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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Using Stories to Indoctrinate Children

Posted by jlwile on April 23, 2014

A teacher reads a story to kindergarteners (click for credit)

A teacher reads a story to kindergarteners (click for credit)

Consider the following statement: “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe.” Do you think that’s a true statement? I do. However, if they are given enough time, many scientists will tell you that the statement is false. Sure, trees produce oxygen, but they don’t do it so that animals can breathe. Such a statement implies there is a purpose behind the fact that trees produce oxygen, and most scientists would say there is are no purposes in nature. Instead, most scientists would say that trees (and other photosynthetic organisms) evolved to produce oxygen, and the availability of oxygen in the atmosphere allowed for the evolution of oxygen-breathing animals.

Statements like the one above are called teleological statements, because teleology is the idea that there are purposes in nature. Obviously, creationists think in terms of teleology. We think that God designed the world, and just as a human designer puts purposes in his design, God put purposes into nature. Thus, trees (and other photosynthetic organisms) were designed by God specifically because He wanted to produce animals and people that breathe oxygen. As a result, He knew there would need to be a mechanism by which oxygen could be replenished in the atmosphere.

It is important to note, however, that creationists are not the only ones who believe in teleology. Indeed, atheist philosopher Dr. Thomas Nagel wrote an incredibly important book two years ago entitled Mind and Cosmos:Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. In that book, he clearly rejects the notion of any kind of creator, but he argues quite convincingly that the data show there must be a teleological explanation for the natural world. He is hard pressed to give an atheistic teleological explanation; he just argues that evolutionists must develop one.

In fact, even most scientists who reject teleology think in terms of it when they are caught off guard. Research shows that if you force scientists who reject teleology to evaluate scientific statements quickly, they tend to accept the teleological ones. However, if they are allowed enough time to think through the implications of each statement, they reject the teleological ones. This implies that the natural instinct of a person, even a person who rejects teleology, is to think about nature in terms of purpose. This, of course, is a danger to naturalistic evolution, which is what the high priests of science want people to believe. Thus, such blasphemous ideas must be rooted out of the human psyche.

Boston University professor of psychology Dr. Deborah Kelemen and her colleagues think they have a solution. They say that you have to “intervene” early in a child’s development so as to root out and destroy such teleological thinking. In a paper published in the journal Psychological Science, they write:1

…children in preschool and early elementary school show teleological biases to explain the origins of natural objects’ properties by reference to functions, intentionality biases to construe events and objects as intentionally caused, and essentialist biases to view species members as sharing an invariant, inviolable essence. Children are natural explanation seekers who organize their knowledge into theoretical frameworks, and by the time children are 6 to 10 years old, these potentially independent conceptual biases show signs of integrating into intuitive causal theories that connect ideas about biological functionality in nature with notions of invariant essences and goal-directed design. (references removed for clarity)

In other words, from a very early age, we think in terms of purpose and design. This has disastrous consequences when it comes to naturalistic evolutionary thinking, so it needs to be stopped.

How do you stop this terrible tendency? You tell children stories that incorporate the idea of natural selection. For example, in their study, Kelemen and her colleagues used a colorfully-illustrated storybook (made specifically for the study) to tell children a story about fictional animals called pilosas. While the animals in the story are fictional, Pilosa is a real order of mammals that includes anteaters and sloths. In the story, climate change (of course) caused a die-off in the population of pilosas, because the insects they ate went underground into deep, narrow tunnels in order to escape the horrible heat. As a result, the thinner pilosas were the only ones who could get to their food source. This eventually led to a population of very thin pilosas.

The authors found that the story helped the children to explain things in terms of natural selection rather than design. For example, when the children were asked about a different fictional animal’s traits before hearing the story, they were most likely to suggest that the animal had those traits because of purpose and design. However, after hearing the story, they were more likely to suggest that a different fictional animal had certain traits because of some aspect of natural selection. As a result, the authors suggest that such stories should be used as an “intervention” to produce the right kind of thinking in children.

I am not very knowledgeable about psychological research, but the study looks really solid. In addition, its conclusions seem reasonable. Many educators think that natural selection needs to be taught to older children, because younger children don’t have the cognitive abilities to understand it. This study shows that’s just not the case. Even very young children are excellent thinkers, and they are able to handle difficult concepts, as long as those concepts are presented in the right way.

So I don’t have a problem with the results of the study. I do have a problem with the goal. The goal seems to be indoctrination. They want educators to use an “intervention” to get the kids thinking correctly early enough, so that later on, they will be more likely to accept naturalistic evolution. Instead of having such a purpose in mind, why not educate children about natural selection at an early age so that they can judge what it can and cannot explain? Why not encourage children to think in terms of both design and natural selection, applying each explanation where it is most appropriate? To me, that sounds more like real science education, not indoctrination.

REFERENCE

1. Deborah Kelemen, Natalie A. Emmons, Rebecca Seston Schillaci, Patricia A. Ganea, “Young Children Can Be Taught Basic Natural Selection Using a Picture-Storybook Intervention,” Psychological Science 25(4):893-902, 2014
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Comments

31 Responses to “Using Stories to Indoctrinate Children”
  1. Keith says:

    To me it is just baffling that the people who most loudly insist that nature has no purpose can also be the most purposeful in their actions. Did it not occur to these researchers that they had a purpose in conducting their study? Unless they claim to not be a part of nature, they themselves are demonstrating teleology in nature by performing actions with specific goals in mind.

  2. jlwile says:

    Keith, I am sure they recognize a purpose behind their study. They would even recognize a purpose behind the actions of many animals. However, they reject the idea that there is a purpose behind nature as a whole. To people who think like this, nature is the result of purely random processes that ended up being filtered by natural selection. That filtering produced things that can have a purpose, but there was no purpose to the process that led to purposeful creatures.

  3. Keith says:

    Thanks for explaining that. That makes a little more sense, but it still seems awfully bizarre to believe that random, purposeless processes could bring about purposeful creatures.

  4. Jacob says:

    This study is very interesting. Though I can’t help but find it outrageous that these people are so hard-pressed for empirical evidence to sway others to their way of thinking, that they resort to indoctrinating children to get more receptive adults. As stubborn as humans are, if you are failing that awfully at garnering acceptance for your hypothesis, you should revaluate your theory before attempting to reconcile the next generation with it. After all, you cannot deny that the future of science, as well as our culture, rests with them.

  5. S.M. says:

    If the goal of the study was to prepare children to accept Darwinian evolution, it’s not doing a very good job. Creationists would readily agree that environmental pressures can result in changes in population phenotypes.

    Selection for thinness in the study’s imaginary animals says nothing about their potential evolution in the Darwinian sense of common descent, especially since in many cases, environmentally-selected traits can to revert their former proportion in the population if the environment changes again.

    And even if they don’t,the ability of a population to vary its physical characteristics such as body size, body thickness, coloration,etc., is not close to the wholesale genetic overhaul that would be needed to transform, for example, a paramecium into a pilosa.

