A History Lesson for Darwinists

Posted on September 8, 2017 By

theory of evolution

Darwin’s theory of evolution—atheists suggest—provides answers to questions in biology without the need for God. So why should we invoke God as the ultimate answer to any questions? Why not just patiently withhold judgement while waiting for science to provide the answers? The simple answer to this very common atheist objection is that the history of science demonstrates that science, alone, doesn’t provide ultimate answers. Dominant scientific theories have a history of eventually being radically revised, and outright rejected. William Dembski notes in Uncommon Dissent

Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, science is not a juggernaut that relentlessly pushes back the frontiers of knowledge. Rather, science is an interconnected web of theoretical and factual claims about the world that are constantly being revised. Changes in one portion of the web can induce radical changes in another. In particular, science regularly confronts the problem of having to retract claims that it once boldly asserted.

Consider the following example from geology: In the nineteenth century the geosynclinal theory was proposed to account for the origination of mountain ranges. This theory hypothesized that large trough-like depressions, known as geosynclines, filled with sediment, gradually became unstable, and then, when crushed and heated by the earth, elevated to form mountain ranges. To the question “How did mountain ranges originate?” geologists as late as 1960 confidently asserted that the geosynclinal theory provided the answer. In the 1960 edition of Clark and Stearn’s Geological Evolution of North America, the status of the geosynclinal theory was even favorably compared with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Whatever became of the geosynclinal theory? An alternative theory, that of plate tectonics, was developed. It explained mountain formation through continental drift and sea-floor spreading. Within a few years, it had decisively replaced the geosynclinal theory. The history of science is filled with such turnabouts in which confident claims to knowledge suddenly vanish from the scientific literature. The geosynclinal theory was completely wrong. Thus, when the theory of plate tectonics came along, the geosynclinal theory was overthrown.

The science of one age becomes the myth or pseudo-science of the next

Relevant to this point is a citation from my post titled The Mythology of Atheism: Biologist Lynn Margulis, winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science, put it best in her book What Is Life?:

…Science is asymptotic. [“asymptote” is derived from a Greek word meaning “not falling together.”] It never arrives at but only approaches the tantalizing goal of final knowledge. Astrology gives way to astronomy; alchemy evolves into chemistry. The science of one age becomes the mythology of the next.

Those with a short-sighted view of the history of science are prone to overlook the fact that alchemy (which believed that metals such as lead could be turned into gold) and astrology were once considered scientifically respectable. In fact, as Margulis alludes to above, the scientific consensus of one age usually becomes the myth or superstition of the next age. Elite physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin cite examples of this trend among scientific theories in their book The Matter Myth:

A classic example concerns the “luminiferous ether.” When James Clerk Maxwell showed that light is an electromagnetic wave, it seemed obvious that this wave had to have a medium of some sort through which to propagate. After all, other known waves travel through something. Sound waves, for example, travel through the air; water waves travel across the surface of lakes and oceans. Because light, which Maxwell discovered is a form of electromagnetic wave, can reach us from the Sun and stars, across seemingly empty space, it was proposed that space is actually filled with an intangible substance, the ether, in which these waves could travel.

So sure were physicists of the existence of the ether that ambitious experiments were mounted to measure the speed with which the Earth moves through it. Alas, the experiments showed conclusively that the ether does not exist…for nineteenth-century physicists, however, the ether was still very real.

The usefulness of scientific theories should not be confused with their truth.

But science has provided us with air travel, amazing medicines, computers, and a whole list of other advances! Considering such facts, shouldn’t we just listen to what science has to tell us? Freeman Dyson, who holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein, comments in his 2011 essay How We Know, that the usefulness of scientific theories should not be confused with their truth:

Among my friends and acquaintances, everybody distrusts Wikipedia and everybody uses it. Distrust and productive use are not incompatible. Wikipedia is the ultimate open source repository of information. Everyone is free to read it and everyone is free to write it. It contains articles in 262 languages written by several million authors. The information that it contains is totally unreliable and surprisingly accurate. It is often unreliable because many of the authors are ignorant or careless. It is often accurate because the articles are edited and corrected by readers who are better informed than the authors.

…The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries.

…Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Atheist mythology suggests that, as scientific knowledge grows, the need for theistic belief diminishes. However, in his pivotal work on the history, philosophy, and sociology of science titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, physicist Thomas Kuhn describes how the history of science makes it difficult to justify the characterization of science as “an ever growing stockpile [of] knowledge” (or a “process of accretion”). In part, this is because most scientific theories (or models) which were accepted by the scientific communities of the past are now perceived as pseudo-science or myth.

Kuhn cites the examples of Aristotelian dynamics (which was superseded by Newtonian physics), phlogistic chemistry (which said that a fire-like element called phlogiston is contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion), and caloric thermodynamics (which said that heat is really a self-repellent fluid called caloric that flows from hotter bodies to colder bodies). (Click here for many more examples). If these theories were regarded as “science” in their day, but as “error” and “superstition” today, then why should we not assume that the scientific theories of today will become the error and superstition of tomorrow? Kuhn writes:

Historians confront growing difficulties in distinguishing the “scientific” component of past observation and belief from what their predecessors had readily labeled “error” and “superstition.” The more carefully they study, say, Aristotelian dynamics, phlogistic chemistry, or caloric thermodynamics, the more certain they feel that those once current views of nature were, as a whole, neither less scientific nor more the product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today. If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge. If, on the other hand, they are to be called science, then science has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today. Given these alternatives, the historian must choose the latter. Out-of-date theories are not in principle unscientific because they have been discarded. That choice, however, makes it difficult to see scientific development as a process of accretion.

