The chances of Royal Weddings arising randomly…

Royal Wedding - no chance - "not in a billion universes."

Now, I am not a Royalist. The whole subject bores me and I profess ignorance about the intricacies and origins of the institution. But I couldn’t help notice there was a Royal Wedding recently.  And having just read the blog post The chances of life arising randomly…., by New Zealand’s leading village creationist Ian Wishart, I thought I would apply his reasoning to help me understand the event.

You see. Something really strange happened. Hundreds of people spontaneously appeared at Westminster Abbey. Not only that. Half of them were adorned with strange contraptions on their heads and the other half dressed like penguins. But the coincidences extended even further. At the same time hundreds of thousands of people congregated in surrounding streets in London. But that’s not all. The coincidences were even more amazing. It’s estimated 2 billion (2,000,000) people watched the events on TV.

A statistical estimation?

Now what are the chances of that happening? If you took all those 2 billion or more people, removed them from the event and their TVs, removed their funny clothes and dispersed them, and their apparel,  around the world what are the odds of that Royal Wedding happening? I reckon the chances are extremely remote. A bit like the example Wishart gives:

“if you broke open the simplest living cell known to exist today, and broke every chemical bond within it so that you were left with its individual ingredients, the odds in favour of that cell putting itself back together again would be only one chance in 10100,000,000,000. To put that figure in perspective, there haven’t even been that many nano-seconds on the clock since the dawn of time nearly 14 billion years ago.

With odds this remote, explains Hugh Ross,[6] “the time scale issue becomes completely irrelevant. What does it matter if the earth has been around for 10 seconds, 10 thousand years or 10 billion years? The size of the universe is of no consequence either. If all the matter in the visible universe were converted into the building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks was attempted once every microsecond (1 millionth of a second) for the entire age of the universe, then instead of the odds being 1 in 10100,000,000,000 they would be 1 in 1099,999,999,916.” [my emphasis]

Now for the sake of scientific accuracy, that’s not an estimation about the spontaneous generation of life randomly, but it is an estimation of whether the known chemical ingredients of a living cell – every ingredient needed – could re-combine from scratch. Clearly the answer is an emphatic no, never, not in a billion universes.”

A cell - as likely as a Royal Wedding

I reckon the number of components in this Royal Wedding may not be as large, so perhaps we can leave a few zeros off the end of the figures Wishart and Ross quote.  But clearly that Royal Wedding had no real chance of happening “not even in a billion universes.”

But, perhaps if we took our decomposition of the wedding as far as Wishart has, breaking into component atoms, the calculation would show even less chance of a Royal Wedding than a living cell.

Yet, like the cell, it did happen. So surely we are justified in drawing the conclusion Wishart’s statistical expertise has lead him to:

“On the basis of the evidence in front of scientists at present, the chances of [a Royal Wedding]* arising naturally anywhere in the universe, without divine intervention of some kind, are currently statistically classed as “impossible”.”

Here I have just substituted “life” with “Royal Wedding.”

Not overnight, but it will happen

I know, I know! Someone’s going to tell me such a statistical analysis is inappropriate. That there were clear mechanisms involved in the lead up to the Royal Wedding. But what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

If Ian can take the liberty of ignoring mechanisms, and the physical and chemical process, involved in the transformation or evolution of chemicals into more complex forms I can do the same with the Royal Wedding.

My conclusions about the Royal Wedding are just as legitimate (or not) as Ian’s conclusions about life.

Ian’s quoting fetish

By the way, Ian’s post is basically just a reproduction of a chapter from one of his books. If you have read the post you will have noticed that it is heavy with quoted material.

Ian seems to make a habit of this. I reviewed his book AIR CON: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming. One of my comments appears relevant here:

“My first impression when I opened Air Con was the number of quotes. So I decided to analyse the proportion of space devoted to quotations.  Seventy % of one chapter (“Unsettled Scientists”) are quotes! The book as a whole is about 43% quotes. I can understand why authors must use quotes – but why so many? To my mind excessive quoting undermines credibility.”

In this case I have taken the post – basically the chapter from Divine Code plus an introductory 4 lines.

Fourty eight percent (48%) of this is quotes!

Perhaps extensive quoting helps Ian to assume he must be an expert in whatever subject he tackles. Religion, science, evolution, creationism, intelligent design, climate change, political conspiracy. He tackles them all.

Mind you when we come across extensive quoting in scientific articles a warning sign lights up. We tend to suspect plagiarism.

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57 responses to “The chances of Royal Weddings arising randomly…

  1. I note you have no answer to the actual argument, Ken. And yes, substituting events requiring a ‘mind’ behind them (royal wedding), doesn’t really help the credibility of your attempt to argue against design in the universe.


  2. Really? That’s your comparison? Today’s report card says “must try harder”.


  3. Bugger me, Ian. You have found a flaw. I have gone and ignored mechanisms!

    Oh well, my conclusion that a god exists must be wrong!

    But goose and ganders, Ian you did exactly the same so I guess you will agree your conclusion was wrong too!

    Mind you – my post is meant to be satirical. That’s the only way to treat such silly ideas.

    It would be dishonest to actually present such an argument as a serious proposition.


  4. You haven’t falsified the logic yet Ken, so it’s a bit premature to boast.


  5. No boast, Ian. More like laughing.
    Ignoring mechanisms in statistics is surely false logic. It’s also dishonest

    But it does create some humour.


  6. A good analogy. But you don’t need something as spectacular as a royal wedding. Just me sitting here typing is as good an example… in fact every moment or action is.


  7. What mechanisms do you suggest I have ignored? Shapiro, whom I quoted, is pretty clear the proposed mechanisms for abigogenesis leading to RNA are stuffed.

    Laugh all you like, but without a better critique of the actual argument, rather than your hollow strawman, your comments look as dodgy as the climate critique I caught you out on.


  8. PS…I include quotes, like every thorough journalist is supposed to, to ensure that readers get the full flavour of what is being argued, direct from the horse’s mouth so to speak.


  9. Ian – you don’t have the necessary skill or knowledge to understand the complexities of chemical evolution currently being investigated. You chose to argue for the one thing that no one in their right mind considers. That a living cell would spontaneously form by chance from all its component atoms coming together simultanously. Just like the Royal Wedding spontaneously occurring from its consitutent atoms.

    Silly idea – only worthy of satire.

    As for quoting. There is of course realistic and honest quoting. But 50% of a book! 70% of one chapter. Seems more like an attempt to find quotes to confirm your preconceived stories rather than putting in your own work to research and justify them. I actually don’t think it impresses anyone.

    You have been caught out on your quoting fetish and have been unwilling to even comment on my review, let alone “catching me out”! I have assumed that your silence meant I was on target.


