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The "Threat" of Creationism, by Isaac Asimov
Internet ^ | 1984 | Isaac Asimov

Posted on 02/15/2003 4:18:25 PM PST by PatrickHenry

Scientists thought it was settled. The universe, they had decided, is about 20 billion years old, and Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. Simple forms of life came into being more than three billion years ago, having formed spontaneously from nonliving matter. They grew more complex through slow evolutionary processes and the first hominid ancestors of humanity appeared more than four million years ago. Homo sapians itself—the present human species, people like you and me—has walked the earth for at least 50,000 years.

But apparently it isn't settled. There are Americans who believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old; that human beings and all other species were brought into existence by a divine Creator as eternally separate variations of beings; and that there has been no evolutionary process.

They are creationists—they call themselves "scientific" creationists—and they are a growing power in the land, demanding that schools be forced to teach their views. State legislatures, mindful of the votes, are beginning to succumb to the pressure. In perhaps 15 states, bills have been introduced, putting forth the creationist point of view, and in others, strong movements are gaining momentum. In Arkansas, a law requiring that the teaching of creationism receive equal time was passed this spring and is scheduled to go into effect in September 1982, though the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of a group of clergymen, teachers, and parents to overturn it. And a California father named Kelly Segraves, the director of the Creation-Science Research Center, sued to have public-school science classes taught that there are other theories of creation besides evolution, and that one of them was the Biblical version. The suit came to trial in March, and the judge ruled that educators must distribute a policy statement to schools and textbook publishers explaining that the theory of evolution should not be seen as "the ultimate cause of origins." Even in New York, the Board of Education has delayed since January in making a final decision, expected this month [June 1981], on whether schools will be required to include the teaching of creationism in their curriculums.

The Rev. Jerry Fallwell, the head of the Moral Majority, who supports the creationist view from his television pulpit, claims that he has 17 million to 25 million viewers (though Arbitron places the figure at a much more modest 1.6 million). But there are 66 electronic ministries which have a total audience of about 20 million. And in parts of the country where the Fundamentalists predominate—the so called Bible Belt— creationists are in the majority.

They make up a fervid and dedicated group, convinced beyond argument of both their rightness and their righteousness. Faced with an apathetic and falsely secure majority, smaller groups have used intense pressure and forceful campaigning—as the creationists do—and have succeeded in disrupting and taking over whole societies.

Yet, though creationists seem to accept the literal truth of the Biblical story of creation, this does not mean that all religious people are creationists. There are millions of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews who think of the Bible as a source of spiritual truth and accept much of it as symbolically rather than literally true. They do not consider the Bible to be a textbook of science, even in intent, and have no problem teaching evolution in their secular institutions.

To those who are trained in science, creationism seems like a bad dream, a sudden reveling of a nightmare, a renewed march of an army of the night risen to challenge free thought and enlightenment.

The scientific evidence for the age of the earth and for the evolutionary development of life seems overwhelming to scientists. How can anyone question it? What are the arguments the creationists use? What is the "science" that makes their views "scientific"? Here are some of them:

• The argument from analogy.

A watch implies a watchmaker, say the creationists. If you were to find a beautifully intricate watch in the desert, from habitation, you would be sure that it had been fashioned by human hands and somehow left it there. It would pass the bounds of credibility that it had simply formed, spontaneously, from the sands of the desert.

By analogy, then, if you consider humanity, life, Earth, and the universe, all infinitely more intricate than a watch, you can believe far less easily that it "just happened." It, too, like the watch, must have been fashioned, but by more-than-human hands—in short by a divine Creator.

This argument seems unanswerable, and it has been used (even though not often explicitly expressed) ever since the dawn of consciousness. To have explained to prescientific human beings that the wind and the rain and the sun follow the laws of nature and do so blindly and without a guiding would have been utterly unconvincing to them. In fact, it might have well gotten you stoned to death as a blasphemer.

There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

In short, the complexity of the universe—and one's inability to explain it in full—is not in itself an argument for a Creator.

• The argument from general consent.

Some creationists point at that belief in a Creator is general among all peoples and all cultures. Surly this unanimous craving hints at a greater truth. There would be no unanimous belief in a lie.

General belief, however, is not really surprising. Nearly every people on earth that considers the existence of the world assumes it to have been created by a god or gods. And each group invents full details for the story. No two creation tales are alike. The Greeks, the Norsemen, the Japanese, the Hindus, the American Indians, and so on and so on all have their own creation myths, and all of these are recognized by Americans of Judeo-Christian heritage as "just myths."

The ancient Hebrews also had a creation tale—two of them, in fact. There is a primitive Adam-and-Eve-in-Paradise story, with man created first, then animals, then women. There is also a poetic tale of God fashioning the universe in six days, with animals preceding man, and man and woman created together.

These Hebrew myths are not inherently more credible than any of the others, but they are our myths. General consent, of course, proves nothing: There can be a unanimous belief in something that isn't so. The universal opinion over thousands of years that the earth was flat never flattened its spherical shape by one inch.

• The argument of belittlement.

Creationists frequently stress the fact that evolution is "only a theory," giving the impression that a theory is an idle guess. A scientist, one gathers, arising one morning with nothing particular to do, decided that perhaps the moon is made of Roquefort cheese and instantly advances the Roquefort-cheese theory.

A theory (as the word is used by scientists) is a detailed description of some facet of the universe's workings that is based on long observation and, where possible, experiment. It is the result of careful reasoning from these observations and experiments that has survived the critical study of scientists generally.

For example, we have the description of the cellular nature of living organisms (the "cell theory"); of objects attracting each other according to fixed rule (the "theory of gravitation"); of energy behaving in discrete bits (the "quantum theory"); of light traveling through a vacuum at a fixed measurable velocity (the "theory of relativity"), and so on.

All are theories; all are firmly founded; all are accepted as valid descriptions of this or that aspect of the universe. They are neither guesses nor speculations. And no theory is better founded, more closely examined, more critically argued and more thoroughly accepted, than the theory of evolution. If it is "only" a theory, that is all it has to be.

