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Intelligent Design, ID, descends from Creationism--the literal interpretation of Genesis. What is different about ID, is that it does not explicitly mention God while accepting the fact that the earth is billions of years old. By softening its approach, the movement hopes to deny Evolution its central and rightful place in the center of biology.

"Believing is easy, knowing is hard,
and it's knowing that matters most."

Neil Patterson

After defining two terms, we move to a short discussion and critique of the meaning of Intelligent Design, ID, by "Intelligent Design buff" Steve Renner. Reference: IDEA.

For an update on Mr Renner's own evolution see Critique II.

To follow the arguments on this site, two words, mythos and logos, are defined in the context used on this site.
  • Mythos: The pattern of basic values and attitudes of a people, characteristically transmitted through stories, myths and the arts. Mythos amounts to faith; it is conjecture, not provable by observation or experiment.
  • Logos: The principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos. Logos is all about observations, data, and logic.

The crucial difference for this page is that mythos is used to mean faith while logos is used to mean rational and logical.

Both definitions include the concept of morality.

Renner's arguments are similar to those of his cohort. We excerpt a few for comment.

    "What about biology? Is there any reason why this subject should be exempt from similar scientific scrutiny, especially given that the staunchest materialists join the most fervent creationists in their admiration for the tensely balanced, finely tuned, apparently ingeniously complementary systems that, taken together, constitute life? Let us assume that there actually is no good reason for science to arbitrarily restrict the scope of its investigations just because the topic under discussion is living things rather than non-living. Could we, in principle, detect design in biological systems, if it were there? I don't see why not. We could, at least, try"

Where is it written that biology, or any other science, cannot be questioned? The assumption that there is no good reason for science to restrict its scope of inquiry is not only correct, it is part of the scientific method itself--everything is open to question. [These opening statements in the above paragraph look like projection of the author's own bias.] Science cannot exist without open minds. So yes, scientists can and do question biological results just as they do all other sciences. But scientific results can only be overturned by better alternatives that are testable and repeatable by others, as science requires. Science does not restrict the scope of its investigations or investigators; it only requires conclusions that are logical and reproducible. And anyone, Mr Renner included, can investigate anything. If new findings pass muster, new science is born.

    "If you didn't know something was designed, how could you find out? As the foregoing examples illustrate, simply put, if there is low probability (as in complex living systems) coupled with a pre-existing pattern (or specification), there is design. The higher the information content of the specification, the more likely it is that intelligent agency is involved. No one contests the low probability of biological systems having arisen strictly by chance. It has been calculated that the odds of one protein molecule, a hundred amino acids long, coming into being by chance alone are approximately 1 X 10-65th power. 10 to the 65th approximates the number of atoms in the Milky Way. A single bacterial cell, which would have to be magnified over a million times to even be visible, contains 100 billion atoms. I think you see where this is going. Life is exceedingly improbable."

It would help this dialogue if Mr Renner had supplied his assumptions underlying his 1 x 10-65th power. The odds against a protein evolving are not at all that large. Astronomers have detected amino acids in interstellar space and there are only 20 in this thing called life. Altogether, there are several dozen amino acids.

If amino acids can be found in outer space, it follows that they can be found here on earth. Those two facts are merely products of an earlier evolution of the universe iteslf. Evolution of life necessarily follows from evolution of nature itself. Since amino acids tend to cluster, they tend to form naturally as discussed below. How eukaria evolved from archaea or bacteria and where the latter arose are more profound questions, though the general tendency toward complexity is there to drive the many reaction steps.

The requirements are simple in concept, not so simple in execution. At our point in time it seems at least five features are needed for life to arise.