  6. Bill McC says:

    Dr Wile, In my opinion the weak link in the naturalistic origin story is the intellectual basis of the belief in naturalism. If we simply teach our children that the naturalistic theory of evolution is based on absolute stupidity it will be easy for them to grasp the intellectual differences between the beliefs of naturalists and those who believe in God.

    Belief in the Judeo-Christian God is foundationally supported by an initial intellectual position based on the supreme intelligence of our creator. The naturalist has no foundational intelligence present to base their belief upon. The conditions of the primordial earth were completely void of intelligence according to the naturalistic belief system. From this initial position of absolute stupidity the naturalist makes a fantastic leap of faith to the presence of the first extremely complex, reproductive, DNA containing organism. As you know, natural selection is helpless in this process since it requires a reproductive organism to operate.

    Based on what we currently know about the additional layers of meta information contained in DNA this initial leap from absolute stupidity to mind boggling brilliance is so miraculous that is essentially no less miraculous than the claim that there is a God ( see the articles Genetic Code Optimization: Part One by Royal Truman and Peter Borger and Origin of Life by Don Batten at Creation.com) . Both belief in God and belief in naturalism require miraculous explanations for the initiation of life so neither one can be considered purely naturalistic. The students simply have to determine for themselves which explanation is more rational and plausible. Are we here as the result of absolute stupidity that somehow managed to blindly stumble upon an organism that contained mind boggling brilliance in its structure and execution or were we created by someone with an intelligence that dwarfs the structural and informational brilliance present in that first reproductive organism?

    I believe our young people are intelligent enough to recognize the difference between absolute stupidity and supreme intelligence when presented with the intellectual options of the two belief systems. When it is clearly explained to students that their mind started either with absolute stupidity and no blueprint or plan for future intellectual growth, or with a supremely intelligent being who created them with a rational mind and the ability to use it logically and rationally – the choice between the two belief systems becomes very clear. Let’s just tell them the truth and let them decide which position is the most logical and rational one to believe.

    We are either the product of the mind of a supremely intelligent being, or our mind was progressively developed from the wisdom of our Last Universal Common Ancestor – a wet rock. Brilliance to brains or boulders to brains, it should be easy for any student to decide.

  7. jlwile says:

    I will have to disagree with you, Bill. I don’t think you gain any ground by mischaracterizing the other side, and unfortunately, that’s what I think you are doing. I agree that naturalism assumes that there is no guiding intelligence to the development of the natural world, but I don’t think you can characterize that as “absolute stupidity.” In addition, saying things like our last universal common ancestor was a wet rock gets you nowhere. No one believes that. If you want students to learn the deficiencies of naturalism, you must characterize it properly.

  8. Bill McC says:

    Thanks for your reply Dr Wile. I did not use the term guiding intelligence, I used the term foundational intelligence. I believe I simply stated what the naturalistic position teaches. There was no initial or foundational intelligence to begin the process. No intelligence is absolute stupidity. That is simply the truth of what they believe. How can the true belief of the naturalistic position be a mischaracterization? I am not trying to call anyone stupid. I am simply stating the starting point of intellectual development for the naturalist.

    As far as the statement that the Last Universal Common Ancestor was a wet rock, I am again simply stating the initial position of the naturalist. That is where they start the evolutionary process. They would very much like to start with some living organism capable of reproduction, but they have no way of logically getting to that organism from their starting point of rocks and chemicals that truly are absolutely stupid. The articles I referenced make that abundantly clear.

    Your article was about people who are trying to indoctrinate our children. That is a very serious problem. What I wrote was a serious truthful reply about that problem. My intent was not to offend the naturalist but to defend our children. I do not take it lightly when someone tries to brainwash our children and I am not about to sugarcoat what the naturalist believes in order to be less offensive to their position. I believe everything I wrote was a true and accurate representation of the naturalistic position. I do not understand how you can call truth mischaracterization.

  9. jlwile says:

    Bill, the absence of an intelligent agent is not absolute stupidity. If a person has no intelligence, he or she is stupid. If a process has no intelligence, it is not stupid. It is simply an unguided process. The naturalist thinks that given enough time, self-organization can take place to produce intelligence. Of course, I disagree with that, but I am not willing to mischaracterize it simply because I disagree with it.

    Once again, no one (naturalist or not) believes that the Last Universal Common Ancestor was a wet rock. There are several origin-of-life scenarios, but none of them suggest a wet rock as the starting point. Some suggest clays, some suggest crystals, some suggest gases, some suggest hydrothermal vents, etc., etc. In addition, all of those origin-of-life scenarios have one thing in common. They do not call our Last Universal Common Ancestor something that is inanimate. They think that nonliving chemicals eventually produced some sort of self-replicating system, but they wouldn’t even call that self-replicating system our Last Universal Common Ancestor. In all origin-of-life scenarios, the Last Universal Common Ancestor is a proto-cell that has the basic characteristics of life. It is not a wet rock.

    I agree that indoctrination into the naturalistic worldview is a problem. However, you don’t fight the problem by mischaracterizing naturalism. Since processes cannot be stupid, and since no origin-of-life scenario even starts with a wet rock, and since no origin-of-life scenario thinks the Last Universal Common Ancestor was inanimate, you are most certainly mischaracterizing naturalism.

  10. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again Dr Wile. I am well aware of all the points you made about what the naturalist believes.

    Something that is totally unguided is absolutely purposeless. Something that totally lacks intelligence is absolutely stupid. You have simply compounded the problem. You now have an absolutely stupid process that is also absolutely purposeless. Either there is an intelligence behind the process or there is absolute stupidity. For the Christian it is the mind of God that initiates human intelligence. In contrast to a being with supreme intelligence is the naturalistic position that originates without a mind. To me, something lacking a mind is absolutely stupid.

    The origin of life scenarios you suggested are all chemical in nature. The three authors I referenced from Creation.com did an excellent job of refuting everything you mentioned. As you are also aware, the real problem for the naturalist is not chemical – it is informational. The DNA molecule is so rich in information that any proposed chemical evolutionary pathway is totally inadequate.

    To the best of our scientific ability to understand information, it always originates from an intelligent source. Invariably that source is a mind. The naturalist has no natural source of intelligence to initiate the origin of life. From and intellectual standpoint the position of the naturalist literally begins with absolute stupidity. That is simply the truth.

    The naturalist must minimally get to a reproductive organism in order to have the type of LUCA you are proposing. Please tell me how you propose to do that in a realistic scenario that requires an information rich content within the proposed organism. Without a realistic mechanism to get to an information rich reproductive organism, the naturalist is left with the woefully inadequate chemical explanations you suggested. Perhaps you know of some pathway for the naturalistic development of information content that I have not seen. I would be very interested to read about that process.