Creationism, on the other hand, is not a theory. There is no evidence, in the scientific sense, that supports it. Creationism, or at least the particular variety accepted by many Americans, is an expression of early Middle Eastern legend. It is fairly described as "only a myth."

• The argument of imperfection.

Creationists, in recent years, have stressed the "scientific" background of their beliefs. They point out that there are scientists who base their creationists beliefs on a careful study of geology, paleontology, and biology and produce "textbooks" that embody those beliefs.

Virtually the whole scientific corpus of creationism, however, consists of the pointing out of imperfections in the evolutionary view. The creationists insists, for example, that evolutionists cannot true transition states between species in the fossil evidence; that age determinations through radioactive breakdown are uncertain; that alternative interpretations of this or that piece of evidence are possible and so on.

Because the evolutionary view is not perfect and is not agreed upon by all scientists, creationists argue that evolution is false and that scientists, in supporting evolution, are basing their views on blind faith and dogmatism.

To an extent, the creationists are right here: The details of evolution are not perfectly known. Scientists have been adjusting and modifying Charles Darwin's suggestions since he advanced his theory of the origin of species through natural selection back in 1859. After all, much has been learned about the fossil record and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, ethology, and various other branches of life science in the last 125 years, and it was to be expected that we can improve on Darwin. In fact, we have improved on him. Nor is the process finished. it can never be, as long as human beings continue to question and to strive for better answers.

The details of evolutionary theory are in dispute precisely because scientists are not devotees of blind faith and dogmatism. They do not accept even as great thinker as Darwin without question, nor do they accept any idea, new or old, without thorough argument. Even after accepting an idea, they stand ready to overrule it, if appropriate new evidence arrives. If, however, we grant that a theory is imperfect and details remain in dispute, does that disprove the theory as a whole?

Consider. I drive a car, and you drive a car. I do not know exactly how an engine works. Perhaps you do not either. And it may be that our hazy and approximate ideas of the workings of an automobile are in conflict. Must we then conclude from this disagreement that an automobile does not run, or that it does not exist? Or, if our senses force us to conclude that an automobile does exist and run, does that mean it is pulled by an invisible horses, since our engine theory is imperfect?

However much scientists argue their differing beliefs in details of evolutionary theory, or in the interpretation of the necessarily imperfect fossil record, they firmly accept the evolutionary process itself.

• The argument from distorted science.

Creationists have learned enough scientific terminology to use it in their attempts to disprove evolution. They do this in numerous ways, but the most common example, at least in the mail I receive is the repeated assertion that the second law of thermodynamics demonstrates the evolutionary process to be impossible.

In kindergarten terms, the second law of thermodynamics says that all spontaneous change is in the direction of increasing disorder—that is, in a "downhill" direction. There can be no spontaneous buildup of the complex from the simple, therefore, because that would be moving "uphill." According to the creationists argument, since, by the evolutionary process, complex forms of life evolve from simple forms, that process defies the second law, so creationism must be true.

Such an argument implies that this clearly visible fallacy is somehow invisible to scientists, who must therefore be flying in the face of the second law through sheer perversity. Scientists, however, do know about the second law and they are not blind. It's just that an argument based on kindergarten terms is suitable only for kindergartens.

To lift the argument a notch above the kindergarten level, the second law of thermodynamics applies to a "closed system"—that is, to a system that does not gain energy from without, or lose energy to the outside. The only truly closed system we know of is the universe as a whole.

Within a closed system, there are subsystems that can gain complexity spontaneously, provided there is a greater loss of complexity in another interlocking subsystem. The overall change then is a complexity loss in a line with the dictates of the second law.

Evolution can proceed and build up the complex from the simple, thus moving uphill, without violating the second law, as long as another interlocking part of the system — the sun, which delivers energy to the earth continually — moves downhill (as it does) at a much faster rate than evolution moves uphill. If the sun were to cease shining, evolution would stop and so, eventually, would life.

Unfortunately, the second law is a subtle concept which most people are not accustomed to dealing with, and it is not easy to see the fallacy in the creationists distortion.

There are many other "scientific" arguments used by creationists, some taking quite cleaver advantage of present areas of dispute in evolutionary theory, but every one of then is as disingenuous as the second-law argument.

The "scientific" arguments are organized into special creationist textbooks, which have all the surface appearance of the real thing, and which school systems are being heavily pressured to accept. They are written by people who have not made any mark as scientists, and, while they discuss geology, paleontology and biology with correct scientific terminology, they are devoted almost entirely to raising doubts over the legitimacy of the evidence and reasoning underlying evolutionary thinking on the assumption that this leaves creationism as the only possible alternative.

Evidence actually in favor of creationism is not presented, of course, because none exist other than the word of the Bible, which it is current creationist strategy not to use.

• The argument from irrelevance.

Some creationists putt all matters of scientific evidence to one side and consider all such things irrelevant. The Creator, they say, brought life and the earth and the entire universe into being 6,000 years ago or so, complete with all the evidence for eons-long evolutionary development. The fossil record, the decaying radio activity, the receding galaxies were all created as they are, and the evidence they present is an illusion.

Of course, this argument is itself irrelevant, for it can be neither proved nor disproved. it is not an argument, actually, but a statement. I can say that the entire universe was created two minutes age, complete with all its history books describing a nonexistent past in detail, and with every living person equipped with a full memory; you, for instance, in the process of reading this article in midstream with a memory of what you had read in the beginning—which you had not really read.

What kind of Creator would produce a universe containing so intricate an illusion? It would mean that the Creator formed a universe that contained human beings whom He had endowed with the faculty of curiosity and the ability to reason. He supplied those human beings with an enormous amount of subtle and cleverly consistent evidence designed to mislead them and cause them to be convinced that the universe was created 20 billion years ago and developed by evolutionary processes that include the creation and the development of life on Earth. Why?

Does the Creator take pleasure in fooling us? Does it amuse Him to watch us go wrong? Is it part of a test to see if human beings will deny their senses and their reason in order to cling to myth? Can it be that the Creator is a cruel and malicious prankster, with a vicious and adolescent sense of humor?

