Tag Archives: biology

Process & Humanness


A precarious process is such that, whatever the complex configuration of enabling conditions, if the dependencies on the operationally closed network are removed, the process necessarily stops. In other words, it is not possible for a precarious process in an operationally closed network to exist on its own in the circumstances created by the absence of the network.

A precarious, operationally closed system is literally self-enabling, and thus it sustains itself in time partially due to the activity of its own constituent processes. Moreover, because these processes are precarious, the system is always decaying. The “natural tendency” for each constituent process is to stop, a fate the activity of the other processes prevents. The network is constructed on a double negation. The impermanence of each individual process tends to affect the network negatively if sustained unchecked for a sufficient time. It is only the effect of other processes that curb these negative tendencies. This dynamic contrasts with the way we typically conceive of organic processes as contributing positively to sustaining life; if any of these processes were to run unchecked, it would kill the organism. Thus, a precarious, operationally closed system is inherently restless, and in order to sustain its intrinsic tendencies towards internal imbalance, it requires energy, matter, and relations with the outside world. Hence, the system is not only self-enabling, but also shows spontaneity in its interactions due to a constitutive need to constantly “buy time” against the negative tendencies of its own parts.

The simultaneous requirement of operational closure and precariousness are the defining properties of autonomy for enactivism. It is this concept of autonomy that answers the opening question in this section about the individuation of the body. A body is understood as such an autonomous system, an understanding that allows for the possibility that any given body need not be constituted exclusively by its biochemical or physiological processes (Thompson and Stapleton 2009; Kyselo and Di Paolo, under review).

The Enactive Approach (pdf) Ezequiel Di Paolo and Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson


Biology . . . shows us that we can expand our cognitive domain. This arises through a novel experience brought forth through reasoning, through the encounter with a stranger, or, more directly, through an expression of a biological interpersonal congruence that lets us see the other person and open up for him room for existence beside us. This act is called love, or, if we prefer a milder expression, the acceptance of the other person beside us in our daily living. This is the biological foundation of social phenomena: without love, without acceptance of others living beside us there is no social process and, therefore, no humanness. Anything that undermines the acceptance of others, from competency to the possession of truth and on to ideolog- ic certainty, undermines the social process because it undermines the biologic process that generates it. (Maturana & Varela, The Tree of Knowledge, 1992, p. 246)

bonus pdf:
Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela’s Contribution to Media Ecology: Autopoiesis, The Santiago School of Cognition, and Enactive Cognitive Science

So it came about many many years after reading The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by William Irwin Thompson that I noted his son Evan is an important shaper of the enactivist frame.

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Sweet Fern’s Evolution

Sweet Fern Productions | see also their Whale Fall

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Older and Better

How Old Is the Human Race? va News.Discovery

The National geographic Genographic Project 2.0

A fifty percent increase in the age of our race is gigantic swing in a primary historical quantification.

The Genographic Project is a multiyear research initiative led by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells. Dr. Wells and a team of renowned international scientists are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots. The three components of the project are:

To gather and analyze research data in collaboration with indigenous and traditional peoples around the world

To invite the general public to join this real-time scientific project and to learn about their own deep ancestry by purchasing a Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit, Geno 2.0

To use a portion of the proceeds from Geno 2.0 kit sales to further research and the Genographic Legacy Fund, which in turn supports community-led indigenous conservation and revitalization projects

The Genographic Project is anonymous, nonmedical, and nonprofit, and all results are placed in the public domain following scientific peer publication.

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Icelandic Exceptionalism

Who Gets It

Self-explanatory. via Let’s Talk About Evolution Guardian.UK; in turn via the essential research blogging’s GirlScientist. Video

Fill in blank: “so much for _________________”

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New Family

Sediba Hand

“Australopithecus sediba, a 1.98 million year old relative of humans, otherwise known as a hominin.” full article:The Verge of Human; Carl Zimmer. The Loom (blog) Discover Magazine

See also Science Magazine, September 9, 2011

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The Hard Problem

Evolution Made Us All from Ben Hillman on Vimeo.

Actually, the proposition here over-generalizes, but it is apparently true for biological life.

I don’t track the follies of Intelligent Design anywhere near as closely as I used to, yet I do maintain a tag search and every now and then I am moved to go check out the ‘action,’ always with the hope what I encounter will be amusing, and, rich as a qualitative data set about how people approach talking with each other.

Uncommon Descent, ‘serving the intelligent design community,’ is a dependable source of circularity and a time waster over many years. I got a nice positive at the end of March. I’ve let it, the comment thread, percolate since then. It is: worthy.

The set-up is a article, On the Computation of CSI, by Mathgrrl. Here is the equivalent of its abstract.

In the abstract of Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence, William Demski asks “Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?” Many ID proponents answer this question emphatically in the affirmative, claiming that Complex Specified Information is a metric that clearly indicates intelligent agency.

As someone with a strong interest in computational biology, evolutionary algorithms, and genetic programming, this strikes me as the most readily testable claim made by ID proponents. For some time I’ve been trying to learn enough about CSI to be able to measure it objectively and to determine whether or not known evolutionary mechanisms are capable of generating it. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is quite a bit of confusion about the details of CSI, even among its strongest advocates.

Setting aside the effort to configure a worthwhile computational platform for ID, the post and its continuing offshoot oneand offshoot two, interest me because Mathgrrl, (who is seemingly Lauren Taalman of James Madison univesity,) has made her effort without also grinding any axe. My further interest, then, is to see what happens as a matter of the responses to her generous and sincere effort. How soon will bad will arise by design (!) to meet her good will?

The answer, of course, is: instantly. 11:17am. However, overall the discussion proceeds without much aggression. (It’s not besides the point that Dembski’s CSI has been discredited, but, in another sense the dialogs are seeking to discover a corrective or more correct estimate.) Alas, it turns out a moderator is riding the posts too, so some of the action only saw the light of day briefly.