  • A boundary separating life from the inorganic world. [The boundary comes about naturally. Carbon forms strong bonds with its neighbors in the periodic table. In this way, hydrocarbons, the stuff life requires, separates naturally from the inorganic world.]
  • A continuous energy source to compensate for the energy required to sustain self-replicating systems. Without such a source, life cannot be sustained, much less created. [The sun provides this source. Solar photons impinging plants provide the activation energy required to convert CO2 and water into free oxygen and tissue.]
  • A recycling, or coupling mechanism, is needed to prevent exhaustion of the biosphere or life-sustaining resources. [This too is a natural event. It just took longer, as it had to depend on life itself. In modern expression, one example is the not-so-simple carbon cycle where plant life uses energy from the sun to convert atmospheric CO2 and water back to oxygen and tissue from which they came.]
  • Reaction pathways must exist permitting increased complexity. [These abound in carbon chemistry but have only been partly charted at present.]
  • Catalysts occur naturally and speed complex chemical reactions. [In fact, RNA catalysts themselves have been shown in the laboratory to evolve. Eleven mutations were accumulated in real time during the experiment. The net effect was a 90-fold increase in reaction rate.]

Living networks and organisms must be able to grow, multiply by division or other mechanism. And once in existence they must evolve. [How that happens has become so clear it constitutes a law of nature itself, fully testable in the most-rigorous scientific manner.]

Given suitable precursors exposed to electrical discharges, biologist have demonstrated in the laboratory how amino acids form naturally in nature. Amino acids have an affinity for one another; they naturally join to reduce their total free energy. This follows from the fact that proteins are stable molecules. So the proper reference for calculating probabilities for or against a living organism, must start with the amino acids that like one another in varying degrees and include catalysts, and the possible pathways at temperatures and pressures existing in nature. But that is not what Mr Renner did.

Chemically, amino acids like each other to finite degrees, and their affinity ultimately leads to proteins. In like manner, proteins like each other so they tend to come together. How they do so is limited only by the laws of chemistry. Biology is partly about the chemistry of protein production. There is a large variety of protein possibilities. Nature seeded the earth with the stuff of life when the solar system was born. See the comments to this article below for more on what happened then.

By skipping the chemistry and ignoring all the many reasons why Evolution is the best theory going, Renner weakens his case substantially. By its very one-sidedness, his argument is biased. So it is not surprising that his arguments against Evolution fall short. The best and cleanest way to torpedo Evolution is to refute, by rigorous test, the facts and science it stands on. Every day, people test and test, and evolution has so far passed muster. In fact it grows in certainty, stature and scope with time -- ever more awesome in the process.

    "But low probability by itself is not enough to force an inference to design. The precise distribution of atoms in a given snowflake is extremely improbable, because all snowflakes are different and there are many of them. Snowflakes are also highly ordered and possess a somewhat complex, specified structure. Order is greatly valued in science, and rightly so. Science is a law-bound enterprise, which ensures (to the extent that it can) regularity and predictability in a complicated universe. The structure of snowflakes, while the probability of the exact conformation of each individual flake is quite low, is the infallibly predictable result of matter obeying the laws of chemistry and physics under certain conditions. Snowflakes, then, although low-probability and specified, are also low in information, because their specification is in the laws, which are always and everywhere the same. So now we have discussed chance, the very opposite of design, and law, which results in some design, although it's endlessly redundant, and has low information content."

Chance? Snowflakes endlessly redundant? We have never seen two that are identical. Their one common feature, other than chemical make up, has to do with their hexagonal symmetry, a law of science and hence a "design" -- inherent in snowflake creation. And the fact remains, because of their basic symmetry, snowflakes can grow with only one chemical and one physical restraint. Every snowflake will always have a hexagonal symmetry, but can otherwise grow in directions that most reduce their free energy of formation to form three dimensional star-like objects. The necessary conclusion is that nature itself operates in predictable ways that could be called design. "Designs" that control crystal symmetries, DNA repetitiveness, and Evolution itself are expressions of nature. One basic composition in one symmetry produces seemingly infinite designs in the snowflake. As for the information content, there is a natural limit to how much information can be stored by a single molecule. But when combined, there is vastly more to be learned, beginning with the symmetry question. For the dozens of chemicals that make up life, when combined, the information content naturally multiplies exponentially. So the fact that snowflakes are relatively low in information content is, itself, a law of nature. Mr. Renner's contention that while science can create snowflakes and the like, only God can create life ignores the very working of nature itself. Nature involves the concept of chemical affinity, whether simple or complex. Neither is nature constrained by time in which to accomplish results. Moreover, once started, each chain of evolutionary events occurs in parallel with all others. All of these features increase the likelihood of evolution toward complexity. Mr. Renner would be on much firmer ground if he simply claimed God created nature in such a way that humankind had to evolve. Indeed, many scientists believe this is the case.