• The argument from authority.

The Bible says that God created the world in six days, and the Bible is the inspired word of God. To the average creationist this is all that counts. All other arguments are merely a tedious way of countering the propaganda of all those wicked humanists, agnostics, an atheists who are not satisfied with the clear word of the Lord.

The creationist leaders do not actually use that argument because that would make their argument a religious one, and they would not be able to use it in fighting a secular school system. They have to borrow the clothing of science, no matter how badly it fits, and call themselves "scientific" creationists. They also speak only of the "Creator," and never mentioned that this Creator is the God of the Bible.

We cannot, however, take this sheep's clothing seriously. However much the creationist leaders might hammer away at in their "scientific" and "philosophical" points, they would be helpless and a laughing-stock if that were all they had.

It is religion that recruits their squadrons. Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution, march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.

Even if I am right and the evolutionists' case is very strong, have not creationists, whatever the emptiness of their case, a right to be heard? if their case is empty, isn't it perfectly safe to discuss it since the emptiness would then be apparent? Why, then are evolutionists so reluctant to have creationism taught in the public schools on an equal basis with evolutionary theory? can it be that the evolutionists are not as confident of their case as they pretend. Are they afraid to allow youngsters a clear choice?

First, the creationists are somewhat less than honest in their demand for equal time. It is not their views that are repressed: schools are by no means the only place in which the dispute between creationism and evolutionary theory is played out. There are churches, for instance, which are a much more serious influence on most Americans than the schools are. To be sure, many churches are quite liberal, have made their peace with science and find it easy to live with scientific advance — even with evolution. But many of the less modish and citified churches are bastions of creationism.

The influence of the church is naturally felt in the home, in the newspapers, and in all of surrounding society. It makes itself felt in the nation as a whole, even in religiously liberal areas, in thousands of subtle ways: in the nature of holiday observance, in expressions of patriotic fervor, even in total irrelevancies. In 1968, for example, a team of astronomers circling the moon were instructed to read the first few verses of Genesis as though NASA felt it had to placate the public lest they rage against the violation of the firmament. At the present time, even the current President of the United States has expressed his creationist sympathies.

It is only in school that American youngsters in general are ever likely to hear any reasoned exposition of the evolutionary viewpiont. They might find such a viewpoint in books, magazines, newspapers, or even, on occasion, on television. But church and family can easily censor printed matter or television. Only the school is beyond their control.

But only just barely beyond. Even though schools are now allowed to teach evolution, teachers are beginning to be apologetic about it, knowing full well their jobs are at the mercy of school boards upon which creationists are a stronger and stronger influence.

Then, too, in schools, students are not required to believe what they learn about evolution—merely to parrot it back on test. If they fail to do so, their punishment is nothing more than the loss of a few points on a test or two.

In the creationist churches, however, the congregation is required to believe. Impressionable youngsters, taught that they will go to hell if they listen to the evolutionary doctrine, are not likely to listen in comfort or to believe if they do. Therefore, creationists, who control the church and the society they live in and to face the public-school as the only place where evolution is even briefly mentioned in a possible favorable way, find they cannot stand even so minuscule a competition and demand "equal time."

Do you suppose their devotion to "fairness" is such that they will give equal time to evolution in their churches?

Second, the real danger is the manner in which creationists want threir "equal time." In the scientific world, there is free and open competition of ideas, and even a scientist whose suggestions are not accepted is nevertheless free to continue to argue his case. In this free and open competition of ideas, creationism has clearly lost. It has been losing, in fact, since the time of Copernicus four and a half centuries ago. But creationism, placing myth above reason, refused to accept the decision and are now calling on the government to force their views on the schools in lieu of the free expression of ideas. Teachers must be forced to present creationism as though it had equal intellectual respectability with evolutionary doctrine.

What a precedent this sets.

If the government can mobilize its policemen and its prisons to make certain that teachers give creationism equal time, they can next use force to make sure that teachers declare creationism the victor so that evolution will be evicted from the classroom altogether. We will have established ground work, in other words, for legally enforced ignorance and for totalitarian thought control. And what if the creationists win? They might, you know, for there are millions who, faced with a choice between science and their interpretation of the Bible, will choose the Bible and reject science, regardless of the evidence.

This is not entirely because of the traditional and unthinking reverence for the literal words of the Bible; there is also a pervasive uneasiness—even an actual fear—of science that will drive even those who care little for fundamentalism into the arms of the creationists. For one thing, science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpretations, and scientists quarrel among themselves. This is disillusioning for those untrained in the scientific method, who thus turn to the rigid certainty of the Bible instead. There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think.

Second, science is complex and chilling. The mathematical language of science is understood by very few. The vistas it presents are scary—an enormous universe ruled by chance and impersonal rules, empty and uncaring, ungraspable and vertiginous. How comfortable to turn instead to a small world, only a few thousand years old, and under God's personal and immediate care; a world in which you are his particular concern and where He will not consign you to hell if you are careful to follow every word of the Bible as interpreted for you by your television preacher.

Third, science is dangerous. There is no question but that poison gas, genetic engineering, and nuclear weapons and power stations are terrifying. It may be that civilization is falling apart and the world we know is coming to an end. In that case, why not turn to religion and look forward to the Day of Judgment, in which you and your fellow believers will be lifted into eternal bliss and have the added joy of watching the scoffers and disbelievers writhe forever in torment.

So why might they not win?

There are numerous cases of societies in which the armies of the night have ridden triumphantly over minorities in order to establish a powerful orthodoxy which dictates official thought. Invariably, the triumphant ride is toward long-range disaster. Spain dominated Europe and the world in the 16th century, but in Spain orthodoxy came first, and all divergence of opinion was ruthlessly suppressed. The result was that Spain settled back into blankness and did not share in the scientific, technological and commercial ferment that bubbled up in other nations of Western Europe. Spain remained an intellectual backwater for centuries. In the late 17th century, France in the name of orthodoxy revoked the Edict of Nantes and drove out many thousands of Huguenots, who added their intellectual vigor to lands of refuge such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Prussia, while France was permanently weakened.