  10. Ken…I’ve roasted your tail so many times on the climate debate, culminating in my Magnum Opus, Fisking Ken Perrott (

    And its sequel:
    Fisking Ken Perrott again (

    Debating climate with you is like pulling the wings off butterflies…it becomes cruel and unusual punishment after a while. Your theological knowledge is even worse, hence the dodgy strawmen you set up to debate about, and Shapiro’s argument was not about the cell recreating itself; this proves you cannot read either.


  11. Yet, Ian, you were absolutely silent about my review!

    And you have been very quiet on the climate issue since the revised NIWA report.

    I think you are just piss and wind and avoid the real issues

    And now you even seem to walk away from your silly probability argument.

    Wise. It is indefensible.


  12. Ian Wishart is a tool.
    He’s a tool for Intelligent Design Creationism and he’s a tool for Climate Denialism.
    That’s not a coincidence.
    The same anti-science thinking that led him down the garden path to one is exactly the same one that led him to the other. That happens a lot.
    Two peas in a pod. Spot the difference if you can.
    You don’t have to be a creationist to deny science in other fields but it sure does help.


  13. All,

    In the blog article Ken links to in opening his article above, Ian’s two open paragraphs are inaccurate – he’s acknowledged this, but not corrected the erroneous copy. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s sloppy journalism 😉


    Wouldn’t a “thorough journalist”—your description of yourself—correct copy that is incorrect, especially after acknowledging it to be incorrect?

    PS: Calculating the odds the constituents of a cell would—in one go—“bond together” to recreate a present-day cell is irrelevant. By excluding the process of creating the first cell and subsequent evolution, it doesn’t critique the very things it claims to critique. It simply tries—very badly—to say a modern cell is unlikely to “pop into being” by itself. Well, OK… but it’s completely besides the point, eh?

    Curiously, I’d have thought this type of reasoning would oppose creationism.

    It does suggest to me, for example, that a ‘designer’ would struggle to assemble the “original cell” within the age of the earth… just a loose thought 😉

    (You’d have to assume the same ‘linear’ logic, but that’d serve nicely to play back the fallacy of using their using it in the first place.)

    PPS: Ian has misrepresented Crick, Orgel, etc., by skipping over the science that happened since. Now that’s (much) more that sloppy journalism.


  14. With the greatest of respect Ken, if I wasted my precious time picking apart every bad review by a nutbar, I’d get very little work done.

    Given that my publishing group has contributed somewhere in the region of $10 million to the NZ economy over the years, that would be a serious waste of time and money.

    Air Con not only became a #1 bestseller in NZ, but was the top selling climate change book on Amazon US and UK for a month after its release there. Pissant reviews became irrelevant after a while.

    None of which has any bearing on the subject of your post, so stop being skittish and maybe you or Kate can explain where Shapiro’s science is wrong.

    I particularly enjoyed Shapiro’s comment:

    “Many chemists, confronted with these difficulties, have fled the RNA-first hypothesis as if it were a building on fire. One group, however, still captured by the vision of the self-copying molecule, has opted for an exit that leads to similar hazards. In these revised theories, a simpler replicator arose first and governed life in a “pre-RNA world.” Variations have been proposed in which the bases, the sugar or the entire backbone of RNA have been replaced by simpler substances, more accessible to prebiotic syntheses. Presumably, this first replicator would also have the catalytic capabilities of RNA. Because no trace of this hypothetical primal replicator and catalyst has been recognized so far in modern biology, RNA must have completely taken over all of its functions at some point following its emergence.

    “Further, the spontaneous appearance of any such replicator without the assistance of a chemist faces implausibilities that dwarf those involved in the preparation of a mere nucleotide soup,” warns Shapiro.

    “The chances for the spontaneous assembly of a replicator in [such a nucleotide soup] can be compared to those of [a] gorilla composing, in English, a coherent recipe for the preparation of chili con carne. With similar considerations in mind Gerald F. Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute and Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute concluded that the spontaneous appearance of RNA chains on the lifeless Earth “would have been a near miracle.” I would extend this conclusion to all of the proposed RNA substitutes that I mentioned above.”

    He’s not talking there about a cell reassembling, he’s talking about those “physical and chemical mechanisms” you prated about so knowledgeably before and the probability of their success.

    And he reckons they simply don’t work.


  15. Grant, evidently you had trouble reading as well. Shapiro paraphrased Orgel in a 2006 article, not me. Crick’s interview where he repeated his alien panspermia idea was in 1998, IIRC.

    Regardless, what new work gives you hope on the abiogenesis front?


  16. 1. Are you going to correct your error in your copy or not? It’d take less time than writing a comment here. I’ve been very polite over this, it is poor taste to leave it up you have acknowledged it as wrong yourself.

    2. No, I didn’t “have trouble reading”. (How disingenuous of you.) What is presented leave out the full story. Go do your homework and read his comments re pre-RNA biochemistry & how learn and understand how this would impact on these ideas. You’d of course have to sincerely make an effort to understand the science, and I have admit I can’t see you doing that as you seem too keen on playing games with words instead, just as you have done to me in reply.


  17. ‘leave it after up you have’ for ‘leave it up you have’, sorry.


  18. It has been clarified before you wrote this, and given that the error was yours, not mine, I’ve made that point as well.

    Regardless, Shapiro’s criticisms appear to remain valid today.


  19. Ian,
    Apart from anything else, your quotemined probability argument, is really just an argument for there being causitive factors.

    Well obviously scientists agree that there are caustive factors to the appearence of life.

    The questions is: what are these causitive factors? For people who see the world through their own or others interpretation of religious books, the answer seems to be “god did it”. The problem is that that is not scientific.

    A scientific approach to the question of the causitive factors entails the gathering of relative evidence and the construction of theoretical (usually mathematical) models that explain those causes and predict other outcomes. This approach has beeen very sucessful.

    There are of course areas of study where there are no good conclusive models that explain the evidence. This doesn’t mean that science is “wrong” because there is currently no conclusive model, rather that this is unknown. There are another group of religious believers who like to insert their beliefs into these areas. Yhe god of the gaps perhaps. The problem for those people is that “unknowns” seem to have a habit of changing into knowns, so they are tilling eroding land.


  20. Ian,

    You are avoiding the point and you know. Please read what I wrote carefully. I said that the opening paragraphs in your post are inaccurate. That is factually correct and you have acknowledged that, but have not corrected your copy. I would ask you again to correct your copy.

    That you (understandably) misread me is does not excuse that your copy is inaccurate. Please put your copy right, thank you. I shouldn’t have to keep asking.


