William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Why Americans Left Christianity And Became Nones

The title of the Pew report which we’ll discuss is “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind”, though, as you can see, I modified it. For good reason. The original Pew survey from which the nones were discovered, according to their “methodolgy” (nobody can say just “method”, which doesn’t sound as sciency), of the religious only 5% were of Non-Christian faiths. So when we talk about Americans leaving religion, we mean for the most part folks leaving “organized” Christianity.

In this new survey, Pew asked nones—which were 23% of the original survey of adult Americans—why they were nones and not somethings. Numbers first.

r47

Numbers don’t look like they add up under “Don’t believe” for Agnostics, but since this survey is meant to represent all American adult nones, we’ll just add the error (if it is one) to the overall plus-or-minus. Anyway, there aren’t any surprises in the overall numbers. What’s far more interesting are the reasons people gave for their disbelief.

Pew asked “people to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identify with a religious group. This resulted in hundreds of different responses…but many of them shared one of a few common themes.” The themes are in these pictures, and follow the same headings as the Numbers, and my remarks follow the comment order.

r48

r49

Don’t believe 49%

Evolution is no disproof of Christianity; not orthodox Christianity, anyway. Yet many think it is, which shows how far scientism has infiltrated the culture. Evolution, incidentally, is an observation. How evolution occurred requires a causal explanation, about which there is plenty to argue over. But one thing is clear, since (as we learned Sunday), our minds (our intellects) are not material, then any theory of evolution involving physical forces necessarily fails to explains the rational nature of human beings. If anything, evolution, then, is a direct proof of God’s existence.

True, all Christians do un-Christian things; yet so do non-Christians do un-Christian things; the difference being Christians recognize un-Christian things are sinful. Beware the hypocrisy fallacy.

The next four comments show the influence of scientism. That it came to be believed that Christianity is irrational is itself the result of irrationality. There is plenty of evidence for Christianity, much of it scientific evidence at that. For instance: miracles, the resurrection of Jesus, observable, measurable and therefore scientific events.

The last excuse “I’m doing a lot more learning, [etc.]” is unintentionally hilarious, because why? Because who wrote the books this individual is reading?

Dislike organized religion 20%

I would hope organized religious groups are divisive. If they are not, then they are not groups. Groups by definition are divisive. Anyway, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.”

That religion left some people and people haven’t left religion (the next two points) is true enough. Who doesn’t cringe when they hear Joel Osteen speak? The man says he preaches Christianity, but it’s not orthodox Christianity, which leads to the question of just how far removed from orthodox Christianity are many who claim to be Christians? Is Mormonism a true branch of Christianity?

The juxtaposition of the last two comments, about the clergy sex abuse scandal and the Church’s teaching on same-sex acts, is a puzzler. The sex abuse was largely carried out by men “oriented” toward young men and teenagers, and for a small part “oriented” toward children. Yet this “orientation”, which the Church calls intrinsically disordered, is supposed to be made welcome. You have to pick one or the other, folks.

Religiously unsure/undecided 18%

No particular religion is right or wrong? So, Satanism is okay? Baalism? Clintonism? This excuse is used by many, and it proves they haven’t given the matter any thought, and that they’re just happy to be done with Christianity.

The other explanations back this up. Spiritual-but-not-religious is a growing segment. The sort of people pleased to give woo-wooo or Kabbalism a try—hey, it might work. Why not? Once a religion comes along that promises what these people want to hear, they’ll snatch it up.

Inactive believer 10%

In these last three comments, we see the effects of banal worship. If all going to Church is for is to socialize or be part of a community or hear a pep talk or to listen to the ear-tingling words of a personality then Christianity is drained of transcendence and it’s no wonder people move on. Countless “reformers” want to simplify simplify simplify to attract the masses to mass because they think Heaven-directed worship is scary and off-putting, so they opt for man-centered beliefs.

Summary

There is no sense nones will do anything but increase, and Christianity decrease, particularly as a growing segment of the culture views Christianity as “hateful” and “discriminatory”. Nones will get their way, but as I often say, they’ll miss Christians when they’re gone. The ancient warning “Be careful what you wish for” is rarely heeded.

67 Comments

  1. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matt 7:14

  2. I guess my contention that evolution is designed, either purposefully or coincidentally, to get rid of God has been scientifically verified by this poll (though polls are not actually science, they’re marketing). So now I have science on my side!

    Excellent point on the sex abuse scandal and then supporting homosex. Once the line of male/female is removed, there are no lines. Like it or not. Just as you can’t be both right and wrong at the same time, you can’t remove a line and draw a new one in its place arbitrarily. Either sex is between a man and a woman or it’s not. If it’s not, then it’s anything we want it to be and all forms are acceptable.

    Actually, most of these people are not Christian, but they are not “nones”. They have new religions like global warming or whatever. It’s just not the traditional religions, as Briggs notes. And why not? If you can call two men married, you can certainly call global warming a religion.

    Going to church for socialization and the church as a money machine has been going on for centuries. Nothing new there, either. Except now the “holier than thou” people think they have discovered something new and unique and in true modern style, protest it as if they are the first to discover some of the realities of religion. In true modern style, they pretend it matters and then do nothing but ignore the problem. The church foolishly sells out and goes along with it, losing even more members in the process.

    Indeed, be careful what you wish for. You may get it. Something fills the void of lost religion—either a new, more violent one (as in the muslim religion currently), a gang, alchohol, drugs, a dictator, etc.

  3. “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”
    Luke 18:8

    Sounds like the religion business has loyalty retention and product problems. The question is why isn’t anything being done?

  4. Briggs —

    If someone “leaves” their religion due to the public, in a general sense, condemning its teachings, did they really have faith to begin with?

    In other words, would a true believer accept an eternity in Hell simply because his neighbors frowned on his beliefs?

    Something to think about.

  5. Here’s what Jewish scripture says about “church” and “religion”:

    ? Jeremiah 31:31-34

    ? 31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD,
    that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,
    and with the house of Judah:
    ? 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers
    in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
    which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
    ? 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
    After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts,
    and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    ? 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour,
    and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD:
    for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them unto the greatest of them,
    saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity,
    and I will remember their sin no more.

    New Testament

    1 John 2:27

    … the anointing you received from him abides in you,
    And you have no need that any one should teach you;
    As his anointing teaches you everything, and is true,
    and is no lie, Just as it has taught you, abide in him.

    Too much consideration is given to “Church”es or “Religion”

  6. Doctrinal arguments between Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic and yes even Mormon are so small compared to the shared knowledge of Christ’s redemptive power.

    Christian Churches are alive and growing in many parts of America. It is mostly in the Urban wastelands of the nihilists that one finds many Nones. In the small town where I live in the South, the Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Nondenominational churches are packed with believers and seekers. People are hungry for Truth.

  7. Here’s a verse you won’t often hear Joel Osteen quote:

    Matt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

    Osteen’s net worth is reported to be $40M. He lives in a 17,000 sq ft home worth $10.5M. Osteen and his ilk (he has a very large ilk) are sellers of the g
    Gospel. Their motto could well be “I’ve got good news for you, but it’s strictly cash on the barrel head.” With friends like this, Jesus doesn’t need enemies.

  8. BrianH,

    The wealth on display at the Vatican makes Olsteen look like nothing. Glass houses, stones, etc…

  9. Nate

    The Vatican wealth does not belong to Bergoglio. The Osteen wealth does belong to Joel Osteen

  10. The Hypocrisy Fallacy: If You Don’t Do What’s Right, I Don’t Have To Either! (ref: http://wmbriggs.com/post/7781/ )

    That was mentioned relative to, ‘Too many Christians doing unChristian things’ as the reason for leaving Organized Religion; which is the general case of abusive clergy [specific example]. That reason is NOT the ‘hypocrisy fallacy’.

    When enough members of a group violate the group’s standards of conduct with impunity, it is not hypocritical to reject that group. That’s what those particular responses addressed — that prospective and ex-members of an organized religion rejected that group because too many members were hypocrites. That indicates they held themselves to a higher standard:

    NOT The Hypocrisy Fallacy: If You Don’t Do What’s Right, I won’t join your group and by so doing will behave right without being tainted by association with you.

    For those that went further to reject faith entirely (“don’t believe”) because of the misconduct of the participants, that’s really no different than observing people use a product, be it a pill or a diet or a faith, and observe from the results the product keeps not working. For some reason, believers have no trouble applying that logic to diets and tangible products…but keep on ignoring the absence of any results, and the considerable prevalence of hypocrisy that ought not be occurring at all if the faith really worked.

  11. It is perfectly rational to believe in god. It is also perfectly rational to not believe in god. I am of the opinion that if god is there, he is more involved with something other than my views of him.