As a Batesonian, I was amused to read this (#367):

I am saying, per my previous post, and interminable posts prior to this on other threads, that is it impossible, IN PRINCIPLE, i.e. it is logically impossible, to explain information in terms of algorithms and/or physical laws. This so obviously true that it is scarcely worth repeating. So I won’t. You will sooner be able to create a square circle as to generate information with time and physics. Information is impossible without reason, language, free will, and intentionality. That is, a mind. Or Mind in the case of life.

Having now created the square circle, what say you? Why would information require logic to be represented in any possible explanation of information, and this given too in any possible ‘terms?’ Oh look, my square circle just rolled up my stairs!

In the main the discussants don’t reconcile Mathgrrl’s urge to define CSI with greater specificity with the ID company line, that Dembski’s conclusions have already completed the endeavor. All in all, not very amusing, except for the usual category mashing, and this–as always–in the context of the unspoken problematic implied by some kind of computationally clever designer found somewhere beyond nature and biology. And, maybe this designer was/is, like, undesigned?

Then: pay dirt. Mathgrrl Lives Down to Expectations on April 14. The post’s subject remains calm. She should get a medal. Between this and the action over at the unintentionally very amusing comment spew at intelligentreasoning blog, I am suddenly delivered to the social psychological nirvana I was hunting for.

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Planet of the Snake-Oil Loving Apes


David Lane takes Ken Wilber to task, Frisky Dirt, Why Ken Wilber’s New Creationism
is Pseudo-Science
, for reprising his odd views on evolution. Those views can be encapsulated in quotes from The Guru and the Pandit. Eros, Buddha, and the Spectrum of Love, from the new issue of Andrew Cohen’s magazine EnlightenmentNext.

It’s evidence of a force that is pushing against randomness in the universe.

The fact that such a thing can happen is a miracle. It’s just unbelievable.

All of this, without exception, is driven by love.

Lane’s takedown of Wilber’s ‘esotericistic’ intelligent design is okay, but let’s face it, all the varieties of intelligent design and creationism present low hanging fruit. The abstract for the article is telling:

Love is a hot topic in the world of progressive spirituality, but you haven’t heard anyone discuss it like the Guru and the Pandit. Distinguishing between love’s personal, cultural, and cosmic dimensions, they explore how this primordial force gives rise to every new emergence in the evolutionary process.

Wilber has spelled out what he means by speaking of love’s primordial force. This can be put differently without error, and on offer then is the context, a context many times more interesting than Wilber’s new age creationism.

Love works from the beginning to organize greater complexity and greater consciousness, ending up for our moment in “Ken Wilber.”

Or, ending up in the Centauric Integral, another term for “Ken Wilber.”

This developmental outcome is very ironic if you’re aware of Wilber’s antipathy toward baby boomer solipsism.

As a thinker and quasi-philosopher, Wilber’s development peaked fifteen years ago. At the time he had sketched out an interesting, even compelling, albeit rudimentary, transdisciplinary methodology. It required proponents to get down to the brass tacks of formulating a sharp critical culture.

In 2001, he told Jordan Gruber,

>E.com: In the meantime, though, the grants that people could write to I-I for, none of that’s happening?

KW: No, what’s happening right now is that one of the main things we wanted to do with the original one hundred million dollars was to get it to as many people as possible doing work in this field, the general field of integral studies and integral endeavors. That’s one of the reasons that I started Integral Institute, to act as a funding source for people doing this kind of work because the marketplace doesn’t reward truly integral studies as all. It rewards New Age approaches to it, it rewards the experiential workshop approach, as it were, it rewards the green meme and the purple meme and everything in between, but it does not reward truly integral studies.

So, the only way we’re going to get real work done in this field is, frankly, if we have funding agencies that will do it. And once the real work is done, and the research is done, and we start producing really solid texts, and presentations, and articles, and research, then we can create a market off of that. That’s going to be probably three years from now.

So, what we’ve done at Integral Institute … the biggest change in our orientation happened not because of the market, but quite independent of that, a change we would have made whether the market went up or down. And that is, we went from being a kind of community of some four hundred founding members to focusing more on producing what we call “integral product,” actual books, texts, academic material in each of the ten branches. So we’re working on books in, for example, What is Integral Politics? What is Integral Business? Integral Medicine? Integral Law? Because what we found was that there were no really strong statements about an integral approach to any of these fields.

E.com: Which is one of the reasons academia can ignore it completely.

KW: It can ignore it completely, and the other things we found is that most people with very very good intentions would simply take what they’re doing and call it integral when it really wasn’t. They were leaving out certain aspects of the human condition that ought not to be left out. We could demonstrate that to them, and they would say, “OK, I guess what I’m doing is not integral.”

So before we can build community, or create a market, or have a web presence, or have conferences, we have to produce specific texts in each of these ten branches, put together by one of our core teams of recognized scholars and researchers, saying “This is our best shot as an opening statement about what integral business is, integral politics, integral education, integral medicine, integral law, integral psychology, integral spirituality, and so on.”

Actually, what happened was this was inverted. Wilber created a community, a web presence, conferences, and, crucially, a market. Wilber’s Integral has been regressing ever since. Only The Integral Leadership Review, (itself mostly off the Wilberian reservation,) regularly publishes something like scholarship. Elsewhere there isn’t a body of Integral scholarship in those other nine branches, where the scholarship works to, as the Wilberian principle goes, keep the good and throw out the bad. So, without having enabled a keen critical culture to negotiate disciplinary fields using a robust and sophisticated Integral criteria, the Integral methodology was sunk.

Wilber’s creationism is interesting because its context is not Integral biology, but rather its context (and purpose) is the yoking of Wilber’s product lines to the biggest, most fantastic, view of that which can be the reward for buying Wilber’s spiritual technologies. This value-added idea is simple:

Love works from the beginning to organize greater complexity and greater consciousness, ending up for our moment in your ability to realize your cosmic integral love-vitalized high consciousness nature.

