According to the Grants, in 1981 they found an unusually large male medium ground finch (scientific name: G. fortis) on the island of Daphne Major that they labeled 5110. They inferred that it had probably immigrated from the nearby island of Santa Cruz—though they could not be certain. For 28 years, the Grants followed all known descendants of this presumed immigrant, and genetic analysis suggested that after 2002 the descendants of 5110 bred only with each other (and were thus “endogamous”). The inbred group had a distinctive song that may have contributed to its reproductive isolation from other medium ground finches that were in the same area (“sympatric”).

But the Grants did not go so far as to label the inbred descendants a new species. “We treat the endogamous group as an incipient species because it has been reproductively isolated from sympatric G. fortis for three generations and possibly longer.” But an “incipient species” is not the same as a new species. In The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote: “According to my view, varieties are species in the process of formation, or are, as I have called them, incipient species.” 7 But how can we possibly know whether two varieties (or races) are in the process of becoming separate species? Saint Bernards and Chihuahuas are two varieties that cannot interbreed naturally. The Ainu people of northern Japan and the !Kung of southern Africa are separated not only geographically, linguistically, and culturally, but also (for all practical purposes) reproductively. Are dog breeds and human races therefore “incipient species?”

There’s no way we can know, unless we observe varieties becoming separate species at a future date. Designating two reproductively isolated populations “incipient species” is nothing more than a prediction that speciation will eventually occur. It is a far cry from observing the origin of a new species.

Read the rest here. References to peer-reviewed literature are provided.

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