  11. jlwile says:

    Bill, I am not saying that the naturalistic scenario is possible. Indeed, I don’t think it is. However, that doesn’t mean we should mischaracterize it. Once again, a process cannot be stupid. It can be unguided, but that’s not the same as being stupid. In addition, no one thinks the Last Universal Common Ancestor was inanimate. It does us no good to mischaracterize the ideas with which we disagree. We have to describe them honestly and discuss why they don’t work. The articles you mention do that quite nicely, without ever calling the naturalistic process stupid or saying the Last Universal Common Ancestor was inanimate. Indeed, the article by Truman says quite plainly:

    Yet a Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) supposedly already had thousands of genes and the full set of tRNA synthetases and tRNAs about 2.5 billion years ago.

    I don’t know of any wet rock that has thousands of genes and the full set of tRNA synthetases and tRNAs.

  12. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again Dr Wile. I think you are caught up in the word game the naturalists are trying to play on us. Isn’t the most advanced intellectual product of naturalistic evolutionary development supposed to be the human brain? If it is then there must be a starting point for that intellectual development from a naturalistic perspective. My contention all along has been that the intellectual starting point for the naturalist is literally absolute stupidity.

    Your contention is that a process cannot be absolutely stupid. My contention is that the beginning of intelligence has to start with something. If that something has absolutely no intelligence then it is by definition absolutely stupid. Calling it something else is simply re-defining the term to match something that is more beneficial to the position of the naturalist.

    In a live conversation with a naturalist I try to be as gentle and diplomatic as possible when speaking about naturalism. What I have found with those who are entrenched in the naturalistic position is that we can argue forever if I concede that they have the LUCA you propose. I am not willing to make that concession. No naturalist has been able to show me a reasonable pathway from the starting point of absolutely no intelligence or absolute stupidity that will allow them to arrive at a living reproductive common ancestor that is full of brilliant informational content. You are welcome to concede that organism to them if you like, but I think you are severely undermining your position if you make that concession.

    No one likes to be told that the intellectual basis of what they believe is absolute stupidity so I may use the term complete lack of intelligence when describing the conditions of the primordial Earth to a naturalist when we are in a conversation. On the other hand – in a blog situation like this when we are discussing an attack on our children by those in the naturalistic community – I am not about to pull any punches when I am defending our children. The intellectual basis of the belief in naturalism is absolute stupidity and that is the truth.

  13. jlwile says:

    I am aware of your contention, Bill. It is simply wrong. The starting point of a naturalistic perspective is not “absolute stupidity.” Naturalists believe that the basis of everything is natural processes that are guided by the natural laws. That’s not absolute stupidity. Once again, mischaracterizing a position with which you disagree does not help. It merely gives the other side ammunition to say that you aren’t dealing with their contention properly.

    You seem to think that I am willing to believe that a LUCA can be produced by natural processes. I am not. However, I am also not willing to mischaracterize the naturalists’ position just to make it look bad. The intellectual basis of the belief in naturalism is not absolute stupidity. It is a set of natural processes guided by natural law. That is the truth. And by the way, the LUCA described in my previous post is not the one that I propose. It is the one Royal Truman proposes in the article that you recommended. When the very article you reference in support of your position actually contradicts your position, that should tell you something…

    If we mischaracterize the naturalists’ position to our children, we do them harm. In the end, they grow up believing in a falsehood, and when the naturalist easily shows them that they have been taught a false version of naturalism, they become more open to accept the naturalists’ position. I would prefer to teach them the truth, so that when they encounter naturalists on their own, they are ready to confront their arguments instead of mischaracterizing them.

  14. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again Dr Wile, It has been a interesting discussion for me to learn from. You seem to be saying that you want to teach a naturalist position that you believe is completely false. OK, that is fine, but if you are going to teach that I would suggest you make it very clear at the same time why you don’t agree with the position. Perhaps you already do that in your textbooks.

    In my opinion the simplest way to explain to most people that that naturalistic approach is false -including the naturalists themselves – is from an intellectual basis. As I have stated repeatedly there is no intellectual basis for what they believe when you take the position to its own logical reductionist extreme. The position begins with absolutely no intelligence.

    What set of natural processes guided by natural law produced a Last Universal Common Ancestor containing thousands of genes and the full set of tRNA synthetases and tRNAs about 2.5 billion years ago? I am not aware of anything naturalistic that would produce said ancestor. The authors of the article used the word supposedly. I interpret that to mean the proposed ancestor is simply a straw man. It does not exist in reality. It is simply a construction of the imagination that has no reasonable way of being produced.

    I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think I ever wrote that you cannot teach children what the naturalist position would like them to believe. I understand what you are saying and I don’t disagree that they have to know what is being promoted in order to know why it is clearly wrong. What I have been trying to say is that there must be a strong counter argument that is simple enough for our young people to understand. The majority of our young people do not go on to be scientists and can very easily be deceived by those who claim to be experts in the scientific disciplines. Any counter argument to the naturalistic position should be simple enough to be understood by even those who do not progress academically to a scientific field. In my opinion the best and most simple argument to understand is the argument from intelligence that I have been suggesting.

    We have been speaking as adults. I have been giving you something to think about as far as a position to use while defending our children from attack by those in the naturalistic camp. You are welcome to reject what I have written if you like, but would encourage you to think about teaching a strong simple counter position when you write about naturalism. If you have a better argument that is simple for our young people to use and understand, I am all for it.

    Thanks again for the conversation. I know you only want the best for our young people. I do appreciate your educational efforts and your concern. If you are ever in the Cincinnati area again let me know. I would enjoy talking to you in person about these issues.

  15. jlwile says:

    Bill, I have no desire to teach the naturalist position. However, I also have no desire to mischaracterize the naturalist position. Thus, when I discuss the naturalist position, it will be in an honest way. That means not mischaracterizing it as depending on “absolute stupidity” or saying that the Last Universal Common ancestor was a “wet rock.”

    You are, of course, quite wrong in saying that Truman’s use of the word “supposedly” indicates the proposed LUCA is a straw man. It simply means that he is honestly telling you what the naturalist believes, but he doesn’t think it is possible. Of course, that’s what you expect of Truman, since he does not mischaracterize the positions of those with whom he disagrees.

    I agree that young people need to have a strong, simple counter to the naturalist position. However, when it involves a mischaracterization of that position, it is not a strong counter. In fact, it is a harmful counter, because a naturalist can easily show them how wrong it is. That will make them think that creationists don’t have good arguments against naturalism. A strong, simple counter to the naturalist position is that when we see design, it indicates there is a designer. Just as we know something that works as well as a computer had to be designed, we know that nature (which is significantly more sophisticated than a computer) also had to be designed. That doesn’t mischaracterize any position, and it is something that children intrinsically understand.

    I am usually at the GHC in Cincinnati and would be happy to discuss this more with you there.

  16. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again for your reply Dr Wile,

    It was my understanding that the original article you wrote was about Kelemen and her colleagues who are trying to eliminate the design argument early in childhood development. As a result, I was offering an argument not based on design, but on initial intelligence – or lack of it, to help strengthen the design argument. I was replying based on the assumption that someone wanted to take away design. I was trying to offer an additional argument to help combat the militant position Kelemen had proposed. If you think I have been arguing against design then you are simply mistaken.

