Cake
• My sky friend is better than your sky friend. Science says so.

• If you look at how perfectly situated our planet is in the solar system, you know that our planet is perfectly conditioned for life. If it was a little bit closer to the sun, we'd all burn. If it was a little bit further away, we'd all freeze. We are perfectly situated for life. Right in that crucial habitable zone. Given these factors and looking at the mathematical odds, I don't think it's crazy at all to think that there might be a divine hand in play here.

Truth be told, if I'm just doing cold calculating mathematical odds, I'd prefer to put my money on there being a God then there not being a God and that we all just by luck and random fortune are here. You seem to deny the fact that without God there must be random luck and chance involved. I'm curious why you seem to deny that.

You want to make it sound like you don't believe it was random and by chance. That there was an orderly, systematic, rationale process that got us here. But then, if that's the case, what are the odds of that happening without something overseeing the process that knows what's going on?

There are various anthropic principles dealing with exactly that, though. Basically, even if there's just a 1 in a million, or a billion, or whatever slim chance of this planet in this solar system being in the correct spot to be able to sustain life - we can only ponder these probabilities and wonder about how rare they are exactly because this planet is where it is.

If this planet was in a different spot, then we wouldn't exist and couldn't discuss how this planet is "just right". However, with billions of suns in our galaxy, and billions of other galaxies out there, I'm sure that the probabilities are just high enough for some planet orbiting some sun to be in the correct spot for life.

• Here's my biggest issue with the theory evolution: You can't test for it. Science is something that you can test and observe. We simply cannot observe evolution happening at a macro scale because if it were to happen, it have to take billions of years.

Darwin observed that birds in the Galapagos Islands had different beak sizes, which of course proves that birds and other animals within their own kind can adapt and pass on beneficial genetic traits to their offspring.

But, that doesn't mean that something can evolve into something that it wasn't previously. E.g. that a non-bird can become a bird. That's a pretty big leap.

When you really step back and think about the theory of evolution as many scientists teach it, it is a pretty mathematically nutty theory to believe in. Just the mathematical odds seem to be astronomical that life could start as micorganisms and that if you give it enough time, you get what we get now with the right conditions. Mathematically, it seems really difficult to believe in.

Now, as @Factotum points out, the counter argument to that is that in a universe with billions of planets, billions of stars, galaxies, and solar systems, doesn't it stand to reason that one of them would sustain life and that hello, we just happen to be products of the one solar system and planet that got it right? It's possible, but going back to my earlier point, mathematically, the odds are really super, astronomically low of everything lining up perfectly. That's why many smart, intelligent people believe in a God. They look at the math and probabilities and think God is the more rationale answer.

So, ultimately, we all have to admit, whether we are religious or not, that none of us know for certain how all of the diversity of life got on this earth for certain. It takes faith to believe in God and it also takes faith to believe that this all happened without God. Because at the end of the day, none of us saw it unfold. None of us were there. Hence the debate.

• One other thing I should add is that part of the complexity factor is the complexity of consciousness. I took John Searle's Philosophy of Mind class at UC Berkeley. One of the most fascinating classes I ever took. After taking that class and learning about how complex consciousness really is. I have a very hard time seeing how that can arise through purely evolutionary means with no God involved.

Something like Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment would in fact be a good thing to discuss going forward, if we want to talk about complexities and consciousness. I don't completely agree with all the conclusions drawn by Searle regarding that, though.

If anything, Searle seems to argue that something that has the appearance of a complex consciousness can be built without actually having that complexity - which means that it could come up without some entity that is even more complex creating it being the necessary conclusion.

• Yeah, Searle's whole thing is that syntax isn't sufficient for semantics. That's the whole point of the Chinese Room argument. I actually agree with his conclusions on that. He's basically arguing that there is an essential essence to consciousness that is missing from even the most amazing and sophisticated AI.

He doesn't think we can't ever find it, but he doesn't think it's been found out/tapped into yet. He thinks people are going about defining consciousness in a totally different way and that the AI community is going down the wrong path a bit in terms of discovering the essence of consciousness.

• Speaking of my Anthropology class at Foothill College, we watched this video made by Stanford students who visited the Galapagos Islands in 2009. It turned me on to the song '93 til Infinity by Souls of Mischief.

I don't agree with all the conclusions of the video, but I still like to turn it on from time to time. Takes me back to my days at Foothill.

• David Berlinski, David Gelernter, and Stephen Meyer had a really interesting conversation broadcast by the Hoover Institution at Stanford about why they all doubt the theory of evolution from a scientific, philosophical, and mathematical standpoint.

