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November 13, 2007

What's Wrong With Reason?

Earlier this year, Slashdot pointed to a set of Flickr photos of someone’s visit to a newly built creationist museum in Kentucky. I have often assumed that many creationists live in households and communities, where access to information was heavily regulated. After looking through the photos, I discovered that many creationists actually do see the same things that non-creationists see, but simply reached different conclusions. Below are three photos from a set of about a half dozen juxtaposing human reason as a faulty device in opposition to God's Word.

image image  image

I guess it make sense, if one takes scripture as absolute, literal truth to think that reason, despite its necessity for understanding scripture, could also lead us astray if it contradicts scripture.

Roman Catholicism (the faith in which I was raised) regards the stories of creation as metaphorical and assures us that reason is fully compatible with truth. Other Christian denominations, lacking a centralized organization and authority, are more willing to accept a literal interpretation. The Koran, the holy book of Islam, even proclaims itself to be free of imperfection.

There were other museum photos touching on topics such as Noah's flood or reconciling apparent contradictions between the world and scripture. I was a bit stunned by the directness of the comparisons, which could potentially introduce doubt to faithful visitors by exposing them to disturbing arguments alongside their creationist explanations.

Maybe, I shouldn't be surprised as I have seen such direct confrontation before. I have, for some time, been following the Uncommon Descent weblog, which promotes William Dembski's ideas on Intelligent Design attacks the "materialist" beliefs of its principal antagonist and promoter of evolution, Richard Dawkins. One of Dembski's frequent claims is the impossibility of computer intelligence, or, indirectly, of my software. I don't agree with most of Dembski's arguments, but reading his posts does help me to recognize any of my own biases and flaws in reasoning.


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You might like John Scalzi's report on this.

If you're interested in the conflict between evolutionary theory and ID, you may find this blog entertaining:

It's the chronicles the efforts of a couple of biologists to clarify the lines between these worlds. They visit bookstores and, when ID books have been shelved in the science section, move them over to the religion section.

I think both ID and evolution have gaping logic holes large enough to push a small galaxy through.

Probably it is the same like the evolution of our computer/software: evolution guided by a being outside of the thing being developed :)

> Sam said:

> Probably it is the same like the evolution of our computer/software: evolution
> guided by a outside of the thing being developed :)

I would agree with this view point if DNA was structured like source-code. You know, high-cohesion tightly focused Genes with clear operational purpose. One Gene to each purpose.

The problem is that DNA is not, you'll have a gene perform thirty separate functions and depend on fifty other genes firing correctly to be expressed.

This is totally the opposite of what I would expect an "intelligent designer" - an intelligent designer would seek to reduce dependencies and reduce complexity. Nature is ambivalent to these issues, at least at the DNA level.

It's worth pointing out that evolution is a mathematical construct - and is not inherently biological.

If you generate random tape for a universal Turing machine, a method to introduce small fluctuations in a "fit" tap and a selection procedure to determining the fitness of a given bit of tape. Then it is clear over many iterations, the tape will gradually converge on the optimal fitness value.

Life evolved to harness this property by developing it's own four colour Universal Turing Machine, DNA.

I happen to believe that the God, at least described in Roman Catholicism, is inherently self-contradictory.

Catholics believe that God is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent.

You can't know everything, to construct a set of all truths is impossible.

You can't do every conceivable action because taking action X may render action Y impossible. For example, Can God create a rock so heavy even he can't lift it?

There is no evidence that God is always good. People say that to allow free will, God must allow some bad in the world. This is incorrect however, God would surely be duty bound to make the least bad world which still preserves free-will. We clearly do not live in such a world.

I find it simpler just to get rid of God completely. It is not surprising that we find ourselves to exist. Consider the alternative? If nothing existed, neither would we to discuss this very subject.


I am an evolutionist.

There is a mathematical formulation of the selection process in evolution, which could also be applied to many different phenomena besides nature:

Basical selection requires the following three steps:
1) variation in traits
2) differential reproduction
3) heredity

It's not enough for a trait is beneficial, it has to be shown to impact survival chances.

Evolution arguments that moves outside this formula tend to be suspect, especiallly when applied to the social issues.

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