One has to buy a ticket, or otherwise pony up.

As for biology and science, Wilber has time and time again, in interviews with Larry Dossy, and other new age thought leaders, proposed that what is bad about science, methodological materialism, needs to be reformed and revolutionized, and, he’s implied, transformed into something altogether more ‘integral-mystical.’ (Magical!) Needless to say there aren’t any cogent Integral philosophers of science. Nor is there–as far as I know–any scholarly Integral biology, Integral physics, Integral anthropology, etc.. Also, the varieties of integral-like interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship found in some fields is not under review by Integral scholars.

No, there is only the facile spiritualizing of the Wilberian spiritual technology put up for sale. ‘Adeptitude’ has taken over; sadly. The strange, anti-intellectual case is that as much as this high-minded technology harps on getting right with The Shadow, science itself is smack dab in the middle of Wilber’s own shadow. I suspect love is stuck there too because the self-agrandizing, primordial move is too easy, compared, say, to the necessarily unsparing, perspective of Rilke.

To reconfigure Carl Jung’s famous insight,

…where power marketing predominates, love is lacking.

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What If Your Parents Had Never…?

In my continuing research into what I term transformative anthropology, or, into developmental serendipity in the human life cycle, every question or speculation is worth investigation. This includes questions considered ridiculous:

“What if your parents had never met?”

To which I respond: Indeed. (So, I gently pull it into my mental lab.)

I had an opportunity this fall to pose clinical-like questions to one of my softball associates, a pediatrician, Dr. Art. What I was wondering about was whether or not it would be equally correct, given the what if you’re parents never met query, to pose a similar question: “What if your, (or my own, or anybody’s,) parents had instantiated the fertilization at some other timely point, say seconds, minutes, hours, the next day, later, other than at the time at which point you, me, anybody came to be?”

Here’s the encapsulation of my questioning of Dr. Art.

Given the chanciness of what comes together at point of fertilization, is it correct to state that the fertilization that produced me, you, anybody, exactingly reflects the outcome of a single and unique outcome of sperm meeting egg? (In other words, fertilization is not able to be comprehensively duplicated in anyway.)

Okay, so, the nature of fertilization is a spectacular instance of something, a human he or she, in its generative case, created and necessarily from this, completely unique.

Dr. Art’s answer was,

“As far as anybody can know, human fertilization causes a unique person.”

Its instance comes down to a singular event and a rapid unfolding of unique configuration. This is entirely given by the nature of the mechanics involved. A different instantiation would unfold under the slightly different conditions given by these same mechanics.

Several aspects of this (class of) instance figure into how one thinks about it–as a matter of these mechanics. Fertilization’s uniqueness is not repeatable. Nor is this like shuffling a deck of cards or rolling the dice. The unique result is singularly so. There are many many possible outcomes when the deck is shuffled. Yet, over time, and with enough shuffles, the outcomes aren’t singularly unique. Likewise if we pose such an instance as a roll of the dice. I don’t know what a rigorous mathematically-minded appreciation of the consequential uniqueness of fertilization would be, yet I suspect the analogous two dice have to have an odd, not finite, configuration.

The scale of the temporal condition is something like: instantaneous, yet this also reflects the physical conditions through which fertilization happens as a result of one sperm actor, so-to-speak, being successful against all the other actors. It’s a measurable amount of time too, this instant.

A consequence of this set-up is that the instantiation of one’s own self hangs on the slender thread of these conditions. If Marvin Gaye comes on the CD player, and one of the parties to conception gasps, “Hold On!” then the internal process will be configured differently. Yet, consider how even this kind of adjustment occurs at an almost ridiculously huge scale given how the outcome of fertilization is itself contingent on the tiny scale at which the jockeying of sperm happens.

Perhaps, say you, “So what?”

As I mentioned, I take this seriously because I’m researching the element of fortuity as it plays a part in the resolution of human development at any scale of condition or time. I’m tracking back here to what I term the primordial biological dependent contingency. This is where any map of fortuitous contingency tracks back to. However, at the same time, there is also the implicit regress, ‘what if your parents’ parents had never met?’ And, the circumstances for consequential conjoinment, and for relationship, are entangled in vast, requisite ‘narratives’ for which all the necessary human players, and time-and-space, features necessarily are in some exacting way configured by long chains of, well, fertilization!

Backing up from this, we can sift through other consequences (of primordial biological dependent contingency) at much larger scales of relationship and agency. The evolutionary perspective warrants consideration of where this all can be said to commence and how the two, at least, most primal actors came to make something like the first instance, and how the original hims and hers were instantiated in kind.

Also recognized are other perspectives and the explanations or suppositions each invokes. The idea that a unique soul animates the physical instance of fertilization is, obviously, a very ancient idea. This same idea is deeply embedded in many varieties of how persons culturally grappled with the presumably self-evident unique outcome of procreation. Actually, is there a good reason to presume even this was so? I’m willing to wager without knowing–yet–conceptions about the soul finding its physical incarnation predate ideas about every born human constituting an utterly unique instance of human being.

Obviously, fortuitous dependencies track backward from biological scales ‘down and further’ back through material and temporal scales. My main research interest lies in the other direction, long after the presumptive collapse of enjoined human wave functions (!) granted in fertilization have occurred. Still, it would remain true enough that the serendipity decisive in later human development all are in the light of the strange and implicit fragility of fertilization, and, the: “I might never have come to be!”

Except for this crucial feature: successful fertilization and thus the biological evocation of a him or her sets up this new person as a unique in stance of human being, but is not the whole story by any means.