    Bifurcation is a awesome tool for tactical decisions. It isn’t such a great tool for strategic decisions. Too many reference frames to get in alignment.

  12. Ken —

    I tend to see it from the other direction.

    When researching a Christian writer, I found many comments similar to this, “I would be a Christian if it were not for X.”

    But that is no different from me stating, “I would believe one plus one is two if it were not for Professor Y.”

    To claim you can discount Truth due to the source makes no sense.

  13. @brad tittle
    I am of the opinion that if god is there, he is more involved with something other than my views of him.
    More involved? Perhaps, but even a little involved makes one wonder about the nature and depth of the involvement. And what if “more” is highly involved? And if involved, not also interested?

    Hypocrisy abounds, so maybe a church (a community of flawed believers seeking God) is the place for a hypocrite to recognize the inconsistency … and do something about it. Consider the first century church at Corinth to whom the Apostle addressed several letters. They had severe issues with hypocrisy, yet are called brothers in Christ when they adjusted their thinking and behavior.

  14. I get a kick out of people who say, if there’s a god he’s got better things to do than worry about what I think of him–yep and he’s doing those things also; he’s got time.

  15. In other words, would a true believer accept an eternity in Hell simply because his neighbors frowned on his beliefs?

    Certainly not if he were programmed correctly! (Wait a minute–tell me again how we came down on whether the brain is actually a computer).

  16. “When enough members of a group violate the group’s standards of conduct with impunity, it is not hypocritical to reject that group. That’s what those particular responses addressed — that prospective and ex-members of an organized religion rejected that group because too many members were hypocrites. That indicates they held themselves to a higher standard.”

    Unfortunately, the ‘group’ in question is humanity, and also unfortunately, more and more of humanity don’t know what the standard of conduct are, and don’t want to know. It’s more the case that Christianity will help one to deal with the effects one’s failure to live up to the known standards will have on his relationship with God and the cosmos, and, one hopes, over time to sin less.

    It’s odd, because I’ll bet more baptized Catholics commit murder or adultery every year than diddle with altar boys, and yet it’s not seen as a marker against the Church that some of her members commit murder or adultery. It’s just known that the Church teaches that murder and adultery are wrong and …
    Wait a minute, the Church teaches that diddling with altar boys is wrong, too, and when confronted with that knowledge in the particular case, acted ashamed of it, and shuffled the perpetrator off somewhere else. The New York Times doesn’t teach that diddling with altar boys is wrong, and is more outraged that the bishop didn’t do more than he did about it. Of course, the bishop doesn’t do anything about the murderers in his diocese either, and if he had them hanged or imprisoned them for life, the New York Times would be all over him for infringing on separation of Church and State. I would love for one of the major news organs in this country to come out with a straightforward editorial position that is in indisputably wrong for adult men to commit sodomy with teenage boys. None will, of course, but they all will continue to excoriate the Church for hiding activities they don’t think are wrong.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 1, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    When enough members of a group violate the group’s standards of conduct with impunity, it is not hypocritical to reject that group.

    So does this mean we should reject male homosexuality, or that homosexuals do not have standards of conduct in this area?

    Or does it raise the question of what is meant by “enough”?

  18. scientific evidence at that. For instance: miracles, the resurrection of Jesus, observable, measurable and therefore scientific events.

    Ok, I’ll bite. Prove it. Please.

  19. I liked John B()’s words from the New Testament.
    It reminds me of the hymn “Abide With Me”
    Katherine Jenkins sings a beautiful version of it.

    Church organisations are held to a higher standard, and so they should be, than individuals because there is a reasonable expectation from everybody that moral standards within the structure of the church is paramount.

    If a solicitor does not conduct business to the letter of the law he IS held to a higher standard than a member of the public. If power of attorney is abused
    the solicitor goes to prison. The member of public who is pOA is simply removed from the register unless a crime has been committed.

    Same for bank managers who take money or who don’t conduct their own affairs with honesty.

    Churches or any organisation are subject to negative aspects of group dynamics.
    They absolutely should be held to a high standard because morality is their business. This relies on each individual within it to be taking care of their own conscience. Whatever malpractice goes on is not to be considered the same as when it occurs in a non religious setting. Not because the sin is any different but it is viewed differently. Like the elite sportsman who cheats by taking drugs.
    He is a hero. He must live up to his reputation.

    To apply the clear logic to say that people shouldn’t have weaker faith because someone important commits a terrible crime or sin presupposes that all people who belong to or attend a church have faith that is strong. Some have no faith but a strong sense of the importance of the values, traditions and hope one day to have faith let alone as strong as the vicar or priest they see before them. They absolutely do have a duty of care to take care of their own conduct for this reason.

    There was a case of a female vicar (and I’m not pushing that idea) but heard a touching and remarkable story of one who lost a niece or nephew who was murdered. She had to give up, leave the clergy because she knew she could not forgive the killers and realised at once what this meant. If she could not do the thing which she was preaching this ran very deep.
    This was the kind of honesty which has become so rare now when it seems people will do anything to cling to their power and prestige.

    She set an example to the chief of police who wouldn’t let go, the politicians who these days won’t let go to save their honour.

    She should be awarded an MBE.

    But the media still can’t be trusted despite their obvious duty of care.
    Perhaps because media is the new Vicar, people adopt the same mentality.

  20. Ken: Faith doesn’t “work”. It’s not a mechanical device or any such thing. One cannot just “get it” and suddenly become a model citizen, etc. It is never perfected on earth. You show no understanding of what “faith” is.
    Would you insist marriage is not a good idea since many fail at it? How about parenting—people beat the tar out of their kids and even kill them. So “parenting” should be rejected because people fail at it? It obviously doesn’t “work” or we wouldn’t have thousands of abused kids and screwed up adults. So pitch it out? (How many bad cops are needed before we give up on policing?)

    acricketchirps: Great comment!
    (Your first one.)

    Richard A: Also a great comment. Some sins are “acceptable” to the public, some are not. Right now, sex with anyone under the age of consent is a no-no, but adult incest, homosexuality and even beastiality are legal and accepted in some places. (Just Google terms if you doubt this.)

    obiwan: Can’t prove anything to people who define which events they accept as “proof” and which they do not. Kind of like arguing with a global warming believer—if it’s not in agreement, it’s not real and can be dismissed. If you are willing to admit we have no proof of evolution, the Roman Empire’s existence, etc, okay. We can’t prove anything in ancient history except that which left behind actual physical proof, like the pyramids. Otherwise, it’s all just guesses. Of course, then, we can prove virtually nothing.

  21. “Is Mormonism a true branch of Christianity?” Well, yes. As a Mormon myself, I feel an obligation to defend my faith. I feel especially obligated to defend my religion from those who ought to be our friends and allies. It’s been my experience that those who have doubts about whether Mormons are Christian are deficient in one or both of two areas: either they don’t know much about Mormons, or they don’t know much about the Bible.

    Knowledge of the Bible first. Mormons aren’t amazing about knowing the Bible well, but we’re pretty good:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

    So if we’re comparably more familiar with the Bible, and also comparably more likely to stick with our faith, then that seems to indicate something about the Bible’s compatibility with LDS theology.

    As for knowing Latter-day Saints, well, there aren’t THAT many of us (about 6 million in the US, maybe 15 million worldwide). We also cluster in the Mountain West. So there’s not always an opportunity for other Christians to know Mormons well before they decide whether or not Mormons are actually Christians.

    It’s also interesting that more educated Mormons are actually MORE likely to be religiously active:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2009/07/24/a-portrait-of-mormons-in-the-us-religious-beliefs-and-practices/

    More educated Mormons are also very solid on the traditional Christian beliefs and behaviors. We believe in the resurrection, the creation (we have very sound thinking on the compatibility of faith and reason), and the possibility of miracles. We are taught when we’re young that the “natural” cannot comprehend or explain the “spiritual”, or the “supernatural”. Darkness does not comprehend light.

    One last point in this long, rambling apologia. Mormonism is HARD. A faithful Latter-day Saint is expected to tithe faithfully, and tax records verify that we do comparably well. We all serve in our congregations, often many hours a week, sometimes even in pastoral positions which would be considered full-time work in other faiths. We serve missions, and we’re not talking a couple of weeks over a summer. An LDS mission is 2 years for the boys and 18 months for the girls, and that is a solid 12 hours a day, unpaid (in fact, we pay our own way, or are supported by donations from our congregations), for the duration.

    So, Mormons are, on balance, well educated, hard working, familiar with the Bible, and demonstrably faithful to the truth claims of the New Testament. I’d say yeah, by their fruits, Mormons are a true branch of Christianity.

    P.S. Briggs, I love the blog, and hope this bit of defense is not offensive.

