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Same Evidence, Different Interpretations


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#1 Guest_Calipithecus_*

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Posted 03 August 2005 - 03:25 PM

A lot of the discussion here seems to be devoted to demands for evidence, such as the following:

Instead of proposing "thought experiments" or "hypothetical questions", why don't they present the scientific data that supports their claims?

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I'd like to present the following as an example of what I see as the reciprocal relationship between claims and supporting data:

The discovery of Charon in 1978 showed the mass of Pluto to be much smaller than expected, and insufficient to explain the observed perturbations in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus (the calculated orbit of Neptune fit observations only for a few years, and then started to drift away, while the orbit for Uranus fit the observations during one revolution but not during the previous revolution). As a solution, the astronomer Tom van Flandern hypothesized the existence of a tenth planet beyond the orbit of Pluto. Over this past weekend, the news was released that this hypothesis was confirmed in 2003 with the discovery of a yet-unnamed planet about 3.6 billion miles from the Sun.

This was a repeat performance of a process of discovery that took place over 150 years ago when John Couch Adams and Urbain Leverrier hypothesized the existence of the planet we now know as Neptune. There were other proposed explanations for the discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus observed at that time. One hypothesis was that some time after Tobias Meyer's (assumed) sighting of that planet (earlier, in 1756), its orbit was altered by an impact from a large object. Other astronomers were so frustrated by their inability to explain Uranus's behavior that they were driven to considering the possibility that Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation somehow failed when applied over sufficiently large distances.

In my opinion, this willingness on the part of those scientists to question their most fundamental assumptions in the face of what they saw as sufficiently strong evidence stands in stark contrast to the stubbornness with which adherents to other systems of thought often cling to their most cherished notions, showing more willingess instead to perform the most agonizing mental contortions imaginable in the hope to sustain them.

We are talking about two separate things here: evidence, and interpretations of evidence; when John Paul says: "Hypothetical questions are not a valid way to do anything", he directs our attention to the latter rather than the former. Is this a valid concern? Absolutely. What possible value can evidence have if flawed methods are used to evaluate it? I believe, however, that he has underestimated the value of the asking of hypothetical questions such as: "Could Uranus's orbit have changed due to an impact?" as a tool toward formulating and evaluating interpretations.

Did the discovery of Neptune completely eliminate the possibility that Uranus had been hit by some object? No. Is there some evidence that could be used to estimate how reasonable a proposal that was? Yes. The liklihood of an impact by an object of the required size can be inferred from the frequency with which impacts by objects of varying sizes are observed to take place elsewhere in the solar system (infered in turn from the presence of the craters of varying sizes which they produce); the probability of such an event occurring in a given period of years could then be expressed as a percentage. In this case, the impact hypothesis would be very undesirable, because the narrow temporal window would make this percentage very low; however, it might still be considered the best explanation in the absence of better alternatives.

Did the discovery of Neptune completely eliminate the possibility that Newton's law fails over large distances? No. Newton's law rests an assumption which is one of the axioms of science: that consistency in phenomena we observe bespeaks a general underlying consistency to the universe at large. We have no choice but to assume that if galaxies exist which are too far distant for us to observe, that gravity operates the same there that it does here; that the laws of conservation will not suddenly begin to be suspended on alternate Wednesdays; etc. The 'flawed law' hypothesis would then be even less desirable than the 'impact' hypothesis because one of its implications is that a fundamental assumption (one in which we place the highest degree of confidence) is flawed.