So much for the notion that DNA determines what an organism is like; it doesn’t. There is, in principle, no one-to-one relationship, no “mapping,” from DNA sequences to characters. (Of course, we can map differences of character– like albinism or Parkinson’s disease–to species differences in DNA.) The whole process of development, from ovary- making egg to mother-making ovary, holds itself together. Each bit of information context, like the egg mechanisms, is necessary and specific for each bit of information content, like the DNA. What makes the fly, or you, is the complete process of development. All of it. Can you blame your DNA for your funny squiggly handwriting, your passion for Fats Waller and
Burmese cats, your blue eyes! Well, perhaps the last, but certainly not the others. You can’t blame the DNA for what you’ve made of yourself. You, the process, are responsible for what you are, what you do. And for what you become. (biologist Jack Cohen)

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Animated Evolution

Charles Darwin

Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.
Abraham Lincoln

via blublu.org

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Mining Under the Common Ground

Separate truths
It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom [excerpt Boston.com April 25, 2010] Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.

The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University. This article is adapted from his new book, ”God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.”

This essay of Professor Prothero is amazing in a bad way. My criticism is simple: there’s a substantial and subtle literature concerned with the claim he’s arguing against, yet none of it enters into his argument. This huge hole swallows the glib attack he issues in this essay, an attack careless in its presentation of categories and domains, and, an attack launched against more than a few straw men.

It’s as if Prothero feels he can fool the discerning reader. Normally I would dig some and see if the author is through-and-through a charlatan. Here my guess is that he isn’t, but not from anything found in his intentionally misdirected essay.

He writes here about very intriguing questions. In comparing religions with one another, in what ways does this show similarities? What are those similarities about? Should the evidence show that some, or all, religions overlap in particular ways, are there, then, valid generalizations to be inferred from the specifics of any overlap?

Furthermore, such an inquiry about common features is itself framed by a variety of disciplines, and each brings different interpretive and discipline-bound practices to bear on the question. Outside of this there is also a worthy literature brought forth by non-academic experts, and, as well, there is also a long history of this very inquiry. One aspect of this history is that it evolved from the point where specific religions come into contact with each other, and thus was evoked by the curiosity of some religious persons about the possibility of commonality. This comes about long before the frameworks of modern academic disciplines existed.

It is also obvious: there is a fundamental issue begged by any theism, no matter how particularized a theism is in practice or by a its founding assumptions. This is simple to articulate: if there is a God of “All” is not this God then a God of all spirituality, irrespective of whether a particular spirituality is granted primacy or is heretical? In other words, if God of this sort does in fact exist, this God would ultimately be the God of religionist, heretic, and atheist alike. From this, if this is true, one would expect commonalities.

There are four modern perspectives, among many, which frame different possibilities for important, maybe crucial, inquiries into commonality. One is the Analytic Psychology, given by Carl Jung. Here spirituality is viewed as a phenomena of introspective consciousness. From this, (largely) personal religious experience and development is the nexus for an inquiry into, as-it-were, possibly like-minded objectives of self-realization. There is in this, a prospect that human consciousness, as a matter of its psychological constitution, in specific keys lights upon objectives that are similar or identical, yet only does this in the precise domains where this phenomena may exist, and this is located within these precise domains in specific religious traditions.

Two is the integral perspective on human development, given its most detailed elaboration by Ken Wilber; (and Wilber’s elaboration following mostly from the thoughtful work of Jean Gebser.) Integral thought expands the nexus of inquiry along a spectrum of developmental lines. Similar to Analytic Psychology, it is encumbered by fundamental assumptions about the universal nature of human aspiration. Taken as an outlook, (and “in-look,”) the Integral perspective provides a loose framework for investigating procedures for self-realization–procedures embedded in particular instrumentalities found in different spiritual and religious practices.

Third is anthropology, a modern discipline geared toward differentiation of human phenomena. Commonalities would be rigorously qualified and vigorously contested as a matter of methodology, yet, the idea that commonalities could be universal would remain a worthwhile anthropological hypothesis. This is especially so if such a hypothesis is unfolded in the context of evolutionary anthropology. Here the framing starts from the idea that religions may be dramatically different, but that human nature is not also wholly different.

Fourth, and is the argument posed by Frithhof Schuon, and echoed by a specific ilk of traditionalists and (somewhat) outsider experts, such as Mercea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Needleman, Rudolph Steiner, and others. Schuon described the over-arching aspect (and nexus for inquiry,) in the title of his book, The Transcendent Unity of Religion. I going to gloss the deep subtlety of Schuon’s argument and suggest his philosophical perspective basically holds this: where there is religion, there is also found a domain of aspirational practice where experience of the deep relationship between man and divine cosmos necessarily abides the idea that the cosmos is set up to evoke this relationship. It could be said the nexus of inquiry that necessarily follows from there being a God of All, is such–that a universality of religion in this aspirational domain is necessarily entailed by this primary assumption. Thus, given that there is a God of All and everything, we might expect to find similarities ordinated by God’s, if you will, “set up.”

(Schuon is superior to Karen Armstrong, with respect to being a source for beginning an inquiry at the abode of this nexus.)


Prothero doesn’t introduce any of these four vectors for inquiry into his didactic essay. For me, in not doing so, his argument is damaged out of the gate. If we break down the entire spectrum of human religious behavior, it could be incumbent upon an investigator to account for the behaviors oriented around the idea of the unity–in precise domains–of some/most/all religions.

But Prothero is mostly disingenuous in employing straw men and his attempt to wrangle an argument out of several category errors, the most grotesque of which is found in his silly statement, “To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously” (yada yada.) Since the point of finding similarity is to differentiate similarity from that which is dissimilar, there isn’t any ground to be gained by pretending that subtle arguments for similarity revolve around thinking different Gods (or theisms,) are said to be the same. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who think this, its just that this is a definitive straw man.

(To the side of all this there is a contest of theisms. The ripe question for proponents of a distinctive theism within the context of the various Ambrahamic religions is simply enough, for example, ‘do you, as a Christian mystic pray to a different God than the God the Muslim prays to?’ In this the possibility of a negative answer holds another variation on the prime question about sameness and similarity. On the other hand, this is another way of wondering to what extent God owns a home team!)