  22. Briggs said:
    “Evolution is no disproof of Christianity; not orthodox Christianity, anyway. Yet many think it is, which shows how far scientism has infiltrated the culture. Evolution, incidentally, is an observation. How evolution occurred requires a causal explanation, about which there is plenty to argue over. But one thing is clear, since (as we learned Sunday), our minds (our intellects) are not material, then any theory of evolution involving physical forces necessarily fails to explains the rational nature of human beings. If anything, evolution, then, is a direct proof of God’s existence.”

    Ho hum! The ideological lobby group will continue to sell this scientistic Snake Oil in about any package they can conjure up. The mere fact that it is scientifically and logically impossible and its devastating effects on culture and reason is plain to see is irrelevant to these ideologically committed party hacks.

    The assumption that the World and all that’s in it are on an inescapable path to self-improvement and self-perfection is such a powerful drug that any inane, vague, and even just plain silly rationalisation of it is assumed to be self-justified by its compatibility with the superstition.

    There is no observational “evidence” for the assumed capacity for “Evolutionary” self-improvement that will stand detached (shall we dare say “objective”) scrutiny. It is always and everywhere observations that are interpreted by the assumption to “prove” the assumption. Yet we are treated to this kind of “brilliant” “explanation” that assumes that the scientistic dogma is true so we’ll have to invent ways to make it “work”.
    “Evolution, incidentally, is an observation. How evolution occurred requires a causal explanation, about which there is plenty to argue over.”

    Your cunning sleight-of-mind, Mr Briggs, is just a sales-trick. “Evolution” (neither physical nor metaphysical) has ever been observed; but evolution (that things gradually change (or “unfold”) but always and only in the direction of entropy) is always and everywhere observed.

    The kind of consummately vague “intelligent design Evolution” that you and your mates peddle implies that Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnibenevolence doesn’t know what He’s doing and has to undergo a “learning experience” blundering through a succession of trials, tweaks, and improvements.

    Either way (by “Theistic Evolution” or Materialistic Evolution) Modernism (both secular and “theological”) must assume the “Evolution” paradigm or dogma.

  23. Wow, this is a new low.

    “Evolution is no disproof of Christianity”

    It is a disproof, and on a few levels. For one, we now know we are all made of the same stuff as everything around us. There is nothing novel in us. We are simply organized differently. The study of evolution also disproves many of the stories in the Bible.

    And no, there is no proof of miracles or resurrection or any crazy, crazy, crazy nonsense like that.

    “True, all Christians do un-Christian things”

    Yes, and making underhanded arguments is among those things.

    “The next four comments show the influence of scientism.”

    A made-up assumption about what other people think.

    “Because who wrote the books this individual is reading?”

    Does that matter? Do you think Exxon is funding anti-Christianity research?

    “I would hope organized religious groups are divisive.”

    We know. ISIS hopes so too.

    “Is Mormonism a true branch of Christianity?”

    To Mormons it is. It does fit along nicely with the rest of the silliness.

    “The juxtaposition of the last two comments, about the clergy sex abuse scandal and the Church’s teaching on same-sex acts, is a puzzler. The sex abuse was largely carried out by men “oriented” toward young men and teenagers, and for a small part “oriented” toward children. Yet this “orientation”, which the Church calls intrinsically disordered, is supposed to be made welcome. You have to pick one or the other, folks.”

    This is disgusting. You’re saying sexual behavior between consenting adults is the same as pedophilia. You must be drunk.

    “No particular religion is right or wrong? So, Satanism is okay? Baalism? Clintonism? This excuse is used by many, and it proves they haven’t given the matter any thought, and that they’re just happy to be done with Christianity.”

    No. These are just people at the ecumenical buffet. It’s just a broader buffet than you have. Surely you do not follow every tenet of your faith.

    Christianity will not be gone anytime in the foreseeable future, but there’s one thing you can count on and that is change. Your religion, Briggs, has changed in many, many, many ways over the centuries.

    JMJ

  24. it I s a disproof, and on a few levels. For one, we now know we are all made of the same stuff as everything around us. There is nothing novel in us.

    What?! Bible says we’re made out of the other stuff around us. “Slime” in some translations–Which I take to mean primordial ooze–possibly through some unmentioned intermediate steps–or some such junk. This is excepting our rational soul for which the Bible uses the metaphor of God’s breath. I was unaware that because of evolution we now know that our souls are made of the same stuff as everything else.

  25. Jersey,
    I rest my case. You have inadvertently shown it excellently.

    Another example of your “brilliant” illogic is your complete failure to explain just why sexual homophilia is “acceptable” and sexual paedophilia is not. Surely, if Materialistic “natural selection” is the criterion then the strong take what they like and the weaker are consumed in the relentless competition.

  26. Chirpy,
    I must say that I was somewhat amazed by your essentially reasonable observation. I do hope that I’m not mistaken.

  27. “There is plenty of evidence for Christianity, much of it scientific evidence at that. For instance: miracles, the resurrection of Jesus, observable, measurable and therefore scientific events.”

    Really? I must have missed the unequivocal scientific proof of these things. We have replication, I hope. Better not be relying on wee P values :p

    I have no issue with people being religious, but why the need to say religious miracles have been scientifically proven?

  28. Bulldust says:
    “I have no issue with people being religious, but why the need to say religious miracles have been scientifically proven?”

    Now look, cobber, before you get all carried away with your nondescript recriminations against “religion” you will need to define “religion”. I know of a very general definition of “religion” that will not suit your prejudice.

    I suspect that your definition of “religion” is pretty exclusively just about how “Bible-believing Christians” fancy themselves.

  29. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 2, 2016 at 7:22 am

    The assumption that the World and all that’s in it are on an inescapable path to self-improvement and self-perfection

    I thought you were talking about evolution. But since evolution is not an inescapable path to self-improvement, you must be talking about something else.

  30. swordfishtrombone

    September 2, 2016 at 8:03 am

    @ Briggs: “Evolution is no disproof of Christianity”.

    It is if you claim a version of evolutionary history where God has tampered with evolution by giving us a ‘rational soul’ (whatever that is) or ‘immaterial intellect’. AFAICT, most if not all of your regular Christian commenters disagree with you by disputing evolution in one way or another.

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 2, 2016 at 8:13 am

    “Evolution is no disproof of Christianity”

    It is a disproof, and on a few levels. For one, we now know we are all made of the same stuff as everything around us. There is nothing novel in us. We are simply organized differently.

    Since the way matter is organized is called “form” or (for living beings) “soul,” and it is the form that gives a thing its powers, you are arguing that humans are the same, only different. This is a breakthrough? After all, a stone is made of the same stuff, too, only organized differently. Surely, there is not only a difference between a stone and Aunt Matilda but an important one. Evolution, in fact, is simply the change over time of how a group of organisms is organized. This no more disproves that we should love God and our neighbor or that we should feed the hungry and clothe the naked — or even that the author cannot write himself into a story — than does electromagnetism. Even a literalist will tell you that God formed man out of clay; and the divine act consisted of God “breathing” a rational soul into the base matter. The medievals classified man as an animal. (Note that Genesis puts animals and man into the same category (day) of creation.) So folks have always been aware that we are made of the same stuff, only formed differently.

    This is disgusting. You’re saying sexual behavior between consenting adults is the same as pedophilia.

    No, he was saying that the clergy scandal consisted largely — about 80% — of homosexuals engaged in “chicken-hawking.” This is virtually the opposite of the case in the general male population, where the targets are overwhelmingly female. Pedophilia (sexual attraction to pre-pubescents) was no more common among the priests and monks than among the male population in general. The homosexual priests focused on “chickens” (teenagers ), not children, but not every homosexual priest was a chicken-hawk.

    Darwin is not mocked. What in the course of biological evolution enables one to recognize legislation as regards consent and the age of it? At one time, the age of consent was 14 (for men). When I was a yngling, it was 21 for both sexes. Now it is 18. Evolution doesn’t work that fast, does it? Therefore, from a purely materialistic point of view, what basis is there for men attracted to other men to recognize a cut-off point in that attraction? And if they can be expected to exercise restraint (via their supposedly non-existent free will) as regards the age of attraction, then why can they not exercise it tout court?

    The same thinking applies to Humbert Humbert.

  32. YOS,
    I thought you were talking about evolution. But since evolution is not an inescapable path to self-improvement, you must be talking about something else.
    Exactly. The error in the debate always has been ascribing motivation to mechanism.