    You seem to be trying to paint me as a person who wants to teach dishonesty to our children. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want them to be able to give a strong honest defense of their faith and their position on naturalism. If I did not care deeply about our children, I would not even bother discussing the issue. I don’t see how suggesting another argument to defend the Christian position makes me dishonest or against good education.

    According to your article, Kelemen is proposing to substitute natural selection for design. If that is the case then she needs a naturally obtained reproductive organism to initiate the process. If you give her that organism then you have given her a basis to teach what she believes. A strong defense against her group would be to show that it is impossible to get that first reproductive life in a natural manner.

    When I used the term straw man I intended it to mean a very weak position with no good scientific support. Truman demonstrated that in his article. As you said, he doesn’t believe it happened. Again, I never said you could not teach what the naturalist would like us to believe. You seem to keep criticizing me for a position I do not hold.

    Let me ask you a couple of questions from the perspective of the naturalist. First, was there any initial intelligence on the primordial Earth? I would appreciate a simple yes or no answer to the question. If your answer is yes please explain where you obtained that intelligence. If your answer is no then I would like to ask you an additional question. Based on what we know from Encode about functional DNA and on what we also know about epigenetics and meta information – how do you propose going from a complete lack of intelligence – to the organism you are proposing that is full of brilliant informational content?

    I explained earlier that by wet rock I was referring to the initial rocks and chemicals present on the primordial Earth. I am saying that it is impossible to go from rocks and chemicals with absolutely no intelligence to the brilliant informational content of the reproductive organism proposed as our LUCA. If they cannot reasonably get to that organism in a natural manner, then they are left with rocks and chemicals. If you don’t like the term absolute stupidity, then simply substitute complete lack of intelligence. Either term will work. Don’t dismiss the argument just because you don’t like the words I used.

    I don’t think I can say any more that will change your mind. Before you dismiss my argument completely, try asking a naturalist the questions I asked you. It would be interesting to hear what kind of reply you receive. If that person can give you a good reasonable way to go from a complete lack of intelligence to mind boggling brilliance, I would very much like to hear their reply.

  17. jlwile says:

    Bill, I do think that you are being dishonest with children. When you mischaracterize another position, that is dishonesty, plain and simple. And yes, to say that the naturalist position is based on “absolute stupidity” and that LUCA was a “wet rock,” then you are mischaracterizing the naturalist position. This doesn’t suggest that you don’t care deeply about children. Indeed, I suspect that you do. Often, when something means a lot to us, we argue based more on emotion than on reason. Micharacterizing a position with which you disagree is common when emotion gets in the way of reason.

    I am not sure why you think I want to “give” Keleman (or anyone else) a naturally-obtained reproductive organism. As I have said before, I don’t think such a thing is possible. However, if I am going to argue against her position, I have to actually deal with her position honestly. Saying LUCA was a wet rock is not an honest description of her position.

    Of course in the naturalist’s mind there was no intelligence on the primordial earth. However, that doesn’t mean the starting point for the naturalist position is “absolute stupidity.” It means the starting point for the naturalist position is chemical reactions guided by the natural laws. The naturalist would say it is rather easy to go from no intelligence to intelligence. As Dawkins said in Climbing Mount Improbable, it is all about “baby steps.” You don’t go from natural laws and chemistry to intelligence in one single leap. First, you produce a self-replicating system, such as some RNAs have been shown to form in the lab. Then, those self-replicating systems get enclosed in lipid bilayers, as shown by Irene A. Chen and Peter Walde. This forms the basis of the first cell, which can then, through the slow process of evolution, eventually produce a brain. That brain is all intelligence is. As evolution acts over a long period of time, the brain becomes more complex, leading to more intelligence. Now, of course, there are massive problems with each step, so the process is not feasible. Nevertheless, if you want to refute the naturalist, you first have to start with his or her position and then explain why such steps are not feasible.

    The words you use are important. Very important. “Absolute stupidity” is not the same as “a complete lack of intelligence.” The former has a decidedly negative connotation, implying that choices can be made, but they tend to be the wrong choices. The latter is a neutral statement, which is more descriptive of the actual position of the naturalist. It is not a complete description, of course (as you will see below), because the naturalist believes in the existence of some things (like natural laws, for example).

    I suspect that I talk with naturalists a lot more often than you. Indeed, that’s why I react so strongly to your mischaracterization of their position. Since I know and respect many naturalists, I know they what they believe, and I know that the way you describe it is not anywhere close to correct.

    So I decided to call one of my naturalist friends when I read your comment. Of course, she agreed with me that characterizing her position as beginning with “absolute stupidity” is a lie. In fact, she said she has no idea why I would even bother to carry on an exchange with you, since she knows I don’t like dealing with dishonest people. I told her that I don’t think you are dishonest. Instead, I think you are letting your emotions trump your reason.

    When I asked what she would say about her position starting with “a complete lack of intelligence,” she stopped, thought for a moment, and said (as near as I can remember), “That’s one of the many starting parameters, yes, but there are others.” When I asked how she would suggest we go from chemicals and natural laws to intelligence, she said that first, a self-replicating chemical system must form. She specifically thinks that the “metabolism first” hypothesis is the most fruitful. Thus, in her mind, simple reactions produce first two-carbon molecules, then three-carbon molecules, then more and more complex organic molecules. Eventually, simple metabolic pathways (such as glycolysis) formed. This has not only been shown to happen in the lab (she says see Markus Ralser’s research at the University of Cambridge), but it also solves the chirality problem.

    Eventually, those simple metabolic systems would get enclosed in simple lipid bilayers, forming a type of “protocell.” As the metabolic pathways became more complex over time, proteins would be formed, leading eventually to the chemical machinery needed to build a genetic system like DNA or RNA. At that point, there would be a living system upon which natural selection could act. Biological evolution would then take over, eventually producing a nervous system, which is the basis of intelligence. That nervous system would evolve to be more complex, eventually making the human brain, which is not the only intelligence on the planet, of course.

    I want to try to quote her as closely as I can here, because it is important. As near as I can remember, this is what she said: “The problem with your friend’s position is that there is no fundamental difference between what exists now and what existed on the primal earth. What existed previously is now arranged in a different way, producing different effects. If I have a bunch of bicycle parts laying on the floor of my garage, I have a ‘no bicycle’ system. If I spend some time arranging those parts, I can come up with a ‘bicycle’ system. I started with everything I needed for a bicycle. In order to get the bicycle, however, I had to spend time arranging the parts to make the bicycle. The only difference between the ‘no bicycle’ system and the ‘bicycle’ system is the arrangement of the parts. In the same way, the early earth started with no intelligence. However, everything needed for intelligence was there. It just had to be arranged properly. In the case of the bicycle, I could arrange the parts quickly, because I had a goal in mind when I started. In the case of the earth, there was no goal in mind. It therefore took longer for the parts to be arranged so as to produce intelligence. It was also possible that no intelligence would ever form, since there was no goal. However, the processes of abiogenesis and evolution happened on this planet to turn the ‘no intelligence’ system into an ‘intelligence’ system. The only difference between those systems is the arrangements of the parts.”