With respect to human beings, all of us consist of just 20 amino acids and a punctuation mark with a few minerals and a lot of water thrown in. In fact we share a basic composition, chemical makeup, that has about 60% in common with a snowflake.

Each form of life is comprised of chromosomes representing its particular "design." Just as the water molecules and symmetry underly snowflake appearance, so also genes and chromosomes underlie life forms. And like snowflakes humans typically differ in appearance (phenotype) because our chromosomes (genotypes) differ in detail. Their commonality in general form make us recognizable as a distinct species.

Variety among people comes about for the same reason that variety in snowflakes does. Just as the laws of chemistry and physics control symmetry and the disparate appearance of snowflakes, so also the laws of chemistry and biology control our chromosomes and the features that define us as a species. We each exhibit bilateral symmetry in one plane; we have four appendages with five digits on each appendage; we walk on two feet; except for local patches, we are hairless, and we have huge brains relative to other forms of life. Chemistry underlies both the symmetry of snowflakes and of people.

It was by chance alone that a particular sperm and a particular ovum happened to join and become you or me. So it was and is with speciation. When nature puts on pressure, species that happen to mutate and or adapt in ways to counter that pressure move away from their earlier features. They diverge from their brethren left behind -- by a drifting continent for example. Mere distance can serve the same purpose as explained in Natural History. This was the basic lesson of the Galapago finches. The chemical principle of Le Chatalier, where systems of atoms move in whatever direction they are pushed by temperature or pressure is expressed in speciation! There are now a huge number of such examples that tie evolution to scientific principles. To deny evolution as a natural event is to deny science itself!

    "Today we know that a single cell is not the product of a simple chemical reaction. Even the very smallest cell is filled with exquisitely precise molecular machinery, highly complex and interdependent, to the extent that, in most cases, if even one machine were to cease functioning, cell death would occur very soon thereafter."

Of course cells are complex. It took half of geologic time for them to be created. But it happened. And the bacteria and archaea were around for eons before cells. And viruses, being simpler, could predate bacteria, and proteins and amino acids predate viruses. Viruses now reproduce themselves inside cells, so it is doubtful to some that they could have predated bacteria. Nevertheless, viruses are snippets of genetic code, part of the recipes of all of us. Once bacteria came into being, they reproduced by division and evolved. Both viruses and bacteria mutate into new forms with a frequency that stretches medicine just to keep up. This is evolution in action, before our very eyes today!

More "primitive" than viruses are the organic molecules whose existence follow the laws of chemistry. Atoms of all but six elements like each other and spontaneously form molecules. Molecules, made up of two or more atoms of 86 elements therefore generally like each other and form more complex molecules, crystals, structures and masses. For life, the most important elements by far are hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. Complexity is natural in nature for it reduces the free energy per atom contained, see discussion below for more on that. Finally, just 20 amino acids and a punctuation mark comprise all of life and some of these have been found in outer space. That cell death is so rare affirms the stability of the chromosomes and the predictability of evolution in response to changes in weather and/or geology.

    "How do these machines come into existence? The cell's DNA specifies the construction of that protein-composed machinery. A transfer of information takes place -- a lot of information. It is the specific sequencing of the four nucleotide bases on the strands of DNA that is responsible for all the diversity and complexity found throughout the living world. And this sequencing is not chemically ordained. Any of those nucleotides can bond with equal facility to any spot along the strand. Just as in a sentence in English, there is only one thing known capable of generating the highly improbable, information rich, specified complexity that is found in all living cells, and that is an intelligent agent."

The sequencing of organic bases necessarily follows the laws of chemistry where reactions that lower the "free energy" are favored. This basic law of equilibria also drives our digestion of food; it drives the reverse in chlorophyll, given the needed energy input from the sun. Life as we know it cannot exist in a closed system.