In more recent times, Germany hounded out the Jewish scientists of Europe. They arrived in the United States and contributed immeasurably to scientific advancement here, while Germany lost so heavily that there is no telling how long it will take it to regain its former scientific eminence. The Soviet Union, in its fascination with Lysenko, destroyed its geneticists, and set back its biological sciences for decades. China, during the Cultural Revolution, turned against Western science and is still laboring to overcome the devastation that resulted.

As we now, with all these examples before us, to ride backward into the past under the same tattered banner of orthodoxy? With creationism in the saddle, American science will wither. We will raise a generation of ignoramuses ill-equipped to run the industry of tomorrow, much less to generate the new advances of the days after tomorrow.

We will inevitably recede into the backwater of civilization, and those nations that retain opened scientific thought will take over the leadership of the world and the cutting edge of human advancement. I don't suppose that the creationists really plan the decline of the United States, but their loudly expressed patriotism is as simpleminded as their "science." If they succeed, they will, in their folly, achieve the opposite of what they say they wish.

( Isaac Asimov, "The 'Threat' of Creationism," New York Times Magazine, June 14, 1981; from Science and Creationism, Ashley Montagu, ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 182-193. )


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: creation; creationism; crevolist; darwin; evolution; evolutionism; intelligentdesign
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To: captain11
100 is a single order of magnitude larger than 10, FYI.

"Yes, it is. In any base, FYI."

Surely you realize that was my intial claim...

151 posted on 02/15/2003 11:20:29 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: captain11
You were right the first time. While there are certainly worse philosophies than objectivism, a philosophy that holds self-interest as a (perhaps the) key ethical tenet has the evil built in.

PLEASE tell us exactly what is this "evil" that's "built in" to Objectivism!

152 posted on 02/15/2003 11:26:26 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: Southack

Certainly concluding that both cars and skeletons "evolved" would be erroneous, as at the very least we know full well that it was the intelligent designers of the cars who improved each model, not the cars themselves "evolving"...

Really? These intelligently designed objects improved from their earlier, inferior models? What kind of designer has to improve on her earlier designs? An omniscient one? Or is having to improve on a design evidence of some lesser level of competence?

153 posted on 02/15/2003 11:29:27 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: jennyp
"Really? These intelligently designed objects improved from their earlier, inferior models? What kind of designer has to improve on her earlier designs? An omniscient one? Or is having to improve on a design evidence of some lesser level of competence?"

I think that one can safely say that the designers of cars have managed to increase their knowlege over time, allowing them to improve their designs over time.

154 posted on 02/15/2003 11:37:50 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: Southack
I think that one can safely say that the designers of cars have managed to increase their knowlege over time, allowing them to improve their designs over time.

Good. Now, would you say that Homo sapiens sapiens was an improvement over Australopithecus afarensis?

155 posted on 02/15/2003 11:55:28 PM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: jennyp
"Good. Now, would you say that Homo sapiens sapiens was an improvement over Australopithecus afarensis?"

Of course.

156 posted on 02/15/2003 11:56:34 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: jennyp
And say hello to Lucy for me!
157 posted on 02/15/2003 11:57:45 PM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: Southack
I think that you'll eventually agree that the two-item pattern is an order of magnitude more likely to form.

The number base used for DNA computation, while extremely interesting, is not crucial to the issue of intelligent creation, although base 4 computation does have some advantages for a biological organism; it combines flexibility with relative simplicity. It would be no less amazing if there had been two or eight DNA bases instead of four. The issue is not the number base (not to be confused with DNA base ;), but that such sophisticated computation occurs at all.

The real complexity lies in the software, not the number base in which it is represented. One can write both extremely complex and extremely trivial programs, regardless of the base used to represent the instructions and data. Fruit flies share the same four DNA bases with humans, and have many similarities at the protein level.

If long-term survival is the metric, it's not even clear that humans have better software than fruit flies, taken as a species. If we continue down the path we're on, we might soon face the evolutionary equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death.

Without God, that is exactly what will happen.

158 posted on 02/15/2003 11:59:22 PM PST by captain11
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To: captain11
"The real complexity lies in the software, not the number base in which it is represented. One can write both extremely complex and extremely trivial programs, regardless of the base used to represent the instructions and data."

At the core processing level, Base 4 requires an order of magnitude more processing complexity/acumen than does Base 2.

That being said, one could program the identical functionality in either Base...just don't confuse that ability with an equivilence of complexity.

159 posted on 02/16/2003 12:03:01 AM PST by Southack (Media bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: LibKill
When the creationist 'scientists' have as many tons of fossil evidence for their view as REAL scientists have for evolution, then and only then will I give them a respectful hearing.

Surprise...we all use the same evidence. It is the a priori assumptions that each side holds that lead to different conclusions. Evolutionists don't "own" certain fossils, and creationists don't. All are looking at the same information!

160 posted on 02/16/2003 12:22:29 AM PST by LiteKeeper
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To: eabinga
I've always seen this as two separate events.

The first paragraph is the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe we see today, the energy of the Big Bang being transformed into the matter of the universe today...light and dark.

The second paragraph decribes the further 'evolution' of the universe into suns and moons, stars and planets.

This being said, my personal belief is that the basic tenets of both creationism and evolution are correct, or maybe half correct. Each one needs the other.

If we look at the universe around us, it's logical. Everything works like it does for a reason. Planets orbit around stars. Moons orbit around planets. Bodes Law works for the solar system. Bloods flows thru our bodies, carrying oxygen and waste products. We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. It all works

Some of it we understand, some of we don't, yet. But we're pretty sure that in going from the macro to the micro we're not suddenly going to discover that "it's turtles all the way down" from here. (well, maybe quantum mechanics could be turtles, your guess is as good as mine.)

If you believe that God is omnipotent, and created the universe and everything in it, then it certainly makes sense that he didn't have to create it this way.