  21. I’ve had a look at Ian’s blog, and one or two things about it raise questions for me…

    1) I’ve always found the arguments about our Earth being so perfect (right temperature, cloud cover, etc.) a tad spurious. It presupposes that Earth was created with human habitation in mind i.e. a humanocentric view. If you look at it from the other direction it should come as no surprise that life which has evolved on earth should be ideally suited to the existing conditions, that is the point of evolution. When environmental conditions change significantly natural selection favours those individuals able to adapt to the changes, and those unable to adapt as successfully cannot compete as well, will be reduce in numbers, and may eventually become extinct. To suggest that the perfect conditions for life on our planet are evidence for creation theory rather than evolution simply makes no sense to me.

    2) Simply because an event is statistically unlikely doesn not mean it cannot have happened. And given that life already exists on Earth these arguments are meaningless. If one takes into account the data available the probability of life arising here is 1.0 simply because it has happened. So these probability estimates are only useful when trying to determine the likelihood of there being life on other planets. For this purpose things like the Drake equation come into play.

    Let me qualify this second point by saying this is simply my laymans take on statistics, so if someone more knowledgable in the field wants to refute this by all means go for it. I’m happy to learn 🙂


  22. 1: Ian – you haven’t got time to critque an honest review of your book – but plenty of time to spout the sort of mindless rubbish you are spouting here!?

    I can only conclude that is an excuse. You are actually incapable of responding to my review and therefore must resort ot your old smokescreen tactics.

    2: And your justifcation of extensive and mindless quote mining as providing a “full flavour” is laughable. It’s the last thing that interests you.

    You are an indeologically committed commenter – not an honest journalist. The last thing you want is to convey a feeling to what a scientific consensus might be – you want to promote your own attack on the science. And you quote mine towards that end.

    3: I have shown how ridiclous your argument from probability is and you again run away and pretend to discuss something else. You refuse to stand by your argument – so why use it?

    I know, I know, creationists like to use such probability arguments – but they amount to an argument from ignorance. It just makes them look silly.

    4: I think Nick has a point. Scientists are not suggesting spontaneous and accidental combinations of all the atoms to create a living cell. That’s what creationists suggest.

    But the probablity is against it, as you have argued, so now you have a responsibility to develop an hypothesis for a mechanism.

    All you can do is say your god snapped her fingers! Bloody hell. That’s your hypothesis. Again very silly.

    5. In essence its the same as Bill Dembski’s “inference filter”.

    He says:
    a: “What – you scientists haven’t devoloped an established proven mechanism? I will therefore cross that off the list. No mechanism is possible.”

    b: “Now look at probabilities. Way too improbable for the spontaneous mechanism I will assume. Cross that off the list.”

    c: “That proves it. We have proved scientifically that the design hypothesis must be true! My god did it!”

    No wonder the world laughs at this clown who describes himself as the “Newton of Information Theory”!

    I guess he is one of your heroes though, Ian. Doi you model yourself on him?


  23. Ken, you’ve shown nothing. Your allegory on royal weddings bore no resemblance to the actual argument of Shapiro, Morowitz or others, nor any acceptance of the genuine debate taking place within biology. You are wedded to ancient scrolls that suit your POV, and refuse to even acknowledge anything else.

    Then you have the temerity to claim my argument is faith-based? Pot, meet kettle.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, journalists report what others say. It is important to us that the story hangs on their words. That’s why we use quotes or, in TV, sound interviews.

    Grant, you are now being utterly disingenous. I made no inaccuracy in my introduction to the post. I had followed the debate you were having and you strayed into origin-of-life, which is clearly shown in the quote [quelle horreur] I have attributed to you. You said it, and I understood it perfectly reasonably. You now want to resile from saying it and offer another meaning, fine, I’ve accomodated that. But when you try and claim this is my error, you can go jump. Be more careful how you express yourself.


  24. Now addressing one of your points, Ken.

    You write: 4: I think Nick has a point. Scientists are not suggesting spontaneous and accidental combinations of all the atoms to create a living cell. That’s what creationists suggest.

    But the probablity is against it, as you have argued, so now you have a responsibility to develop an hypothesis for a mechanism.

    All you can do is say your god snapped her fingers! Bloody hell. That’s your hypothesis. Again very silly.

    Err, one argument is God of the gaps, the other is Science of the gaps. Both are faith positions.

    As Miller and Urey tried to show, the biological building blocks plus energy might result in a chemical reaction leading to life. Except, it hasn’t worked, and the more we discover, the less we realise we know.

    Some talk of natural selection working on these primitive nucleotide soups, except by definition the soup is non-living and cannot pass on advantages per se – it is entirely reliant on physical and chemical reactions at the atomic and molecular levels until such time as an accidental combination throws up a replicator.

    If you have on in mind, give us your best evidence for it and stop huffing like a windbag. If you don’t have a credible candidate, then simply say so.


  25. have one in mind


  26. So, Ian, your hypothesis is that your “god did it”? No more detail than that? Snapped her finger and created a cell out of all those billions of atoms?

    Well obviously there is no way of “proving” you wrong. But I wouldn’t trust a pilot who thought her plane flew becuase her god snapped fingers.

    That’s the height if idiocy.

    Us scientist have more connection with reality.


  27. Given my typo, I wasn’t going to mention this, but seeing as there were three errors in this lot you wrote:
    But I wouldn’t trust a pilot who thought her plane flew becuase her god snapped fingers.

    That’s the height if idiocy.

    Us scientist have more connection with reality.

    It’s a shame ‘us scientist’ don’t have more connection with literacy as well.


  28. Now to the substance.

    We already know how planes fly. In fact, we designed them intelligently to do just that.

    We don’t know why life exists, or how DNA emerged within only 200m years of the planet cooling down.

    Given the appearance of design in the Universe (including but not limited to DNA, the conditions necessary for life, precise timing of Big Bang blah blah etc etc) it is just as rational, I argue more so, to believe an intelligent mind was responsible, than to believe a string of impossible cosmic accidents took place just-so and here we are.


  29. So now, Ian, you will will proceed to some details of this design hypothesis you are proposing? Eh?

    Come on. What mechanism was used to create or manufacture any of these coincidences you refer to? What mechanism was resposible for the formation of our universe? What was the mechanism behind formation of our DNA? What was the nature of the original living organism? How does your design hypothesis explain their formation before DNA? Who is actually working in your hypothesis? What have they published? How can we check their progress?

    Come on. You are busy suggesting you have a better mechanism than the rest of humanity.

    There are some pretty good one’s proposed out there. Several aspects required for life are now quite well understood. Others not so well. That’s always the nature of discovery and science. It’s what gives us confidence the whole project of discovery and science is so worthwhile.

    But you have been putting the scientists working in this area down suggesting you can do better. Just as you do with climate science.

    Well, here’s your chance to show you are not just piss and wind.

    I am all ears. I am always interested in considering a reasonable hypothesis.

    So out with it.