    As you can see, then, there is no “absolute stupidity” in her scenario, and the LUCA was not a “wet rock.” Once again, if you want to argue against a position, you need to describe it properly to begin with.

  18. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again Dr Wile and thank you for running the argument past your friend. You are right that I had an emotional reaction to your article. I was angry that anyone would try to brainwash our children in that way. Your last reply was an excellent one that I sincerely appreciate. I am less emotional at this point so I will try to proceed with the discussion if you will continue to be patient with me and my responses.

    Let’s go back to the beginning of the discussion. I was replying to you personally about the article you wrote. As I said, I was angry about the position of the people you wrote about, but I expected you to understand what I meant when I used the terms absolute stupidity and wet rock. My point being that the actual position of the naturalist – not what they profess – is very weak. I never intended for you to take the argument to mean that you could not teach what the naturalist believes in a clear and honest manner. If I had been writing your naturalist friend I would have written very differently.

    My point all along has been that you cannot start with a complete lack of intelligence and get brilliance in the very short period of time that the naturalist has available to go from no intelligence to the very complex first reproductive organism that is full of brilliant informational content. While her analogy of bicycle parts being present from the beginning is interesting, that argument and all of your friends arguments are chemical or physical in nature. All have been well refuted by Truman and the other authors I mentioned. She should speak with them if she disputes what they have written. I have not been talking about chemical assembly. I am talking about very early brilliance in the informational content of that first reproductive organism. That informational brilliance was not available in bits and pieces on the primordial Earth. Information, as you know, is not a material entity.

    With an admitted starting point of no intelligence to initiate and direct the process I am asking how your friend proposes to find all of the extremely complicated informational content in the first reproductive organism. If I understand correctly, we have found evidence for reproductive bacterial organisms very early in natural history. That means that informational brilliance had to originate in a short period of geological time. It doesn’t matter what pathway the naturalist takes, they need everything present for a reproductive bacterial organism very quickly.

    Your friend mentioned that there were many starting parameters on the primordial Earth other than a complete lack of intelligence. None of those other parameters had any intellectual content that I know about. As far as natural laws, they are simply descriptions of what we have discovered. No one can taste, see, hear, smell or touch them.

    Using the bicycle analogy, bicycles are usually assembled with a final purpose in mind by humans with intelligence. If you assembled those same parts with no final purpose in mind and no plan you would probably end up with a collection of junk that was completely functionless. The naturalist is saying that enough parts are lying around so that the bicycle will be assembled somewhere and somehow in spite of the fact that there was no plan or blueprint to initiate the assembly of said bicycle and no one to assemble it. Even if the bicycle is assembled accidentally, what is the point of having a bicycle sit around without a rider to power it? It would be worthless and lifeless. Just sitting there all by itself with nowhere to go. It can’t even reproduce itself in order to wait for the first rider to develop in a natural manner. It will just sit there and rust back into its original elemental components. In addition, the bicycle analogy starts with designed parts and I am sure your friend is not a proponent of intelligent design.

    In the same way that the bicycle needs a power source to be functional, the early bacterial organisms also needed a complicated array of physical and informational components that had to function in harmony with one another. Instead of a bicycle the naturalist has to build a miniaturized automated factory. An operational factory that also contains an elaborate blueprint with instructions to build more factories. The naturalists don’t just need parts, they need a sophisticated computer software program to run the factory and a power source to make it operational.

    I am not aware of any natural process that progressively builds informational content. If the naturalist is going to start with a simpler organism to get to the reproductive bacterial organism that they know was present very early in geological time – then they must have a natural method for any precursor to accumulate informational content. Initially the naturalist must start with something with a simple software type program that reprograms its own operational system in a stepwise fashion in order to progress to a more complex and advanced form. It is like saying that a computer with an early windows operational system is capable of reprogramming and reproducing itself until it finally ends up with windows 8.1 as an operational system. In my opinion that scenario is so absurdly improbable that there is no reasonable way for it to happen.

    With no reproductive organism to begin the process of natural selection the whole naturalistic system collapses. The naturalist must be able to develop a reproductive organism quickly and accurately. If even one early precursor stage of development fails, the process must start all over again. With the limited time window available, the entire naturalistic evolution story seems to depend on some miraculous series of fortuitous events in order for it to occur.

    Based on Encode findings and on other recent developments in epigenetics and meta information we have to re evaluate the arrival of the very early reproductive organisms. Simple chemical explanations will no longer suffice for the naturalist. The bicycle analogy does not even come close to representing the difficulty of going from a primordial environment completely void of intellectual influence – to an early reproductive bacterial organism that is brilliantly programmed and constructed.

    It is quite possible that an intelligent researcher may someday create a living organism in the laboratory. If that is done it will be because the researcher has a blueprint of the operational system of the organism. It will not be because he or she started from scratch with simple chemical elements and no help from sophisticated computer programs to initiate and coordinate the development of the organism. The researcher will also start with a fully functional brain in order to properly program the computer used in the research.

    When we talk about information we are not talking about something material. Love is another example of something that is not material. Your friend may think that love is simply a chemical reaction in her brain but she will have a hard time living that out in reality. I think she is a probably a person who cares deeply for her family and her friends. I believe she does truly love them. For love to be real and have any ultimate meaning or purpose, there must be a God.

    Please thank your friend for her participation in this discussion. I sincerely appreciate her input. Perhaps you will share my response with her. I am fairly new to these discussions, but I am learning. Thanks again for your patience with me as I learn.

  19. jlwile says:

    Bill, I don’t think I will include my friend in the discussion any further. I think you need to understand the naturalist side if you really want to communicate with naturalists, because most of what you have said would simply not have an effect on any naturalist I know. No naturalist I know, for example, thinks their chemical arguments “have been well refuted by Truman and the other authors” you mentioned. Indeed, my friend reads ICR, CMI, and AiG regularly, and she does not find their arguments anywhere close to convincing. She agrees that they have raised some valid points, but she has counterarguments for every one of their arguments. The fact is that since we are talking about possible chemical scenarios, it is simply impossible to refute the other position. I think we have the stronger arguments, but there is no refuting hypothetical scenarios.

    In addition, the naturalist has no problem with the idea that simple chemical reactions can, over millions of years, produce what you call “reproductive brilliance.” After all, we know that chemical and physical processes can produce some amazing things. Consider, for example, the Giant’s Causway. It has amazingly regular columns that are put together in a way that makes it look like they were designed, but they weren’t. They were the result of chemical and physical processes. There are other such examples. The naturalist points to them and says that these things contain information as well, but they came about naturally, with no designer. That’s because the naturalist thinks that the makings of information are all around us. The only thing that has to happen is that those makings have to be ordered properly.

