Monday, April 30, 2012

William Dembski's Guest Post at Biologos

The first part of Dembski's paper, Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral? can be found at

 I congratulate Biologos for allowing someone with antithetical views to post at their website.

 I'll probably disagree with Dembski's conclusions, which will be in part II tomorrow.

William Dembski's Guest Post at "

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Match Made in Heaven

In The Rational Essence of Proteins and DNA Mike Gene discusses how perfectly the shape of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA and RNA) seem to be made for each other.

According to Thomist philosopher Edward Feser, Thomists reject the idea that living organisms are machines, since "the parts of an artifact have no inherent tendency to come together and function as a coffee machine, or computer, or whatever, but have to be arranged by us to do so," whereas (apparently) the parts of living organisms do have an inherent tendency to come together and function. I've suggested that Feser's view of living organisms is incorrect. Scientists have been trying to find a way that parts of living organisms could come together, without anybody arranging them, with no success. In fact, it's difficult to even come up with some of the key parts, such as nucleotides, without a lot of intervention by somebody.

But perhaps Mike Gene's essay offers us a way of harmonizing Thomist philosophy with what appears to be the data.  God has indeed created the parts of living organisms so that once they are brought together in the proper way, they will indeed become living organisms.  They may resemble the kinds of machines that we humans make, but they are God's machines, where the parts were created for each other.  A match made in Heaven.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Collins vs Gnus

Mike Gene has two recent posts on Francis Collins vs the "Gnu" atheists, both worth reading: 

Collins vs. Gnus

Dawkins vs. Collins.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I think I understand Feser's objection to ID

I've been reading Edward Feser's Aquinas; a Beginner's Guide, in the hope of understanding Thomist philosophy, and especially in understanding why Thomist philosophers such as Prof. Feser object to Intelligent Design Theory. I've read some of Feser's blog posts that are critical of Intelligent Design, but I think the crux of the problem can be found in the following passage from his book:

"Now machines, or at least complex machines, might seem to exhibit immanent causation of the sort definitive of life.  We say, for example, that a coffee machine can turn itself on in the morning, that computers can run self-diagnostic routines, and so forth.  So, could machines count as living things on Aquinas's view, and thus as having souls?  They could not.  For a living thing is a kind of substance, but machines are artifacts.  And though an artifact can be described in a loose sense as if it were a kind of substance (as we did in chapter 2 when using examples like the rubber ball), in the strict sense an artifact is not a genuine substance at all, in Aquinas's view, but rather a composite of substances, or of parts of substances (In DA II.1.218;  SCG IV 35.7).  This is evident from the fact that the parts of an artifact have no inherent tendency to come together and function as a coffee machine, or computer, or whatever, but have to be arranged by us to do so." (p.136-137)

  Living cells have very important parts:  proteins, RNA, and DNA. The problem is that many or most ID hypotheses would say that the parts of living things have no inherent tendency to come together and function, just as the parts of machines have no inherent tendency to come together and function. 

 Proteins are made of "left-handed" amino acids, that are put together in very specific order.  There is no inherent tendency for amino acids to separate the right-handed amino acids from the left-handed amino acids.  And there is no inherent tendency for the amino acids to come together in the very specific order that are required for them to function properly. 

Meanwhile, RNA and DNA are made of "right-handed" nucleotides, that are also put together in a very specific order.  There is no inherent tendency for nucleotides to form in the wild.  There is no inherent tendency for them to separate the right-handed nucleotides from the left-handed nucleotides.  There is no inherent tendency for them to come together in the very specific order that are required for them to function properly.

Once there is a living cell with all the proper parts in the proper order, then they can function properly and make more proteins, RNA, and DNA, and do all the other things that living cells do.  But until there is a living cell there appears to be no way to get one without somebody putting all the proper parts together in the proper way.

And thus, at least the first living cell seems to have resembled a machine: somebody had to arrange its parts before it could function.

Now most (but not all) ID theorists think that much of evolution could only take place with the aid of somebody doing a lot more arranging of parts.  So if these ID theorists are correct, at least some of the new living organisms that evolved also resembled machines.

Thus, it seems that if ID is true (or at least the forms of ID that require this type of "tinkering"), then this would be a challenge to the Thomistic understanding of what living organisms are.

Perhaps there is a solution:  Perhaps God has created the universe so that the right kind of parts, once they are arranged in the proper way, become a living organism.  Thus, the right kind of parts do not have an inherent tendency to "come together" by themselves.  But once they have come together, they do have an inherent tendency to function as a living organism.