  33. JMJ: Again, confirming my contention that the MAJOR and long-standing purpose of evolution was not science, but to throw out God. People argue elsewhere that’s not true, that’s not why evolution was pushed, but then the true believers jump in and affirm this. Thank you for adding evidence to my contention that evolution is merely an attempt to remove God, not necessarily science at all.
    Sexual behaviour between consenting adults IS the same as between adult and child. Sex is sex. ALL other interpretations are MORAL judgments on the part of the speaker. You hate that, because you love homo sex and hate child sex, but having one demands you have both. Consent is irrelevant and always has been. YOU want your way. Pure and simple. Nothing more.
    Religion has not changed over the centuries, the practice of it has. Much like the enslaving progressives now hold that government that was originally founded on individual responsiblity and individualism is wrong and whining dependence on government is now good. However, before America, there were kingdoms and dictatorships. Those by your own definitions had to be bad and America good. Now America is bad and enslavement is good. Your own worship of government is so convoluted, it’s no wonder you don’t understand reality. Plus, you don’t want religion running the country and yet it does in many places and you love government. Your world seems to be unicorns and fairies.

    Bulldust: Again, you must not believe in ancient Rome, the big bang, etc. All are unobservable. They are believed on the basis of some historical record and an unprovable theory in science that is based on circumstantial evidence. There is an historical record of Christianity and plenty of circumstantial evidence, but you toss that out. You’d do well in global warming—toss the data you don’t like.

    swordfishtrombone: How can God tamper with evolution if He doesn’t exist? If He does exist, and He created the earth, he wasn’t tampering. Humans have a faulty theory. You have elevated Evolution to Godhood. Again, thank you. You make my point. (As for Briggs commenters disagree with him, thinkers are allowed to disagree among themselves. Nonthinkers just spew out the memorized “party” line, be it evolution or whatever. I am constantly amazed at how many people believe that disagreement disproves an idea. It proves thought. It is a way to learn. Not questioning or disagreeing is called stagnation.)

    YOS: Good question on how pedophiles can be expected to exercise restraint and homosexuals cannot. We all know the answer, of course.

  34. Surely, there is not only a difference between a stone and Aunt Matilda but an important one.

    And yet, oddly enough, Auntie M does look remarkably like Charlie Watts.

  35. Oldavid:
    1) No, you ARE correct to be amazed if I say anything reasonable.
    2) Chirpy??!

  36. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    The error in the debate always has been ascribing motivation to mechanism.

    That’s right up there with the error of conceiving of nature as a mechanism; but you have the heart of Aquinas’ “fifth way.” Since there is no intention in nature, the observed finality of natural laws must come from outside nature, “and this all men call God.” This is assuming that by ‘motivation’ you mean ‘purpose.’

  37. Religiously unsure/undecided 18%
    No particular religion is right or wrong? So, Satanism is okay? Baalism? Clintonism? This excuse is used by many, and it proves they haven’t given the matter any thought, and that they’re just happy to be done with Christianity.

    So, what particular religion is right? Let’s hear it!

    What is Clintonism? Is there Trumpism? I doubt the respondents have Clintonism or Satanism or Trumpism in mind when answering the survey questions.

    Does it really prove your claim?

    There is no sense nones will do anything but increase, and Christianity decrease, particularly as a growing segment of the culture views Christianity as “hateful” and “discriminatory”.

    Interestingly, as a growing segment of the culture views Islam as “hateful” and “radical” and “violent” and whatnots, Islam is one of the fast growing religion in the United States.

    God’s will shall prevail, shan’t it?

  38. JH: “I doubt the respondents have Clintonism or Satanism or Trumpism in mind when answering the survey questions.” Perhaps they should have.

    “God’s will shall prevail, shan’t it?” Of course. Though not in the way people may think.

  39. Some good examples of twisted logic to preserve a viewpoint:

    @ Jim Fedako: “I tend to see it from the other direction. …“I would be a Christian if it were not for X.” But that is no different from me stating, “I would believe one plus one is two if it were not for Professor Y.” To claim you can discount Truth due to the source makes no sense.”

    FLAW — The arguments JF presented do make sense in general terms and in certain contexts, but are unrelated to the point I made, and the reasons those rejecting religion or faith, express: It is NOT the “source” of a “Truth” from which the influence comes (“if not for Professor Y”), it is the evidence, or the absence of evidence, arising from the “Truth” itself that is compelling

    Consider Briggs’ typical view on the matter — presented from his [imagined] atheist’s perspective:

    “…this man [who lacks faith in deity and by extension the morality arising from that deity] will reason that if nothing matters, whatever he does is without moral consequence. He might do anything.” (see: http://wmbriggs.com/post/19496/ )

    In other words, believer-Briggs asserts that:

    A) absence of belief in God means morality is relative an an unbeliever is thus unconstrained from doing anything. [Though, crime facts refute this soundly] such a belief is widely held — as is the corollary:

    B) If one is a “True” believer, their belief will inspire & secure moral behavior (more than is observed in the non-believing population).

    A & B above say the same thing from different perspectives. Non-believers & those that reject formal religion because of the misbehavior they observe in oh-so-many-self-reporting-“Christians” is a logical conclusion — if the religion were really “True”/”Truth” so much immoral behavior ought not be occurring in that group.

    Because so much immorality is observed within a subgroup that, by its own logic ought to be comporting itself in a much more exemplary manner, a given religion (doctrine) is found suspect; when the religion’s administrative institution is observed to engage in willful protection of such immorality it becomes very easy to reject the Organized religion … and that sets up an easier path to rejecting the actual religion (doctrine).

    When a survey respondent remarks they ‘would be a Christian if it were not for X’ that’s the kind of analysis they’ve summarized in a pithy remark.

    NOW consider JF’s remark, “I tend to see it from the other direction” — that ‘tending to see it’ is not a natural perspective, but rather a choice. If True Believers truly believe (as Briggs asserts, typical of that ilk) that atheists are unconstrained by absolute morality because they don’t have such, and thus are unconstrained from misbehavior’s … at some point they ought to observe those misbehavior’s don’t occur any more than among Christian groups (maybe even less!) … those “True Believers” ought to observe their logic is fundamentally flawed. But this is passed off to another false rationalization, the atheists aren’t truly atheists, somewhere deep inside they wonder (that, depends on ignoring evidence from numerous landlocked pagan societies lacking any linkage to the “True” God and His correct morality…that is essentially if not identically the same morality — how do so many pagans come up with the same moral values???).

    Sheri doesn’t disappoint in presenting examples of such a highly selective logic twisting to maintain a particular belief, which ever more starkly illustrates the self-delusions being employed:

    S: “Would you insist marriage is not a good idea since many fail at it?”
    TWIST employed: Misdirection & scapegoating.
    Marriage is a contract between people (the tradition of dowry harks to the days when this had very substantial business facets) — the fact that many formalized relationships fail stems from some incompatibility between the parties to the contract (the ‘consignees to the contract’), not the marriage (the contract itself). Blaming the contract is scapegoating (avoids confronting individual culpabilities).
    This analogy is mostly irrelevant to the topic being discussed; all one can properly extrapolate from this is that caution & care in selecting who one contracts with (marries) is key — many religious institutions endeavor thru extended counseling to ensure that parties are compatible (this is to protect the religious sacrament attached via the religion — which is a distinctly separate & severable thing from the contract granted by the State). The weak analog is to choosing which religion to consider — and many observers conclude that none form a suitable partner (all are rejected).

    S: “How about parenting—people beat the tar out of their kids and even kill them. So “parenting” should be rejected because people fail at it?”
    TWIST: Reversal of hierarchy; scapegoating.
    Clearly some parents ought not be allowed near their children, they are unsuitable for the responsibility and for them they should reject the parenting role (and many do of their own volition). The parent is always culpable, not the abstract role of “parenting” — that’s the scapegoating mindset woven into this upside-down analogy.
    Religion is supposed to be for everybody (at least everybody with a soul). God (analog to “parents”) is the authority and ‘people’ (analog to “kids”) are subordinate.
    A parent/child analogy is that of children choosing, or rejecting, their parents — and for many, rejection by choice (running away) or force of the state (into foster care) is undoubtedly the best option:
    Objective observers considering a formal religion, or belief at all, are like kids with a choice…and many choose no formal religion [or faith] (i.e., conclude that being an “orphan” is the better deal, or if not better is at least no worse, so why bother with more…). Some, like R. Dawkins, argue that after weighing the pros & cons leads to the conclusion that all religions (aka all “parents”) should be rejected by all (“kids”).

    Note that a logical fallacy such as noted above involving scapegoating taken another short step leads to ‘blaming the victim’ — routinely by abusers who claim they beat their spouse because the victim (the kids) made them do it (beat the kids). One of the two big “As” in Christian history (Augustine or Aquinas) has writings about children/child-rearing that sure look like formalized excuses rationalizations for why children should be treated very harshly (if not immorally per religious authority, vicious to an illegal degree in every 1st world country). Not easy to find, but accessible on-line.