The meta-inquiry is one concerned with a description, differentiation, and conceptualization of domains of human religious behavior and phenomena. This would work to tightly qualify the domains and then sort out apparent similarities. For me, anthropology, especially given the lens of an evolutionary framing, is the least inflicted by confirmation bias and tautological precepts. Still, Schuon and Dr. Jung opus, at a minimum, are worthwhile for their sophistication and depth, even if there is (for me) no slam dunk.

As it clearly appears when considering the fundamental question of the Divine Will as with other major instances of metaphysical exposition and spiritual expression, Schuon’s esoteric perspective can be best characterized as a science and discipline of objectivity that situates each reality at its own adequate ontological level and within its overarching metaphysical or cosmological context. In doctrinal as in methodical matters, Schuon’s thrust lies in a lucid perception of realities that considers both their metaphysical and archetypical meaning as well as the specificity of their plane of manifestation. Thus, in pure metaphysics, the esoterist avoids the pitfalls of confessional, anthropomorphic, and moralist expediency and sublimity by focusing on the dimensions, modes, and degrees of the theophanic unfolding of the Real. He does not confuse metaphysical realities with their partial or distorted contours as envisaged through human biases, nor does he project the limitations of human moral categories onto the Divine Order. At the same time, he perceives the roots of all spiritual, aesthetic, and moral phenomena in the Supreme, and he accounts for their meaning on the basis of the Divine, thereby describing the multileveled and multifaceted Unity of Being. In spiritual matters alike, esoterism reaches to the essential through the veil of superimpositions and accretions, while elucidating the partial legitimacy of mystical emphases, excesses, and subjective or collective detours. As such, esoterism is nothing less than the most direct and comprehensive language of the Self. jean-Baptiste Aymard-Patrick Laude, Frithof Schuon, life and Teaching; 2004 SUNY Press)

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Fodor, Nagel, and Philosophy-In-Decline

Philosophers Rip Darwin
By Michael Ruse
The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Doubters Rip Darwin — Badly” would have been better. In his article, Michael Ruse adds Thomas Nagel to the fold of philosophers seeming to enter a late, demented phase in otherwise illustrious careers. (He discusses Alvin Plantinga too, but he’s been a card carrying creationist for a very long time.)

As always, it’s enough to state the fact: there is not yet an iota of successful science done in the pseudo-scientific field of Intelligent Design. However, on the philosophical side of things, the controversies are different. But, as I’ve maintained previously, scientific research is not utterly contingent on a completely developed philosophy of science, so it’s not likely that any substantial challenge to biological research and demonstration will break free of the usual circularity found in such philosophy.


For 150 years, since the Origin, critics have feared that we humans might become part of the evolutionary picture—not just our bodies, but our minds, our very souls. What makes us distinctively and uniquely human? This worry is still alive and well in today’s philosophical community. Plantinga is open in his fear that Darwinism makes impossible the guaranteed existence of our species. More, for years he has argued that Darwinism is bound up with the metaphysical belief that everything is natural (as opposed to supernatural), and that this leads to a collapse of rational belief and knowledge. The chance elements in Darwinism are simply not compatible with Plantinga’s Christian faith.

This alludes to real problems because there are versions of philosophical naturalism that collide. Are nature’s mechanics run by a strictly determined code that necessarily voids free will? (Etc..) It seems a stretch to imply that if nature is all there is, then some set of singular philosophical assumptions are necessary and inevitable.

But, from the other side, there isn’t any real philosophy upon which to hang the various suppositions of ID.

After all, it is the nexus of designer and materiality, and the mechanics of supernatural intervention that are the only fruitful fields for a science, rather than a superstition, of intelligent design. So, what philosophizing might aid (or underpin,) research into the designer/nature interface? No such coherent and cogent philosophy yet exists. (This noted, Del Ratszch and Bradley Monton are possibly the only mildly worthwhile thinkers on ID.) The problem obviously is research into the interface would tend to be subsumed into the normative philosophy of ‘applied’ science; such as it is.

from a comment to the article:

Thomas Aquinas used logics, reasoning and other qualities that none of the philosophers after him will ever have.

Darwinism is a complete nonsense in the eyes of a contemporary science. The center of Darwinism in London has admitted that, but you won’t! All you do is quoting what this and that guy said!

Open your eyes and think about what it really is! A piece of non-organic matter becomes a human being and yet we relatively know almost nothing about it! Exuse me, but when science tell you that one the sea shrimps has the most sophisticated vision in color (!) than any organizm known on the planet, I have no choice, but to think about the super intelligence behind it! When I know that human optical nerve(relatively thin) is composed of over 6 million cables, each of which is isolated (!) I have no choice, but to think about super intelligence behind it. When I think of the total length of human blood vessels being 2,5 times longer than size of our planet around equator, I am thrilled about intelligence behind it. And knowing that complete blood exchange across the entire human body takes just about 2 minutes, all I can say that all of you “smart” Darwinists either deliberately don’t want to admit the facts of science, or you are just a bunch of complete idiots.

So far, nothing good has ever come out of Darwinism except of a lot of wasted time! Not to mention Hitler who got inspired by it and came with the idea of a holocaust! And no, he was not sick, he just based his ideas an a false science!

This raw comment encapsulates many of the anti-Darwin arguments and their wrongheadedness. As far as the laity goes–and I’m a member–I have discovered over and over again folk proponents of ID invariably have no grasp on biology, biological research, and very rarely can tell you much about either the paperwork of ID or the responses to this paperwork. You know, the responses which have obliterated complexity-based arguments.

Still, I appreciate the irony behind having no choice but to believe in the super intelligence and his or her’s brutal, so-called, creation. Hey, and the Thomist reference–as in, one version, the universe being wholly a Catholic one in which almost everybody is going to roast in hell?