Creating molecular complexity reduces the free energy, just as a rock rolling down a hill reduces the potential energy it began with. Stability is the rule in the bottom of potential wells. And the stability of genes, representing such wells, is remarkable. We share many genes with bacteria, eukaria, and archaea. Chromosomes comprise huge strands of DNA with genes here and there, and are subject to breakage and recombination. Mutations along with recombinations drive speciation. Life is complex for sure, but not prohibitively so. However, evolution is a tough master, only those cells most fit for the environment survive to leave progeny. There are many niches in nature to be filled, and they will always be filled. An unchanging niche can be filled by an unchanging species as with the Ceolecanth. Evolutionary stasis occurs when nature is static for a long time. Bacteria and archaea that like hot water have been around for billions of years, essentially unchanged -- because there has always been hot water somewhere.

    "The militantly atheistic Oxford zoologist, Richard Dawkins says this: "Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose". Even Charles Darwin marveled at "...that perfection of co-adaptation which justly excites our admiration". Since the machinery of life manifestly appears to have been designed, why not take design as a working hypothesis, subject it to rigorous scientific testing, and see where the chips fall?"

If Dawkins is militant, then so also for the Born-Again Christians, the anti-evolutionists. As for performing rigorous testing, scientists would if they could! It sounds simple. But it is a deceptive feature of ID to think it is testable in any scientific way. Anyone can understand such a simple statement. But performing a rigorous test on an item of faith is beyond possibility. For example, Science can define the differences between apples and oranges, between bears and pine trees, between fungi and moss no matter how complex. But try any of the same techniques on an hypothesis of intelligent design and you quickly realize the statement is not subject to definition that would support the logic needed for proof. Could Mr. Renner try that for himself?

Nevertheless, a natural test of the differences between evolution and intelligent design has been done, by nature itself. Evolution is predictive, ID is not. Evolution resonates compatibly through all the branches of science, ID is not even science. ID is mythos, science is logos.

Each grabs the imagination, for different reasons. Our innate curiosity brought about science and technology, the things that extend our life times, make us more comfortable, and safer. Our innate fear of death underlies our desire to live forever. That desire can only rest on faith for there is no reason from science to believe we can. Our innate desire for purpose finds no answer in science. Our need for morality is a cornerstone of civilized society; except for the mothering and herding instincts, it has no direct and obvious basis in science. Indirectly, however, self interest (the innate will to live a little longer) supports team play, togetherness and morality on the whole for survival. So morality and togetherness are features of science as well as of religion. Togetherness leads to morality in all cultures, even the godless ones. Morality, when defined as caring for another species, exists in other species. Binta Jua, the eight-year-old gorilla who, in 1996, rescued a three-year-old boy after he fell into the gorilla enclosure is a case in point from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. If kindness makes us moral, then the gorilla is too. The Chimpanzee is a noted tool-maker. Santino, a 30 year old chimpanzee loves to toss rocks at visitors who come too close in his zoo habitat in a Swedish zoo. For eleven years now he prepares for the day's visitors by collecting and stockpiling rocks ahead of time. He plans ahead; spends time shaping the rocks into flat aerodynamic shapes. His aim is poor, but he brings down the house with laughter. In planning ability too, humans are not alone!

Testing hypotheses is how new science is created -- sometimes--sometimes, because most new hypotheses fail. Nevertheless, we would welcome an experiment on ID -- if it could be done in a rigorous manner as Renner suggests. What we would welcome even more is if Renner would then accept the results, whatever they are, as we would.

One possibility for settling the argument would be to find ways to compare the predictability of beliefs with the predictable results of evolution. And this too is subject to observation. Examples of events predictable by science and evolution abound. We know of no equivalent test where a "believer" can win the lottery every week. We know of no test where a "believer" can affect the course of a disease when suitable scientific controls are used. We know of no test where a "believer" has altered a species in the way mutations can as shown in multiple experiments, on such as micro-organisms, birds and fruit flies.

The evidence is simply overwhelming that evolution explains how we came to be. Still, any honest person would say that there is still much to learn and what we learn may modify current thinking. After all, that is what science is all about. Having said that, science cannot prove there is no God that created nature. We have no way of knowing how nature came about. If we did, we would know God as the ultimate creator of the universe and hence of us as well.