Many creationists have learned from first-hand experience that fabricating evidence is a tactic on which they can not rely. One example recently mentioned in this forum, that of fossil tracks purported to show dinosaurs and man coexisting, has been so thoroughly debunked that leading creationists have been forced to admit the deception and now caution their followers not to use this example lest the effort serve only to further damage the credibility of creationism's proponents (this is hardly an isolated case, btw; those new to the debate would do well to have a look at the more comprehensive list found here):
http://www.answersin...aq/dont_use.asp

Instead, the creationist community has gradually come to see the wisdom in taking a different approach, one more compatable with the standard practice of science: to focus on constructing alternative interpretations -- of the same evidence -- to those offered by evolutionary theory. I believe that scientists are not immune to certain human foibles and the pitfalls to which they often lead, among them: bias, bogus assumptions, hasty conclusions, optimistic projections from sparse data, and the like. Much of the discourse that takes place in science is therefore quite justifiably directed toward logical examinations of interpretations rather than to direct examination of evidence. Consider this snippet, part of a long (and occasionally, surprisingly ugly) debate between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould:

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"Richard is basically wrong, [about gene selection being the most meaningful level at which to consider the effects of selection] because organisms are doing the struggling out there. If organisms could be described as the additive accumulation of what their genes do, then you could say that organisms are representing the genes, but they're not. Organisms have hosts of emergent characteristics. In other words, genes interact in a nonlinear way. It is the interaction that defines the organism, and if those interactions, in a technical sense, are nonadditive -- that is, if you can't just say that it's this percent of this gene plus that percent of that gene -- then you cannot reduce the interaction to the gene. This is a technical philosophical point. As soon as you have emergent characteristics due to nonadditive interaction among lower-level entities, then you can't reduce to the lower-level entities, because the nonadditive features have emerged. These features don't exist until you get into the higher level. His argument is wrong. It's not just a question of being inadequate. It's wrong."
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I feel that such dialogues -- by being directed to issues of bias and assumptions on the part of each participant's adversary -- demonstrate an implicit acknowledgement of the above-mentioned pitfalls already; but it may be that creationists have something to offer too, if only by virtue of, shall we say, a somewhat inhanced willingness to challenge science's most fundamental assumptions. This is something which scientists themselves are generally reluctant to do, but which creationists (proponents of the Young Earth model in particular) must be willing to do at every turn.

In my opinion, what we primarily do here is to consider interpretations of evidence. In fact, our debates are mostly over interpretations of interpretations -- I mean, how many here claim to be original theorists? How many of us are involved in hands-on collection of evidence either in the laboratory or in the field? How many claim original authorship of the first theoretical explanations of such findings? We are mostly debating the quality of ideas which have come to us second-hand, and most of us are struggling just to understand the arguments; never mind defending them.

I seriously doubt that history will render ironic this prediction: the world will little note nor long remember what we say here -- but to anyone who took the trouble to wade through this unintentionally lengthy post, I submit the following:

The formulation of a theory (an interpretation of evidence) depends not only on what one considers, but also -- and perhaps to a greater extent -- on something one may not take time to consider: those assumptions which are taken on board unexamined. When it comes to a willingess to examine one's own assumptions, I see the scientist and the creationist as being on approximately even ground. But the scientist's reasons for leaving his assumptions unchallenged are very different from the creationist's reasons for doing so. For the scientist, the questioning of his most fundamental assumptions (laws of gravity, of conservation of matter and energy, etc) is a last desperate resort, because discarding these, his strongest and most exhaustively tested tools, would leave him without any basis for formulating conclusions. For the creationist, questioning of his most fundamental assumptions is never an option, under any circumstances, because his fundamental assumptions are the very conclusions he has already reached.

#2 John Paul

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 12:37 PM

I have always maintained, as has many, if not all Creationists & IDists, that it is the same evidence, different inference.

But what does that mean?

The DNA is the same. The organisms are the same. Same rocks, strata, volcanoes, testonic plates, water, Moon, Sun, solar system, galaxy, universe and the laws that govern them. All the same.

With each piece of evidence we ask the following to determine its cause:

1. Did it have to happen?
2. Did it happen by accident?
3. Did an intelligent agent cause it to happen?

Or as I like to put it-

What are the options to our existence and the existence of all we observe?

1)Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
2)Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
3)A combination of 1 & 2

The great scientist Max Planck made it obvious which he chose:

"All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this minute solar system of the atom together . . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind."