Scientific models such as the theory of evolution should not be confused with reality

Atheist science popularizers are fond of assuring us that science “figures things out” without the need for God. Just give it enough time—the atheist reasoning goes—and science will figure out everything, leaving no need whatsoever to cite God as an explanation. But physicists Davies and Gribbin continue by warning about the danger of confusing scientific models, on one hand, with reality, on the other hand, in The Matter Myth:

The case for the scientific world view rests on the claim that science deals with truth. The image of science as a pure and objective distillation of real world experience is, of course, an idealization. In practice, the nature of scientific truth is often much more subtle and contentious.

At the heart of the scientific method is the construction of theories. Scientific theories are essentially models of the real world (or parts thereof), and a lot of the vocabulary of science concerns the models rather than the reality. For example, scientists often use the word ‘discovery’ to refer to some purely theoretical advance. Thus one often hears it said that Stephen Hawking ‘discovered’ that black holes are not black, but emit heat radiation. This statement refers solely to a mathematical investigation. Nobody has yet seen a black hole, much less detected any heat radiation from one.

So what does the history of science suggest the future holds for Darwin’s theory? The best case scenario is that it will go down in history in a similar manner to Isaac Newton’s science. Newtonian mechanics was not completely overthrown, but it was eventually shown to have a far more narrow range of applicability than once thought. William Dembski notes:

It is always a temptation in science to think that one’s theory encompasses a far bigger domain than it actually does. This happened with Newtonian mechanics. Physicists thought that Newton’s laws provided a total account of the constitution and dynamics of the universe. Maxwell, Einstein, and Heisenberg each showed that the proper domain of Newtonian mechanics was far more constricted than scientists first believed. Newtonian mechanics works well for medium sized objects at medium speeds, but for very fast and very small objects it breaks down. In the latter case, we need to invoke, respectively, relativity and quantum mechanics. 

The worst case scenario for Darwin’s theory of evolution? Biologist Lynn Margulis (mentioned above) believes that history will ultimately judge neo-Darwinism as “a minor twentieth-century religious sect within the sprawling religious persuasion of Anglo-Saxon biology.” 


  1. Matt Smith says:

    Scott,

    Which part of Evolution do you have a problem with, and why? You said something earlier to the effect that ‘nobody denies animals change over time’, so presumably on your view God gave his creations that ability. Are you one of those religious folk that think there are special limits to evolutionary change, like the poorly defined ‘kinds’, or something? Is that so that when there were big enough changes to the environment that God knew would be coming, those animals would suffer and perish?

    Ignoring for a minute the fact that, according to the overwhelming majority of scientists working in related fields (https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/project-steve-now-has-1400-steves/), there is currently no other model that accounts for the evidence, let’s assume that the pseudoscientific ID has any validity:

    How would ID, on your view, account for the 5 billion species, that God created with perfect foreknowledge, all going extinct?

    • Scott Youngren says:

      Matt,

      I don’t have a problem with any part of evolution, since, stripped of atheistic philosophical add-ons such as randomness and mindlessness, evolution only means change over time.

      As I said before, you would be hard pressed to find anyone of any worldview who doesn’t think that living things have changed over time.

      You cite scientific consensus as proof for Darwinism? Didn’t you read my essay? The history of science clearly and unmistakably shows that scientific consensus is a very poor guidepost for truth. A copy and paste from my essay:

      William Dembski notes in Uncommon Dissent:


      Despite all the propaganda to the contrary, science is not a juggernaut that relentlessly pushes back the frontiers of knowledge. Rather, science is an interconnected web of theoretical and factual claims about the world that are constantly being revised. Changes in one portion of the web can induce radical changes in another. In particular, science regularly confronts the problem of having to retract claims that it once boldly asserted.

      Consider the following example from geology: In the nineteenth century the geosynclinal theory was proposed to account for the origination of mountain ranges. This theory hypothesized that large trough-like depressions, known as geosynclines, filled with sediment, gradually became unstable, and then, when crushed and heated by the earth, elevated to form mountain ranges. To the question “How did mountain ranges originate?” geologists as late as 1960 confidently asserted that the geosynclinal theory provided the answer. In the 1960 edition of Clark and Stearn’s Geological Evolution of North America, the status of the geosynclinal theory was even favorably compared with Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

      Whatever became of the geosynclinal theory? An alternative theory, that of plate tectonics, was developed. It explained mountain formation through continental drift and sea-floor spreading. Within a few years, it had decisively replaced the geosynclinal theory. The history of science is filled with such turnabouts in which confident claims to knowledge suddenly vanish from the scientific literature. The geosynclinal theory was completely wrong. Thus, when the theory of plate tectonics came along, the geosynclinal theory was overthrown.

      Biologist Lynn Margulis, winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science, put it best in her book What Is Life?:

      …Science is asymptotic. [“asymptote” is derived from a Greek word meaning “not falling together.”] It never arrives at but only approaches the tantalizing goal of final knowledge. Astrology gives way to astronomy; alchemy evolves into chemistry. The science of one age becomes the mythology of the next.

      Those with a short-sighted view of the history of science are prone to overlook the fact that alchemy (which believed that metals such as lead could be turned into gold) and astrology were once considered scientifically respectable. In fact, as Margulis alludes to above, the scientific consensus of one age usually becomes the myth or superstition of the next age. Elite physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin cite examples of this trend among scientific theories in their book The Matter Myth:


      A classic example concerns the “luminiferous ether.” When James Clerk Maxwell showed that light is an electromagnetic wave, it seemed obvious that this wave had to have a medium of some sort through which to propagate. After all, other known waves travel through something. Sound waves, for example, travel through the air; water waves travel across the surface of lakes and oceans. Because light, which Maxwell discovered is a form of electromagnetic wave, can reach us from the Sun and stars, across seemingly empty space, it was proposed that space is actually filled with an intangible substance, the ether, in which these waves could travel.

      So sure were physicists of the existence of the ether that ambitious experiments were mounted to measure the speed with which the Earth moves through it. Alas, the experiments showed conclusively that the ether does not exist.