David Berlinski holds a PhD in philosophy from Princeton and taught English, philosophy, and mathematics at Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York, and the Universite de Paris. David Gelernter holds a B.A. in Hebrew Literature from Yale and a PhD from Stony Brook University and currently is a professor of computer science at Yale. Stephen Meyer holds a B.S. in physics and earth science from Christian Whitworth College and a PhD from Cambridge University in England.

All three guys are very intelligent and accomplished from an academic standpoint. They articulate their points very well and make really good arguments for why they find Darwin's theory to be mathematically impossible. There are of course people on the other side who are also very accomplished academically who disagree with them.

To @Shewmaker's criticism of @cvdavis, I think there needs to be an acknowledgment from people on both sides of this debate that very intelligent people can come to different conclusions in response to life's biggest questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? What is our purpose in life? Where do we all come from?

I've sensed from @cvdavis a bit of a mocking tone towards those who cast mathematical, philosophical, and scientific doubt on Darwin's theory. Rather than more mockery that lacks substance, I would interested in a more substantial refutation of the arguments put forth by Berlinski, Gelernter, and Meyer.

So far, I haven't seen much of a refutation and more of an attitude of "Well it's so obvious, but you are clearly not interested in knowing the truth, so why should I bother with you?"

I've said I'm open to learning more and seeing arguments from the other side. Now is your chance to show those arguments and/or at least give me a few links/articles that might change my mind or at least give me more appreciation for the other side.

• That's why many smart, intelligent people believe in a God. They look at the math and probabilities and think God is the more rationale answer.

It is midnight in Australia, I'm off to bed, please think about the arrogance of the statement above.

Then think about the fossils that have been found and their part in the evolution, and the stupid evolutionary scientists that have found links between fish and birds.

• @RussP With all due respect, I said above that there are very smart people who come to very different conclusions on this. As I said earlier, one of my favorite professors firmly believed in the theory of evolution. Great guy. I loved his class.

I didn't call anyone stupid who sees this issue differently than I do. How is it arrogant to say that there are smart people who believe in intelligent design? I would be very curious to get your thoughts and reaction to the Hoover Institute conversation posted above as well.

They go into the fossil record, the complexity of amino acids, the complexity of the cell, and why these they respectfully believe Darwin's theory is mathematically impossible. You are of course free to conclude they are arrogant and/or wrong. I didn't start this conversation hoping to convince people of one side over the other.

Lastly, I personally found @cvdavis to be rather arrogant and mocking towards my position, so I was getting a little defensive in my responses. I'm all for disagreements and having diversity of opinions. But I'm not cool with mocking a certain point of view without bringing substance to back it up.

• I've said I'm open to learning more and seeing arguments from the other side. Now is your chance to show those arguments and/or at least give me a few links/articles that might change my mind or at least give me more appreciation for the other side.

For what it's worth, I don't feel the need to watch an hour worth of people advocating intelligent design just to "get a chance to show arguments". If you want, I can post random YouTube videos as well, but that won't help anyone.

• Only one of the three guys believes in intelligent design. What they’re united in is their mathematical challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. That’s the title of the video.

You by no means have to watch it, but others might find it to be interesting. That’s why I shared it. I wasn’t sharing some “random YouTube video.”

As I said, what I’m for is sharing our ideas with each other in a respectful and thoughtful way. This is the mission of Cake! 🎂

• As I said, what I’m for is sharing our ideas with each other in a respectful and thoughtful way. This is the mission of Cake!

Actually, that mission explicitly is "to help [us] have better conversations" - and I feel that linking to YouTube videos and trying to make other people search for potential arguments that they are then supposed to counter, instead of bringing them up yourself, does not really make this one a better conversation.

So, my last post was more a general critique of this conversation style. If you think that there are valid arguments hidden in that video, why don't you provide them for whomever wants to refute them?

• One quick appendage to this: David Gelernter talks about at the end of this video how in the academic community, there is no attitude of free speech on the matter when it comes to Darwinism. That if you question Darwinism, you get greeted with very bitter, jaded, violent, and angry rejection.

It seems like we've seen some of that come through in this thread. I'm curious to know why that is? Why can't there be a more open, civil debate about this particular topic?

Gelernter laments the fact that intelligent design doesn't get taken more seriously in science and that it too often gets quickly discarded by those who refuse to believe in God. And on the flip side, he finds Darwinism is hasitly believed by those who are looking for something to fill the void left by having no religion in their lives. That Darwinism has become more of a religion and less of an acceptable scientific theroy.