    One warning. Simply claiming your “god did it” is not acceptable. It will cause me to laugh again.

    We have so much better ideas out there.

    Ones that don’t rely on an individual’s immense ego!

    And one’s that don’t depend on a “inference to design” using Dembski’s silly filter. After all, if we relied on that approach we would never have developed the understanding required to develop planes, would we?


  30. Richard Christie

    I just reviewed Ian’s book, Air Con on
    I made a couple of very brief comments and observations – but get this, no sooner than it was posted than Ian turns up and votes down my rather unfavorable review and posts a bunch of press reviews in reply, all favorably cropped so as to throw him in a good light.
    My guess is that he must hang out on such sites and do similar to all contrary opinions on his books.
    How pathetic is that?


  31. My word. I thought Ian was too busy to respond to reviews.

    Perhaps mine wasn’t critical enough for him to respond?


  32. These claims that because science hasn’t nailed down the details on how life first arouse is evidence of divine creation are rubbish, there have been plenty of mystery’s in the past that science was unable to explain then but can now.

    Someone’s probably already pointed out that the part of Ian’s post is about the improbability of life’s inception specifically on Earth if it is a rare event across the universe is nonsense as it didn’t matter where it happened, as long as it happened, ditto for the specific form that it took.

    “a string of impossible cosmic accidents took place just-so and here we are.”

    Why limit it to this universe? Cosmology is about all possible universes, and if we never arouse, but chance brought about life with different genetics and different biochemistry those poor sods would no doubt be suffering from the inanity of their own Ian Wishhart’s trying to explain that that Zog must exist because how else could life arise on vorg, specifically on vorg?


  33. Ian,

    Grant, you are now being utterly disingen[u]ous. […] You said it, and I understood it perfectly reasonably. You now want to resile from saying it and offer another meaning, fine,

    For goodness sakes.

    I explained what I originally meant—no, I didn’t revise the meaning afterwards—and did that sincerely:

    When I wrote life, I was referring to present-day life, as in the notion of gods creating man and the animals as they are, not in the sense of ‘the origin of life debate’.

    You wrote acknowledging that you accepted that, indicating that your copy had the wrong meaning:

    You will have noticed that the posting of this crossed with your comment clarifying what you meant in the other thread…ie, this was already written.

    I had no problem with you misreading my words—it’s understandable enough and it happens—but your response here is more than just a little silly.

    What bothered wasn’t the original posts—at the time was I just bemused that you’d gotten the wrong idea and were busy waving it around. What bothered me was that I expected you’d revise the articles to reflect what was correct once you understood what was meant. The mistake itself didn’t bother me: what bothered me was that I even had to ask. Most people on realising they’ve accidentally misrepresented someone would remove the mistake on their own initiative. Instead, I broadly hinted it (I was giving you the benefit of the doubt), then eventually outright asked.

    Once you had the right meaning, you should really have removed my name from those articles. You update is pretty so-so, really and here you’re impling I was lying. And you tell me to ‘go jump’ ? That’s silly.

    It seems to me that your grabbing my name and waving it around in your blog articles is because you felt a need for someone to “bash”, someone you can pin a ‘science’ label on and rave at, and you can’t let go of it.

    But when you try and claim this is my error, you can go jump.

    I didn’t make that claim. I told you your opening statements were inaccurate and erroneous, which they were (and I’d say still are, really). I never put you at fault for initially getting them wrong: I objected to you not correcting them once you knew they were wrong.

    Be more careful how you express yourself.

    Be more careful before you accuse others of things in future. And, please, good advice: when someone asks politely (or hints) that some content about them is incorrect, correct it on your own initiative, promptly. There is no excuse for letting errors stand in on-line articles.


  34. Richard Christie

    Be more careful before you accuse others of things in future.

    Fat chance he’ll take that to heart, Grant.


  35. Andrew, appealing to multiverse theory is simply another name for appealing to God. It isn’t falsifiable or testable. I sprung Dawkins and Carrier on the precise same point in The Divinity Code.

    You ‘us scientist’ people are religious believers like the rest of the planet, but your deity wears a white coat.

    Richard, if you want to take a crack at my reputation, I’ll take a crack back. Of note, past reviewers liked my practice of quoting sources extensively:

    “Wishart… is exceptionally thorough. He skilfully blends official documents with his own observations and material from his own inquiries, giving a more informative picture than could ever have been possible in the daily media” – Evening Standard, NZ

    “Wishart is for me without peer in this country as an investigative journalist, and in this book he combines painstaking research with a pacy narrative that further cements his reputation” – City Voice

    “Journalist Ian Wishart is fast gaining a reputation as a writer who is prepared to tackle the difficult subjects. Well researched and very compelling reading…a powerful book” – Northern Advocate

    What you geese call ‘quote mining’ is journalism 101, and recognised by reviewers as good research and source-citing. My writing style hasn’t changed in the past 16 years.


  36. Grant, the original comment you made sat uncorrected by you for three days, even after I wrote a separate post about it. The opening paragraph to the item Ken has linked to above set the context, the raison d’etre, for my posting of the Divinity Code extract.

    What does it say? That you had been debating junk DNA and the origin of life on another thread. It clearly now says that despite saying X you meant Y, which actually serves as a clarification for anyone else who stumbles across your comment.

    Your protestations are particularly hollow when you wrote in that comment thread in reply to someone else:
    You certainly wrote that – that you present it via an analogy doesn’t mean you can scrub it out after the fact!

    Sauce, meet gander.


  37. For goodness sakes, Ian. Stop making excuses and evading. It’s straight-forward. You misread – that’s OK. I put you right. That’s OK. But you didn’t put your articles right once you understood. That’s not so good.

    Grant, the original comment you made sat uncorrected by you for three days, even after I wrote a separate post about it.

    Eh? (And: so what?) Think of the obvious things, first? I didn’t see it. How hard is that? It’s the obvious reason, isn’t it? (For the record I corrected it when I did see the post.)

    You certainly wrote that – that you present it via an analogy doesn’t mean you can scrub it out after the fact!

    Sauce, meet gander.

    Wrong and even sillier: you’re making a false comparison.

    You grabbed onto passing phrase, on that was hardly a focus of the discussion, which you mistaken took to be about the origin of life debate, then waved my name around as a ‘science man’ for you to attack. Both of your articles are squarely about the origin of life debate. But I wrote nothing on your blog to do with that. My name shouldn’t be there really.

    Now stop making excuses, please.


    The opening paragraph to the item Ken has linked to above set the context, the raison d’etre, for my posting of the Divinity Code extract.

    Perhaps you need to rephrase this. Read directly, it either doesn’t make sense or doesn’t stand on it’s own. Ken wrote his post above after yours: I’d like to think you’re not time-travelling? 😉 Which is “the item Ken has linked to above” — in his original article, or some comment? Whatever, you need to make it clearer if it matters to you.


