Coyne starts off okay, then goes off the rails

Jerry Coyne just acknowledged it is possible for God to have guided mutations:

 Indeed.  As I noted yesterday, it is logically possible that God has a hand in any natural process—just a hand that is so cryptic and infrequent that it’s undetectable.  I still fail to see the novelty in this argument, which has been made, even for mutations, by theologians like Alvin Plantinga and religious scientists like Ken Miller. So what?

So what?  Once we have acknowledged the possibility of God-guided mutations, then there is no justification for a closed-minded approach to this issue.  Yes, the next step would be to determine whether there is evidence for such events.  But the problem here is that any attempt to move from the realm of the possible into the realm of the plausible would entail a heavy reliance on subjectivity. Given that God is a personal being and not another force of nature (a regularity) we have no objective way of predicting when and where such guided mutations would occur. As such, we can’t use the scientific method and thus science no longer can serve as the authority on this issue; any attempt to argue otherwise would entail watering down the definition of science:

2.  All the good arguments against God’s existence are not scientific, but philosophical.  I don’t agree.  You can’t argue against the existence of something that affects the world on philosophical grounds alone.  There has to be some appeal to evidence.  Even the argument from evil is not totally philosophical: it uses the empirical evidence of undeserved evil combined with the philosophical premise that such evil is incompatible with a loving and powerful God.

I previously rebutted the evil argument.  Instead, focus on the sleight of hand where science gets watered down to “empirical evidence.”  I also previously showed this transition is built on a logical fallacy.

Nevertheless, this does not stop Coyne from rushing ahead, so he adopts a ham-handed, bull-in-the-china-shop approach:

 And we know that God doesn’t generally elevate the mutation rate to make species more adapted to their environments.  Nor have we seen macromutations (which God could create) that would enable species to evolve around adaptive “valleys” and actually climb Mount Improbable

In other words, these guided mutations are supposed to be common enough such that they are detected by scientific analysis (even though he just acknowledged they could be “so cryptic and infrequent that it’s undetectable.”) Yet if such mutations were common enough to be detected by science, one wonders why this would be evidence of God instead of a newly discovered law or natural phenomena.  If Coyne discovered that the mutation rate of some species was abnormally elevated to make them more adapted to their environments, would he really publish this as evidence of God?  Or would he view this an another puzzle for science to explore, looking for the naturalistic causes behind this unusual discovery?

So Coyne retreats into the realm of creationist (God of the gaps) logic:

If there is indeed a beneficent and omnipotent God, there should be evidence for it (prayers should be answered, we should see miracles, innocent children shouldn’t die of leukemia). But there isn’t any—any more than there is evidence for Bigfoot.

So science should include miracles??  How would that even work?  Can Coyne write a grant that contains an experimental design, complete with preliminary evidence, that will allow him to detect miracles?  If so, would it look any different than this?  Coyne needs to explain why it is that throughout his entire career as a scientist, he has not once conducted a study to test for existence of miracles.  He hasn’t because he knows that if there was indeed a God-guided mutation through miracle, science could not detect this.  It is beyond the reach of science.

When Coyne demands miracles, he is borrowing from the creationists in demanding a gap that cannot be explained by science.  In his mind, “God-did-it” is a scientific explanation that can be purchased by finding something scientists cannot explain.    And of course, whether or not something is “explained” will end up being a matter of subjective opinion.

When it comes to evolution and speciation, Coyne is a good scientist.  But when it comes to the existence of God, Coyne’s understanding of science transforms into the thinking of a crackpot.

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One Response to Coyne starts off okay, then goes off the rails

  1. It’s interesting that people like Coyne demand miracles, and yet when presented with miracles, refuse to believe that they could be miracles.

    If I never hear “extraordinary claims” again, it’ll still be too soon…

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