Creationists and IDists want the evidence to lead, as opposed to forcing the evidence to fit option #1. The people who oppose them seem to have an issue with that.

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:15 PM

I have always maintained, as has many, if not all Creationists & IDists, that it is the same evidence, different inference.

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I hope we won't have any trouble agreeing then that assumptions are at least as important as evidence, or that the complete equation is: evidence + assumptions = inference (it's actually a bit more complicated than that: inferences become conclusions, which then form the basis for new assumptions, leading to new inferences, etc.).

Creationists and IDists want the evidence to lead, as opposed to forcing the evidence to fit [ ].

Whether it be Dawkins vs Behe, or Dawkins vs Gould, this is exactly the complaint most often levelled in one form or another by a proponent of one side against a proponent of the other.

What I'm saying is that evidence cannot lead anywhere on its own. To make any inferences or reach any conclusions at all involves making at least some assumptions, and the entire debate often turns on just how valid those assumptions are. Most important of all are the initial assumptions which form the basis for all that follows.

Though Dawkins and Gould often disagreed, those disagreements never extended to the fundamental tenets of Darwinism (despite skillful effort on the part of many a creationist quote-miner to create such an impression), and certainly not to the level of first principles. Even Dawkins and Behe can be seen to be in significant agreement at the level of (what Francis Bacon called) lowest axioms: an objective universe exists, this universe has consistency; effects have causes, etc.

I'm wondering if we might try to identify the level at which we are in agreement as to initial assumptions, and the level at which assumptions first diverge, and then try to take a close look at the logical support for the respective branches.

#4 John Paul

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 04:21 AM

Cal:
What I'm saying is that evidence cannot lead anywhere on its own.


I disagree. Evidence can lead on its own. Whether or not someone chooses to follow is up to them.

Cal:
To make any inferences or reach any conclusions at all involves making at least some assumptions, and the entire debate often turns on just how valid those assumptions are. Most important of all are the initial assumptions which form the basis for all that follows.


Any examples? Forensic scientists had better clear their mind of any assumptions before taking on a case. The same with fire investigators.

Assumptions are fine and dandy when it comes to hypothetical scenarios, as in "If humans evolved from an ape-like population, how many mutations did it take?" Then you copunt the # of differences between the alleged diverged species and do the math. The answer the math gives rests solely on the assumption that such a transformation is possible.

Howvere if you are trying to demonstrate such a transformation is possible you can't start with the assumption it already ccurred. That is not how an objective research venue works.

People who look at the fossil record as evidence for the ToE have the starting assumption that the ToE is indicative of reality, ie that all of life's diversity owes its collective common ancestry to some population(s) of single-celled organisms. And its true that if you stat out with a pre-conceived idea (that assumption) and set out to look for confirming evidence, the likely-hood you will succeed is greatly enhanced.

However there comes a time when the assumption has to be tested. That is where the rubber meets the road.


ID and Creation would go away IF evolutionists could present any evidence that the range of change rquired were possible. As of today no one, I repeat no one, even knows if single-celled organisms can ever be anything other than single-celled organisms or a colony of like organisms- eg a slime mold is an aggregate of the same single-celled species.

I am hoping that any evolutionist would present any evidence that shows a population of single-celled organisms can become something other than single-celled prganisms or aggregate colonies.

Or how about the evidence that shows a population of non-flying organisms can evolve the ability and appendages to fly?

It will be clear to everyone that the ToE is all about assumptions and evidence that doesn't exist.

Perhaps evolutionists will someday learn that fabricating evidence is what lost them their strangle-hold with the lay=people of the world and the sole rights to be taught in biology class.

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 10:01 AM

I disagree. Evidence can lead on its own. Whether or not someone chooses to follow is up to them.