While he himself doesn't believe in intelligent design, Gelernter thinks it is a perfectly legitmate scientific explanation that should be taken seriously and examined thoughtfully as opposed to being violently dismissed as a form of close-minded bigotry.

I found that to be a really interesting take on the matter. Thoughts?

• "As I said, what I’m for is sharing our ideas with each other in a respectful and thoughtful way. This is the mission of Cake! 🎂"

And with that I heartily agree!

On the other hand I struggle with this: "While he himself doesn't believe in intelligent design, Gelernter thinks it is a perfectly legitmate scientific explanation that should be taken seriously and examined thoughtfully as opposed to being violently dismissed as a form of close-minded bigotry.

I found that to be a really interesting take on the matter. Thoughts?"

How can the argument for "intelligent design" be a "scientific" explanation when it offers no clue to the origin of the "designer"?

And why would an Omnipotent Intelligent Designer create and empower the chaotic, randomly cruel universe we appear to inhabit?

• I'd be happy to provide those as a comment right now if you'd like. Maybe that would help. I also above provided some interesting thoughts from David Gelernter as well. So, for those who aren't interested in watching the video, but would like to get the main bullet points, I will provide those below. Also, I'm only interested in thoughtful responses that sincerely are interested in having a conversation around this topic. If you are one who wants to dismiss this all out of hand and call me stupid, probably better to refrain from leaving a reply.

#1. Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances. E.g. Changes to fur density, or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can explain the big picture. Not the fine tuning of species, but the emergence of new ones. Darwin's theory can be appealing because it explains big things by generalizing little things. The problem is it makes the assumption that the same mechanisms of natural selection that account for those small adjustments accounts for why we see the diversity of life that we do today. Why there are fish, birds, dogs, cats, insects, sheep, etc.

#2. Darwin's Origin of Species was a well argued book. The problem is it was well argued based on 19th century evidence. Not from evidence that we learned in the 20th and 21st centuries.

#3. Darwinian evolution is gradual, step by step. Yet in the Cambrian explosion of around half a billion years ago, a wide variety of complex life suddenly emerged in the fossil record over 70 million years. Much quicker than what Darwinian evolution would expect. Mathematically, it doesn't jibe with Darwinian evolution at all.

#4. Darwin's biggest problem is in the realm of molecular biology. Generating a new protein is essential to generating new forms of life. Generating a new protein means inventing a new gene. It's like giving a computer new code to program something new. This means the Cambrian explosion was an explosion in new genetic code and proteins. An explosion of biological information.

This is a realm of biology that Darwin didn't know anything about giving his 19th century knowledge. Darwin didn't understand or know how complex cells are and the process by which new genetic information is created and passed on.

This creates a mathematical problem that Berlinski calls the "problem of combinatorial inflation." As the required length of the protein molecule grows, the number of possible combinations grows exponentially, lowering the odds exponentially of a random search finding the right combination to create a new genetic code/protein. Among this huge array of possible combinations, the number of combinations that produce a useful protein is exceedingly rare. This means the odds of randomly producing a useful new genetic code that would produce a useful new mutation by which Darwinian evolution is founded on, is astronomically low. It's just really difficult from a mathematical and probability standpoint to imagine random mutations leading to enough functional mutations to give Darwinian evolution legs. This is something Darwin simply didn't know due to the setting that he was living in.

#5. They discuss whether or not it's simply a matter of just having enough time. If you play the game of chance enough times, you're bound to win eventually, right? They felt that the amount of time and the age of the earth actually works against Darwinian evolution being possible. That we haven't had nearly enough time for it to be successful if that is in fact how it all went down.

Combining points #4 and #5, they feel that it is mathematically impossible for Darwinian evolution to be true. Mathematically absurd, to be blunt. They use the example of monkeys at a typewriter. No matter how many years you give them, you know they aren't going to type out Shakespeare. This is their take. If you are interested in this, you can watch the video and they provide exact mathematical calculations that hash this all out.

#6. Mutations. In order for a new brand of organism to be created, a mutation must affect a gene that does its job early and controls the expression of other genes that come into play as the organism grows. Evidently, there are no examples of mutations that we know of that affect early development and the body plan as a whole and are not fatal.