But we do know that a tensor can have more dimensions than those we see in daily life. Einstein's gravity is surely part of nature. And guess what, gravity arises from the GEOMETRY of the universe, described by the mathematics of tensors in General Relativity. Time also enters in special Relativity as a fourth dimension. What can ID possibly say about God if it does not recognize nature in proper perspective? This is the physics underlying chemistry.

Simply put, "Intelligent Design" provides no "hooks"by which it can be tested. It is a myth the way it is presented. "Intelligent Design" cannot explain why there is a fossil record except through further myth. Indeed "Intelligent Design" is silent about the entire field of science. Science, and technology arising from deciphering nature, has given humankind a greater mastery over the environment, extended life expectancy, and added to the quality of life. Faith-based initiatives have not. "Intelligent Design" makes no predictions beyond the coincidental.

Physics, chemistry, and biology proceed with the same set of rules and each is equally valid. "Intelligent Design" is not resonant with all religions much less science. The various sciences all accommodate one another; the various religious sects do not, even as each claims to. Indeed, the monotheistic religions tend to fight over whose god is God. Those fights are not over.

To make a final point. If it is legitimate to question evolution, and it surely is, then it is also legitimate to question ID.

  • Where is just one specific fact ID predicts? "Intelligent Design" can make no such specific claim.
  • Where is there a diverse system of facts it correlates with? (To soften the requirement.)

These are crucial questions. One basic requirement of science is that it makes specific predictions within ability to measure. A corollary is that science not rely upon miracles or the supernatural. Science is nothing if not rational, testable, and reproducible. Mythos did not give us modern technology, more comfortable and longer lives, logos did.

This does not negate all value in mythos; we are after all, emotional creatures, each one of us. So why can we not integrate both mythos and logos? We do not have to claim one is the other. Many well regarded evolutionists are in fact religious. For them, there is no conflict. Conflict arises only when one side attacks another. And that smacks of politics if not Extremism.

To summarize, ID cannot be tested as science -- it is mythos, not logos. Scientific experiments must be done with rigor. That is not always easy to accomplish. To illustrate, one commonly accepted way is as follows:

  • State a null hypothesis as the beginning point.
  • Prevent bias.
  • Test the null hypothesis by standard means that includes random sampling and quantitative measures of both the independent and dependent variables.
  • Preclude bias; randomize test sequences.
  • Assess the results using inferential statistics and report the results with the probability that the result arose by chance alone--the null hypothesis.
  • Repeat results by independent observers.
  • Interpret the cumulative results accurately in words that mean something to those involved in the issue. Remember: probabilities cannot prove or disprove anything. Proof is where scientific theories come in, like the laws of gravity and other forces of nature.

It is on this very basis that evolution has taken its place as a centerpiece in the science of biology. On this basis, too, mythos has yet to demonstrate where logos has gone wrong.

We might wonder if the ID people know what to wish for? For example, if it were possible to test ID and get a positive result, testing could then also decide "who's god is God" or if there are multiple gods, or none. From all attempts so far, the existence of paranormal effects that can be measured return the null hypothesis. So, also, for the existence of an anthropomorphic God.

What now? We are left with ID as mythos and science as logos, and therefore very different things. As for the reality, Hawking sums it "god" nicely: "whatever lies behind nature." And each of us is part of that nature.

Much too much energy is going into an argument that can be better spent in educating, easing life, saving our biosphere, learning how to live peacefully. Anyone out there have any ideas? One we could support is that high school curricula include: mythos, logos, how to think, ethics, natural history, and all the while fostering an internal Locus of Control.

    Richard Dawkins agrees:

    "It really comes down to parsimony, economy of explanation. It is possible that your car engine is driven by psycho-kinetic energy, but if it looks like a petrol engine, smells like a petrol engine and performs exactly as well as a petrol engine, the sensible working hypothesis is that it is a petrol engine."

    "...There is an appetite for wonder, and isn't true science well qualified to feed it?"

    "It's often said that people 'need' something more in their lives than just the material world. There is a gap that must be filled. People need to feel a sense of purpose. Well, not a BAD purpose would be to find out what is already here, in the material world, before concluding that you need something more. How much more do you want? Just study what is, and you'll find that it already is far more uplifting than anything you could imagine needing."