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Turned Upside Down

So an august public intellectual publishes what is supposed to be an important, even ground-shaking book, and, then, as it turns out for lack of a certain kind of proof-reader, their shattering project turns out to. rather, represent the lowest point of their career. It takes a really rotten idea to fuel a fall like this, or, as is the case with Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini’s What Darwin Got Wrong it takes a category error so glaring and obvious that their fail is tragic. When I first read a brief review back about a month ago, I simply went ’tisk’ to myself, and waited for the full take-down. At the same time, given the perverse pleasure I take in observing the creationist crowd latch onto anything favorable issued from the non-Discovery Institute subsidized wing of the academy, I relished seeing down-the-line Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini’s mistake both slip on through all the way to the ID carnival, and, get fully blown up.

The take-down was supplied by Ned Black and Philip Kitcher, Misunderstanding Darwin, in Boston Review.

They write in their review, quoting the book,

Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini’s central thesis is that selection-for is intensional:

There can be coextensive but distinct phenotypic properties, one (but not the other) of which is conducive to fitness, but which natural selection cannot distinguish. In such cases, natural selection cannot, as it were, tell the arches from the spandrels. That being so, adaptationist theories of evolution are unable, as a matter of principle, to do what they purport to do: explain the distribution of phenotypic traits in a population as a function of its history of selection for fitness.

This brought a chuckle when I read the quote because it doesn’t make sense on its face.

Black and Kitcher explain, (and I’ve reversed the order.)

The essential point is that however they choose, causation and selection-for always travel together. If they take the first approach, both will be extensional; if they opt for the second, both will be intensional. Their argument turns on mixing criteria, taking one version in one place and a different one elsewhere.

When you are interested in causation, however, you are not concerned about guises. What is of concern is the identity of the causing property.

Ironically, the action now will move to watching the creationists embrace the error at the center of What Darwin Got Wrong. Doubly ironic, and sad, is Fodor fluttering all the way down to the low perch already occupied by the ID charlatans Behe and Dembski. Triply ironic is that not even an intelligent designer could attach to the mistake even were it logically viable and not a mistake.

The authors:

That said, however, one final detail bears notice: although contexts of causation and selection-for are extensional in the respect mentioned, contexts of explanation are notoriously intensional. Does that mean that there can’t be evolutionary explanations? Not at all. Nature determines which properties are causally efficacious, and hence what is selected for. Then we theorists can find out about this and give explanations based on what is selected for.

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Hillis Plot

Phylogenic Plot of the ‘tree of speciation’ David Hillis*, University of Texas.

Close up via interactive version; Colorado.edu.

My impression? A humbling depiction.

* Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor, Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas
“The study of evolution of biotic diversity is the focus of my research. Most of my research concerns use of molecular genetic techniques to study relationships among populations, species, and higher taxa. Some of my general areas of interest are phylogenetic relationships, speciation patterns and mechanisms, molecular evolution (including the use of experimental systems), and the consequences of hybridization and hybrid zones. Although I am interested in and work on all organisms, most of my research involves amphibians, reptiles, fishes, molluscs, and viruses.”


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At Least, A Clear Statement

One thing I’ll give the Muslim creationist Harun Yahya credit for is that he states his sense of the facts of the matter courageously, whereas, the stateside Intelligent Design crew has come to do everything but state clearly, or do research directly about, their central hypothesis. (born as Adnan Oktar-wikepedia)

Therefore, the process from initial conception to production is quite extensive. In fact, the Sole Owner of all designs is One Who has power over all things. Allah creates all creatures flawlessly through a single command: “be”. This is in the verse: The Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something, He just says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is. (Surat al-Baqara:117) The faculty of creating from nothing and without precedent belongs to Allah alone. Humans just copy these examples. Furthermore, the human designer is himself a wonderful creation. Allah created creatures and humans from nothing and bestowed on humans the skills for designing.

All of these laws of physics are clear proofs that the universe, just like all the creatures within it, is a product of divine design. In fact, the laws of physics are nothing but human explanations and descriptions of the divine order that Allah has created. Allah has created the unchanging laws of order in the universe and put them in the service of humans so that man will reflect upon and understand the Sovereignty of Allah and give thanks for His blessings. One can continue giving countless examples in illustration of the order in the creation of Allah. Every created thing since the formation of the universe millions of years ago has been brought into existence by nothing other than the Omniscience and Sovereignty of Allah.

For Harun there’s no reason to do any research on the facts of the matter of creationism, but at least he identifies the cause of creation. He also has never met an element in the pseudo-science of ID, he didn’t incorporate into his industrial media operation.

On the other hand, Yahya/Oktar is also a garden-variety loon.

After 20 minutes of sound checks, Adnan Oktar made his grand entrance. He’s a burly man with slicked-back hair and a carefully trimmed beard, and he wore his trademark white suit with a black T-shirt. Oktar was gracious throughout our hourlong interview, but the weirdness of the evening quickly emerged. When I asked how so many evolutionary biologists could be wrong, he replied, “We need to talk about the Masons’ role because Masons manage the world through a scientific dictatorship.” When I suggested that scientists would be surprised to hear this, he said that’s because the Masons’ “essential characteristic is that they act secretly and they are invisible.” Meet Harun Yahya. Steve Paulson – Slate Magazine Oct.21.2009

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Do Particles Bounce?

Deepak Chopra, the new age maven, regularly contributes to the Huffington Post. Today, he starts out with this:


This year, the world celebrated Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. But now that all the backslapping is nearing an end, it may be time to reflect on where things really stand. When Darwin finished writing “Origin of Species” in the fall of 1859 — exactly 150 years ago — the theory of evolution became part of the Newtonian world picture. However, since that time, major puzzles of mainstream science have forced a re-evaluation of the nature of the universe that goes far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined.

I’m trying to fathom Chopra writing his opening paragraph and not feeling as if he is about to fling into the Huffington winds something both patronizing to Darwin, and, something idiotic. Alas, to the tune of cash registers ringing, Chopra takes his insights seriously. No, this spiritual advisor to Oprah is onto to something with his colleague, Robert Lanza: the spiritualization of solipsism! Via quantum mechanics!!!

