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Christianity, current events, evolution, science

Science and Religion are Incompatible. Again.

PZ Myers has brought the case of Carlos Cerna and his quest for a PhD in molecular biology to the center stage.  In a nutshell, Carlos attends La Sierra University — a Seventh Day Adventist school — and is a Young Earth Creationist.  The church, which funds the university and dictates policy, has somehow acquired a professor of biology who teaches science.  Poor Carlos, confused by the blatant contradiction, did what any good YEC SDA (Yecsda?) would do and wrote a paper critical of the scientific dating of the earth at 4.5 billion years old.  Poor Professor Bradley, confused by a student who so badly mangled a term paper that it appeared he hadn’t even taken the course in the first place, gave him a pity C.

On the surface, this should not seem to be that big of a problem.  Only the Seventh Day Adventists take Seventh Day Adventists seriously, right?  Well, unfortunately, it is a problem.  For one thing, Carlos has announced his intention to pursue a PhD in molecular biology.  We would think that this would be impossible.  After all, the foundation of any biological discipline is the theory of evolution.  To properly understand evolution, one must understand its timeline.  Organic life has taken billions of years to reach its current state.  Put very simply, a Young Earth Creationist cannot possibly understand evolutionary theory and still be a YEC.

What would it mean if a YEC got a PhD in biology?  In terms of actual science, probably not much.  The peer review process is wonderful for weeding out crackpots, and if Doctor Carlos ever publishes, he’ll be laughed out of the journals.  He can probably land a job teaching at a Christian university, or maybe he can get a laboratory job somewhere and do some sort of trivial work.  Carlos will be ok.

The real danger is that grade inflation — like that given to Carlos for work that ought to have earned him a big fat F — is passing crackpots through science programs and giving them credentials, which they turn into an argument from authority and peddle the nonsense of people like Ken Ham.  To a significant number of the religiostupidified among us, the presence of PhD’s in Creation Science “research institutes” adds legitimacy to the operation.  Ken is very fond of telling patrons at his museum that he has real, qualified doctors working for him trying to unravel the science of God’s magic breath six thousand years ago.  (He doesn’t mention that they have PhD’s in things like… history…)

The fact is, Intelligent Design is not science.  It’s the opposite of science.  There is simply no reason, be it scientific, political, or social, to let YEC’s pretend that they’re scientists.  Giving a YEC a biology degree is like going to a hair stylist for brain surgery.  It’s lunatic.

In any case, perhaps the public will be properly forewarned to watch out for the aspiring Carlos Cerna, and when we hear of his first authoritative declaration from Ken Ham’s Kentucky Pulpit, we’ll remember how he got his degree.  In the meantime, we really should be asking some serious questions and demanding answers.  How can we accredit a university that actively discourages science teachers from teaching science?  How can we attach legitimate letters to the end of a person’s name when they have displayed not only a lack of knowledge of their subject, but an outright disdain for it?  Why isn’t the science community as a whole calling for the head of the president of La Sierra, as well as the two professors responsible for giving this kid a passing grade?  His test is online.  You can grade it for yourself, even if you’re not a biologist.  It’s obviously a failing paper.  The evidence is right there, online, for everyone to see.  And still, a professor sits in his office and presumably continues to pass students right on through this shameful diploma mill for dummies.

This is unacceptable.

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Science and Religion are Incompatible. Again.

  1. Dear Hambydammit,

    I inquire whether you might wish to read my recently completed history, in draft, CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUIST: How Christianity Was Created by Enemies of Jesus.

    This first-ever legal/forensic analysis of the evidence, concerning earliest Christianity, documents the event which started the Christian faith: Christianity was created not by Jesus around the year 30, but by Paul in the year 49 or 50, when he perpetrated a coup d’etat against Jesus’s brother James, whom Jesus had appointed to run the Jewish sect which Jesus had begun.

    I’ll be happy to e-mail the manuscript, as a WORD attachment, upon request, if you think it might possibly be of interest.

    This work is summarized below, FYI.