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Maybe you somehow consider it your duty to disagree with me just on general principles. Maybe you don't see any value in trying to identify those areas of agreement that may exist between us. If you think you can provide an example of some evidence that can lead in only one possible direction regardless of whatever assumptions are made beforehand, I'd love to see it. I don't think you're going to be able to do that though, because some of the most important assumptions we humans make about the world around us are hardwired into our brains.


Forensic scientists had better clear their mind of any assumptions before taking on a case. The same with fire investigators.

No doubt they all start with a few minutes of quiet meditation. But forensic scientists and fire investigators operate way, way up the assumption tree. The assumptions I'm proposing we look at first are the axioms of science: those propositions which, being unprovable, are accepted without proof. As for examples, I suggested several above:

1) An objective universe exists
2) This universe has consistency
3) Effects have causes

Does anyone, creationist or otherwise, disagree with any of these?

#6 John Paul

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:19 PM

Cal:
Maybe you somehow consider it your duty to disagree with me just on general principles. Maybe you don't see any value in trying to identify those areas of agreement that may exist between us.



One thing is for sure- I do not agree with anyone for the sake of agreeing.


Cal:
If you think you can provide an example of some evidence that can lead in only one possible direction regardless of whatever assumptions are made beforehand, I'd love to see it. I don't think you're going to be able to do that though, because some of the most important assumptions we humans make about the world around us are hardwired into our brains.


My point is we don't need starting assumptions. And yes the evidence can and usually does pont in only one direction.

QUOTE
Forensic scientists had better clear their mind of any assumptions before taking on a case. The same with fire investigators.

Cal:
No doubt they all start with a few minutes of quiet meditation. But forensic scientists and fire investigators operate way, way up the assumption tree.


Please explain- Do you really think starting with a dead body or a fire is starting way up the assumption tree? Do you think they start with the assumption that what they are observing is real or not? Is that what you mean by "way up the assumption tree"?

Cal:
The assumptions I'm proposing we look at first are the axioms of science: those propositions which, being unprovable, are accepted without proof. As for examples, I suggested several above:

1) An objective universe exists
2) This universe has consistency
3) Effects have causes

Does anyone, creationist or otherwise, disagree with any of these?


Those aren't asumptions- those are knowns. They are known via scientific research & discovery.

Next we will "learn" that mathematics is nothing more than assumptions based on a starting assumption that we, and therefore mathematics exist.


Ya see Cal, I disagree with people who talk for the sake of talking. I agree when people can support their claims. Perhaps that is what you should work on. Just a thought...

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 01:05 PM

My point is we don't need starting assumptions. And yes the evidence can and usually does pont in only one direction.

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If you are at all concerned with the way your integrity as a poster is likely to be percieved by anyone viewing these discussions, then I think it would be appropriate for you to either make at least some attempt to support your position with more substantive arguments than any I have seen you make so far, or do something I suspect you will find even more difficult: admit you are wrong. You may have concluded that you don't like me very much, but that won't really matter if I can help you to see where you are in error. It isn't just me you are disagreeing with on this point, after all. Maybe you would be more willing to reconsider if you heard it from, say, Jonathan Sarfati (of AIG fame), who puts it this way:

"It’s important to realize that all ‘facts’ of science do not speak for themselves, but are interpreted within a framework."
http://www.answersin.../i2/forward.asp


QUOTE:
The assumptions I'm proposing we look at first are the axioms of science: those propositions which, being unprovable, are accepted without proof. As for examples, I suggested several above:

1) An objective universe exists
2) This universe has consistency
3) Effects have causes

JP:
Those aren't asumptions- those are knowns. They are known via scientific research & discovery

I'm sorry, but you couldn't possibly be more mistaken. I dare you to do so much as to mine me a single quote from any scientist claiming to be able to prove any of these propositions.

#8 John Paul

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 04:20 AM

Cal:
If you are at all concerned with the way your integrity as a poster is likely to be percieved by anyone viewing these discussions, then I think it would be appropriate for you to either make at least some attempt to support your position with more substantive arguments than any I have seen you make so far, or do something I suspect you will find even more difficult: admit you are wrong.