    "You don't have to be a scientist - you don't have to play the Bunsen burner - in order to understand enough science to overtake your imagined need and fill that fancied gap. Science needs to be released from the lab into the culture."

All this may sound to some like we are against mythos; we are not--only that mythos is not logos. On the surface, Evolution is amoral; looking deeper, it may indeed provide guidance humankind so badly needs. Religion has something vital to offer here. Again philosophy and religion have legitimate things to think about and say.

Religions that cannot accommodate the natural world, and evolution is part of that, will not impress those who understand the natural world. Science has explanations for how nature works and those explanations are subject to test.

To win their argument that humanity arose via a stoke by a anthropomorphic god, the ID folks must scientifically overturn the evidence for evolution and rational deductions therefrom. Wild claims that have no basis will not carry the day for thinking people.

It is like Galileo said:

"Science teaches how the heavens go,
not how to go to heaven."

In another vein, a contemporary artist caught the flavor of this page:

"The stars might lie but the numbers never do."
Mary Chapin Carpenter

The link to the Carpenter quotation provides a relatively simple, yet profoundly important, rendition of mutation rates. It deals with the realness of very large and very small numbers. Carpenter's quote is spot on for the primary issue of this page.

An individual result, an anecdote, means nothing;
the average of a gazillion such anecdotes does.
It is inevitable!

Intuition is a most remarkable thing. The Poisson Distribution is an arcane mathematical concept--Carpenter makes it real for the rest of us.

Court Decision 1982 - "No group, no matter how large of small, may use the organ of government, of which public school are the most conspicuous and influential, to foist its religious beliefs on others."

That was before Mr. Bush. Mr Bush, of course, disregards court decisions that do not appeal to him and his special-interest groups.


State-by-state score card
Trying to set the record straight.

For those who would quote or misquote Charles Darwin, a quite complete website containing Darwin memorabilia--from his field notebooks to his wife's recipes--is now available on:

For what a group of scientists and theologians write about the science/religion conflict see: John Templeton Foundation


In reference to enorton2 post of 09 Mar 2006.

It is useful to think of life arising not from one accident but from a long series of reactions involving chemical equilibria that has an improbable, but finite potential for going forward, usually toward greater complexity. Ludwig Boltzmann and others showed the way for ordinary chemical reactions, and ultimately to those of digestion and photosynthesis. Evolution is entirely analogous to chemical equilibria among just 20 amino acids in equilibria with their many possible combinations. Boltzmann's basic equation is

C/Co = exp(-G/kT).

G is known as the free energy of reaction, T is absolute temperature, Kelvins, and k is a constant named after Boltzmann himself. C/Co represents the ratio of species concentrations present. The analogous ratio in evolution, where chemical equilibria govern the populations of species "competing," C might represent complexity from a mutation whereas Co is the non-mutated population from which it sprang. Now, the Boltzmann equation literally applies only to real chemicals, not to organisms. But to extend the analogy, G would be a propensity for fitness, and hence survival. A propensity for fitness has not yet been defined with anything like the rigor of Boltsmann's G. Each step in the ladder of life has its own unique G that depends on the environment at the time. This is Natural Selection at work. How does this analogue grab you? Either way, let us know.

Boltzmann's Free Energy lies at the heart of chemistry, and all biological systems must obey the laws of chemistry. If C is smaller than Co, then Co is favored, more will be present in equilibrium with C.

However, in the biologic analogue, whenever C is more fit in some way, the species it represents survives, even if initrially, C/Co = one in a million, or one in a billion or trillion for that matter. This is true for all reactions, organic and inorganic. If C/Co is one in a trillion molecules or species, there will be one in a trillion testing the waters of surival. Impossible odds? Hardly. For carbon, there are about six times ten to the 23rd power of atoms, or about 600 billion trillion atoms, for every 12 grams of carbon, and 12 grams is just 0.035 ounce. So an equibrium where one in a trillion atoms reacts to in a "forward" direction, we have in every 0.035 ounce of carbon, some 600 billion molecules "testing the waters." This moves the tree of life from low probability to high certainty given enough time and a stable environment such the earth/sun system typically provides.