    Best,
    Eric Zuesse
    USA

    ——–

    CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUIST:

    How Christianity Was Created by Jesus’s Enemies

    By Eric Zuesse

    completed, 167,000 words, manuscript and book-proposal both available

    ————–

    RESEARCH METHODOLOGY:

    This is the first work to apply to the interpretation of classical documents the methodology which courts of law in a democracy apply when reconstructing a sequence of events on the basis of documentary evidence referring to them. Among the principles employed here, which haven’t previously been used by historians, are: (1) For any alleged historical reconstruction, cite only the best (the most reliable) evidence (and exclude the rest under the best-evidence rule); (2) Things that a cited document necessarily implies, rather than explicitly asserts, have higher evidentiary value (credibility) than any explicit assertions; and, (3) Each explicit assertion cited in evidence must be questioned not just as to its accuracy, but also as to its honesty-of-intent. These three principles have never been applied to the documents concerning earliest Christianity. Applying them produces a radically new understanding of how Christianity began.

    FINDINGS:

    This first-ever legal/forensic exegesis of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and associated legal/forensic analysis of the four canonical Gospels, finds that Christianity started in or around the year 49 CE in Antioch (present-day Antakya, Turkey) as a direct consequence of a personal conflict which had arisen, during the prior 14 years, between Paul and the leader of this (at that time) Jewish sect, which Jesus had begun prior to his crucifixion at around the year 30 by the Romans for sedition. The sect’s leader was not Peter, such as Paul’s followers who wrote the Gospels said, but was instead Jesus’s brother James. Peter was and remained a follower of James, and he died (as did the rest of the sect) as a member of this Jewish sect, not as a Christian — not as a member of the group which Paul started on this occasion. Jesus’s sect soon itself expired. What’s known today as Christianity started with Paul, and was then developed by his followers, who wrote the canonical Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The religion of the New Testament actually has nothing to do with the person of the historical Jesus: The NT was written and assembled to fulfill Paul’s Roman agenda, not Jesus’s Jewish one. This is shown to explain the entire Christian myth.

    Details:

    The conflict between Paul and James has to do with the circumcision-commandment, Genesis 17:14, which is Judaism’s signature-commandment, by which a person signs God’s contract in blood and becomes eligible to be a member of God’s People. Paul doesn’t want to enforce it, because neither anesthesia nor antibiotics yet exist in this ancient era, and so any medical operation is an excruciating horror for these adult men, and frightening also because all operations have a high fatality rate from infections. James knows that if Genesis 17:14 is to be enforced upon Paul’s men, then most of them will simply abandon Jesus’s sect and will abandon Judaism altogether. But finally in the year 49 or 50, right after the council in Jerusalem (which Paul refers to in Galatians 2:1-10), James does try to enforce it, and Paul calls James’s bluff and refuses to comply. This is the moment when Paul first announces Christianity: the occasion Paul describes approximately four years later in Galatians 2:16-21.

    The event that created Christianity is referred to in carefully veiled language in Galatians 2:11-21: James here changes his mind and decides that Genesis 17:14 will have to be enforced after all, and he sends Peter to Paul in Antioch to order him to have all his men circumcised. James also sends a back-up team to check up on Peter (who is very reluctant to do this), and to make sure that Peter does what he is told. But when the back-up team arrive and see Peter instead dining with Paul’s uncircumcised men, Peter is startled and embarrassed to be seen dining with these non-members, and so he backs away from the table. At this moment, Paul responds to Peter by announcing, for the first time ever, Christianity, which is the doctrine that Paul states in Galatians 2:16-21. Although Paul says that he’s rejecting the circumcision-commandment because he rejects the entire covenant, he is actually rejecting the entire covenant because he rejects the circumcision-commandment. This is the only way Paul can keep his men with him; he simply can’t admit to them that they are not Jews. So, from now on, he needs to be very careful about how he words things. Only gradually do his men come to recognize that they aren’t Jews. Paul prepares them for this by telling them how horrible strict Jews are, such as he does in Galatians 1:13-14, 1 Thessalonians 2:3-16, and Philippians 3:2-8.

    James is now trapped by circumstances: If he publicly announces that Paul’s men are no longer members of Jesus’s sect, then James will lose the vast majority of his sect’s members, since Paul had converted them. Furthermore, Paul’s followers are Gentiles in a Gentile world ruled by Gentile Rome, during the time when Rome is at war against the Jews in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s Jews are a poor and defeated people. James is relying on the financial contributions coming in from Paul’s many Gentile congregations, to support the Jesus sect. James therefore needs to remain silent about Paul’s coup d’etat.