What this means is that in order for a mutation to create a new species, it has to get in there really quick before an already existing species is created. We have not seen any mutations that get in there early and create a new species. From what we've been able to observe, every time a mutation gets in there early and affects early development and the body plan as a whole, it's fatal to the organism. Mutations either come too late and don't change the fundamental nature of the organism or they come too early and kill the organism. That's the issue. Mutations that would be necessary to make Darwinian evolution work would quite paradoxically kill the very organism that it is trying to mutate and change. I hope that part makes sense.

#7. Only Stephen Meyer embraces intelligent design among the group. David Gelernter can't accept it, but he thinks intelligent design is a legit scientific explanation that should be taken seriously and not dismissed out of hand. David Berlinski says he is warm, but distant towards the idea. Meyer's thesis is that whenever we find information (in a section of computer code, a paragraph in a book, etc.) the ultimate source is always a mind and not a material process.

Berlinski doesn't really give much of a reason for why he can't embrace intelligent design.

Gelernter's basic issue with intelligent design is along the lines of the problem of evil. I.e. If there's a God, why such a broken world?

That said, Gelernter is frustrated with how easily dismissed intelligent design is in the world of academia and the way in which it is dismissed. He feels intelligent design is absolutely a serious scientific argument and needs to be treated as such. He feels the rude, disrespectful, and bigoted way that intelligent design often gets rejected and the passionate way that Darwinism gets defended, without being put through rigorous scientific tests does great harm to the scientific community.

He feels there is no free speech on this topic and that people angrily go after people who question Darwinism in a way that is anti-science. As if Darwinism is their religion. Because if it was a matter of science, he feels people would be much more open to critically examining it.

"Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency religion for the many troubled souls who need one." -David Gelernter.

#9. They brought up the problem of consciousness, something I mentioned earlier. That is, how do minds arise from purely evolutionary processes? That I think is a really compelling question that Darwinism has no answer for.

#10. They had a discussion about whether or not Darwinism would fade and if ultimately, Darwin will be more strongly refuted in time.

"Darwin now poses a final challenge. Whether biology will rise to this last one as well as well as it did to the first, when his theory upset every apple cart, remains to be seen. How cleanly and quickly can the field get over Darwin, and move on? This is one of the most important questions facing science in the twenty-first century."-David Gelernter.

They all think the theory needs to die out, but they seem to think it will take some time. One comment made by Stephen Meyer was interesting to me. He said that Darwinism takes a bottom up materialistic approach and intelligent design has the opposite approach. That is, Darwinism tries to explain the origin of everything by saying things started as very basic, simple organisms and out of that came the diversity of life while intelligent design believes that everything started thanks to complex intelligence that was intentional. He believes those who believe in a materialistic/bottoms-up approach will continue to believe in one, though he doesn't think it will always be Darwinism.

Meyer also thinks the Darwinian mindset is holding science back and that if more scientists could embrace an intelligent design mindset, that could lead to more scientific breakthroughs. Which makes sense if you believe in intelligent design. If we are are a product of intelligent design, then such design should give us clues of as to how the world works and how science should be used.

Anyways, I think that's the meat of it. Hopefully you all found that to be interesting and worth reading in case the 50 minute video is too long for you to watch. I also hope this shows that there are well-reasoned, rationale arguments out there in support of intelligent design and that one doesn't need to believe in Darwinism in order to have valid scientific and philosophical opinions.

• Thanks for sharing your story. Somewhat similar thing with my mom. She was dying and knew I was not a believer and generally knew a lot more things than she did. She had a feeling I might be right but didn’t want to know about it for fear it’d take away the bit of hope she had. I certainly didn’t want to take away that hope to a person I loved dearly and there really was no point. There’s definitely a reason religious beliefs have been so successful as they know all the fears we have.

• That's what being humans really means.. we are not machines, but aspire to "perfection" whatever that is defined as is quite disputable. But in the end, what does really matter? I think it does. And that there is a truth, quite universally valid. Most important, we need to know how, when and where to use the truth but first we must recognize and know it.

• Interesting and worth reading? Yes.

But so much is unknown that any conclusion is ultimately dependent upon Faith. I do not consider myself to be an Atheist because I cannot prove to my own satisfaction that there absolutely is no god. I am not a Theist either, as I cannot satisify myself that god, in fact exists. So that leaves me in the camp of the Agnostics, waiting for more evidence to emerge from scientific inquiry.

• If I try finding God within my soul, I always succeed, and some days and times quite a lot. Where that happens is usually in the psychical realm, and not in the physical one, though the latter favors the former more on some days. But if I scientifically analyze facts, I never find any supporting evidence. The church thing? Not so much..