Given that there are trillions of tons of carbon on earth, it is easy to envision a vast array of carbon compounds having the potential for "moving forward" toward higher complexity over geologic time, four billion years. In this way, low probabilities become virtual certainties. It happened very gradually, step by step. And, molecular replication appeared before life did.

When C and Co represent an amino acid and its precursors, the situation just described holds. Since amino acids exist in outer space, the equilibrium equation has a head start in forming the complex organic compounds required for living organisms. Amino acids were present as soon as the earth cooled to the point where they could survive. From that time, it was all Boltzmann leaving a trail for Darwin to decipher and confuse the rest of us, to speak metaphorically." There are only 20 amino acids involved, which enhances the probabilities all along the way to complex organisms.

It is true, the exact path for all these events is not known -- yet. But many of the individual steps required are known and more continue to be uncovered as time marches on. For example, amino acids have been formed in the laboratory out of precursor inorganic substances using electrical discharges.

What Darwin observed, Boltzmann explained qualitatively. Only quantification remains. We are confident that it will happen during this century.

All this should in no way affect religion, for there will always remain the questions: What came before? "Why and how did it happen? What was the purpose? What next? These are matters we can only take on faith. These are mythos.

Chemistry and biology, as well as all other branches of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering are logos. They comprise the things we know and can prove and demonstrate repeatedly. These are the things that have extended, and are continuing to extend, our lives, in ever greater comfort, not to mention sophistication and pleasure. These are the things that have given us a certain mastery over our condition, by working within nature's rules. The above is qualitative in the sense of what happened. The quantitative "how" has been only partly answered.

It remains:

Logos is what we know.
Mythos is what we must take on faith.

They are different things and cannot be mixed together with any logic or consistency.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, March 31, 2006 at 00:08:29

It is possible to believe - or perhaps live with the suspicion - that existence is fundamentally absurd or that there is no "reason" for it, and yet have meaning in one's life. As human beings, we cannot escape the awareness of meaning and purpose in existence on many levels. It is only at the most fundamental level, at bottom, that the suspicion of absurdity arises. But that is not the level at which we live out our days. That is not the level at which we experience the rewards of love and beauty and creativity and curiousity. That is not the level at which our hearts swell with appreciation for the fact of our lives.

The individual who ends his or her life because it is "meaningless" has lost the ability to access these rewards and has descended to live at the fundamental level of absurdity, which is meant only to be examined from a distance.

There is no need to imagine a higher power or a greater purpose if one lives for life's sake, with a sense of the aesthetically pleasing, i.e. with grace and generousity.

Posted by holyworrier on Saturday, August 05, 2006 at 19:50:22

To chip in with another perspective: Could not evolution favor a society behaving morally? Amoral societies would tend toward violence within and among themsleves. This would seem to put them at a disadvantage where survival is the issue.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 18:58:05

How can evolution be said to favor religious belief if the montheisms continually war on each other?

As for morality in nature, it too appears in other species though only humans have a language to define it. For example, how about Binta Jua, the lowland gorilla in the Chicago zoo who saved a 3-year old human child who fell 18 feet into her habitat? Is that not akin to a sense of responsibility (morality)--for another species yet? Did not morality begin with the first female that looked out for her kin? That event surely happened more than a half billion years ago, during or even before the age of dinosaurs.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 00:19:25

In re-reading this thread, the Holy Warrior up there makes many excellent points. Our take is that morality is natural and advantageous for both a good life and for survival of "moral genes" that metaphorically look out only for themselves. Irony? It would seem so.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Sunday, June 24, 2007 at 00:35:53

A problem here is the co-variate relationship between violence and monotheism. Buddhists, Taos, Confucians, Hindus, and ordinary atheists can be violent, but only at small fractions of that exhibited by the montheisms. WHY? If economics is really the root of war, why are the Eastern religions not as violent as the monortheisms? Certainly economics can be a local factor. But something else is far more important when you inlude the entire picture. WHAT IS IT?

Posted by RoadToPeace on Tuesday, April 08, 2008 at 02:55:37

One or more comments among those above have been withdrawn by their author.

Posted by RoadToPeace on Thursday, December 03, 2009 at 23:52:09

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