      …For nineteenth-century physicists, however, the ether was still very real.

      Matt, you ask, “How do you account for the 5 billion species, designed by an all-powerful omniscient being, that have now gone extinct?” God has a very good reason in allowing natural evil (such as extinctions, genetic diseases, earthquakes, etc.). William Dembski explains in The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God In An Evil World:

      “Humanity, in becoming captive to evil, gave its consent. Humans are complicit in the evil from which God is striving to deliver us. For redemption effectively to deliver humanity from evil therefore requires us to be clear as to precisely what we have consented to in rebelling against God and embracing evil. To achieve this clarity, humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God. This does not mean that the creation has to become as corrupt as it could possibly be. But it does mean that the creation must not conceal or soft-sell the gravity of sin. …In answer, then, to why a benevolent God would allow natural evil to afflict an otherwise innocent nature in response to human moral evil, we can say that it is to manifest the full consequences of human sin so that when Christ redeems us, we may clearly understand what we have been redeemed from. Without this clarity about the evil we have set in motion, we will always be in danger of reverting back to it because we do not see its gravity.”

      By allowing natural evil, God is thus responding somewhat like the parents of a 12 year-old who, upon catching the child smoking a cigarette, force him to go into the closet and finish the entire pack so that he can grasp the consequences of his choice.

  2. colin Adkins says:

    Either
    God exists or he doesn’t, theism is true or atheism is true
    Should we follow the evidence where it leads or ignore it?
    Blind unguided processes Vs Purposeful intelligent design
    mindless random mutations Vs goal directed outcomes
    An intelligent mind from matter Vs Matter from infinite intelligence
    Common Descent Vs Common Design
    Ignorance Vs. Intelligence
    Blinded by their materialistic worldview, dogmatic evolutionists are committed to constantly reminding themselves that “no matter how counter intuitive” “what we see was not designed, but rather evolved.”
    The very comprehensibility of the world points to an intelligence behind the world. Indeed, science would be impossible if our intelligence were not adapted to the intelligibility of the world. The match between our intelligence and the intelligibility of the world is no accident. Nor can it be attributed to natural selection, which places a premium on survival and reproduction and has no stake in truth or conscious thought. Indeed, meat-puppet robots are just fine as the output of a Darwinian evolutionary process.
    When concerned with purely physical processes, scientists rightly resist invoking the supernatural in scientific explanations for fear of committing a god-of-the-gaps fallacy (the fallacy of using God as a stop-gap for ignorance). The likes of Krauss and hawking’s gaps argument however, is to invoke chance and “nothing” as the cause of the natural world. Yet without some restriction on the use of chance, scientists have committed a logically equivalent fallacy-one we may call the “chance-of-the-gaps fallacy.” Chance, like God, has become their stop-gap for ignorance.
    The fundamental claim of intelligent design is straightforward and easily intelligible: namely, there are origins and natural systems that cannot be explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.
    But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider vestigial organs that later are found to have a function after all. Evolutionary biology texts often cited the appendix and the human coccyx as a “vestigial structures” the latter hearkens back to vertebrate ancestors with tails. Yet if one looks at the latest medical research, one finds that the appendix aids in immune resistance and coccyx is a crucial point of contact with muscles that attach to the pelvic floor.

    • Matt Smith says:

      Another of your assertion-filled responses Colin, how original. Why oh why are you still conflating a scientific theory with atheism? The leader of the bulk of Christians accepts the theory, in part I presume since it’s practically undeniable. Also, there is a difference between ‘vestigial’ and ‘useless’ or ‘without function’, you might want to investigate that.

      Now, let’s assume, as I did below, that ID is actually correct. Now, since the Universe is so intelligible and all, how do you account for the 5 billion species, designed by an all-powerful omniscient being, that have now gone extinct? Were they all in on some vast atheist conspiracy?

      • Scott says:

        Because you don’t understand why species went extinct, it can’t be by design? There can’t possibly be a reason that your (clearly over-inflated) mind can’t comprehend?

        Seriously Matt. You aren’t even close to as smart as you think you are.

        With all the ‘just so stories’ you have to create to imagine evolution, you can’t come up with anything.

      • Gerry De naro says:

        Colin writes, “The likes of Krauss and Hawking’s gaps argument,is to invoke chance and “nothing” as the cause of the natural world. Yet without some restriction on the use of chance, scientists have committed a logically equivalent fallacy-one we might call the “chance-of-the-gaps fallacy.”
        A “philosophy of naturalism” has become their stop-gap for ignorance which is in itself a self-contradiction. Metaphysics will always be necessary when articulating the rational intelligibility of the the physical realm
        Matt responds, ” Why oh why are you still conflating a scientific theory with atheism?”
        Any honest, openminded, thinking person would acknowledge that K & H are forced by the weight of evidence to embrace the implications of a finite past and thus an ultimate beginning for the physical realm. Ergo we are ALL creationists and have to explain the origin and existence of the universe. So H&K are merely conflating a scientific theory to fit with their naturalistic (aka atheists’) worldview that says “materialism is absolute for we cant allow a divine foot in the door”. Unfortunately Hawking in declaring that “science has replaced philosophy in the quest for knowledge” is making a philosophical claim. Obviously he wasnt listening when Einstein lamented “scientists make poor philosophers”.

  3. Matt Smith says:

    Hi Scott,

    I said ignoring the consensus, and assuming that ID was correct. The final quote above speaks of humans and evil. I don’t think any of those species were human, do you? Is the argument that because humans were going to sin in the future, God had to ensure that all those other animals bit the dust? It doesn’t appear to make much sense at all, nor to be very fair. Why not just not create them in the first place?

    However, I think I get your objection to the stark staring obvious truth of Evolution now. You prefer the type of omniscient, omnipotent God that has to be interfering with things ‘all the time’ (obviously to God, time is all one, right?), as opposed to setting things in motion using perfect foresight at the beginning. Sort of a tinkerer, I guess?