• Random and chance are key ideas that are often misunderstood by religious people for whatever reason. The only thing that is random are the mutations. Nature then ‘selects’ mutations that work or at least don’t make the organisms so bad it’s unable to survive and reproduce. Nothing about what ends up being passed to the off spring is random. What characteristics or appendages and such that are created as a result of this is not random and doesn’t happen by chance. I’m not going to waste my time explaining that as it’s been written many places and is readily available for a lay person. I’ll also note that my once gf had a general science degree yet couldn’t explain evolution. University bogs too many students down in the minutiae of evolutionary details and generally fails to get students to truly understand what it is and how it works. Clearly it failed to educate you on the basic details of it as is clear by things you say. Sounds like your views were then further influenced by intelligent design discussions or readings.

I have read about 7 or 8 books on exoplanets and a lot of shorter things about them online. Statistical analysis of what we’ve found so far suggests there is an average of about one planet per star in the habitable zone. That means about 200,000,000 planets in our single galaxy alone that is likely to be in a Goldilocks zone like earth is. We aren’t even considering the possibility of life on habitable moons or life that is different from ours and doesn’t need to be in the habitable zone. Now multiply that 200 billion number by another 200 billion. Massive massive number wouldn’t you say? That’s the estimated number of planets in the habitable zone in our visible universe. To think earth is somehow special when you think of numbers like that is really a joke. Nothing special about Earth at all. Still cool that we are conscious and can reflect on the universe but not special.

First science took away earth from being at the center of the solar system or universe. Then science showed us the heavens was not perfect and immutable. Then science took away our unique galaxy. Then science took away humans elevated status in the animal world and among sapiens. Science continues to chip away at the domains of religion and will continue to do so. Doesn’t mean that people will read the science or care to accept it.

• Cosmology has answers to the question of how something comes from nothing or the vacuum of space. Answer is there if you want to read about it.

• We can and do test for evolution. Scientists have also seen new species develop in a relatively short period of time. A new species of fish evolved in just three or so years. Special conditions of changing water temperatures due to a volcanic eruption if I recall correctly. Macro evolution has been observed and not just micro evolution.

You’re also ignoring what the fossil record shows us. Look up superposition. It’s what you’d expect to find if evolution were true - which it is.

• The same way that science can speculate about a multiverse or a prior universe which supplied the energy and matter which supposedly produced "The Big Bang."

Scientists are constantly speculating about unfalsifiable concepts.

• Scientists are constantly speculating about unfalsifiable concepts.

Speculating is not the same thing as asserting something as true. Are you just speculating about your religious beliefs?

• You've said multiple times that there's no evidence of an organism giving rise to a radically different organism. You said this:

All that we can observe in science is that bugs remain bugs, birds remain birds, dogs remain dogs, whales remain whales, fish remain fish, etc.

Correct me if I'm misinterpreting, but based on what you wrote in point #6 it seems like you're hung up on the idea that a single mutation or possibly a combination of mutations happening simultaneously causes a completely new species. In other words, somehow a radically new species different from its parent arises in a single breeding cycle. I haven't ever heard an argument for that. If that were to happen, it would likely be an unviable embryo. Or sterile and unable to reproduce.

Now, back to your quote above, regarding evolution of radically different organisms. It's quite simply not true. Consider birds. This has come up on Cake before (one of your own conversations, actually) but birds haven't always been birds - they were dinosaurs. Theropods specifically, which is the family of dinosaurs that velociraptor and tyrannosaurs belonged to. The ones that eventually became birds were likely some of the smaller theropods. If you want to see an example of a bird that resembles those ancient ancestors, look up the cassowary. Look them up and see what they're like if you're not familiar. Even within the bird family there is already huge variation due evolution happening separately in diverse environments. Contrast for instance a cassowary and a hummingbird. Cassowaries are quite large and flightless. Hummingbirds are tiny and have essentially lost the use of their legs. They can walk, but as a form of mobility they might as well not be able to. Penguins technically have wings, but they're useless as wings. They don't even fold up like the wings of other birds, even flightless ones. The kiwi is in the process of losing them completely - they're only about an inch long and completely hidden underneath their feathers. There aren't any birds today that have teeth, but their dinosaur ancestors did. Ichthyornis had a beak in front and teeth in the back. But modern birds have a gene that deactivates the formation of teeth.

Given sufficient time and need to adapt to environmental challenges, why couldn't one of our modern birds eventually become unrecognizable as birds today?