    And that, of course, brings up the issue of information. You say, “Information, as you know, is not a material entity.” I certainly agree with that, but no naturalist I know would grant that presupposition. This is what my friend meant when she said that the only difference between what we see now and what existed on primal earth is organization. In the naturalist’s view, information is most certainly a material entity. It is governed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, for example, as are material entities.

    You claim that my friend “will have a hard time living” out the idea that love is simply a chemical reaction in her brain. In fact, she has not had a hard time living that out at all. Indeed, one reason I respect her so much is that she is significantly more loving and more moral than most of my Christian friends. I think this is your central problem when it comes to dealing with naturalists. You don’t seem to think of them as human. They most certainly are. They have reasons to love, to be moral, and to live life. Those reasons are built on philosophy, however, not theology. I think that is a terrible platform upon which to build meaning for life, but nevertheless, that’s how they do it. If you aren’t willing to learn that, there is no way you will ever effectively communicate with naturalists.

  20. Bill McC says:

    Thanks for your reply Dr Wile.

    It was interesting that you said I do not seem to think naturalist’s are human. Just because I am angry with a position that intends to brainwash our children it does not mean that I don’t think the people who proposed doing such a thing are not human. It simply means I think they are wrong and that I have extremely strong convictions against what they are proposing to do and about what they believe.

    I have a very good friend who was a co worker at one time who holds the naturalist position. In spite of the fact that she has an entrenched naturalist position, I love her dearly as a friend. Although I am sure I do not speak to as many people who hold the naturalist position as you do, I have also spoken to a couple of other firmly entrenched naturalists over a long period of time. One of them is a retired college professor who revealed to me that he used to mock Christian students in his classroom because of their beliefs. I consider both of those other people friends. All three of the above mentioned people still speak to me cordially at the present time so I must be able to speak to them with some degree of civility. I don’t think we would still be speaking if they thought I regarded them as not human.

    I suspect that you mean your friend is moral from the human perspective of our current moral standards in this country at this time. Other societies at different times had different human morals. Even today on the news we hear of world leaders who have followers who believe it is OK to trample the rights of others if it accomplishes their goals. By their human standards they are moral people. I judge morality by the teachings and standards of Jesus. I will add a Bible passage from Matthew 24 to illustrate what I mean.

    34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Your friend and my former co worker friend are very good at loving their neighbor. I have told my former co worker that she treats people better than many Christians I know. Her problem is not in her relationship with other people, it is in her relationship with her Creator. She and other naturalists ignore the first and greatest commandment. I will let you judge for yourself whether or not Jesus would have thought people who rejected God were highly moral people.

    You wrote about your friend “She agrees that they have raised some valid points, but she has counterarguments for every one of their arguments. The fact is that since we are talking about possible chemical scenarios, it is simply impossible to refute the other position. I think we have the stronger arguments, but there is no refuting hypothetical scenarios.”

    If this is the case then I think it is even more important to stress that the naturalist position starts with a complete lack of intelligence. At time zero – which I will define as the earliest possible time that the naturalist can start the process of building a first reproductive organism – the natural intelligence level of the primordial Earth was also zero. I believe it is very important to stress this point. Your friend can posit any argument she likes, but she must also admit that her argument begins with absolutely no intelligence. In my opinion, that makes any following natural argument very weak. In the end you have to decide which position is more reasonable. Does it make more sense to start with a supreme intelligence or zero intelligence.

    In regard to information, I’m sure you are familiar with the work of Dr Werner Gitt and his book In the Beginning was Information. There are also a number of You Tube video’s that show him speaking about information. Please allow Dr Gitt to evaluate your thermodynamic argument if you want me to accept it. The other naturalistic examples you gave for information are very simplistic. Comparing Mt Rushmore to the illustration of the Indian head rock you showed as an example of natural information is one example of the difference between simple natural process and complex specified information.

    In the case of DNA the information content is similar to a language. Not only is it like a language, it is like layers of language that can communicate differing meanings at different times using the same letters. The informational content is also functional and purposeful. It is simply brilliant in both conception and execution. My point continues to be that you cannot reasonably expect to start with zero intelligence and arrive at brilliance within the very short window of geologic time the naturalist has available.

    When I said your friend would have a hard time living out the idea that love is simply a chemical reaction in her brain – I meant that I think your friend will have a hard time reconciling that her family and friends are simply advanced biochemical reactions enclosed in a protective outer covering – with her actual feelings about them. I also don’t think that she will live her life as if love is simply a biochemical process like soda fizzing in a shaken bottle or can. In order to believe her family and friends have any real true ultimate value they cannot simply be biochemical reactions. She might be able to say that is what she believes, but I don’t think the way she lives her life will reflect that professed belief. If what she professes is true then we are simply specks of debris on an insignificant planet with no hope of ever having any real meaning or purpose in our life. I don’t think she will live her life as if that is true.

  21. jlwile says:

    Bill, my impression of you thinking that naturalists aren’t human has nothing to do with your anger at their position. It has everything to do with how you mischaracterize them and their positions. You seem to have a cartoonish view of naturalism that simply isn’t reflective of naturalists or their beliefs. Perhaps you speak cordially to them, but you don’t seem to want to really learn what they believe. If you did, you wouldn’t mischaracterize their positions.

    Of course you and I have different moral views than those of the naturalists. That is to be expected. Our moral codes come from God. They don’t believe in God, so their moral codes come from philosophy, law, etc. The point is that while their moral codes are different from ours, they are still striving for morality. That makes them real people.

    Stressing the fact that the naturalist position starts with no intelligence does not help at all, since the naturalist believes that the makings of intelligence existed from the very start of planet earth. It only took time and the right chemical reactions to produce it. To the naturalist, it makes a lot more sense to start with no intelligence than a supreme intelligence, because the naturalist thinks the existence of a supreme intelligence is nonsense. The idea that intelligence could be produced by abiogenesis and evolution is much, much more believable to them.

    Of course I am familiar with Dr. Gitt’s book, but very few naturalists accept his use of information theory. That’s because information theory is not nearly as clear-cut as you might think it is. Have you ever read a naturalist’s response to Dr. Gitt’s book? If you would do so, you would probably have an easier time understanding why your arguments would carry no weight with a naturalist. If you want Dr. Gitt to evaluate my thermodynamic argument, please send it to him. I am happy to have any feedback. However, the fact is that by experiment, we know that information follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Thus, it has at least some properties of a material entity. As a result, it is completely reasonable for someone to consider it to be a material quantity.

    I agree that all the examples I gave you of information forming from chemical and physical processes are simplistic. However, they show that information (however simplistic) can be generated by chemical and physical processes. This gives the naturalist a reason to believe that with enough time, really serious information can be generated in the same way. That’s why the naturalist has no problem believing that the kind of information content we find in DNA can be produced by natural processes over hundreds of millions of years. Small amounts of information can be produced by natural processes in a short time, as a result, it seems reasonable that large amounts can be produced over a long time. Once again, I don’t agree with that, but it is what naturalists believe. You can’t just say that there is no way to go from no intelligence to intelligence. The naturalists think they have a way.