    Makes you, or me rather, wonder why God has to be omniscient and omnipotent in the first place, if he is unable to create the laws of nature such that everything automatically unfolds exactly according to his plan. Obviously, when I say ‘unfold’ and ‘beginning’, those words only apply to a human perspective, to God they are totally irrelevant. But that is what you’re saying more or less isn’t it? That God could not design nature to work without magical (supernatural?) intervention on its own to lead to abiogenesis, and then evolution. It’s a strange viewpoint, since that would make the Universe definitely unintelligible rather than the reverse, because at some point in our investigations we’d reach the part where magic was needed.

    Aha! I see what you’re getting at, assuming I’m correctly guessing your position. You’re thinking that now we’ve reached enough understanding to realise that supernatural stuff had to have come into play, and that’s why you believe in a God. Interesting…

    • Scott Youngren says:

      Matt,

      I don’t think that you really read the quote. It speaks of natural evil, not just human evil. Please read the entire citation.

      You suggest that I am denying, “the stark staring obvious truth of Evolution.” But, again, you confuse and conflate evolution (which merely means change over time, when stripped of atheistic philosophical add-ons), with Darwinian theory, which has the atheistic philosophical add-ons of randomness, mindlessness, and purposelessness. Of course it is “stark staring obvious” that living things have changed over time. Virtually nobody of any worldview doubts this.

      But, as I mentioned before, none of these atheistic philosophical add-ons are verifiable, and therefore, they stand in opposition to the scientific method itself.

      If God created “the laws of nature such that everything automatically unfolds exactly according to his plan,” as you put it, then there would be no free-will. Without free will, we would just be robots.

      Gregory Boyd explores this topic in his book Is God to Blame? Boyd labels the pervasive viewpoint that God is responsible for everything that happens in this world “the blueprint worldview” and calls attention to the philosophical and theological flaws this viewpoint contains:

      “Scripture confirms human and angelic freedom and that this is how God’s creation became the war zone that it presently is…Of course he (God) could have created a world where we have to do his will, but it would be a creation devoid of love.”

      In other words, if the world were such that we had to do God’s will, it would be nothing more than a puppet show God was putting on for himself. And how could God love a puppet? God created us to be independent free agents that he can love and be in relationship with. Relationships can only occur between free agents, not between a free agent, on one hand, and a puppet on the other. And in order for us to be free agents, we must be able to choose between good and evil. Sadly, we all too often choose evil. Former Cambridge University Professor of Mathematical Physics John Polkinghorne makes a similar point in his book Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity:

      “Does a world with cancer and concentration camps really look like the creation of a powerful and loving God? I think this is the difficulty that, more than any other, holds people back from belief in God…How, though, can one have a world in which humans are free to choose without some of these choices being for ill rather than for good? We are moral beings, with all the possibilities for immorality that this implies, not perfectly programmed automata…Philosophers call this insight ‘the free will defense,’ meaning that the possibility of moral evil is the price that must be paid for the greater good of human freedom.”

      He continues:

      “’But wait a minute,’ I hear you say, ‘there may be some moral worth in allowing human beings freedom, but what’s the point in doing the same for tectonic plates [thus allowing earthquakes]’?…I do not believe that God directly wills either the act of a murderer or the incidence of cancer. I believe God allows both to happen in a creation that has been given the gift of being itself…[these] are the inescapable cost of a creation allowed to be other than God, released from tight divine control and permitted to be itself.”

      Matt, how could random process lead to life from non-life (abiogenesis)? Even more fundamentally, if there is no God, what produces order from disorder? Please cite your alternative explanation to God for what causes order from disorder. Albert Einstein wrote:

      “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way… the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.”

      Matt, WHAT IS YOUR EXPLANATION FOR THE “HIGH DEGREE OF ORDERING OF THE OBJECTIVE WORLD” WHICH EINSTEIN MARVELED AT? I prefer not to use all caps, but my extensive experience debating atheists strongly suggests that you will try to ignore or dodge this question.

      • Matt Smith says:

        Hi Scott,

        I didn’t read the quote properly? Please do me the courtesy of actually reading it yourself!

        “In answer, then, to why a benevolent God would allow natural evil to afflict an otherwise innocent nature in response to human moral evil, we can say that it is to manifest the full consequences of human sin”

        God allows natural evil in response to human sin. 5 billion animals have died out, gone extinct. How many of those billion died out before humanity even existed?! The argument makes absolutely zero sense, and yes I read it properly the first time. Take the God glasses off for a second and concentrate.

        You said, “If God created “the laws of nature such that everything automatically unfolds exactly according to his plan,” as you put it, then there would be no free-will. Without free will, we would just be robots.”, which again is a terrible argument. God has a plan and perfect foresight, nothing can go against it. That doesn’t mean he controls everything does it? What I’m saying is that God doesn’t need to personally intervene, therefore free will (if it exists) is possible.

        What you appear to be saying is that God could not create a Universe such that ‘random forces’ and material would lead to abiogenesis, correct? Again, your God knows everything in advance; indeed, such tensed words or phrases like ‘lead to’ and ‘advance’ are utterly meaningless when considering an atemporal deity. God sees everything all at once. You’re telling me that that all-powerful God could not design a Universe in which life arises spontaneously from processes which we can now observe and study? The Miller-Urey experiment begs to differ!