Suns don't have to fusion furnaces, burning hydrogen. They could just BE. Planets don't have to orbit suns. They could just sit there. Gravity wouldn't be needed. You would just stick the the earth because God made it that way.

And our bodies don't need cells and DNA. We could just be made of clay like the golem of old. We wouldn't need blood or brains. We would just BE because God made us that way.

But from the other side, as much as my science background would like, I just can't believe that all this was just an 'accident'. That we're just LUCKY that we evolved here on Earth.

To me it makes much more sense that we and the universe around us evolved this way because God created it that way.

That 10-20 billion years ago God started this all off with the Big Bang (Let there be light!) and we and the universe had continued to evolve because God made that way. And that we have a purpose here in the universe. We just don't know what it is yet.

So there.
161 posted on 02/16/2003 12:44:11 AM PST by chaosagent
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To: Southack

"Good. Now, would you say that Homo sapiens sapiens was an improvement over Australopithecus afarensis?"

Of course.

OK, now I'm curious: Please tell me the nature of the Designer. Is this designing entity infinitely intelligent? (If you say "yes", you know what my next question will be!)
162 posted on 02/16/2003 12:46:36 AM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: captain11
No they won't.

Always bugs me when people state opinions as dogmatic fact. The Chinese are having increasing problems with another uprising like Tiennaman (and I'm sure thats spelled wrong0 Square. They will stall.

As long as the Chinese are willing to manufacturer goods for American consumption at pennies on the dollar under sweatshop conditions, with few environmental strictures, and American businesses pursue same with little regard for the future consequences, China won't stall

And that's the point, they won't continue to be willing. They cannot continue to educate their populace enough to work under the conditions necessary without the natives getting restless. It ain't a water monopoly. Either they clamp down, and stall; or they loosen and democratize. Laws of economics and all that.

Plus which, Americans have "full access" to the Internet, but most couch potatoes still get their news from the idiot box.

And that full access has resulted in the Repubs dominating all three branches of government for the first time in recent memory, and I credit this site, Newsmax, TownHall, and just a plethora of conservative leaning websites, as much or more than Fox News, Rush, Hannity and Savage. They don't have a monopoly upon news and info anymore, and it makes a difference.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The only man worse off than a man who can't read is one who can but doesn't."

Let 'em sit. I am active on dozens of venues. Local ones, national ones, and so are many others. Be as pessimistic as you like, puts in sitting next to the couch potatoes.

163 posted on 02/16/2003 1:20:47 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: Capitalism2003
God created the big bang...end of discussion ;)

If we're going for mysticism, I say it was a Unicorn fart.

164 posted on 02/16/2003 1:22:18 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: captain11
While there are certainly worse philosophies than objectivism, a philosophy that holds self-interest as a (perhaps the) key ethical tenet has the evil built in.

Always bugs me when people state opinions as dogmatic fact.

Self interest is not only the key ethical tenet for Objectivism, it is the key ethical tenet for life. "The only thing wrong is you called it evil", Franscisco said. Which is why altruism is anti-life, it violates the rules of life.

Someday, we'll be rid of you people and will be able to live as men, instead of as brainwashed slaves.

165 posted on 02/16/2003 1:29:11 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: jennyp
PLEASE tell us exactly what is this "evil" that's "built in" to Objectivism!

For a quick refresher on objectivism:

I could go on. Ayn Rand was a fine writer, if only a passable philosopher. There are certainly worse philosophies (the Year Zero insanity of Pol Pot's collectivist nightmare comes to mind), but there is plenty of evil in objectivism.
166 posted on 02/16/2003 1:29:39 AM PST by captain11
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To: LogicWings
Self interest is not only the key ethical tenet for Objectivism, it is the key ethical tenet for life. The only thing wrong is you called it evil", Franscisco [sic] said. Which is why altruism is anti-life, it violates the rules of life.

Go get 'em, Hank. For my part, I'll seek wisdom from sources besides the words of a fictional playboy/jerk/magnate character in a decent novel by a second-rate philosopher.

167 posted on 02/16/2003 1:46:11 AM PST by captain11
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To: captain11
What a strange analysis. (But thanks for posting it.)

Your first point I can't even begin to understand.

Your second point misses the point. Sure we are part of reality, but Peikoff is saying we don't create reality, in the sense that wishing something were true won't make it so. "Nature, to be controlled, must be obeyed." (Or however the saying goes.)

Your third point is a complaint that Man is imperfect. This also misses the point. The point is, the world is knowable in principle. The more facts we know about the world, the more we're able to understand it. More knowledge + valid logical inferences lead to a closer approximation of the Truth - it doesn't lead us away from Truth.

168 posted on 02/16/2003 1:50:02 AM PST by jennyp (http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: LogicWings
Always bugs me when people state opinions as dogmatic fact.

People who repeat the same whine in successive replies are easily bugged.

169 posted on 02/16/2003 1:52:07 AM PST by captain11
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To: Southack
First of all, previously you said,

(reifying per se is never sufficient evidence of a logical fallacy),

Now anybody who asserts that reifying is never sufficient evidence of a logical fallacy isn't someone logical enough to argue with in the first place. This means you can blast through fallacies anytime you wish and simply ignore them, because for you they don't exist. No logic, no reason, no discussion.

Second, you haven't said anything else worthwhile, just denial, denigration "rubbish" "nonsense" because you can't answer the fallacies pointed out in your arguments and you have no other answers.

DNA is not a 'program' and you cannot prove it is without assuming a 'programmer'. Same Begged Question we started with.

I don't have to resort to your wording, which isn't worth resorting to anyway, because the point is made by reality. There is no evidence of an 'Intelligent Design' period. Any assertion there is, is just Begging the Question that it is intelligent, let alone a design. There is plenty of ways to show that it is, in fact, not intelligent, such as two headed snakes and babies without brains.

Oh please. Base 4 processes have never been proven to have come from ANYTHING except Intelligent Intervention.

Oh, go please yourself. There you go, proving negatives again. Facts speak for themselves, if DNA exists, that is your proof, UNTIL you prove the existence of the Designer, not say, "There is no other explanation so there must be" which is all your argument is.