  40. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 2, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    if the religion were really “True”/”Truth” so much immoral behavior ought not be occurring in that group.

    Why? People might be in a group for a variety of reasons. Formal membership need not require deep commitments. But even so, recall the dictum that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. (Calvin felt differently, and most atheists are Calvinists, but that has not been the main current.)

  41. Ken never fails to run completely around the point. At least he’s consistent.

    Why is the parent responsible and not the abstract role of “parenting” but the abstract role of “religion” is responsible for every evil Ken sees in people who have religious beliefs? Seems it’s also okay to blame the Church for everything and ignore the human being involved, a form of “blaming the victim” with the Church as the scapegoat. It’s okay for Ken to scapegoat and move around the roles of various ideas, it seems.

    I’d address his arguments on marriage, but what’s the point? He will never admit marriage has a religious component—it’s “just” a contract. Except when it’s not.

  42. You’re still at it, YOS; trying to insinuate the illusion that the utility of the result is the cause of the result. This is such a cunning deception that I suspect that it is of diabolical origin.

    That an “efficient” cause be directed toward a purpose (final cause) does not in any way imply that efficient cause(s) are in any way “caused” by the effect, or purpose, or “final cause”.

    Your cunning con-job is an excellent example of assuming the ideology to “prove” the ideology. That you try to spuriously invoke good ole Tom’s excellent reasoning to bolster your ridiculous opinion is doubly damning.

    I have no doubt that you will not consider the implications of your assumptions or any criticism of them because it is in your political, social, and pecuniary interests not to do so. Kudos in the modern(istic) World is reserved to them who do not kick its Sacred Cows.

    To the other purveyors of spurious twaddle of the relativistic kind:
    So then, to the “consenting adults” or “consenting anyone” nonsense. What is the purpose of the “grooming” that sexual homophiles and paedophiles and other sexual predators engage in? To obtain the “consent” of their victims, surely.

    Now to the really ugly bit. Anyone who flicks on their telly, reads a “newspaper” or goes to school is being groomed to be a poofter, or an “excuser”, or an “enabler”.

    You don’t have to be a Catholic Priest to succumb but if you are a Catholic Priest you will be blamed.

    All this perversion (including in the Catholic Religious and Clergy) is the proceeds (wages) of the Brave New World/Everything!!!

  43. While we’re all being very convivial and chatty…

    YOS, I’ve just seen a new “avatar” thingy of the TOF-on-the-spot.

    You didn’t fall off your exercise treadmill and break your arm recently did you?

  44. Oldavid: I agree with your idea of grooming being going for consent. This is not really what those who approve of homosexuality and disapprove of adult/child sex (but often approve and enable 12 years to have nonconsensual sex with each other) mean. They foolishly argue that children can consent to anything.
    Consent is not a part of sex in the world ruled by evolution. There is no reason for consent. The only rule there is the two creatures mutually cooperate, or the male is larger and takes what he wants. Procreation is purely for the continuation of the species. Some people find applying evolution to humans results in things they don’t like, so they introduce consent to a “scientific theory” that lacks it in every single way. Nature never asks for consent.

  45. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 3, 2016 at 10:55 am

    You didn’t fall off your exercise treadmill and break your arm recently did you?

    No. I fell off the elliptical onto the treadmill. Fractured the humerus, though as I’ve told folks, it wasn’t especially funny.

  46. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 3, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Consent was an innovation introduced by the Romans and propagated by their Christian successors. In Germanic tribal law, the maxim was “the act makes the marriage.” That is, a man who lies with a woman has ipso facto married her. It also meant that a woman would be married to her rapist. Hence, the clans closely controlled access to their daughters.

    The Romans maxim OTOH was “consent makes the marriage.” That is, the man makes an offer to protect and provide and the woman would accept the offer (or not). You were married if you agreed to be married. To some extent, you were not required to perform the act: there are cases in which the couple took a vow to live chastely. This was an exception.

    Hence, the scandal of “woods marriages” in which the Germano-Roman descendants of the Volkerwanderung would perform the marital act “in the woods,” the man would promise and the woman would consent — and in the morning the man would shrug and say he made no such promise. The old he-said-she-said problem (which was not a problem when cooler-headed parents had made the arrangements for their hot-blooded progeny. This led to the custom of public announcements: the man must propose in public and the woman accept in public, before witnesses. (Notice that most of the marriage customs were developed for the protection of the woman against rapists, seducers and silver-tongued devils.)

    For most of the middle ages, there was a mix of Muntehe and Friedehe in marriages. Muntehe (honor wedding) was arranged by the parents for socio-economic reasons. Friedehe (joy wedding) was performed from a sense of love. Among the nobility, man and woman often did not even see their spouse before the wedding, since they were engaged in Muntehe. Peasants were more clever and often saw to it that their children played and grew up together, nourishing their mutual affections as they nourished their crops. That way, they could have a favorable marriage that enabled the combining of neighboring manses while still ensuring that the couple already knew and liked each other.

    Odd detail: wedding dresses in the medieval Germanies were yellow. I don’t know why.

    [Because tribal Germans had lived in longhouses with extended families, there was also concern over consanguinity due to proximity. Is you is or is you ain’t “kissin’ cousins”? Hence, the banns announced ahead of time and the last-minute call “if anyone knows of any reason why these two should not marry…”]

  47. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 3, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    That an “efficient” cause be directed toward a purpose (final cause) does not in any way imply that efficient cause(s) are in any way “caused” by the effect, or purpose, or “final cause”.

    Like most Moderns, you are reading “cause” as “efficient cause.” That’s not the way final causation works. When Aquinas called it “the cause of causes” he meant something very different: viz., that no efficient cause could be an efficient cause unless there was a “that-toward-which” about it.

  48. “like most moderns’
    more arbitrary binning. Skip it!

    “Odd detail: wedding dresses in the medieval Germanies were yellow. I don’t know why.”

    Here’s the most likely explanations:

    Dye cost and availability. (white fabric is bleached)

    Pure white and pure black didn’t exist. Black was very dark green.
    When black was worn it was by a monarch or clergy.
    red and purple were expensive.
    Purple was obtained from shellfish and was rare and expensive hence “imperial purple.” See youtube QI on purple for a laugh.)

    The movies have a lot to answer for with their technicolours which they were eager to show on film because they could and it was pretty but were not historically accurate.

    Non dyed fabrics would have been old hat, dull and not befitting of an important dress. So they chose yellow.! (yellow, such a tricky colour to wear.)
    Pink would have been better!
    but pink didn’t exist, Henry VIII era named it after the cloved pinks in the garden at Hampton court. All pink was called red until then.
    Which gives rise to another possibility that the Germans were calling natural undyed fabric ‘yellow’ which is really cream or ivory.
    (A better colour, actually, than yellow!)

  49. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 3, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    All pink was called red until then.

    Interesting stuff. The Russians distinguish two different blues: goliboy (sky blue) and sinniy (navy blue).

  50. swordfishtrombone

    September 4, 2016 at 8:24 am

    @ Sheri: “Nature never asks for consent.”

    We’re part of nature. In any case, have you never seen any animal or insect ‘courtship rituals’ on nature documentaries?

    @ Sheri: (Everything you said in response to my comment)

    I can’t make much sense of your comment. The only bit I understand is your suggestion that I’m making your point for you – the reverse is true: you are making my point for me by disputing evolution every time it’s mentioned.

    @ Sheri: “JMJ: Again, confirming my contention that the MAJOR and long-standing purpose of evolution was not science, but to throw out God.”

    Unlikely, considering that Darwin was a Christian and that he delayed publication of his findings for years because he was worried about its reception.

    As I’ve previously suggested, why don’t you try reading a book about evolution?

  51. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 4, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Unlikely, considering that Darwin was a Christian

    I had read that it was much more complex than that. He had fallen away from Anglicanism because he could not bear the thought that his beloved grandfather (iirc) was roasting in hell for his atheism — an example of the Modern fashion that our religions confirm us in the comforts of our inclinations rather than speak any truths to the power of our ids. In any case, a Christian is not something that you are, but something that you do, and Darwin’s formal membership in some de rigeur parish does not mean he was not embittered at what was then the official teaching of his church.

  52. swordfishtrombone: Read my comment again, this time what I wrote. My point was exactly what you are stating. If evolution is correct, and God does not exist, consent does not exist.
    “Consent is not a part of sex in the world ruled by evolution.” How can I be more clear?

    I am not disputing evolution, I’m separating the evolutionists rules from the religious ones. It’s quite obvious you’re not catching on to that. You are making my point that pedophilia is not wrong in an evolutionist’s world. It’s very straightforward. Would a graph or something to help? A pie chart?