  38. Ian, while I might have a smidgen of sympathy for the claim that dismissing the existence of a creator (atheism) is a faith based belief, that’s not what science is about, as people have probably mentioned to you once or twice, science is a process, it’s about testability.

    Last I heard (happy to be corrected by someone specialising in the area) explaining the spooky nature of quantum observations requires either that reality depends on the existence of an observer, or for there to be many parallel universes.


  39. To keep things interesting, I will now try to restate the point I was making (and I think also the point Ken has made with the Royal wedding) from a different context. That being the physics perspective, my knowledge of which comes only from popular science books/docos 😉

    I doubt whether Ian recognizes it, but his quotemined argument is actually related to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    The straw man is that the argument is talking about the probability of a closed system at maximum entropy spontaneously achieving a lower entropy state (i.e assembling a cell). I imagine that probability is very small. Maybe even as small as mentioned in Ian’s copy pasting.

    However, the problem with that, is that we are not now, nor have we ever been part of a closed system at maximum entropy. This simple fact makes the entire argument invalid, as there is room for many complex causative processes as the universe decays from it’s highly ordered low entropy state to it’s ultimate (high entropy) heat death destiny.

    If I was him, I would be looking to hang his “god done it” on the mystery of the low entropy starting point of the universe rather than the much smaller mystery of the inception of reproductive biology on earth. I suspect that this one will be more difficult to explain, but who knows?


  40. Ideas of a “multiverse” (or a universe larger than we currently see or comprehend) may well be speculation. But they are scientific speculation. That is quite different to religion. (Always amuses me how people like Ian call something a religion when they want to discredit it!).

    These ideas come naturally out of considering inflationary models of “big bang theory” and out of “string theory” (yes I know – more hypothesis than theory). There is a lot of structure and credibility to these ideas. Much of them are currently untestable but won’t necessarily always be so. There are possibilities arising at CERN with the Large Hadron Collider. And people like Roger Penrose have suggested that some of the fine detail in the cosmic microwave background are suggestive of other universes before ours or even alongside ours.

    However, in contrast to religion scientific speculation and its resulting ideas change with evidecne and testing. Religon is not spoeculation it is the TRUTH. No questions asked. No testing against reality.

    Ian’s model is to say he can’t understand how life arose, (or there was a Royal Wedding) therefore his god must have done it. Of course as a fundie he starts with the god assumption and tries to twist the evidence, any evidence, to “prove” his belief. That assumption of his is not speculation – its the ULTIMATE TRUTH as far as he is concerned. Same with the climate change issue. Any distortion or extensive quotes to justify his belief of a communist, green capitalist, monopoly, corporate, atheist conspiracy attempting to impose a “New World Order.” (Perhaps that suggestion of mine is why he tried to ignore my review of his book?).

    I believe that the extensive quoting fetish of Ian (and it is extreme – 50% the average for a book and 70% for a chapter!) arises naturally from this desperation to produce and distort evidence for a preconceived belief. I have certainly noticed that this fetish is extremely common in creationist screeds. And have a listen to Casey Luskin some time in his podcasts. He quotes so much it reminds me of the guy who suggested intoducing verbal indicators for quotation marks. He needs them – he say “quote” and “close quote” so much.

    Andrew W., I have just been lsitening to an audio of Sean Carroll’s book From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time. It’s quite fascinating but he does discuss the concept of a “multiverse” or extended universe arising naturally out of quantum field theories of the “big bang.” He also discusses the “Copenhagen” and “Many World” interpretations of quantum mechanics. From this I don’t interpret the so-called (and misnamed) “many world” interpretation as implying different parallel universes. In fact it may be better to call it “many histories”. I think the issue is that one should not consider a wave function for an indivdual object as seperate from the rest of the unvierse. There should really be a wave function for the universe. So rather than the wave function of an object “collapsing” (according to the “Copenhagen interpretation”) when it interacts with classical objects (including observers) what we actually see is one of the possibilities inherent in the wave function of the universe. Nothing is created or destroyed – just that we have seen one of the possible histories described by the wave function.


  41. I agree Nick. The low entropy is the real mystery.

    However I have come across religious apologists who are awake to that. it gives them some huge improbability numbers to play with. Such as the possibility that the initial state of the universe could be in a low entropy state. Hugely improbable. And they can quote big names in science like Penrose and Hawking. (Someone has also pointed out that its great to talk about entropy becuase no one understands it and you can appear intelligent!)

    But again they are just assuming a coincidence mechanism when we are just so far away from any understanidng of this issue to consider a real mechanism.


  42. Finally…some discussion as to the substance of the issue.
    Does anyone here really think Multiverse theory gets us out of the problem of first cause? Given that multiverses – a scientistic belief as opposed to a scientific one – are unprovable and untestable, let’s assume for a moment that we are part of one. All that does is push back the question, “Who created the Universe?” to “Who created the Multiverse?”

    Regardless, I posted this comment in one of my blog threads that is relevant:

    In twisting himself to avoid staring at the obvious, Hawking in The Grand Design argues “We are the product of a quantum fluctuation in the very early universe.” Page 139

    “Quantum fluctuations lead to the creation of tiny universes out of nothing. A few of these reach a critical size, then expand in an inflationary manner, forming galaxies, stars, and, in at least one case, beings like us.” page 137

    Think about that for a second. He wants you to believe that we began as a quantum fluctuation.

    Here’s what I wrote in The Divinity Code about that argument:

    Does science know why it went Bang? No, we don’t have a clue. Sure, there are theories. Scientists like Edward Tryon have tried to argue that the universe is the result of what he called “a vacuum fluctuation”. Although this sounds suspiciously like what happens when you accidentally suck a sock up the hosepipe, in fact he was talking about a quantum event.

    Scientists studying quantum physics have long known that particles seem to miraculously appear and disappear, sometimes with quite spectacular energy effects. Could the universe, wonders Tryon, simply be a quantum event that popped into existence and didn’t disappear again?

    Another to theorise along these lines more recently is British physicist Paul Davies in his book, God and the New Physics.

    The argument seems quite tempting, until you crunch the numbers. Quantum events are happening all over the place, even as you read this. But the universe is an incredibly large place. There must be quadzillions of quantum events happening every second throughout the universe. There are 86,400 seconds per day, or nearly 32 million seconds a year. And according to science the Big Bang happened nearly 15 billion years ago.

    Now, we know from history that if any one of the quantum events happening all around us turned into a Big Bang, it would wipe the slate clean and destroy the universe as we know it. Yet, despite the enormous, incalculable opportunities for a new Big Bang originating somewhere in the universe in the past 15 billion years, the event has never happened again.

    So Hawking wants us to believe the Big Bang quantum event was special. Why was it special?