        Regarding your all caps comment, must I say this a million times: an opinion quoted from Einstein with no equations, no evidence, no peer-review etc., may be interesting, but it as good or bad as anyone’s opinion as far as making an argument goes. It is totally irrelevant. But let’s imagine I actually have some obligation to respond. Einstein was fond of thought experiments so in honour of him let’s try one ourselves:

        – Get a fish tank and fill it with water.
        – Pour in a bunch of ‘random’ debris (rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, mud, sticks etc.)
        – Shake the tank around in a ‘random’ fashion for a time.
        – Set the tank down and go and have a beer or two (or cup of tea if you prefer)

        Now come back and observe the tank. Notice how – likely in proportion to the duration of the shaking period – natural, mindless, random forces have sorted the debris into discrete layers? Do we at any point need to resort to the supernatural to explain this order from chaos? Ditto the process of snowflake formation, star formation, crystal structures of all kinds etc. Order does come from chaos in a way that appears totally natural, no magic required. You might say God designed it that way, and I would have no argument in the sense that if a God existed I’m sure that would be the explanation. My personal thought is that nature is that way, no God required, and I guess that’s precisely why you don’t like a Universe in which no supernatural magic is necessary.

        Think about this carefully now – are you actually arguing for the famous ‘magical man in the sky’ type deity, rather than one who designed nature in such a way to inevitably bring about the Universe as we find it? Consider the history of human explanations invoking magic ;)

        • Scott Youngren says:

          Matt,

          Thanks for your fish tank illustration. You also cite snowflakes, crystal structures, etc. However, your argument is enormously flawed for at least a couple reasons:

          1) As I confidently predicted, you tried to dodge my question about the source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” which Einstein marveled at. You cite natural laws as the source of order. But how can an inanimate thing be made to follow a law, such as the laws of physics, chemistry, or thermodynamics? How can such a structure of laws (or “regularities,” or whatever term you prefer) that govern the universe exist in a truly random world? Please note that this is a question that science can never answer because it is not a scientific question. Rather, it is an ontological question.

          In the theistic model, it is immediately obvious why matter follows natural laws: The same mind that creates matter (God’s mind) also directs it. As Robert Boyle, the founder of modern chemistry, put it:

          “The nature of this or that body is but the law of God prescribed to it [and] to speak properly, a law [is] but a notional rule of acting according to the declared will of a superior.”

          Or, as James Joule, the propounder of the first law of thermodynamics, for whom the thermal unit of the “Joule” was named, put it:

          “It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”

          Or, as the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans put it in his book The Mysterious Universe:

          “There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)

          What answer does the atheistic model provide to the question of how an inanimate thing can be compelled to follow a law? Only various versions of “matter follows laws because it just does.”

          But “it just does” is not an answer. Rather, it is a failure to explain. This sort of just-so storytelling is absoulutely pervasive in atheist thought.

          Since you have not really answered my previous question, I will rephrase it and put it in all caps so that you do not try to ignore or dodge it: IF THERE IS NO GOD, WHY DO MATERIAL THINGS SO CONSISTENTLY FOLLOW NATURAL LAWS (or “regularities,” or whatever term you prefer)?? PROVIDE AN ANSWER AND DO NOT TRY TO DODGE OR IGNORE THE QUESTION AGAIN!!!

          2) Even if you were able to explain this source of the “high degree of ordering of the objective world” which Einstein marveled at, your fish tank (and crystal, snowflake, etc.) examples would only be able to explain order, and not complexity. Complexity is necessary for the origin of life, not just order. Atheists frequently confuse and conflate order, on one hand, and complexity, on the other hand.

          The information content of DNA (the language of life) is highly irregular and non-repeating. But the laws of nature are very regular and repeating, and therefore, cannot produce the sort of information content present in a DNA sequence:

          If you drop a pencil, it falls. If you pour salt in water, it dissolves…regular and repeating. This is why the scientific method demands that experiments be repeatable.

          The laws of nature can only produce regular and repeating patterns with low information content, such as the following:

          ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC

          But in order to have the information content necessary to contain the instructions for life, a DNA sequence requires irregular and non-repeating sequences such as the following:

          “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

          This point is made by the former Manhattan Project physicist, and leading information scientist, Hubert Yockey, in the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life:

          “The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin (1985, 1987a) has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”

          Dean Overman comments on how it is patently fallacious to argue that the laws of nature could produce life in A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization. As Overman points out, atheists who argue as such confuse order with complexity:

          “Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine emphasizes that highly ordered behavior in inorganic matter may appear spontaneously in systems far from equilibrium. The order noted in Prigogine’ s writings, however, is not very useful in resolving the enigma of the origin of life. Prigogine fails to distinguish between order and specified complexity. One of his examples of a spontaneous ordering is the vortex formed by water molecules as water is influenced by the force of gravity and flows down a bathtub drain. Prigogine’s example is an ordered structure with low information content. An ordered structure may have low or high information content. The ordered movement of water in the vortex has low information content and is not at all analogous to the irregular structure of living systems which contain vast amounts of information.”

          “A genetic message is conveyed by an aperiodic structure with high information content. Again, order is not synonymous with complexity. A structure’s specified complexity relates to the quantity of its information content with high complexity requiring more information content which requires more instructions necessary to specify the structure. Highly complex structures require many instructions. A structure may be highly ordered, such as a crystal, but contain very few instructions. Applying the analogy of language, The Oxford History of the American People has a high information content, but a series of one thousand pages with only the letters ABC appearing in repeating order on each line has a higher level of order and a very low level of information content.”

          Regarding the Miller-Urey experiments which you cite, Overman notes:

          “Miller and Urey did not examine random conditions. The definition of facticious used in this paragraph means a contrived manipulation by a human being. Something occurs facticiously when it is forced into being by a human agency. Miller and Urey’ s and several subsequent experiments were facticious in the sense that the conditions were meticulously manipulated by the researchers within the glass tubes. If researchers using their full level of scientific and technical skills are not able to form living organisms from amino acids, one must ask how life formed before this intelligence existed to manipulate the environment.”

          “There are limits to what random natural processes alone have achieved in a laboratory environment, compared to the achievements accomplished through the interference of a researcher. As Brooks and Shaw have noted: “These experiments … claim abiotic synthesis for what has in fact been produced and designed by highly intelligent and very much biotic man.” Only biotic processes direct energy flow to the work of forming life. To paraphrase Louis Pasteur [the founder of microbiology and immunology], in experience only life produces life.”