    The “Jesus” who is described in the Gospel-accounts is written later, by Paul’s followers, not by James’s, and is written so as to add narrative flesh to the bones of Paul’s agenda, the agenda exposed in Galatians and in the other six authentic letters from Paul — the earliest-written of all Christian documents. The Gospel-writers, who write during the immediately following generations, actually represent Paul, not Jesus. However, some elements of truth have to be embodied in their accounts of “Jesus,” because, even as late as they’re writing, widespread accounts still exist of some things that simply cannot be denied without losing all credibility, such as Jesus’s claim to have been “king of the Jews” — a claim which, even in their time, is widely recognized to have been seditious against Rome’s authority.

    Commentary/Analysis:

    A scientific understanding of the start of Christianity can be achieved only if the motives of the individual actors are documented and are truthfully presented. Until the present work, no one has known how this could even be done. But now it’s done, and the result is a gripping story-line in which Paul not only removes most of Jesus/James’s followers and brings them over into the entirely new religion which Paul created in the year 49 or 50, but Paul designs his new faith precisely to serve the needs of the Emperor — ironically the successor to the very same man, Tiberius, whose soldiers had executed Jesus for sedition against Roman rule. Paul designs his religion to make it appeal to the emperors, because Paul understands that they possess the power ultimately to impose Christianity throughout their realm. He knows that this won’t happen in one generation, but he’s confident that it will happen — and it does, three hundred years later!

    Paul wins. Jesus and his brother James lose. And the result is a new religion which serves perfectly the needs of the Emperors, such as by saying (Romans 13:1-7) that people are obligated to follow the laws which the Emperor commands, and not the laws which the Jewish God commands. Paul makes Rome’s Emperor God’s agent to create and enforce all laws. He supplies to the Emperors a Roman Catholic — or universal Roman — God to authorize their power. Prior to Paul, the Emperors could rely only on local Roman deities who possess no moral authority outside Rome. Emperors know that they need a universal God to authorize the laws which the Emperors issue, and Paul (and his followers who write the four canonical Gospel accounts of “Christ”) design and create precisely that.

    Contents (With Chapter-Descriptors)

    Introduction (This Work’s Methodology)

    Summary (This Work’s Findings)

    The Evidence, Part One: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

    1. Paul Prepares His Readers (Exegesis up to 2:10)

    2. The Climax (Exegesis of 2:11-21)

    3. The Galatian Context (Exegesis of the Rest)

    Part One Appendix: Text of Galatians through 2:21

    The Evidence, Part Two: Christianity in Light of Galatians

    4. The Gospels as Pauline Propaganda (How They Carried Out Paul’s Agenda)

    5. Jesus Without the Myth (The Historical Jesus Stripped of Paul’s Agenda)

    6. Did Jesus’s Enemies Create the New Testament? (How the NT Came to Be)

    7. Christianity’s War Against Judaism (How Paul’s Agenda Led to Anti-Semitism)

    8. Conclusion (Solving the Puzzle of Christianity)

    Appendix: The Great Societal Challenge for Scientists (Getting Faith Out of “History”)

    Posted by Eric Zuesse | September 2, 2009, 1:17 pm
  2. This kind of material is a little beyond the scope of my interest, but I do have a friend who is specifically interested in this period of history. I’ll forward this information to him.

    Posted by hambydammit | September 2, 2009, 4:06 pm
  3. You might be interested to know that Carlos Cerna didn’t start this “problem” for LSU. This issue has been a long-standing issue which has only recently come to the forefront for LSU because of the efforts of a number of individuals, including myself since I’ve long been interested in the issue and importance of the topic of origins – as are you.

    As far as I can tell, the available data strongly speaks for the need, even the requirement, for high level intelligent input behind certain phenomena that exist within this universe. Such phenomena include not only the origin, but also the diversity of living things beyond very low levels of functional complexity.

    For instance, there are no examples of evolution in action producing any qualitatively novel system of function that requires at least 1000 fairly specifically arranged amino acid residues at *minimum* – not one example in all of literature.

    Sure, there are a lot of assertions that evolution beyond this level of functional complexity has in fact occurred via the mechanism of RM/NS. However, none of these assertions is actually based on any sort of statistical analysis as to the odds that such an event would actually be remotely likely to take place this side of trillions of years of time.

    When it comes to those examples of evolution in action that are available (at lower levels of functional complexity), there is a clear stalling out effect that is exponential in nature as one considers higher and higher levels approaching the 1000aa level.