    Another scientist gave Hawking’s book the big thumbs-down as “pseudo-science”:

    ‘The book is short (about 100 pages of actual text, interspersed with lots of color graphics and cartoons), and contains rather little substantive science. There are no references of any kind to any other sources.

    The discussion of supersymmetry and M-theory is often highly misleading….I’m in favor of naturalism and leaving God out of physics as much as the next person, but if you’re the sort who wants to go to battle in the science/religion wars, why you would choose to take up such a dubious weapon as M-theory mystifies me.

    “A British journalist contacted me about this recently and we talked about M-theory and its problems. She wanted me to comment on whether physicists doing this sort of thing are relying upon “faith” in much the same way as religious believers. I stuck to my standard refusal to get into such discussions, but, thinking about it, have to admit that the kind of pseudo-science going on here and being promoted in this book isn’t obviously any better than the faith-based explanations of how the world works favored by conventional religions.’
    – source:

    So why did Hawking take a pounding on his latest book in comparison with his previous work? Go back to my initial comments: his motivation was not to break new scientific ground, but to try and argue against theology. His motivation outpaced his ability to deliver solid science.

    To date, we have no evidence that the Universe can create itself out of nothing, and a quantum event still has to originate in something – as all the quantum events we know of happened inside this material universe.


  43. Well,, at least Ian seems to have abandoned his earlier argument. Unfortunately, true to form, and as predicted by several people earlier in this thread he has now slipped and slimed into new fields.

    So, it seems he has arrived at some sort of beginners question about inflationary models of universe formation. That is: What happens to the parent universe when the pocket universe inflates?

    Well, in a particularly putrid combination of ignorance and arrogance, he assumes that the relevant subject area experts have not thought about this, so no point asking, rather, he starts promulgating his naive question as cutting, insightful investigating journalism that has uncovered the evil, scientistic cabal intent on hiding the true existence of his god. Hey Ian, I have news for you. God is not featuring anywhere in these scientific hypotheses, because the concept of god does not explain anything.

    People like you have been saying “god did it” for a very long time, about pretty much everything. We can all be thankful, that there are a lot of people that didn’t and don’t listen to your message and instead work tirelessly at rolling back the clouds of ignorance.

    Now, if you want to see what real discussion about these issues looks like, have a read of this paper. Keep you fingers poised in the ctrl-c salute, you might even find an answer to your question in there.

    P.S. I will give you a hint. You picture the big bang as a huge explosion, right?


  44. I hate to say it Nick, but I’m familiar with the wave argument its variations….but it suffers from the same problem as multiverse theory – whence did it come from and how did it begin?

    Ascribing untestable, unfalsifiable miracle properties to the Universe is no different in substance from invoking God. And it’s not science, it is scientism.


  45. What is this “wave argument and it’s variations” that you are familiar with there Ian?

    Excuse me if I leave the judgment of if its science or not to, ahem, actual scientists rather than conspiracy theorist blowhards.


  46. Would it make it easier if I called it cyclic theory?
    Anyway, my point was that this and other cosmological variations are all similar to multiverse theory in principle. They are untestable, they require faith in objects not seen.

    Sean Carroll concedes this point but claims we should all just live with it, in the name of science, because accepting it as a possible scientific explanation means you can keep God out of it:

    It can be difficult to respond to this kind of argument. Not because the arguments are especially persuasive, but because the ultimate answer to “We need to understand why the universe exists/continues to exist/exhibits regularities/came to be” is essentially “No we don’t.” That is unlikely to be considered a worthwhile comeback to anyone who was persuaded by the need for a meta-explanatory understanding in the first place.

    Granted, it is always nice to be able to provide reasons why something is the case. Most scientists, however, suspect that the search for ultimate explanations eventually terminates in some final theory of the world, along with the phrase “and that’s just how it is.”

    How is “that’s just how it is” any different in principle from “God did it”?


  47. Richard Christie

    How is “that’s just how it is” any different in principle from “God did it”?

    “that’s how it is” is an observation.
    “God did it” is an assertion of an unprovable hypothesis.

    Fairly basic I would have thought.


  48. Its different in at least one key aspect. The “final theory of the world” that you (hopefully) arrive at is expected to be consistent with itself, the evidence and to have predictive power.

    The whole point of “god did it” is to shut down the asking of questions and hand over responsibility to the priesthood or theologians. Imagine where we would be now if everybody just accepted that explanation.

    But, hold on a minute, you aren’t you being a bit disingenuous here Ian? You seem to have problems with accepting evolutionary theories a minute ago, and now all of a sudden you understand (seem to be an expert in), and are ok with cosmological theory

    Still with your fingers locked into the ctrl-c gesture as well. How about you try some “actual learning” for a change.


  49. Ah, Ian. You really have no confidence in your own beliefs, do you? Are you terrified at exposing them to the same brilliant critique you impose on scientific speculation? Do you insist on special rules for you!? Everyone else’s ideas can be challenged but that’s not permissible with yours? Because your ideas are religious and we all know that religion has a special get home free card. It is disrespectful to question any religious claims and therefore yours are excused?

    Is that why you refuse to respond to criticisms of your statistical chance claims as “proof” of your god? Why you always attempt to divert and create red herrings.”

    Sorry about all the cherry picking and quoting I am about to indulge in but I must be fair and apply your brilliant critique to your own mythology.

    Does anyone here really think the god myth  gets us out of the problem of first cause?  Given that god myths – a superstitious belief as opposed to a scientific one – are unprovable and  untestable. In fact they specifically avoid testing against reality instead demanding that we accept them as ABSOLUTE TRTHS.

    The question is not “Who created the
    Universe?” but “how did our universe form.” Using “who” is a dead give away and comes across as babyish.

    Ian, you are twisting youself to avoid staring at the obvious – that whatever our current level of knowledge the formation of the universe was a natural event and resorting to mythology solves nothing. Only science can answer such questions.

    Think about that for a second. Wishart wants you to believe that we began as the flick of his god’s fingers or a glint in her eye.

    Does religion know why it went Bang? (sic). No, it  doesn’t have a clue. Sure, there are myths. But they sound suspiciously like what happens when you accidentally suck a sock up the hosepipe. They are simply the equivalent of the old rugby sock myth of universe formation.

    These myths seems quite tempting, until you crunch the numbers. Old rugby socks are happening all over the place, even as you read this. But the universe is an incredibly large place. There must be quadzillions of rugby socks active every second throughout the universe. There are 86,400 seconds per day, or nearly 32 million seconds a year. And according to science the Big Bang happened nearly 15 billion years ago. Even according to religious apologists it happened 6000 years ago.