The only way that you could even claim otherwise is to be so intellectually dishonest as to assert that we "know" that evolution is true so therefor DNA must have been self-programmed naturally (i.e. a tautology, something that no honest intellectual would like to be caught using).

Once again, like most of your ilk, you've got it backwards. I don't have to 'know' evolution is true, there is simply no evidence that there is anything else taking place. The issue is still open, someone may find little crosses stamped upon each DNA molecule but until that happens there is no evidence other than the evidence that exists, that DNA exists as it is, and it was created by a natural process. There is no tautology if one doesn't fallaciously apply the concept of 'programming' to something that wasn't programmed, that you have no evidence was programmed, and which you reify as a program in order to make a point that cannot otherwise be made.

170 posted on 02/16/2003 1:54:57 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: Cedric
Now you're responding to replies not directed to you. You should consider quitting while you're behind.

I was critiquing. Like to call things for what they are, especially when they are as ugly as that was.

171 posted on 02/16/2003 1:57:21 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: captain11
People who repeat the same whine in successive replies are easily bugged.

Naw, I just hate bugs in my wine. Besides, it was pertinent and funny.

172 posted on 02/16/2003 2:04:33 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: PatrickHenry
Well, that was fun while it lasted. Thanks. Haven't been in a brawl like that in quite a while. Until next time.
173 posted on 02/16/2003 2:07:38 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: LogicWings
DNA is not a 'program' and you cannot prove it is without assuming a 'programmer'. Same Begged Question we started with.

Guess again. And again. At root, that's precisely what DNA encodes...a program. A stunningly complex program that controls how a fairly undifferentiated handful of cells grows into a manta ray, or a zebra, or a human.

How that program came to be is obvious to some of us, but Southack doesn't need to prove there is a programmer. A program it is.

174 posted on 02/16/2003 2:16:24 AM PST by captain11
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To: VadeRetro
Ok. I slept on it. Your photo library makes a compelling case. I simply do not trust left wing doctrines, however. They lie almost all the time. The occassional truth would be a surprise. Time Maggazine might soon be under new management, and then perhaps 'Time' will tell. I realise that human skulls have evolved subtly, even over the last 2 thousand years. Whether we were created directly out of clay or not, we have evolved since our beginning. And all animals, as I said in the beginning, evolved, which does not necessarilly conflict with Genisis.

Now for the root question: is the Book of Genisis reality, fiction, or garbled due to its ancient, prehistoric origins? The truth is, we will never know for sure in our lifetimes. How important is it? To some, it would mean proof that the Bible is a fairy tale. Not to me, however. Most religions are based on nothing but fairy tales, while the Bible is based on 95% history at the very least. And it has amazing prophesies.

FReegards....

175 posted on 02/16/2003 2:39:45 AM PST by Arthur Wildfire! March (LIBERTY or DEATH!)
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To: PatrickHenry
I decided to come back. LOL.

You wrote, Creationist parents have an absolute right to send their children to schools that will give them a creationist education. But not at my expense.

Do you realise what you stepped into there? Oh my. What about creationist parents paying for teachers teaching something that opposes their religious convictions? What about my tax money paying for 'Piss Christ' artwork? What about my tax money paying for all the leftist dogma that exhists in public schools? What about my tax money paying for leftist, military-hating professors that should be tied to bombs dropped over Iraq?

What about my tax money being payed to Eric Waldheim's pension? Remember the former nazi the UN hired? My tax money STILL pays for his blinking pension!

And you quibble about a small course on creationism payed for via vouchers if parents get school choice? I think that would be a paltry sacrifice on your part to liberate children from public schools. It is wrong, I agree. But the reality is, parents are not going to vote for abolishing the public school system without government help given in its place.

176 posted on 02/16/2003 2:49:04 AM PST by Arthur Wildfire! March (LIBERTY or DEATH!)
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To: AntiGuv; All
"How alarming! I generally have little more reaction beyond complacent derision for creationism, but this essay delivers a powerful wakeup call. If America slides inexorably back into the grips of creationist obscurantism, it will slip into the twilight much the same as the Ming and Qing dynasties oversaw China's demise in a past era. But, what to do?"

The roots of our modern science began among men who beleived in God or were influenced by religion. These men formed the "root" sciences from which all modern science and their technological achievements have descended. Many modern scientists have been complaining that there have been no more "root" sciences established in the last 150 years, just off shoots from established science.

When it was decided amongst certain "thinkers" that notions of God, and morality, should have no place in modern scientific reasoning, it was as if the stream of knowledge was cut off from its source. A break from classical rationalism with its emphasis on proceeding from a given viewpoint and deductive analysis of data was made in favor of pure scientific empiricism with its emphasis on "inductive" reasoning based on observation and measurement of data. The real fault with inductive reasoning is that it ends up being at the whim of the biases that the experimenter applies in order to make "sense" of what the data is telling him; forcing him in the end into a rationalistic thought process as explained above.(whether or not the "given" or "theory" is valid or not valid)

God exists or God exists not is really the only primary question each individual is faced with. The rest of a man's thought process is colored by what he decides about that question. The fallacy of the materialists is their view that religious folk can't make good scientists; they forget about Newton, Mendel, Pascal(inventor of the Calculas), the inventors of the use of zero and algebra(muslims), the ancient Greeks who saw God in the invention of euclidian Geometry, and hosts of others who founded root sciences under the aegis of religious belief.

"The fool says in his heart, there is no God"Proverbs
177 posted on 02/16/2003 2:52:35 AM PST by mdmathis6
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To: LogicWings
You are 'Equivocating' the meaning of the word 'faith' based upon the misconception or misunderstanding of some person's understanding of evolution. Which is why I said it was the inverse of Asimov's argument.

The assertion that "accepting the theory on a basis that resembles faith rather than a true understanding of science" is no reflection upon the theory itself and the idea that it 'resembles faith' is just an opinion. And one which, seen strictly from a scientific point of view, is wrong.