    The reason for this exponential decline in evolutionary potential is due to the fact that the sizes of sequence spaces increase exponentially with each increase in the minimum structural requirement for higher and higher level systems. As the overall size of sequence space increases exponentially, the number of non-beneficial sequences within that space also increases exponentially. The problem with all of this is that the number of potentially beneficial sequences does not increase at the same rate as the increase in non-beneficial sequences. In fact, the difference is exponentially in favor of non-beneficial sequences. The result is that the ratio of beneficial vs. non-beneficial sequences declines, exponentially, with each increase in the minimum size requirements for qualitatively novel potentially beneficial systems which might be found by the random searches of sequence space.

    In other words, the minimum likely Hamming distance between potentially beneficial sequences in sequence space increases in a linear manner with each step up the ladder of functional complexity. Each linear increase in the minimum likely Hamming distance results in an exponential increase in the average number of random mutations required to cross the gap between what exists in the gene pool and what might exist to some improved functional benefit within that gene pool.

    Of course, this means that evolutionary progress via the mechanism of RM/NS will predictably decline, in an exponential fashion, as one considers qualitatively novel beneficial systems which have greater and greater minimum structural threshold requirements.

    For example, the situation is similar to the ratio of meaningful vs. meaningless character sequences in the English-language system. The ratio of meaningful vs. meaningless 2-character sequences is about 1:7; for 3-character space 1:18; for 7-characters about 1:250,000… etc.

    The exponential progression is obvious, and the same type of relationship exists for biosystem sequence space. Given a large gene pool as a starting point, the likely Hamming distance between what exists and the next closest potentially beneficial system at the level of less than 10aa or even 100aa is likely to be a distance of just one or two mutational steps. However, the number of beneficial islands within such a short distance declines, exponentially, relative to all starting point gene pools. Pretty soon, the likely minimum distance starts to increase, linearly, regardless of the size of the starting point gene pool of sequence options.

    Once one starts to consider systems with minimum structural requirements greater than 1000aa, even given gene pool sizes as large as all the bacteria on Earth (i.e., ~1e35 or so), the odds that any genetic sequence is going to be remotely close to ANY such beneficial system is essentially nil this side of trillions of years of time.

    This is the reason why there simply are no examples of evolution in action beyond such levels of functional complexity – because of the exponential expansion of the non-beneficial gap problem with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.

    The usual comeback is that natural selection solves this problem of climbing Mt. Improbable (as Dawkins puts it). However, Dawkins’ “Methinks it is like a weasel” algorithm is a red herring here because NS cannot select until after the novel beneficial sequence is actually discovered by pure random mutational steps which are taken blindly into the vastness of sequence space. After all, what’s the functional/meaningful difference between a sequence like quiziligook and quiziliguck? NS simply doesn’t and cannot help solve this problem – i.e., cross non-beneficial gaps between one beneficial steppingstone and the next in an evolutionary sequence within various levels of sequence space. NS is simply blind until a random search is actually successful. That means if the non-beneficial gaps increase, NS cannot help cross these gaps in any quicker fashion than can be achieved by purely random walk/selection.

    But obviously, these gaps have been crossed because higher level systems do in fact exist – far far beyond the 1000aa level of functional complexity. So, how did these systems come into existence?

    Well, there is only one known source of higher level information – and that is pre-existing information that already exists beyond these higher levels. Outside informational input is needed which is, itself, at a higher level. The mechanism of RM/NS is simply not able to generate such higher level meaningful informational complexity – due to the problem of meaningful/functional informational entropy. (Please don’t confuse this type of information with Shannon information. They aren’t the same thing.)

    After a point, the level of needed outside informational input reaches the level of what most would label “intelligence”.

    This is in fact the basis of the attempt of even mainstream science to detect intelligent activity – to include forensics, anthropology, and even SETI. There really is no fundamental difference between the assumptions of SETI science and ID. As far as my basic argument for ID, I see no fundamental difference with SETI, or forensics, or anthropology. This isn’t an argument for the need for the supernatural here. It is, however, an argument for the need for the highly intelligent – an intelligence which may in fact be quite natural from the perspective of my basic ID-only theory (i.e., only ID could produce certain types of phenomena).

    So anyway, your notion that everything can ultimately be explained by non-deliberate mindless process of nature is ultimately, at least in my opinion, a philosophical or even a religious position – not really a position based on an sort of empirical scientific methodologies. It’s a faith-based position. And, in my opinion, this purely naturalistic faith is obviously opposed to the vast weight of current scientific evidence.

    Sincerely yours,

    Sean Pitman, M.D.
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com

    Posted by Sean Pitman, M.D. | September 5, 2009, 3:22 am

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