Science obviously investigates what it is able to investigate. There’s no move to re-evaluate the nature of the universe, when nature is posed as a lumpen “nature” in the way that Chopra means, and has meant in the past. Still, Chopra is playing a deceptive word game here too. He actually believes science is quite incapable when it comes to the re-evaluation he’s on about.


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Christina vs. Stupidity

Christina aka ZOMGitsCriss k-rina, is Romanian; is forthright; is an ax-wielding heroine. I wouldn’t volunteer to sharpen all of her many axes, but I’d take the stone to the anti-creationist axe.

The Origins of Stupidity

How to Be a Good Creationist In Five Easy Steps

More Christina – below the fold.

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Favorite Humorists

Using Google alerts, the philosopher Bradley Monton drifts on my radar screen with increasing regularity.


He’s a philosophically-minded proponent of the validity of the motive behind the “research” program of Intelligent Design. Also, his work is unintentionally really amusing. Too, I would count myself as a proponent of my (and the,) motivation to find humor, especially unintentional humor, in odd places. For consistent howler potential, ID is second to none.

His paper, Is Intelligent Design Science? Dissecting the Dover Decision (pdf), is worth a close reading for amusement’s sake.


My position is that scientists should be free to pursue hypotheses as they see fit, without being constrained by a particular philosophical account of what science is.

There are lot of hypotheses a scientist or someone else could pursue. What constraints a researcher enforces and suffers under are necessary to an eventual credible claim of verification or falsification. But, what this has to do with a philosophical account of any kind is not a question Monton pursues in his paper. Presumably, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but, we’re still waiting for a cogent entry in the philosophy of ‘supranatural’ science able to issue constraints on ID researchers.

Don’t hold your breath. Still, it would be neat to learn of a philosophical account which unpacks ID’s primary posit: ‘biological systems were designed because their a lot like designed stuff.’

Monton’s paper approaches his four points of contest sideways in each of the four instances.

His kick off is remarkable:

I do, however, have specialized training which will help me to answer the question of whether ID counts as science.

So does ID count as science? I maintain that it is a mistake to put too much weight on that question.


If our goal is to believe truth and avoid falsehood, and if we are rational people who take into account evidence in deciding what to believe, then we need to focus on the question of what evidence there is for and against ID. The issue of whether ID counts as “science” according to some contentious answer to the demarcation question is unimportant.

So it is that his specialized training is inadequate to the task of peeling the onions of a demarcation problem. Whatever the answers are to the demarcation problem, one would have to demonstrate their unimportance, and this is irrespective of their being contentious. I do know you wouldn’t take your car to a mechanic who appealed to their own authority and then next told you, “But, I’ve had it with engines!”

Yet, Monton then goes into, sort of, his hollowed out version of the demarcation problem. It’s more funny then reasonable.


I will now argue that it is counterproductive to restrict scientific activity in such a way that hypotheses that invoke the supernatural are ruled out. Specifically, I will argue that it is possible to get scientific evidence for the existence of God. The scenario I am about to describe is implausible, but there is nothing logically inconsistent about it. The point of the scenario is that in the described situation, it would be reasonable for scientists to postulate and test the hypothesis that there is supernatural causation occurring.

I have a better suggestion, why not entertain a plausible scenario? Give it your best shot. In any case, his scenario is riotously funny.

If one works through the rest of his oeuvre, his basic position on ID is clarified: ID hasn’t been proven impossible. In a sense, his paper’s argument is unintentionally ironic: ‘my arguments here may be specious, but this doesn’t mean that better arguments are impossible!’

Amazingly, google alerts turned up more intellectual anti-matter. Via Denyse O’Leary’s Post-Darwinist blog, I came to listen to two interviews with another philosopher, Angus Menuge. He’s given the podcast treatment by The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin: (1) Agents Under Fire: Part One With Angus Menuge; (2) Rebutting Methodological Materialism.

Menuge. . .much more amusing than Monton, and Monton is very amusing. On one hand, Menuge and Luskin indulge in canard-a-rama. Incredibly, the tornado whirling through the junkyard is revisited in a different guise. On the other hand, Menuge folds in a vague and very extreme picture of a hyper-positivist materialistic naturalism, adds in a fuzzy reference to an irrelevant fault line in the field of theory of mind, dribbles in a riff on downward causation, and then battles the super dooper straw man so conjoined of those disparate and completely unjustified parts. Or, to be more accurate, Menuge doesn’t articulate any justification or reasons why this category mash-up is germane to his vague argument. Maybe it was enough that the argument impressed fawning Luskin.

However, having brought up downward causation, he could at least have speculated about what the import of an over-arching designer is in the context of a particular, well-defined and operationalized system, for which the conceptions of both upward and downward causation are justified and thus may be deployed.

More Menuge.. Is Menuge a young earth creationist?

As always, my consul with respect to proponents of ID is brute simple: please, start theorizing the operations of the designer’s agency, so your movement (or research program,) can quickly depart the long discredited agenda of trying to overturn naturalistic biology, and, trying to subvert the demonstrable efficacy* of natural science.

IDers, you really do not require philosophers and their philosophical accounts. If you do, best to find some brilliant, less funny, ones.

*It would be world-shaking at such point that any ID biologist verifies a single, ‘starter,’ hypothesis.

William Dembski in 2005:

For ID to win the day, however, will require talented new researchers able to move this research program forward, showing how intelligent design provides better insights into biological systems than the dying Darwinian paradigm.

Close, but not close enough. Better: showing how intelligent design provides better understanding of the development of biological systems. Tis most of the ball game–riding on the better replacing the merely good.

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via Ron Chusid, from an interview of Rush Limbaugh by Matt Drudge.

Context: a full skeleton of an early presumed primate, Darwinius masillae, was discovered (story@Pharyngula; This is an important new fossil, a 47 million year old primate nicknamed Ida. She’s a female juvenile who was probably caught in a toxic gas cloud from a volcanic lake, and her body settled into the soft sediments of the lake, where she was buried undisturbed.