Well, I think you may have misinterpreted my statement. I don't mean to say that because there are people out there who except the theory of Evolution on faith that it is therefore equivalent to Creationism, because I am fully aware that there are many scientists (and enthusiasts)who have a full understanding of modern evolutionary theory and whose belief is a result of careful study and thought.

What I am saying is that, by far, the majority of the supporters of Evolutionary theory are those who probably don't even understand the basics; they simply know that they have a choice between Evolution and Creationism and have chosen the former. The basis for that choice is less scientific reason than faith, simply because scientific reason requires subject knowledge. This especially applies to those who administer education at the high school, and perhaps, undergraduate level, where most of the Evolution vs. Creationism battles are fought.

So, what I am questioning is not the soundness of the theory itself, based on the motives of its true believers, but the tendency of its less-educated supporters to dismiss Creationists' beliefs as ridiculous solely because they are faith-based, while exhibiting all the signs of faith-based belief themselves. In that sense, Asimov's Argument from General Consent applies to these supporters of Evolution because they seem to have thrown their faith toward Evolution only because everyone else is, rather than having been won over by their own study.
178 posted on 02/16/2003 3:00:35 AM PST by fr_freak
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To: LogicWings
One is not required to 'disprove creation' since one cannot prove a negative.

You need a new screen name; your current one does not accurately describe you. The creation position is not a 'negative'. It is a positive assertion and is therefore quite amenable to be disproven, assuming one can find the evidence.

This does not change the fact that there is no evidence of macro-evolution. The religious belief in evolution is founded on mere speculation and unreasonable premises. Where are the transitional life forms; or do you believe in punctuated equilibrium, a hypothesis that is entirely opposite of the evolutionary belief of gradual change? Which is it?

Also you completely ignored the fact that there is considerable evidence that suggests macro-evolution is impossible because too many features in a transitional form would all have to occur within in a single generation in order for that new species to survive, even if one could assume such a life-form could survive to maturity in the first place.

One need not prove creation in order to disprove evolution. the problem for the evolutionists is that macro-evolution has been disproven and the only other rational option is creation/intelligent design; unless you can think of a third explanation for life as we know it.

179 posted on 02/16/2003 3:03:02 AM PST by connectthedots
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To: LogicWings
Someday, we'll be rid of you people and will be able to live as men, instead of as brainwashed slaves.

Yeah, yeah. But until then, be sure to get your income tax forms filed on time.

180 posted on 02/16/2003 3:41:08 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: Arthur Wildfire! March
Do you realise what you stepped into there? Oh my. What about creationist parents paying for teachers teaching something that opposes their religious convictions?

You started out saying the creationists had a right to their views, and I agreed, adding that you can't teach them that stuff at my expense. I didn't address the flip side of the issue, because earlier in the thread I've agreed with a few posts by people criticizing the government schools.

I quite agree that it's wrong to snatch children from their parents, force them into government education buildings, and then to ram anything into their brains -- even reading, math, and valid science. It's just wrong. Education should be voluntary. So I'm not in disagreement with you.

181 posted on 02/16/2003 3:48:51 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: PatrickHenry
To: PatrickHenry

Despite {or, perhaps, through} your manifest arrogance and vitriol, it is apparent that you are clinging to the preposterous, threadbare creed of Evolution with the ferocious fervor of a fanatical, yet uncertain, religious zealot. Rant on at the altar of Darwin!



141 posted on 02/15/2003 10:26 PM PST by Cedric
182 posted on 02/16/2003 3:58:35 AM PST by f.Christian (( Orcs of the world : : : Take note and beware. ))
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To: babaloo999
I think it's actually the other way around.
183 posted on 02/16/2003 3:59:07 AM PST by the-ironically-named-proverbs2
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To: Sabertooth
So, Asimov is/was a bit of an evo-fascist, eh? How disappointing.

Sad to say, ol' Isaac was a bit of a leftie. It didn't show up in his science writings, or even in his science fiction -- not overtly. He mostly ignored economic issues. (However, as his Foundation stories reveal, he had this thing for long range planning.) But in his little essays, or in his speeches, the left-leaning side of Isaac was there for all to see. So his support of gov't schools -- as long as they're teaching evolution -- is charmingly silly. Still, Asimov was so good in so many different fields that it's almost always worth reading what he has to say. (As here, where he bashes creationism for the foolish bunch of junk that it truly is.) But just remember that he was no free-market advocate.

184 posted on 02/16/2003 4:01:21 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: Cedric
religious holiday for the god (little g) of Darwin worshippers. It would be sort of like Kwanza for "scientist".


278 posted on 02/14/2003 8:35 PM PST by Busywhiskers

185 posted on 02/16/2003 4:08:40 AM PST by f.Christian (( Orcs of the world : : : Take note and beware. ))
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To: BMCDA
Someone's been reading LBB's posts.
186 posted on 02/16/2003 6:14:48 AM PST by Junior (I want my, I want my, I want my chimpanzees)
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To: Arthur Wildfire! March
Ok. I slept on it. Your photo library makes a compelling case.

OMG! Actually caught one before he passed the event horizon of the Black Hole of Creationism! There must be hope for you.

Now for the root question: is the Book of Genisis reality, fiction, or garbled due to its ancient, prehistoric origins?

Garbled. At any rate, we shouldn't be trying to change our interpretation of the evidence about us to match it.

187 posted on 02/16/2003 6:46:13 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: PatrickHenry
Sad to say, ol' Isaac was a bit of a leftie. It didn't show up in his science writings, or even in his science fiction -- not overtly. He mostly ignored economic issues. (However, as his Foundation stories reveal, he had this thing for long range planning.) But in his little essays, or in his speeches, the left-leaning side of Isaac was there for all to see

My favorite issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine contains a letter from a reader suggesting that cable TV offer a Science Fiction Channel. Dr Asimov, in that smug condescending tone that came through all too often in his responses to reader letters,basically told the letter writer that the idea was stupid because there just weren't enough people who wanted to watch SF TV shows and movies to make such a channel profitable : It wouldn't have enough subscribers. This, after the megasuccess of Star Wars,Star Trek (TV and films)and other SF shows and movies....and only a few years before the Sci-Fi Channel.