I don't know if Prof. Feser or other Thomists would consider this a real solution.  Perhaps not.  But if not, then I think at least this part of Thomism is false.  Empirically false.

I find myself typing in the above address anytime I want to get to my blog.  I was going to put all my new posts at my new address, but I realized all the problems involved, so I won't.  However, if you're like me, it's a lot easier to remember.  And I'll just leave a link there for here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gone Fishin'

I'll be back in a week or so.  Happy Passover and Easter to all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm NOT Banned from TelicThoughts!!!

Thank goodness! I was finally able to post this very important comment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jay Richards vs Alvin Plantinga

There are two interesting essays over at Evolution News and Views. First, Jay W. Richards posted the third essay in his series of reviews on Alvin Plantinga's new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies:

 What's in a Word? "Randomness" in Darwinism and the Scientific Theory of Evolution .

And now Plantinga has offered a reply: Seeking an Official Definition of "Randomness": A Reply to Jay Richards.

Update:  Michael Flannery has now chimed in: What Textbooks Say about the "Randomness" at the Heart of Darwinian Theory

 Of course, what neither one of them has substantially addressed is the question of why unguided evolution is incompatible with Christianity. I happen to think (and will argue some time) that it is compatible.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Joshua approves of Israel's Form of Government


"... I think Israel by a long-shot has the best form of government in the Middle East, and probably most elsewhere. There are some civil rights-related problems for its Arab population, documented by Israeli organizations like B'Tselem, but these are comparatively minor, as it's by far better to be a second-class citizen in Israel than a first-class citizen in nearby states. In any case, U.S. subsidization of Israel involves its foreign policy, not its domestic policy - so that tends to be my main concern when discussing Israel."

Reviewing Ruse Reviewing Plantinga

I guess you're all holding your breath, wondering when if ever I'll get around to reviewing Michael Ruse's so called review of Alvin Plantinga's book, Where the Conflict Really Lies; Science, Religion, and Naturalism. I call it a "so called review" because Ruse doesn't really review Plantinga's book. He aims merely to accuse Plantinga of...well, here, let's let him say it:

"Now, Plantinga has given us a full-length treatment of his views on science and its relationship to religion. I can only say that either he has changed his mind in the last year or, shall we say, he was not being entirely forthcoming. There is a chapter of the book on Intelligent Design Theory and I challenge any independent person to read it and not conclude that Plantinga accepts this theory over modern evolutionary theory, especially the dominant modern Darwinian evolutionary theory. But read the chapter yourself if you have doubts about what I claim. Make your own judgment."

No doubt Ruse would say that I am not an "independent person" since I am an Intelligent Design advocate. Nevertheless, I have read Plantinga's book, and I do indeed have major doubts about Ruse's claim. My judgment is that Plantinga does NOT accept Intelligent Design Theory over modern evolutionary theory. I was rather disappointed in finding this out. I had hoped that perhaps Plantinga had indeed changed his mind and found ID to be better than modern evolutionary theory. My hope rested on the shifting sand of Michael Ruse's ability to read. In the future I'll know not to put too much faith in it.

Since Ruse presents absolutely no evidence that Plantinga does accept ID, I need say nothing further. I have done what Ruse asked me to do. I read the book and made my own judgment. I suggest the reader do likewise.

Am I Banned from Telicthoughts?

I've tried posting at yesterday and today, with no success. There's no message telling me that I'm banned. My comments simply do not appear. If I'm banned, it would be nice if somebody who knows would at least tell me that I'm banned. It would be the polite thing to do.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Did Golda Meir Cause the Yom Kippur War?

It's been suggested that Israel and Golda Meir in particular turned down an Egyptian offer of peace, which eventually led to the 1973 Yom Kippur War. So I thought I should link to this: Did Golda Meir Cause the Yom Kippur War?

The conclusion from the article:

War did not come because Golda Meir scoffed at peace proposals (she didn’t), or because Dayan was pushing too aggressively for settlements (there were only 7000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza in October 1973), [47] or even because Israelis were overconfident in the ultimate issue of the continuing diplomatic impasse. The ultimate cause of the war was Arab rejection of Israel’s legitimacy, compounded by an inimical and overweening Arab sense of pride—pride that could not have been assuaged even if Israel had handed back every inch of occupied territory and demanded nothing in return.

I remember listening to Anwar Sadat in interviews after he came to speak in Israel, trying to explain how the Yom Kippur War had assuaged the Arab's lost sense of pride and allowed for the option of peace with Israel to be entertained.