          • Matt Smith says:

            Hi Scott,

            Your claim is totally false: I did answer your question! You asked about the high degree of order and I said natural processes can lead to order. I provided examples which you thanked me for, then straight afterwards said I was dodging the question – that does not compute. You’re being deliberately obtuse and your ‘explanations’ are totally ludicrous.

            Where have I ever said the world is ‘totally random’? You’re arguing against a straw man. The laws of nature are descriptions of how things work in practice, not prescriptions that reality has to be compelled to follow. Are you seriously suggesting that God, who presumably designed the Universe to have such behaviour then has to intervene supernaturally at every stage to make things work?

            Your world view is absurd and offers no real answers of any substance. Why is there a God rather than no God? Why did God design a Universe that needs his constant tinkering to function, rather than simply natural processes? I noticed also that you failed to mention the quote I ‘misread’ earlier, and acknowledge that it says precisely what I told you earlier. Why pray did all those animals go extinct – because humans were going to sin in the future?! That also does not compute.

            If your God is incapable of designing a Universe in which life can arise under conditions hinted at in the Miller-Urey experiment, then in what sense is it ‘fine tuned’ for life? Self organisation is a real thing, as anyone with access to Google can discover. Your continued use of quotes and opinions rather than actual arguments or evidence show everyone reading that you’ve got nothing. The fact that you have to resort to such tactics, and deception to boot, shows the weakness of your position. You have no Scientific nor logical leg to stand on, as evidenced by your continued assertions that it had to have been magic, rather than natural forces (created supposedly by the omniscient God you claim exists!)

            • Scott Youngren says:

              Matt,

              Just so I understand you, I want to ask you to clarify:

              I asked you:

              If there is no God, why do material things so consistently follow natural laws? How can an inanimate thing be made to follow a law, such as the laws of physics, chemistry, or thermodynamics? How can such a structure of natural laws (or “regularities,” or whatever term you prefer) that govern the universe exist in a truly random world? Put another way, in a world devoid of a God, why isn’t there just chaos?

              And your response is (or at least seems to be):

              Because there are natural laws and processes.

              Matt, I do not want to misrepresent your stance. Therefore, if the above misrepresents your response to my question, please clarify. You cite natural processes, but I am asking you how inanimate material things can be compelled to follow such natural processes. Why isn’t there just chaos?

              • Matt Smith says:

                Scott,

                You are misrepresenting my argument, and failed to answer any of my questions whilst doing so. I said, “The laws of nature are descriptions of how things work in practice, not prescriptions that reality has to be compelled to follow.” I also asked you to provide a quote where I claimed the Universe is ‘truly random’, as I have already pointed out that is a straw man.

                If your ultimate explanation for everything is simply ‘God’, and the laws of nature are not by themselves sufficient to create life and so on, the character of the Universe would indeed be somewhat random, being based on the whims of a deity. I’m sure you agree that many phenomena we observe get along just fine without supernatural interventions, correct? Others though, such as abiogenesis seem to require magic, on an arbitrary basis. Why is that Scott?

                Now, the way I see it, there isn’t just chaos because existence itself operates on natural laws. Dig deeper, and you will find there are answers I simply cannot give. It could be simply that existence with no natural laws is impossible, that this phase of the Universe can only be the state of affairs if natural laws are the case. Let’s say I claim natural laws are merely a brute fact. If, in order to provide an acceptable explanation I have to go further and justify natural laws, answer me this:

                a) Why is there a God rather than no God?

                b) Why did an omniscient, omnipotent God create a Universe in which natural laws were insufficient by themselves to give rise to life, without supernatural intervention?

                c) How is a Universe with arbitrary supernatural interventions ‘intelligible’?

                Your explanation, ‘God’, gives rise to more questions than answers. Not only that, it suggests that there will always be questions we will find impossible to answer, because ‘magic’. As I asked in an earlier response, what kind of glorious history do such explanations have Scott?!

                • Scott Youngren says:

                  Matt,

                  Your answer is very evasive, and transparently so. You say that the laws of nature are descriptive rather than prescriptive. But of what relevance would this be even if you were right?! By the way, since you emphasize peer-review, please provide me with the peer-reviewed papers which demonstrate that these laws are descriptive rather than prescriptive. Hint: You won’t, because there are no such papers.

                  Matt, material things regularly behave in predictable, orderly fashions…according to natural laws. This is the case whether these laws are prescriptive or descriptive. Your suggestion that these laws are merely descriptive is utterly irrelevant, and therefore an attempt at diversion (sleight of hand).

                  Since you have failed to answer the question, I will ask it again. And I have found it useful to keep a counter, since my extensive experience debating atheist has shown that atheists will dodge or ignore this question over and over again:

                  Matt, material things regularly behave in an orderly fashion, according to natural laws. Whether or these laws are descriptive or prescriptive is completely and utterly irrelevant.
                  WHAT IS THE SOURCE FOR THE “HIGH DEGREE OF ORDERING OF THE OBJECTIVE WORLD” WHICH EINSTEIN MARVELED AT?

                  THE COUNTER IS NOW ON 3 (THREE) FOR THE NUMBER OF TIMES WHICH I HAVE ASKED THIS QUESTION. You reject God as the source for order, I get that. Now please provide your alternate explanation. I prefer not be impolite, but please SPIT IT OUT!! EITHER ANSWER THE QUESTION OR ADMIT THAT YOU CANNOT.

                  Who or what causes material things to consistently follow natural laws?! Answer the question!

                  You seem to believe that the laws of nature can create life. But whether or not this is true is also irrelevant. I am asking you why material things regularly follow these laws in the first place. Who or what compels them to do so?