RUSH: Drudge had as a lead item up there this morning on his page a story from the UK, Sky News: “Scientists Unveil Missing Link In Evolution.” It’s all about how Darwin would be thrilled to be alive today. “Scientists have unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a monkey hailed as the missing link in human evolution.” It’s a one-foot, nine-inch-tall monkey, and it’s a lemur monkey described as the eighth wonder of the world. “The search for a direct connection between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom has taken 200 years – but it was presented to the world today —” So I guess this is settled science. We now officially came from a monkey, 47 million years ago. Well, that’s how it’s being presented here. It’s settled science. You know, this is all BS, as far as I’m concerned. Cross species evolution, I don’t think anybody’s ever proven that. They’re going out of their way now to establish evolution as a mechanism for creation, which, of course, you can’t do, but I’m more interested in some other missing link. And that is the missing link between our failing economy and prosperity.

Chusid believes this clip from the interview pegs Limbaugh as a creationist of some sort. The Rush-o-saur has never gone on record about origins. He may be against evolutionary biology in a doctrinaire sense, but his riff here is just ignorant in five different ways. “you can’t do”!!! LOL

That there is a doctrinaire non-argument against any research result that is employed anytime evolutionary findings hit the table, probably has something to do with the perceived offense given by biology to the varieties of foundationalism which infect anti-Darwinists. The idea being that human morality just can’t issue should there be found links to monkeys.

This monkey business constitutes a kind of memetic thread that peaked with the 1960 movie Inherit the Wind, the movie about the 1925 Scopes trial. (The movie followed by five years the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee.)

As far as the origins of morality goes, it’s a fascinating problem for paleo-social-anthropology. I’d be surprised were I to learn Limbaugh is a young earth creationist, yet from that particular foundationalism human morality is worked out via the fall and the wisdom of patriarchs, and a bit of incest.

I wonder what the Rushster would answer if asked ‘what are the origins of conservative morality?’ Probably his answer would be appallingly ignorant…too.

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Why Music?, appearing December 19 in The Economicist, summarizes some of the theories evolutionary anthropologists have been floating to explain why music is a pervasive feature of human life.

In reading this article about subject matter I am long acquainted with and, moreover, about a question I have recently focused upon, I saw how the treatment circles back to a previous posting here about the fault line drawn between evolutionary and social anthropologists in the academy. (We post-anthropologists, being heuristic whores, simply see poorly sighted researchers fondling the part of the elephant nearby.) This divide seems clear enough in pondering the biological fact of sound organization, and, the function of music in a social context.

These two concerns, twin concerns if you will overlap:

A second idea that is widely touted is that music binds groups of people together. The resulting solidarity, its supporters suggest, might have helped bands of early humans to thrive at the expense of those that were less musical.

The evolutionary conceit requires function to advantage selection, or, as Stephen Pinker would have it, a function can also be equivalent to detritus if it implements no clear advantageous function. The rejoinder from the side of culture obviously stands on the ground of functionality being–at least–clearly advantageous to, well, culture.

The article is decent enough, and, the comments are also worthwhile. As is the usual case, some of the comments express various ideas of ‘folk’ anthropology, or how the uninformed necessarily look at the subject. My own view is that those informal views figure into it too in the sense that they are self-reports of the value of music.

The uncredited (online) author of the article ends with a weird and untrue assertion:

The truth, of course, is that nobody yet knows why people respond to music.

Actually, the truth is that neuroscientists understand all sorts of stuff about the effect of music on the brain. These insights don’t answer the entire question of ‘why,’ yet they answer the necessary mechanical half of the question.

See Dr. Daniel Levitin on this, and, don’t read his two excellent books-check out the audio book (Amazon) equivalents with their audible samples.)

The other half can be approached by asking people why they respond to music. Right? (The phenomenologists day is never done!) Obviously, this real time inquiry can’t address the departed subject, but there is no lack of secondary and tertiary material.

There is a third interdisciplinary move too: which is to admit into the field of consideration esoteric, yogic, meta-physical, perspectives and flesh out a primary supposition concerned with the integral vibrational nature of, as it were, the inside and the outside. On a gross level, this can be approached simply by blocking one’s ears so as to become more acutely privy to what the body is sounding all the time. Try this if you never have before. There’s no reason to exclude such suppositions from research focused on higher conceptual orders of musical life because those suppositions are explicit features, are facts discoverable in all sorts of cultural instances and locations, such as the Berber and Gnawa cultures in North Africa.

(There are some reference suggestions over at the Rhythm River complex; see Resources.)

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Dr. Brian C. Melton, Assistant Professor of History at Liberty University, writing at the web site Intellectual Conservative, Human Origins and a Side of Fries: Refuting a Popular Neo-Darwinian Position.

[A] A prime example of this appeared in Expelled, when Dawkins expressed a willingness to accept evidence of cellular intelligent design if it came from aliens, but not if it implied that God existed. While there is manifestly less proof to support the idea of extra-terrestrial life than a supernatural God, the general concept at least fits in with Dawkins’s naturalistic biases, and so he finds it acceptable. Evidence has nothing to do with it.

Brian, the word evidence meaningfully appears in your sentence [A] in two instances: (1) accept evidence if it came; and (2) not [accept] if it implied.

Evidence does have something to do with the difference between its coming from or coming about, and, its pointing toward some implication. But how to research the mechanics of the designer’s biological agency?

The ID crowd argues furiously in favor of this latter implication, that a designer is implied by inferences drawn from the current evidence. Yet, they understand that their understanding as much is impossible to demonstrate within any naturalistic verification methodology, (eg. science,) given the requisite supernatural causation and its mechanics or miraculous (pre?) mechanics.

So, marching off in the direction of “creation science” and post-science, why is it the proponents of creationism get so exercised by science when ID’s verification can’t even exist within the scientific framework?


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