    I have read books about evolution. Perhaps you should read books on religion and science. You’ll find al these things have something in common—people define them to be exactly what they want the idea to be, not what it is or was. That leads to a “Tower of Babl” effect in any attempt at discussion of the subject. You seem to be part of that particular phenomena right now. (You would have to be specific in which book you believe to be true and give me the title so I don’t accidently waste my time reading a view that contradicts yours.)

    It was not Darwin who initially pushed the idea that Evolution replaced God. However, Scientific American Feb 2009 has an article on Darwin giving up his belief in God because of the theory of evolution. He delayed publishing his theory on apes to man, this article says, because he was afraid of what his spouse would think, among other reasons.

    Another viewpoint:
    Or take Professor D.M.S. Watson writing in Nature magazine; “Evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proven by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.”

  53. swordfishtrombone

    September 6, 2016 at 8:19 am

    @ Sheri: “Consent is not a part of sex in the world ruled by evolution. How can I be more clear?”

    @ Sheri: ” You are making my point that pedophilia is not wrong in an evolutionist’s world. It’s very straightforward.”

    Clear and straightforward but also wrong. Where do you get these ideas from? Apart from the fact that courtship rituals in the animal kingdom are a type of consent, we are part of nature *and* a product of evolution ourselves – you can’t just dismiss the evolutionary basis of our moral ideas, we’re primarily a social species so the way we treat others is an aspect of us which is also a product of evolution.

    As to your quote from D.M.S. Watson, Wikipedia gives a good analysis of the quote, showing it is taken out of context and doesn’t mean what you think it means. It also points out that it is 80(!) years old and predates some of the most important developments in evolutionary science.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._M._S._Watson#Famous_quote

  54. swordfishtrombone: There is no evolutionary basis of morals. Morals don’t exist in evolution no matter how convoluted an explanation people create in feeble attempts at proving it. Social creatures practice cannibalism and violence in many, many species and it served humans well for centuries. There is no valid reason to believe morality came from evolution. Survival of the fittest is the only thing that drives any animal on this planet. Morality does not increase survivability as far as history would indicate.

    “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or is supported by logically coherent arguments, but because it does fit all the facts of taxonomy, of paleontology, and of geographical distribution, and because no alternative explanation is credible.” (Watson a la Wiki) The latter part of the statement is exactly what global warming believers argue. You do not have to have an alternative theory for a theory to be wrong, so it matters not. It’s not relevant in any way to the theory being correct. As to the “Watson’s quote is 80 years old”. Yes, things have changed in evolution in 80 years. Dinosaurs were possibly/probably warm-blooded, had feathers and, slightly O/T fossil fuels did not come from dinosaurs but krill and plants. Rock layers don’t actually tell us when an organism existed since things can happen to move fossils from one layer to another, voiding much of the “accuracy” of dating by position in the rock sediments. So besides never having been “observed to occur nor (my edit) is supported by logically coherent arguments” the “facts” it explained keep changing. So I guess things do change over 80 years—proving we know very little about which we claim to know.

  55. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 6, 2016 at 9:10 am

    Not to long ago I heard an old episode of Dragnet on the radio, in which an older man enticed a girl to run off with him. Sgt. Friday, naturally, found them and in the conclusion reported that “the child was returned to her parents.”

    The child was 19 years old.

    What evolutionary leap took us from regarding that as pedophilia to regarding it as consent? Was it similar to the earlier leap when the age of consent was raised from the traditional 12 (for women) and 14 (for men) all the way up to 21? IOW, what proteins formed by the DNA enable us to recognize those who may give consent and those who may not? The best I can come up with is those who can bear (or engender) children and those who cannot. In fact, that would seem the main reason why we have such laws to begin with: to separate the legal limit from the biological one.

    When the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa was 40, he married Beatrix of Burgundy, who was 12. Was this pedophilia? Contemporaries described her in adult terms — and interestingly, the couple’s first child was born six years after the marriage.

  56. Heh, I have to give you that one, Dr. Briggs, for it bothers me as well. To my old-fashioned sensibility, methodology would be the or a, depending, formal study of methods. When I wrote the three technical scientific reports that I have (one in a team and two as personal studies), I had a method section with the section head titled either Method if there was only one or Methods if there were more than one. I tried to be as rigorous and thorough in my language as possible so others could repeat my performance. [In my English Composition class at the University, the assigned technical paper was the only one where he judged it worthy of an A.]

  57. swordfishtrombone

    September 9, 2016 at 8:33 am

    @ Sheri: “There is no evolutionary basis of morals.”

    @ Sheri: “Survival of the fittest is the only thing that drives any animal on this planet.”

    We are animals, we are a social species and our morality is a consequence of that. We’re not driven by ‘survival of the fittest’, which is an incorrect interpretation of Darwinism anyway and indicates that you really don’t understand it at a basic level.

    @ Sheri: “Yes, things have changed in evolution in 80 years.”

    The main change in the last 80 years was the discovery of genetics and DNA, but your comments here are confused, such as:

    @ Sheri: “Rock layers don’t actually tell us when an organism existed since things can happen to move fossils from one layer to another, voiding much of the “accuracy” of dating by position in the rock sediments.”

    So out of the thousands upon thousands of fossils which have been uncovered or the mountains of DNA evidence or the observed occurence of evoluton ‘in action’ in nature or in laboratory experiments, not one piece of evidence has ever contradicted the theroy of evolution but according to you, our increasing understanding is somehow evidence that the theory is false?

  58. swordfishtrombone

    September 9, 2016 at 8:55 am

    @ YOS:

    I’m not sure if that is addressed to me but I’ll try and answer:

    Evolution is not responsible for the specific details of our morality, which as you observe have changed throughout history and will continue to do so, but it is responsible for the existence of morality in general.

  59. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 9, 2016 at 9:00 am

    We’re not driven by ‘survival of the fittest’, which is an incorrect interpretation of Darwinism

    Not quite. Darwin never used the phrase; but then he never used the term “evolution,” either, save in a few cases. He always preferred “descent with modification.”

    But what exactly is “natural selection”? It means that those organisms less fit for their niche tend to be squeezed out of the gene pool. It does not mean that the less fit necessarily fail to survive. Only that they will leave fewer descendants over the long run. Hence, those organisms that are better fit for their species’ niche tend to leave more descendants proportionately.

    The problem is that the process is inherently negative: it weeds out harmful mutations (i.e., most of them) and thus acts, as Blyth noted, to maintain species more so than to originate them.

    It also appears that animal instinct is more supple than the Revolutionaries gave credit. Imagination, which is a faculty of most animals, allows learning, even self-learning, in concrete situations — such as a dog striking piano keys because he finds the sounds enjoyable. This means that the niche is itself subject to a certain plasticity. A critter who is unable to make its living in the old way — let’s say by sucking nectar — because it has a fortuitously blunt beak may learn by trial and error to crack nuts instead and pass that technique on to its chicks.

    Botanists have more of a problem, since there are very few behaviors that plants can modify.

    not one piece of evidence has ever contradicted the theroy of evolution

    That’s because evolution is not a theory; it’s a fact. The theory is natural selection: every generation produces more organisms than there are job openings for that species; in their struggle for individual survival those who are better at the job tend to prosper; eventually, they will dominate the gene pool. That is: over-reproduction above the carrying capacity followed by massive die-off — “the vast majority,” as Darwin wrote.

    Now, humans are not observed at any time to have as many children as possible. Currently there is concern we are not having enough. Nor have we observed the vast majority of children dying prior to reproductive age (which is the only thing that matters). But this apparent contradiction does not bother anyone. You can try the experiment: tell a bunch of people that “research shows” that mothers invest more energy in their first-born and you will get a good adaptationist story of how that enhanced species survival. Tell another bunch that mothers invest more energy in their most-recently born and you will get a similar story showing how natural selection favors that strategy.

    That is why Popper included the theory among his “non-falsifiable” theories with Freudiansim and Marxism, although he was later pressured to recant. There is no conceivable trait or behavior of an actual species that cannot have an adaptationist story spun about it. This is because the theory is largely tautologous.

    Those species better fit for their niche tend to survive more often.
    How do we know they are better fit?
    They survive more often.

    That’s why genetics is a far more satisfactory theory, although even that is only part of the story. Populations with identical genomes can present very different phenotypes due to plasticity. And the famous drug-resistant bacteria did not emerge through descent with modification but by horizontal transfer of plasmids: that is, the drugs themselves induced the changes, which is closer to Lamarck’s theory of evolution than to Darwin’s.

    But after all, how many other mid-Victorian scientific theories are still on the table?

  60. “I don’t think there is one religion that is right or wrong.”