                  As an atheist, you are stuck with a “they just do” explanation to this question. But this sort of just-so storytelling (which is so prevalent in atheist thought) does not amount to an explanation. Rather, it amounts to an explanatory failure.

                  Further, I demonstrate in Why Natural Laws Cannot Produce Life why you are incorrect in your view. Please furnish a rationally constructed, fact-based rebuttal to my argument.

          • Gerry De naro says:

            The argument from the FINITUDE of the past [time] is the atheists’ most insurmountable problem.
            1) if ANY physical thing is to exist now, some ‘thing’ has either a) existed eternally in the past or b) was created ex nihilo.
            2) no matter what event or state matter and energy was in, in the past, (before or after the big bang), EVERY such state or event has to exist in the dimension of TIME.
            3) An infinite regress of past temporal events or states however, is a logical absurdity. Since some ‘thing’ does exist now and there are NO examples of infinite time, space or matter in the physical realm, then 1b) is the logical and inevitable conclusion.
            4) only that which is immaterial, atemporal, non-contingent, powerful, incredibility intelligent and uncaused is capable of creating a finite, rationally comprehensible universe that is subject to, and founded upon a universal set of immutable ABSTRACT laws. The “process” of how that creation event occurred is irrelevant to the conclusion that it did occur.
            5) Once a genuine truth seeker is willing to admit to such a conclusion then, and only then, is it worth discussing the nature of such an immaterial reality.
            BTW, a cynical mind trying to understand the nature of his Creator is like a horse trying to understand what it’s like to be human. Just because you dont like the consequences, denying the existence of such an infinite mind, from such an arrogant, cynical and limited understanding of that Reality is a complete non sequitur.

      • Gerry De naro says:

        Hi Scott,
        Perhaps the following observation might shed some light on your frustrations regarding attempts to debate meaningfully with sceptics and cynics who continually “dodge the issue”
        Often when I field questions from skeptics I wonder if they are genuine truth seekers or merely throwing out rhetorical objections that they think are impossible to answer. When I give what I believe to be a reasonable answer, rather than respond with “that was really helpful”, they realize that’s not working, so they throw out something else. When I give a good answer they then go to the next objection. I soon realize after 4 or 5 mostly unrelated issues that they’re not even considering what I’m talking about, which is finding the truth. The time soon come when I ask them ‘is there something in your life you would have to change or give up if they are true?” A few are honest to admit if God is real, they would have to change perhaps their sex life and so on. Romans 1 says even though they know what is true they suppress the truth; so they look for other theories much like philosopher Jean Paul Sartre who said “if God is real, I am not free. Since I am free therefore god does not exist.

        In his book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory Philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre states his concern about the decline in social morality. What he really laments however, is something far deeper and more fundamental; namely the fact that we have lost even the capacity to have a meaningful and coherent conversation. Our assumptions are so diverse, that we have lost a common vocabulary, we don’t argue with each other, rather we talk passed, and even scream over each other. Ravi Zacharias observed “it is not that there isnt sufficient evidence, but the willful neglect of such evidence.”

        • God Evidence says:

          Gerry,

          Yes, I have encountered the same phenomenon. Atheists frequently change the subject once it becomes apparent that they cannot logically defend their stance on a specific issue. This is known as the Red Herring Fallacy, which is also sometimes referred to as the Wild Goose Chase Fallacy. I have found it useful to call out an atheist for committing this fallacy when he/she changes the subject. On other occasions, I may just call them out on the diversionary nature of their arguments.

          The atheist you are debating may not be interested in the truth, but there is still much value in continuing these seemingly fruitless exchanges. This is the case because there will sometimes be third-party observers of your debate who are genuine truth seekers. Such third-party individuals will not fail to notice the lack of logical coherence contained in the arguments presented by your atheist debate opponent.

          A copy and paste from the above Wikipedia post about the Red Herring Fallacy:

          As an informal fallacy, the red herring falls into a broad class of relevance fallacies. Unlike the straw man, which is premised on a distortion of the other party’s position,[2] the red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic.[3] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a red herring may be intentional, or unintentional; it does not necessarily mean a conscious intent to mislead.[1]

          The expression is mainly used to assert that an argument is not relevant to the issue being discussed. For example, “I think we should make the academic requirements stricter for students. I recommend you support this because we are in a budget crisis, and we do not want our salaries affected.” The second sentence, though used to support the first sentence, does not address that topic.

  4. “science, alone, doesn’t provide ultimate answers”

    You mean to questions like “Why are we here?” Actually, arguing the opposite is easy: science shows that there’s no good reason to believe in religion, so *you* get to decide what your purpose is here on earth.

    But let’s ignore that and see where you’re going. You want to point to *religion* as the source of ultimate answers, but why imagine that that’s a good source? First, we’ve never gotten any new information about nature or reality from religion. Religion makes lots of claims, but it doesn’t back them up with evidence (if it did, it’d be science!).

    But more important, we can look at religion worldwide to see what it can agree on. The purpose of life? Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity don’t agree. Look at the map of world religions—that’s a fairly fixed indication of what religion will offer answers based on where in the world you are. That is, the answers to life’s big questions depends on your location—at least as far as religion.

    Religion can’t even agree on how many gods there are or what their names are. Why imagine that religion is the answer to anything real?

    • Scott Youngren says:

      Bob,

      You snipe at religion, but you fail to notice that atheism and agnosticism fit many of the diverse definitions of religion present in religious scholarship. In the course of day-to-day conversation, virtually everyone has heard someone make the statement, “I am not religious,” in order to convey a lack of affiliation with theistic belief systems such as Christianity. But one can only doubt Christianity from the vantage point of another belief system, because everyone needs a belief system in order to make sense of one’s experience. Therefore, one can only be “not religious” from the vantage point of a different religion (or belief system), whether or not one chooses to apply the term religion to one’s belief system.