    Your last statement once again shows that you don’t think of naturalists as real people. Of course my friend (and any naturalist for that matter) has no problem thinking of her family and friends as simply advanced chemical reactions enclosed in a protective outer covering. She loves people specifically because that’s the way they are. She finds them to be rare gifts that only came into existence because of a lot of lucky coincidences. In her mind, that makes them incredibly precious. She also has no problem with the idea that we are “simply specks of debris on an insignificant planet.” She actually finds purpose in that. In her mind, it means we must strive to make our own significance.

    Try really learning what naturalists believe and why they live their lives the way they do. Only then will you be able to have a serious chance of getting them to see the problems associated with their views.

  22. Bill McC says:

    Thanks again Dr Wile for the reply.

    Just to keep things accurate – I wrote that there is no reasonable way – not no way – to go from no intelligence to intelligence.

    You keep saying that I don’t think of naturalists as real people. That is your opinion and you are certainly allowed to have an opinion. Let’s compare my position to the position of your naturalist friend. I believe both creation and Jesus death on the cross provide a basis for how I view any person. I view all people as having intrinsic worth or value because we are all children of God. Based on my belief I have a sound reason to value all people and view them as real people. Even when I disagree with the position of another group of people I still value each individual within that group of people because of my belief that God created them and Jesus died for them.

    Now let’s look at the position of your naturalist friend and other naturalists who hold the same position. I would like to respectfully suggest that if your friend has to strive to make her own significance as a speck of debris on an insignificant planet – then there is ultimately no significance to anything she believes. How can a speck of insignificant debris assign significance to anything? I am not trying to demean her as a person and I value her as a child of God. I am just following her own argument to its logical naturalist conclusion. It does not seem reasonable to me to both believe that you are cosmic debris and at the same time believe you can assign significance to anything. Your friend has a self professed position of worthlessness. How can someone assign worth or purpose from that position?

    If you are advocating for the worth of real people – and I assume you are – who has the position that provides all people the greatest worth? Your friend professes to believe all people are simply specks of debris on an insignificant planet. She has started with an insignificant planet and then made herself and others of even less value by considering herself and them specks of debris. You have told me that she is now striving to make her own significance from an initial position of insignificance. In my opinion that position is not only irrational, it also makes people valueless. It is a position that views people as not being real people or of any real value.

    If you are viewing me as a person who does not think people are real, I think you are looking in the wrong place. You need to look at the naturalist position more carefully. I believe your friend has real intrinsic value as one of God’s children. That is why I think she does herself a disservice by considering herself essentially valueless based on her position of naturalism. I think your friend has tremendous value and I will continue to value her and others who think like her as real people even when their position does not agree with what I believe to be true.

  23. jlwile says:

    Bill, I still don’t think you understand the naturalist position at all. The naturalist would say that your position is the irrational one, because you believe in a Supernatural Being, and such a belief is inherently irrational. The naturalist would also say that your view leads to the idea that people have no value, because they are just slaves to an all-powerful being. Now, of course, I disagree with that, but at least I have taken the time to understand it. In the end, your arguments sound convincing to yourself, because you just aren’t willing to learn what the naturalist thinks. However, as someone who knows what naturalists think, I understand that your arguments mean nothing to a naturalist, because a naturalist has no problems finding intrinsic worth in people, purpose in existence, and a path from no intelligence to intelligence.

    So here’s the problem. You say that belief in God is the only way to find real value in people. The naturalist says that belief in God gives no value to people. You say that a belief in God is the only way to give meaning to life. The naturalist says belief in God gives no meaning to life. You say that there is no reasonable way to go from no intelligence to intelligence. The naturalist says there is a very reasonable way to do that. In the end, these kinds of arguments go nowhere. What you have to do is actually understand the naturalist view so that you know how to talk with a naturalist. If you don’t do that, your discussions with them will not produce any fruit.

  24. Bill McC says:

    Thanks once again for your reply Dr Wile.

    I appreciate your concern but I do understand all the things you mentioned, even if I may not agree with everything you said. What I don’t understand is why a person, who truly thinks of her or himself as cosmic debris, would even be interested in discussing any of these issues in the first place.

    My position may be irrational to the naturalist but at least it is consistent. Based on my belief in God it is totally consistent to believe humans have tremendous intrinsic value. In contrast, the naturalist position of assigning worth to people based on a belief that people are insignificant cosmic debris is internally inconsistent as well as being totally irrational. There is no scientific evidence I have ever seen that demonstrates significance and purpose can come from cosmic debris.

    In addition I have Romans Chapter 1 to tell me that all people know God exists. That is why I don’t think any naturalist truly believes he or she is insignificant cosmic debris. I understand that is a belief the naturalist professes but it is contrary to what God’s Word tells me is true. When there is a conflict between what the naturalist says and what Scripture says, I am going to stick with Scripture every time.

    Do you remember the professor I wrote about earlier who used to mock Christian students in his classroom? After a very long period of intermittent discussions with him about the creation evolution controversy and all the design arguments he remained entrenched in his position of naturalism. Finally I asked him one day what the initial intellectual conditions of the primordial Earth were. It took a few minutes of additional discussion, but he eventually came to the conclusion that it was difficult to continue defending naturalism if he didn’t have a good intellectual starting point. After many more months of intermittent discussion he mentioned one day that he now believes there is a God. I’m not sure how strong his belief is at this point but at least he now professes to believe in God rather than naturalism.

    You can draw your own conclusion from what I related about the professor, but I think it helped him when he realized he did not have a strong initial intellectual basis for his naturalistic belief. It was not the only thing that influenced his decision, but I think it may have helped. In my opinion, I think our discussions were fruitful. I have discussed the same issues with a number of other people who had varying degrees of commitment to naturalism. Most of them seemed to easily grasp the difficulty for their position when I pointed out that they were starting with absolutely no intelligence.

    You and I are different people who have different opinions about the issues we have been discussing. You may not agree with the way I approach the issues but it may be because I have had different experiences and dealt with different people than you deal with. I continue to respect and appreciate what you are doing. Perhaps I have at least provided you with some things to think about during our discussion.

  25. jlwile says:

    Once again, Bill, you need to actually learn the naturalist position. Just as you see your position as consistent, they see their position as consistent. Indeed, in their mind, your position is inconsistent, because a slave to a Supreme Being can’t have any significance, whereas a speck of cosmic debris can make its own significance.

    I am glad that you were able to help a friend come to belief in God, and I also hope I have given you something to think about. I hope that, at minimum, you take some time to actually learn the naturalist position as a result of this discussion. If you do that, you will understand how irrational your argument sounds to a naturalist.