I respect Dr Asimov for his achievements, but even when I was much younger , his open and oft-stated support for a one world government (constantly brought up in his editorials and responses to LTTE in IASFM) bothered me. (Though I didn't understand why the notion made me uneasy till years later.) And while IASFM under Shawna McCarthy (now editor of Realms of Fantasy) was my favorite SF digest and arguably the best of the 'big three', and while it had a high quality level overall, it did print some "dogs". And these "dogs" were mostly notable for blatant, unsubtle, strident Christianity-bashing. Those stories, with their telegraphed endings, cardboard characters and sloganeering really stood out, precisely because the other stories were so much better. I can only assume that someone (Asimov or McCarthy) chose those poorer stories because they found the bias so attractive that it outweighed the flaws in plotting and characterization...Flaws that were noticeable to a HS student and then to a College fine arts major, and are even more obvious when reread today. But again, that's because most of the other stories in IASFM were so much better.(Some of the 1980s IASFM stories really linger in the mind, years after reading.)

Still, Asimov was so good in so many different fields that it's almost always worth reading what he has to say.

Agreed, wholeheartedly. I am sorry that the Good Doctor left us in 1992....Imagine if he'd had 10 more years to write! I believe L Sprague deCamp is another SF writer who is equally notable for his fine nonfiction works too.

188 posted on 02/16/2003 7:21:42 AM PST by kaylar
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To: Sabertooth
From the main article:

What a shrill little rant this is. Asimov is demonizing his enemies as much as much as any cultist, and more than the vast majority of preachers in this country. In so doing, he completely undercuts his credibility as one who might explain the merits of evolutionary theory. It's not enough to be right, one also has to have a clue.
Your take:

Oh, the sky is bloody falling. This is Asimov's Global Warming theory.

I don't think Asimov actually believed there was much of a chance the creationists were really likely to establish an Iranian-mullah theocracy in this country, although he mentions cases in which an organized few have come to power. (He might also have mentioned Lenin's boast along the lines that, when he came to Russia, political power was laying about in the streets waiting for someone to pick it up. There can be times like that.)

He's mostly telling us what kind of knuckle-dragging, drooling worldview animates the people who would tell us what the "real science" is and what they would bring us to if they could. No, it isn't likely that they can, but who wants to risk it?

189 posted on 02/16/2003 7:26:48 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: VadeRetro
From the main article:

No, it isn't. Whatever I thought I was going to quote, I made a mess of it.

190 posted on 02/16/2003 7:36:23 AM PST by VadeRetro
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To: kaylar
I can only assume that someone (Asimov or McCarthy) chose those poorer stories because they found the bias so attractive that it outweighed the flaws in plotting and characterization.

I recall that Isaac was explicit about having nothing to do with the editing of the magazine. He let them use his name, and he contributed the opening essay for each issue. He also tossed in a few answers to the mail. Otherwise, the beauteous Shawna called the shots.

191 posted on 02/16/2003 7:46:05 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: Junior
Someone's been reading LBB's posts.

I'm afraid not. There are LBB's on almost every crevo board. However, their arguments and tactics are pretty much the same.

192 posted on 02/16/2003 7:49:16 AM PST by BMCDA
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To: captain11
Actually that wasn't meant to be amusing. I just wanted to point out that "south of the south pole" doesn't make sense just like "before the big bang".
But somehow you didn't seem to get that.
193 posted on 02/16/2003 7:49:20 AM PST by BMCDA
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To: VadeRetro
I don't think Asimov actually believed there was much of a chance the creationists were really likely to establish an Iranian-mullah theocracy in this country, although he mentions cases in which an organized few have come to power.

It was an ongoing theme of his. He was well aware that civilization (which he probably felt was safe in the hands of scientists) was a very thin layer of society, and very fragile. His all-time favorite story, Nightfall, involved Luddites storming an observatory.

194 posted on 02/16/2003 7:52:53 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: Southack
Math is what man created to explain Nature. Math is an abstract not a concrete and as such merely describes natural processes. It is not a proof of God rather a proof that man can create system by which he explains his universe.
195 posted on 02/16/2003 8:41:36 AM PST by Sentis
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To: LogicWings
I find it amusing that all these people who hold existence as proof of "God" always assume that "God exists" = "my-religion-is-the-One-True-Religion".

BWAAAAAAAAHAHAHA!

196 posted on 02/16/2003 8:56:38 AM PST by balrog666 (When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain)
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To: balrog666
people who hold existence as proof of "God"

A thing is not evidence for a "god of the thing."

197 posted on 02/16/2003 9:02:17 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: PatrickHenry
"It was an ongoing theme of his. He was well aware that civilization (which he probably felt was safe in the hands of scientists) was a very thin layer of society, and very fragile. His all-time favorite story, Nightfall, involved Luddites storming an observatory. "

Robert heinlein had the same fear. He even called the fundamentalists in his works "Revolt in 2100" is about a second American revolution against these Luddite religious fanatics. It is a very common theme and fear among Science fiction authors.
198 posted on 02/16/2003 9:06:37 AM PST by Sentis
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To: Sentis
It is a very common theme and fear among Science fiction authors.

This is not surprising. Luddites can't be expected to perceive the dangers of Luddism.

199 posted on 02/16/2003 9:13:28 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas)
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To: metacognative
When I was a kid, I thought Asimov was smart.

My perception is that Asimov was much more of a talker and explainer than a "doer". He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but I have never heard anything about research he did himself, or advances to science that he made. I would be interested to learn otherwise if anyone here knows. Not that explaining and popularizing is a bad thing. Some of my graduate school professors, who were considered good researchers, were so bad at lectures that I bought Asimov's books to make sense of the lecture notes. There is a difference between explaining and discovering new information and I wonder what Asimov's capabilities were in the latter.

200 posted on 02/16/2003 9:25:36 AM PST by FairWitness
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