    A reviewer gave Wishart’s book the big thumbs-down as “religious claptrap:

    “The book is far to long and contains no substantive science. There are plenty of references and quotes. Boy are there quotes – as much as 70% of one chapter. But all cherry picked to fit his idealogical objective. And what a nasty objective that is.”

    So why did Wishart take such a pounding on his book? Go back to my initial comments: his motivation was not to objectively consider the scientific information but to try and argue against science. His ideological motivation outpaced his ability to consider any science.

    But seriously Ian – if you have got this far (I am aware constant quoting just puts people off so you may not have) I have two questions of you arising from this statement if yours (well I think it’s yours):

    “Given that multiverses – a scientistic belief as opposed to a scientific one – are unprovable and untestable.”

    1: What does this word “scientistic” mean? It’s not in my dictionary and you apologists keep using it as a term of abuse but it doesn’t seem to accord to any real thing.

    2: Why use the words “unprovable” and “untestable”? Do your mythological beliefs give you information others don’t have? Do you understand what is being discovered even now from the background cosmic MW radiation -especially as the resolution is improving? Do you appreciate what the potential discoveries are if we ever get to measure gravitational waves (and we are currently attempting that)?   Are you familiar with the recent papers describing evidence consistent with other packet universes? Do you think the universe just coincidentally stops at the curreent level of our observation (many people have come a cropper with that assumption)?

    By the way I assume you have conceded on your statistical arguments? They are old hat, ridiculous, and you have sensibly avoided pursuing them. Pity you have left such a naive record of your use of them


  50. “That’s just how it is” is not a scientific explanation. It’s a cop-out. If science adhered to “That’s just how it is” everytime it hit a problem, we’d still be wearing loin cloths hunting mammoth because, frankly, “that’s just how it is, son”.

    Why does gravity hold us fast to the planet? “Don’t know, that’s just how it is”.

    ROFL. And you geeks think you are scientists?


  51. You seem to be making a deliberate attempt at being thick there Ian, but as far as I can see, you are just making a bit of a dick of yourself.

    You have mined some quote up out of context, taken some weird interpretation of it, and then have gifted it to the other commenters to defend. How magnanimous.

    The ironic thing is, that you have actually arrived back at your own argument. You are the one that is happy with “god did it” as an explanation, not me.


  52. I think Wishart’s various contributions are quite useful to those interested in how the mind of the religious apologist works. It’s quite easy to stand back apply a little analysis to see how he functions and how pathetic his arguments really are.

    1: First, I will refer again to his quote mining fetish. His recent comment, for example, ran at 72 % quotes! Quite high even for Ian.

    2: Check out some of the quotes – do they say what he claims? Has he checked the rest of the text?

    I take just his quotes from The Grand Design by Hawking and Mlodinow.

    Ian quotes:
    A: “We are the product of a quantum fluctuation in the very early universe.” And

    B: “Quantum fluctuations lead to the creation of tiny universes out of nothing. A few of these reach a critical size, then expand in an inflationary manner, forming galaxies, stars, and, in at least one case, beings like us.”

    He then proceeds to ridicule the use of quantum mechanics because it would imply that because “There must be quadzillions of quantum events happening every second throughout the universe” why aren’t these creating universes?

    OK – Quote A was taken form consideration of details in the cosmic microwave background, how variations occurred in the early existing universe and there consequence in producing the lumpy universe we currently inhabit. It does not refer to the original formation of the universe. After describing the CMBR and its small variations the book says “So look carefully at the map of the microwave sky. It is the blueprint for all the structure in the universe. We are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe. If one were religious, one could say that God really does play dice.”

    Quote B is simply taken from a figure caption portraying universe formation in the multiverse. No other context there.

    My conclusion:
    Ian has simply searched for text he could quote (called quote-mining) to support his argument. He doesn’t give a stuff about what the book actually says. If he had bothered actually reading the book he would have found reference to the difference between local space and De Sitter space. For example “Because gravity shapes space and time, it allows space-time to be locally stable but globally unstable. . . . “That’s why empty space is stable, bodies such as stars and black holes cannot appear out of nothing. But a whole universe can.”

    3: Ian’s reference to “I’m familiar with the wave argument its variations” and then explaining it as “Would it make it easier if I called it cyclic theory?” is just bafflegab and attempted one-upmanship. It reveals that he doesn’t understand the terms he is mouthing

    4: Finally, a comment on his reference to “multiverse theory.” What the hell is he talking about? There is no such theory. Mutiverses are a consequence or prediction of other theories. Theories which have credibility. If Ian had actually read The Grand Design he would have seen: “The mutiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuninng. It is the consequence of the non-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology.” A lot of god-bothers assume scientists invent theories to deny any place for their gods. Nothing could be more wrong. We just aren’t interested in those ideas unless some evidence crops up for them.

    Or else have a read of the Epilogue of Sean Carroll’s book “From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.” It’s entitled “The Multiverse is not a theory” and I quote in part:

    “More specifically: The multiverse is not a “theory.” If it were, it would be perfectly fair to criticize it on the basis of our difficulty in coming up with possible experimental tests.

    The correct way to think about the multiverse is as a prediction . The theory—such as it is, in its current underdeveloped state—is the marriage of the principles behind quantum field theory to our basic understanding of how curved spacetime works. Starting from those inputs, we don’t simply theorize that the universe could have undergone an early period of superfast acceleration; we predict that inflation should occur, if a quantum inflaton field with the right properties finds itself in the right state.

    Likewise, we don’t simply say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there were an infinite number of different universes?” Rather, we predict on the basis of reasonable extrapolations of gravity and quantum field theory that a multiverse really should exist.

    The prediction that we live in a multiverse is, as far as we can tell , untestable. (Although, who knows? Scientists have come up with remarkably clever ideas before.) But that misses the point. The multiverse is part of a larger, more comprehensive structure. The question should be not “How can we test whether there is a multiverse?” but “How can we test the theories that predict the multiverse should exist?” Right now we don’t know how to use those theories to make a falsifiable prediction. But there’s no reason to think that we can’t, in principle, do so. It will require a lot more work on the part of theoretical physicists to develop these ideas to the point where we can say what, if any, the testable predictions might be. One might be impatient that those predictions aren’t laid out before them straightforwardly right from the start—but that’s a personal preference, not a principled philosophical stance. Sometimes it takes time for a promising scientific idea to be nurtured and developed to the point where we can judge it fairly”

    Sorry for the lengthy quote. But I thought it useful to convey a bit of the doubt and uncertainty always present in science. Ian. Being more familiar with religion, treats us like dogmatists – nothing further from the truth.

    Actually Sean’s book is really good. Covers a lot of ground and in no way covers up the problems or doubts. Gives you a real feel for what modern cosmology must be like.