  26. Bill McC says:

    Dr Wile, We are discussing people who believe they are insignificant cosmic debris. Those same people also claim to believe that they know enough about meaning and purpose in life so they can tell me and other Christians that what we believe is wrong. They are claiming to know with certainty that the Christian position is wrong while at the same time claiming that we are all insignificant cosmic debris. I am still struggling to understand how someone claiming to be insignificant cosmic debris can also claim to understand any position well enough to say that it is either right or wrong . I do not think it is logically consistent to believe two contradictory things.

    I would consider it an honor, not an insult, to be called a slave of Christ. While I might have little significance on my own from that position, my Master would have great significance and could provide me with all the significance I needed. He paid a tremendous price for my life while on the cross and that would make my life meaningful, valuable and significant.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

  27. jlwile says:

    Bill, that’s exactly my point. We are not discussing people who believe they are insignificant cosmic debris. They believe they are the results of a marvelous process they call evolution, and they do not view themselves as insignificant. Indeed, they think they are very significant, partly because their existence depended on so many chance occurrences. They also do not think they believe contradictory things. They think that this marvelous process called evolution formed rational minds. Thus, they can reason through things to determine what is right and what is wrong.

    You say, “They are claiming to know with certainty that the Christian position is wrong while at the same time claiming that we are all insignificant cosmic debris. I am still struggling to understand how someone claiming to be insignificant cosmic debris can also claim to understand any position well enough to say that it is either right or wrong.” They would say, “People like Bill claim to know with certainty that the naturalist position is wrong, while at the same time believing in a magic man who lives in the sky. I am still struggling to understand why such a person would claim to be able to reason such a thing out, since you can’t believe in two contradictory things – a magic man in the sky and reason.” That’s the problem with evidence-free statements. All sides can make them.

    I also consider it an honor to be a slave of Christ. However, the naturalist would not. He or she would say that makes your life completely insignificant. Once again, you need to understand the naturalist position. You clearly do not.

  28. Bill McC says:

    Dr Wile, I know very well what the naturalists claim to believe. I also know from Romans Chapter 1 what they really believe. Everyone knows there is a God. I understand they will say there is no God and go through all kinds on mental gymnastics to try to back up what they claim is true, but in the end it is God’s word that defines their position.

    I don’t think for a second that naturalists truly believe they are insignificant cosmic debris or that they can find any true or lasting value from that position as a result of evolutionary process and chance. According to Romans 1 they are simply suppressing the truth. The truth that God is real and has made Himself known to everyone through creation. I understand that the naturalist will reject what I am saying but I also know what God has said. I believe God.

    My evidence for what I say is true is the word of God. It is the basis for all true belief. That is why I know what the naturalist believes is wrong. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the central evidence that confirms my confidence in Scripture. I believe Scripture and the resurrection are very strong evidence to support what I have said.

    In the end it comes down to God’s word against the word of people who are naturalists. Naturalists have chosen to suppress the truth of God’s existence. They have been allowed to make that choice by their Creator while they live on the Earth. Eventually everyone will die and no one will be able to suppress the truth. Death will make believers out of everyone.

  29. jlwile says:

    Bill, you said previously, “Dr Wile, We are discussing people who believe they are insignificant cosmic debris.” Now you claim, “I don’t think for a second that naturalists truly believe they are insignificant cosmic debris…” Which is it? Your words aren’t painting a consistent picture of what you believe!

    I agree that God has revealed Himself to everyone and that naturalists have suppressed the truth that has been revealed to them. That’s precisely why you have to understand their position in order to be able to witness to them. The fact is that they really think they can find meaning in life, so simply saying that they can’t won’t get you anywhere with them. You have to understand how they think they can find meaning in life and show them that it won’t work. In addition, saying demonstrably false nonsense such as their viewpoint begins with “absolute stupidity” (as you said countless times originally) will not help. You need to understand their position so that you can show them the Truth they are suppressing.

    I agree that death will make believers out of everyone. However, I want to understand the naturalist position so that I can try to show naturalists the truth before they die. I would hope you would want the same thing.

  30. Bill McC says:

    Dr Wile, Please notice that in the same post I referred to people who believe they are insignificant cosmic debris, I also referred to that as a claimed belief. My position has never changed. If I didn’t communicate my position well I apologize.

    Naturalists suppress the truth according to Scripture. They are not ignorant of the truth. They know there is a God. They are without excuse according to Romans One. That is what I believe Scripture states and I agree with Scripture. I also think that naturalists live as if their life has meaning that transcends a professed belief that they are insignificant cosmic debris. I think they realize how precious life is because they really know there is a God, even though they deny His existence.

    The naturalist position begins with no initial intelligence. You and your naturalist friend have already granted that in earlier posts. I explained that I used the term absolute stupidity to mean zero initial intelligence. For some reason you do not like the term absolute stupidity so I granted that you could use absolutely no intelligence or zero intelligence instead of absolute stupidity. I do not understand how you can say it is demonstrably false that there is zero or no initial intelligence as an intellectual starting point of the naturalist position since you and your friend have already granted that position.

    Most of the people I speak with who have naturalist leanings are very intelligent people. When I point out that naturalism starts from an initial intellectual position of absolutely no intelligence they understand very easily that beginning with no intelligence creates a great deal of difficulty for the naturalist belief. They also understand that going from zero intelligence to the brilliance of the DNA molecule in a short period of geological time without any additional intellectual input is not an easy task.

    I would absolutely also like to try to show naturalists the truth before they die. That is why I continue to believe it is important to point out the weakness of a position that starts with zero initial intelligence. It is simply one more step to help convince them that the naturalist position is incorrect.

    I have found the argument from zero initial intelligence very helpful when I have spoken with naturalists. For me it makes sense to continue using something that I have found helpful. Obviously you don’t like the argument so it would make little sense for you to use an argument you don’t accept.

    Thank you once again for the discussion.

  31. jlwile says:

    Bill, I agree that the naturalist knows that there is a God. However, the way to get the naturalist to admit that is to show him or her the difficulties with the naturalist position. Thus, you have to understand the naturalist position to begin with, and then you have to actually address the issues. You can’t do that if you keep uttering nonsense like the naturalist view begins with “absolute stupidity.”

    As I explained to you, my naturalist friend did not agree that the naturalist view begins with no intelligence. As I clearly stated to you:

    When I asked what she would say about her position starting with “a complete lack of intelligence,” she stopped, thought for a moment, and said (as near as I can remember), “That’s one of the many starting parameters, yes, but there are others.”

    Note then, that “no intelligence” is not enough. There is more to it than that. As I went on to tell you, the naturalist thinks the makings of intelligence were there from the beginning.

    Such mischaracterizations are not helpful in discussions that are supposed to be focused on the truth! If you really want to show naturalists the truth before they die, you need to stop mischaracterizing their position and deal with what they actually believe. You might have found such mischaracterizations helpful, but I seriously doubt any naturalist has. The fact that you might have experienced some success with such mischaracterizations has more to say about the power of God (who can use a talking donkey if He has to) than the effectiveness of your mischaracterizations.

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