      And, considering the difficulty of defining just what religion is, the meaning of a statement such as “I am not religious” is unclear. Dean Overman, a Templeton Scholar from Oxford University writes in A Case for the Divinity of Jesus:

      Defining what one means by the term “religion” is not an easy task. Keith Ward, former Regius Professor of Divinity and head of the theology department at Oxford University, wrote a highly acclaimed five-volume series on comparative religions. In one of his recent books, The Case for Religion, he notes that defining the term “religion” is not a simple undertaking: “Many colleges in America and Europe have courses on ‘Religion.’ These courses usually start with a lecture entitled ‘What is Religion?’ After running through a few dozen definitions, the lecturer almost invariably concludes that nobody knows what religion is, or is even sure that there is such a thing. The course continues to be called courses on religion, however, because that sounds better than having a course entitled, “I do not know what I am talking about.”

      There is no plausible benchmark for deciding when one can or cannot include a given set of beliefs as a religion.

      For example, some may try to define religion as “belief systems which include the existence of God.” But this definition would exclude religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism (an ancient religion from India), and certain forms of Satanism, etc. Atheists and agnostics can only portray themselves as “not religious” by first defining religion as belief systems which are theistic. But atheism and agnosticism fit many of the diverse definitions of religion present in religious scholarship.

      And everyone (whether Christian, Hindu, atheist, or agnostic, etc.) has a set of beliefs, or an interpretive framework. This is the case whether or not one chooses to apply the term religion to one’s belief system. K.A. Smith comments in Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church:

      “We all – whether naturalists, atheists, Buddhists, or Christians – see the world through the grid of an interpretive framework – and ultimately this interpretive framework is religious in nature, even if not allied with a particular institutional religion.”

      Even the most hardened atheist needs an interpretive lens, through which to view the world, which is comprised of a set of beliefs. For example, atheism cites unintelligent natural processes of evolution working upon inanimate matter to explain the origin of conscious, intelligent, and personal beings such as ourselves.

      Atheism is superstitious, not theism

      Outspoken atheists are often fond on portraying theistic interpretive frameworks such as Christianity as superstitious or “woo-woo,” but it is not difficult to see why atheism is clearly the more superstitious worldview: Citing a non-conscious cause for consciousness, an unintelligent cause for intelligence, an impersonal cause for personhood, or a non-rational cause for reason, (etc.) is impossible to philosophically justify because, as Edwar Feser puts it The Last Superstition, “a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.” Feser skillfully elaborates:

      …the cause of a fire might itself be on fire, as when a torch is used to start a brushfire, or it may instead have the power to produce fire, as a cigarette lighter has even when it is not being used.

      The traditional way of making this distinction is to say that a cause has the feature that it generates in the effect “formally” in the first sort of case (e.g. when both the cause and the effect are on fire) and “eminently” in the second sort of case (e.g. when the cause is not itself on fire, but has an inherent power to produce fire). If a cause didn’t contain all the features of its effect either formally or eminently, there would be no way to account for how the effect came about in just the way it did. Again, a cause cannot give to its effect what it does not have to give.

      Material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain (either formally or eminently) many of the features we as humans possess…such as consciousness, intelligence, personhood, reason, morality, love, etc. Keith Ward, a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, makes the same point as Feser in his book Doubting Dawkins: Why There Almost Certainly is a God:

      “…there is force in the classical philosophical axiom that, for a truly explanatory cause to be intelligible, it must contain its effects potentially in itself. As the classical philosophers put it, the cause must contain more reality than its effects.”

      The implication of this philosophical axiom cited by Feser and Ward is that the cause of conscious, intelligent, and personal (etc.) beings such as ourselves must necessarily have the effects of consciousness, intelligence and personhood contained potentially in itself. A cigarette lighter contains the effect of fire potentially in itself (even when not being used), but inanimate material things such as atoms and rocks do not contain the effects of consciousness, intelligence, or personhood potentially in themselves.

      An inanimate object is completely specified by its chemical and physical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called “consciousness” or “personhood,” etc.

      This is why the only logical option is to cite a conscious, personal, and intelligent cause (read: God) for conscious, personal, and intelligent agents such as ourselves.

      Which came first, intelligent mind (read: God’s mind), or matter? Did God’s mind produce matter, or did intelligent mind only first emerge after human brains evolved as a result of unintelligent processes working on mindless matter? Keith Ward continues:

      “Is intelligent mind an ultimate and irreducible feature of reality? Indeed, is it the ultimate nature of reality? Or is mind and consciousness an unforeseen and unintended product of basically material processes of evolution?”

      “If you look at the history of philosophy, it soon becomes clear that almost all the great classical philosophers took the first of these views. Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel—they all argued that the ultimate reality, often hidden under the appearances of the material world or time and space, is mind or spirit.”

      Although it is a mind-bending concept for many people who live in a society with a deeply entrenched tradition of materialism (the philosophical view that matter comes first, and that consciousness is the eventual product of mindless material processes of evolution), it is important to note that modern physics has verified what the classical philosophers long ago concluded: Conscious mind (read: God’s mind) comes first, and matter is a product of conscious mind. As Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum physics, put it:

      “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

      Planck also said,

      “Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.”

      Princeton University quantum physicist Freeman Dyson (who holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein) echoes Planck’s above comments:

      “Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”

      Considering how mind-bending and strange the concept of conscious mind preceding (and producing) matter must seem to the average person raised in a society with deeply seated materialistic assumptions, readers are encouraged to read my essay titled God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism, Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry’s essay The Mental Universe, and University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp’s book Mindful Universe for a more thorough exploration of this topic.

    • Scott says:

      Congratulations Bob. You can’t prove anything you’ve written in your entire post with science.

      You wrote a whole post and actually proved exactly what you were arguing against – “science, alone, doesn’t provide ultimate answers”.

      At least try. Embarrassing.

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