  53. Scientism:
    1. Often Disparaging. the style, assumptions, techniques, practices, etc., typifying or regarded as typifying scientists.
    2. the belief that the assumptions and methods of the natural sciences are appropriate and essential to all other disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences.
    3. scientific or pseudoscientific language. — scientistic, adj.
    – Dictionary online

    Michael Shermer’s take on scientism was also quite entertaining:

    What is it about Hawking that draws us to him as a scientific saint? He is, I believe, the embodiment of a larger social phenomenon known as scientism. Scientism is a scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena, eschews supernatural and paranormal speculations, and embraces empiricism and reason as the twin pillars of a philosophy of life appropriate for an Age of Science.

    Scientism’s voice can best be heard through a literary genre for both lay readers and professionals that includes the works of such scientists as Carl Sagan, E. O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins and Jared Diamond. Scientism is a bridge spanning the abyss between what physicist C. P. Snow famously called the “two cultures” of science and the arts/humanities (neither encampment being able to communicate with the other). Scientism has generated a new literati and intelligentsia passionately concerned with the profound philosophical, ideological and theological implications of scientific discoveries….

    …Scientism is courageously proffering naturalistic answers that supplant supernaturalistic ones and in the process is providing spiritual sustenance for those whose needs are not being met by these ancient cultural traditions. Second, we are, at base, a socially hierarchical primate species. We show deference to our leaders, pay respect to our elders and follow the dictates of our shamans; this being the Age of Science, it is scientism’s
    shamans who command our veneration. Third, because of language we are also storytelling, mythmaking primates, with scientism as the foundational stratum of our story and scientists as the premier mythmakers of our time.

    You do strike me as somewhat of an eager young priest’s apprentice Ken. I think Shermer was right.


  54. You can’t imagine my gratitude for your flattery Ian – you called me young!! Usually my mates call me a silly old bugger and your mates call me senile or a moron. Mind you they are diverting the issue I am sure.

    Still – why use the term. OK it is disparaging. Perhaps that’s your sole motive.

    Who the hell is suggesting one use the methods of natural sciences in the humanities. That would be extremely silly. A straw man there for sure.

    Scientific or pseudo scientific language. Like your confounding waves and cyclic? Perhaps best to use the word pseudoscientific or just pretentious. Another straw man.

    Now why ignore my second question?


  55. As to the substance of your argument, again, you are ascribing mystical powers to the universe/proto universe. It doesn’t matter how many universes that you want to postulate exist, or existed prior to this one in either series or parallel…how did it/they begin. Not just begin this cycle. Begin.

    Science is never going to know. Its laws and its tools apply to this universe, not to anything outside of it. We cannot send starships to the boundaries, and most of this science is done on computer models and sketchpads.

    You are ultimately taking a faith position. In your case, it is faith that the universe has a natural first cause. But you have no evidence for that. Your arguments are no better than “God did it”. The bit that makes people laugh is that you pretend your argument is scientific, and you actually cannot see why it isn’t.


  56. Ian, you are still ignoring my second question I guess I can understand why. You made a completely unwarranted statement and you now realise it.

    As for mystical powers. You are the one postulating a god who makes billions of atoms come together spontaneously to form a living cell. Now that is bloody mystical, isn’t it?

    “Science is never going to know.” you never justify that do you. Scientists don’t pretend to potentially be able to understand everything or even collect the data. We don’t deny there may well be things that man just doesn’t have the intellectual or technological skills to understand. But it is in the nature of human to humbly try.

    In contrast religion makes claims of knowing TRUTH – no evidence, no intellect on no humility. And no real knowledge. You are refusing to confront that Ian.

    As for a mechanism for the formation of universes. There have been several advanced. (Have a read if Carroll’s book – he covers some. But read it – don’t quote-mine it). Sure they are speculative but are based on credibly understood science. And they do raise the possibility of validation through identification of, for example, particles associated with suggested fields.

    This sort of speculation is not a problem. But as Nick has pointed out, the real mystery currently is the past hypothesis, the expected low entropy state of the universe at it’s formation. Yes, I am sure you can make some sort if purile attack on this problem and the inability of science to solve it (so far). But what is your alternative? How does “god did it” explain the low entropy?

    You haven’t a clue. Well don’t pretend that religion offers any understanding. It doesn’t. And to suggest that it does is an inappropriate application of religion. Outside any possible authority it might have.

    Perhaps we should call that “religionism.” Too much of it goes on and people who are guilty of it need to be shamed.


  57. Richard Christie

    Fat chance he’ll take that to heart

    Probably not, but you could at least hope someone who seems proud of his ‘journalism standards’ (whatever you think of what he writes) to look at what he’s doing. It’s unethical to leave incorrect material standing, or to make a link between someone and an interest of their’s, where there is in practice no link (which he has left standing…). And, of course, I shouldn’t have had to ask.

    Having said that his excuses here (I haven’t had time to read elsewhere yet) suggest he wants to cling to having someone he can put up as a ‘science man’ as a foil to his spiel, even if that a link his spiel isn’t there. A bit pathetic to my mind.

    It strikes me as theme running through the stuff of Luskin’s that Ian quoted, the other commenter’s approach, Ian’s insistence on holding my name up (rather than just dealing with the subject he wanted to write about) and his book material. All try to set up—by whatever means it seems—‘credible names’ to ‘knock down’, as if somehow misrepresenting them (and being rude to them) will support their cause. It’s a fallacy, of course.

    Naturally, I find it ironic to find that Ian can write here “Finally…some discussion as to the substance of the issue”. If he’s so interested in substance why did he ever put my name up?

    It makes me think that instinctively, deep down, they realise that their arguments aren’t able to stand on their own and so they flounder around looking for something by someone credible they can misrepresent or ‘stretch’ so that they have something they can say.

    I realise part of the problem is that as ID is founded on opposing evolution and pushing creationism into schools, it doesn’t have anything positive to present, leaving them with little else to but to find suitable subjects to knock.

    Unfortunately for them, even if they did find flaws in the science, it still wouldn’t advance their cause. Ironically this is part of the essence of essentially the only real point I did put forward in the discussion on Ian’s blog. (Despite what Ian wrote, there wasn’t any real debate on junk DNA; there was one about the other commenter’s approach, though!)

    All of this has served to remind me why I generally don’t write comments on fundamentalist Christian blog articles, nor write on these topics. Many—most?—fundamentalist Christians seem remarkable (to me) for their proclaiming to hold high moral standards, yet treating others badly when it suits their ‘cause’. I’m not taking anything away from Ken saying this: I do occasionally chip in on threads others have started. It’s just I prefer not have to deal with the seeming inevitable dishonesty that seems to come from their crowd. (It’s odd in a way, as anti-vaccine proponents, chiropractic supporters, etc., aren’t really that different in many respects and I do write on that.)

    Excuse the length and boring rumination 😉


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