    Yet we are too believe that “rational thinking” is the foundation of a-religion.

  61. “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

  62. It’s a myth that religious people “fail” more. Overall they do live better lives in fact they even tend to have longer lifespans and less depression. Religiously observant people (as in those actually going to/belonging to a Church) have been shown to drink and smoke a lot less, are far more likely to wait until marriage then the general pop, more likely to get married and stay married, have more children on average I could go on….

    The problem with the “Church hypocrisy” argument is in what’s being compared. Generally speaking both religious and non-religious people think child molestation is wrong, this is why in both groups we find child abusers in more or less similar rates, (still a little higher for those who never attend church vs regular church goers). But take two groups of people, one which actually approves of child molestation and one which does not. Now which group do you think would end up with more molested kids? What I’m saying is the true test is to compare the behaviors on which religious and non religious people actually differ because if they both think something is wrong there really is no comparison. Of course it’s pretty much common sense that moral beliefs work, like I said, which society is likely to have more molested kids the one that staunchly disapproves of it or the one which celebrates it? Obviously the former but even still it would be asinine to expect that because a society preaches against molesting the kids that no kids would ever be molested all the shaming can do is minimize evil not eliminate it we all know this on a basic intrinsic level or at least should. Fact an Amish woman is far more likely to wait until she is married to have sex and dress modestly than some atheist hipster in Brooklyn, though I am sure some Amish women actually choose otherwise. Religious people and non religious people have different values, that sometimes overlap like in the case of child molestation, in these “overlapped” areas both groups exhibit similar levels of the bad or good behaviors, however in the areas where the groups do differ religious we can really see that religious people actually are doing better.

  63. swordfishtrombone

    September 11, 2016 at 9:43 am

    @ YOS: (Survival of the fittest) “Not quite. Darwin never used the phrase; but then he never used the term “evolution,” either, save in a few cases. He always preferred “descent with modification.”

    Whether Darwin used the term or not is irrelevant. It’s an incorrect interpretation because ‘fittest’ means ‘fitness for purpose’, not ‘fittest’ as in athletics (which many people get wrong) and it’s taken to mean ‘only the fittest survive’ when it’s more like ‘only the least fit don’t survive’.

    @ YOS: (Natural Selection) “The problem is that the process is inherently negative: it weeds out harmful mutations (i.e., most of them) and thus acts, as Blyth noted, to maintain species more so than to originate them.”

    That description avoids mentioning positive mutations. In any case, most mutations are neither inherently negative nor positive – are darker butterfly wings negative or positive? Depends on whether they’re sitting on a tree blackened by forest fire or not. As to Blyth, let me quote from NCSE:

    “A fellow Louisvillian, Muhammed Ali, once said, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Were he alive today, Edward Blyth would probably agree with Ali, and tell Answers in Genesis and other evolution obstructionists to quit quote-mining his earliest works to claim he opposed evolution. Unfortunately, Blyth is unable to prevent his considerable body of work from being misused by AiG.”

    @ YOS: (Description of learned behaviour)

    Irrelevant.

    @ YOS: (No contradictory evidence) “That’s because evolution is not a theory; it’s a fact. The theory is natural selection: every generation produces more organisms than there are job openings for that species; in their struggle for individual survival those who are better at the job tend to prosper; eventually, they will dominate the gene pool. That is: over-reproduction above the carrying capacity followed by massive die-off — “the vast majority,” as Darwin wrote.”

    Not this again! Try asking some (any?) of the Christian believers on here if evolution is a fact and I suspect you’ll not be best pleased by the responses you get. Having said that, your attempt to split evolution into ‘fact’ and ‘theory’ is misleading. (and something you’ve tried before with me) You could say the same thing about gravity: gravity is a ‘fact’ but Newton’s theory of universal gravition is *only* a ‘theory’. So what? The theory is a succinct statement of the facts – you could disprove gravity by finding an apple that falls up. Evolution is essentially a statistical theory anyway, like entropy.

    @ YOS: “Now, humans are not observed at any time to have as many children as possible. Currently there is concern we are not having enough. Nor have we observed the vast majority of children dying prior to reproductive age (which is the only thing that matters). But this apparent contradiction does not bother anyone. You can try the experiment: tell a bunch of people that “research shows” that mothers invest more energy in their first-born and you will get a good adaptationist story of how that enhanced species survival. Tell another bunch that mothers invest more energy in their most-recently born and you will get a similar story showing how natural selection favors that strategy.”

    I think you’ll find that infant mortality certainly has been the main cause of death amongst humans in the past so your ‘apparent contradiction’ is invalidated.

    @ YOS: “That is why Popper included the theory among his “non-falsifiable” theories with Freudiansim and Marxism, although he was later pressured to recant. There is no conceivable trait or behavior of an actual species that cannot have an adaptationist story spun about it. This is because the theory is largely tautologous.”

    LOL. Please, not Popper! He was a philosopher, not a scientist and his opinions are taken far too seriously. The fact that both Freudianism and Marxism have been falsified (most people would agree) shows that he was wrong 66.67% of the time in this example at least. As to it being ‘tautologous’…

    @ YOS: “Those species better fit for their niche tend to survive more often.
    How do we know they are better fit?
    They survive more often.”

    You’ve been reading too much Ann Coulter! I defer again to someone else: “There is simply nothing tautological (in the circular sense) about survival of long tail feathers. That “fitness” is intended to refer to specific characteristics is the core to understanding that SoF is not in any sense a tautology, because by observation we can, for example, establish that those arctic foxes with the densest fur survive to pass on that characteristic. Similarly in a changing environment we may note that in dry years it is the finches with the strongest beaks that survive, while in wet years those with the longest beaks are retained. Hence, instances of SoF are clearly responses to changes in the real world, and repeated failures to see the obvious reactions, would disprove SoF.”

    @ YOS: “That’s why genetics is a far more satisfactory theory, although even that is only part of the story. Populations with identical genomes can present very different phenotypes due to plasticity. And the famous drug-resistant bacteria did not emerge through descent with modification but by horizontal transfer of plasmids: that is, the drugs themselves induced the changes, which is closer to Lamarck’s theory of evolution than to Darwin’s.”

    Huh? Since when is genetics not part of evolution? The fact that the theory of evolution has been expanded and improved due to more recent discoveries doesn’t invalidate darwin’s theory and more than QM effects invalidate Newton’s theory of gravity.

    @ YOS: “But after all, how many other mid-Victorian scientific theories are still on the table?”

    Lots actually, including Darwin.

  64. swordfishtrombone

    September 11, 2016 at 9:50 am

    @ Eva: (on religious people) “Overall they do live better lives in fact they even tend to have longer lifespans and less depression.”

    Evidence? It would appear that lifespan has increased steadily as religious belief has declined. Also, what is meant by “better”?

  65. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 11, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    @ YOS: (Survival of the fittest) “Not quite. Darwin never used the phrase; but then he never used the term “evolution,” either, save in a few cases. He always preferred “descent with modification.”

    It’s an incorrect interpretation because ‘fittest’ means ‘fitness for purpose’, not ‘fittest’ as in athletics

    Of course, this is exactly what I said:

    @ YOS: “Those species better fit for their niche tend to survive more often.

    Of course, many folks claim that there is no purpose in evolution, so ‘fitness for purpose’ would seem to have no meaning. Of course, it would be well to ascertain what a person has actually said before chiding him for something he did not.

    @ YOS: (Natural Selection) “The problem is that the process is inherently negative: it weeds out harmful mutations (i.e., most of them) and thus acts, as Blyth noted, to maintain species more so than to originate them.”
    That description avoids mentioning positive mutations.

    Largely because the idea is vacuous. What is a “positive” mutation? It depends on what an organism is trying to do. Quite often, an organism finding itself with a mutation that ill suits it for what its ancestors had been doing will try out different behaviors — this is the ‘struggle for survival’, the efforts of living things to go on living — and the self-same mutation will become favorable because the bull’s eye has been shifted to make it so. The 17th century notion of instict has hard wired and immutable is simply not true. Animals can learn new behaviors.

    In any case, most mutations are neither inherently negative nor positive

    Exactly.

    As to Blyth, let me quote from NCSE: … Were he alive today, Edward Blyth would probably agree … and tell Answers in Genesis…”

    I do not know who NCSE is, not Answers in Genesis, but I do know it is easy to win a debate if you can make up what someone would “probably agree” to.

    @ YOS: (Description of learned behaviour)
    Irrelevant.

    Not so. Most mutations are neither inherently negative nor positive, as someone recently said. But they become so by dint of what the organism is trying to do. Those organisms that can learn can thereby turn a “mutation” into something favorable, not because fortuitously and against all odds “just happened” to be so, but because the organism is striving to survive and reproduce and will do whatever it takes.

    @ YOS: (No contradictory evidence) “That’s because evolution is not a theory; it’s a fact. The theory is natural selection:
    Not this again! Try asking some (any?) of the Christian believers on here if evolution is a fact and I suspect you’ll not be best pleased by the responses you get.

    Why should I care?

    Having said that, your attempt to split evolution into ‘fact’ and ‘theory’ is misleading.

    It’s also pretty standard distinction that even the positivists made in their three-fold distinction between facts, laws, and theories. Take “gravity” for instance. The facts are the actual motions of actual falling bodies — preferrably measured with calibrated instruments. Regularities in these facts can be summarized as “laws” — preferentially expressed in the privileged discourse of mathematics. The theories then are narratives we tell ourselves that explain the laws and predict the facts. Newton know the distinction quite well, as he explains in his scholium. He can tell us how gravity behaves, but not what it is.
    — Why does ponderable matter fall in such a manner? Ans. Gravity.
    — How do we know there is gravity? Ans. Ponderable matter falls.
    I don’t know why you say “only” a theory. A theory is explanatory.

    you could disprove gravity by finding an apple that falls up.

    I am always wary of a proposed falsification that involves a patent absurdity. You cannot disprove a fact (although you can learn that it has been badly measured or observed). What is subject to falsification is the theory; i.e., the explanation for the fact. Newton thought gravity was a “force” that somehow reached out from a body and attracted at a distance other bodies to it, all in a framework of absolute space and time. The Einsteinian theory of gravity holds that ponderable matter creates space and time to begin with and the distortions in the manifold of Ricci tensors imparts a curvature to the geodesics toward which bodies naturally tend. This is really a very different explanation, and entails some modifications in the laws (at extreme values).

    @ YOS: “Now, humans are not observed at any time to have as many children as possible. … Nor have we observed the vast majority of children dying prior to reproductive age
    I think you’ll find that infant mortality certainly has been the main cause of death amongst humans in the past so your ‘apparent contradiction’ is invalidated.
    I think you will find that Darwin’s claim that “the vast majority of offspring die” is not the same as “most of those who die are infants.” Most horses have four legs, but most quadrupeds are not horses.

    @ YOS: “That is why Popper included the theory among his “non-falsifiable” theories with Freudiansim and Marxism, although he was later pressured to recant.
    LOL. Please, not Popper! He was a philosopher, not a scientist

    And therefore probably better prepared to deal in questions of logic.
    I agree that people try to make too much of his use of modus tollens. Pierre Duhem had an answer even before Popper framed his thoughts.
    https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/falsificationism/

    There is no conceivable trait or behavior of an actual species that cannot have an adaptationist story spun about it. This is because the theory is largely tautologous.”
    You’ve been reading too much Ann Coulter!

    I blush to admit that I have never read a word she has written. Many of the critiques of Darwinianism I have come across were written by David Stove, an atheist philosopher. Others were written by another atheist philosopher, Jerry Fodor, who contends that natural selection is too teleological and opens the door to theology.

    I defer again to someone else: “There is simply nothing tautological (in the circular sense) about survival of long tail feathers

    Nor, one would suppose, about survival of short tail feathers.

    those arctic foxes with the densest fur survive to pass on that characteristic

    So correlation is causation? This was Fodor’s complaint. He suggested that all such traits were “spandrels” (a misuse of an architectural term that became popular in biology). Also, it might be a case similar to the moths with the dark and light wings: each generation produces the same range of wing colors, regardless of whom the birds pecked off the trees. At any given time one might see more dark-winged moths or more light-winged, depending on the state of the trees to which they were presumed to have alighted; but there was no change in the actual genome. The survival trait might be the range of shadings and not simply a particular shade. Or it might be a case of epigenetics, in which the conditions engender the phenotypic changes. The cold weather triggers the growth of denser fur rather than that fortuitously denser fur enables some foxes better to survive while the corpses of the others litter the arctic landscape. A similar case was recently observed among the pupfish of Nevada:
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-pupfish-of-nevada.html

    @ YOS: “That’s why genetics is a far more satisfactory theory
    Huh? Since when is genetics not part of evolution?

    True, it did save the Darwinian bacon during what was then called the “Twilght of Darwinism” by being retrofitted into the theory. But it is more fundamental to evolution than Darwin’s selection-by-nature. I did not say it was not part of evolution. I said it was a more satisfactory theory of evolution than natural selection. Also, like physics, you can use math.

    @ YOS: “But after all, how many other mid-Victorian scientific theories are still on the table?”
    Lots actually, including Darwin.

    Our theory of gravity has been entirely overhauled. Maxwell’s theory, though late Victorian, also overhauled the previous understanding of electricity and magnetism, esp. by uniting them as a single “force.” Dalton’s atoms were replaced by the Bohr atom, then the Bohr-Sommerfield atom, and today atoms are no longer imagined as minature solar systems. A great many scientific laws remain valid. The laws of magnetism were known to the medievals, even; as was the need for an external mover to effect a change in motion. But these are regularies or principles, not theories.
    In a similar manner, discoveries in microbiology are upsetting the old paradigm of “random” mutations and natural “selection.”
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_%28Im%29Possible_in_Evolution.html
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-a-shapiro/inconvenient-truths-why-a_b_2228277.html

  66. swordfishtrombone

    September 16, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    @ YOS:

    What surprised me when reading your original comment was that underneath all the long words, historical references and quotes from ancient philosophers, your arguments are virtually identical to those put forward by creationists.

    I’ll just make a few comments then get my coat:

    1. Genetics wasn’t “retrofitted” into Darwinism, it (a mechanism of inheritance) was predicted by Darwin. Genetics isn’t “more fundamental” than natural selection – without the latter there would be no evolution.

    2. Epigenetics – to quote Jerry Coyne:

    “The proponents of epigenesis as an important factor in evolution, like Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb, always wind up talking about the same tired old examples, like cases of coat color change in mice and flower pattern in toadflax. I am not aware of a single case in which an adaptive change in an organism—or any change that has been fixed in a species—rests on inheritance that is not based on changes in the DNA.”

    (Fodor’s book is described as: “profoundly misguided”.)

    3. “Our theory of gravity has been entirely overhauled” Not really, Newton’s theory still stands with only minor corrections needed in very extreme circumstances. Most scientific ideas have built on previous ones, not replaced them altogether.

    Good day to you.

  67. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 21, 2016 at 9:24 am

    3. Newton’s Laws remain a pragmatic approximation for application in “slow motion” situations. But the Theory has been completely overhauled. In Newton’s theory, space and time were independent of each other and an absolute stage setting for matter, and gravity was a “force” that (somehow) acted mysteriously at a distance. In Einstein’s theory, space and time are conjoined, a consequence of matter, and (as the theory’s name suggests) relative not absolute.

    2. Jerry Coyne is a well-known pitchman with a point of view. There are other biologists not quite so histrionic; in particular microbiologists. Helmeted water fleas do or do not develop their characteristic helmets depending on whether or not a chemical marker for a predator fish is in the water. This was tested experimentally (a technique much beloved by physicists) using two cloned populations of the water fleas. IOW, two populations with identical DNA. A similar, though uncontrolled experiment took place when an insectivorous wall lizard was transferred from a barren Mediterranean island to one lush with vegetation. Within 20 years, the transferred lizards had not only turned vegetarian but had developed a new organ to digest the plant matter; all without a change in DNA. Likewise, Devil’s Hole pupfish raised in other pools in case Devil’s Hole dried up, “began to look different, with deeper bodies and smaller heads, although all the fish [were] pretty much the same genetically.” Likewise, the related but unthreatened Amargosa pupfish raised in the lab on a restricted diet and with slight changes in water temperature began to look more like the wild Devils Hole pupfish.

    This is because there is no 1-1 correspondence between nucleotide and protein. The same “instructions” can be read differently under different circumstances. Zebras are striped and horses are not largely because of when during development certain genes are activated.

    1. Darwin did not predict genetics. If he did, cite the chapter and verse. He did state his belief that his theory would be vindicated despite being falsified under then-current theories of inheritance. But wishful thinking is not prediction, even when the wishes come true. The then-current theory of inheritance was the “bloodline”: children received a blending of the blood of their parents. In such cases, a mutation would be diluted out of the population within a generation or two. Genetics saved the Darwinian bacon because it demonstrated that heredity was digital rather than analog.

    That Coyne has abandoned the No True Scotsman routine in order to insist that No True Speciation has taken place absent DNA change is not reason for you to adopt the genetic fallacy by pointing out that people with cooties have also used the word “epigenetics.” Ooh.

    Oddly, Coyne specified DNA change, and not natural selection. Mendel Rules!

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