That is funny because that is what I have been asking of you for weeks. Yet that is what you have not been doing since you started posting. For example in this thread you made a claim that I called you on and you didn't respond to. That is indicative of your posting style:

QUOTE
Forensic scientists had better clear their mind of any assumptions before taking on a case. The same with fire investigators.


QUOTE
Cal:
No doubt they all start with a few minutes of quiet meditation. But forensic scientists and fire investigators operate way, way up the assumption tree.

John Paul:
Please explain- Do you really think starting with a dead body or a fire is starting way up the assumption tree? Do you think they start with the assumption that what they are observing is real or not? Is that what you mean by "way up the assumption tree"?


You never answered that. When pressed you never answer anything.


Everything has one cause- ONE. That being the cause that afforded its being. That means the evidence can only point to that cause. Anyone who does not follow the evidence to THAT cause is lost. It is that simple.

Cal:
Maybe you would be more willing to reconsider if you heard it from, say, Jonathan Sarfati (of AIG fame), who puts it this way:

"It’s important to realize that all ‘facts’ of science do not speak for themselves, but are interpreted within a framework."
http://www.answersin.../i2/forward.asp


That is not the same thing. 'Facts' of sciience change all the time. The evidence remains the same.


QUOTE
JP:
Those aren't asumptions- those are knowns. They are known via scientific research & discovery

Cal:
I'm sorry, but you couldn't possibly be more mistaken. I dare you to do so much as to mine me a single quote from any scientist claiming to be able to prove any of these propositions.


I'm not mistaken and science is not about proving anything. You would have known that had you known anything about science.

You should be more concerned about your integrity as a poster.

I posted 3 assumptions also. Those are the assumptions we have to how something came to be.

We can asume we exist be one of the following 3 options:

1)Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
2)Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
3)A combination of 1 & 2

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 10:06 AM

...in this thread you made a claim that I called you on and you didn't respond to.

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I thought I did, though: when you asked for examples of 'initial assumptions', I responded by restating that I was proposing that we start with the fundamental axioms of science and work upward, directing you to the ones I had already offered. I should have realized when you said: "I do not agree with anyone for the sake of agreeing" that you weren't following, and I appreciate you pointing out where I need to express myself more clearly. Also: these posts are long enough as it is; by necessity I think it is reasonable to expect that some possible points for discussion will fall by the wayside. Anytime one of those was something you considered important, I am always happy to return to it, though if I feel it is a tangent to a discussion already in progress (especially one I have initiated), I reserve the right to suggest that we either postpone it or discuss it in another thread -- as well as the right to do that implicitly by simply ignoring it.

I am proposing that we look for common ground -- not for the sake of agreeing (after all, how fun is that?) -- but for a purpose I have explicitly stated:
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"I'm wondering if we might try to identify the level at which we are in agreement as to initial assumptions, and the level at which assumptions first diverge, and then try to take a close look at the logical support for the respective branches."
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The forensic scientist and the fire investigator are actually not bad examples, and I hope that I didn't hurt your feelings by brushing them aside. It's just that starting at the top and working down is what we always do; I was hoping to look for the root of our differences. But just to make you happy:

Even after he finished clearing his mind, the forensic scientist would still bring to an investigation a large number of assumptions such as: "every human on earth has a unique set of fingerprints", and: "the trajectory of a slug fired from a rifle can be reliably calculated once certain factors are known". Taking the latter, we note that this assumption is based on some 'lower' assumptions, among them Newton's laws, which themselves do (yes) reduce to the assumption that what we observe is real.


'Facts' of science change all the time. The evidence remains the same.

We may be getting somewhere here. I won't disagree with what you say, but I think more clarification is in order. The way I would put it is to note that for any given body of evidence (observations) there may be a number of various interpretations possible. Some of those interpretations may be so consistent with what we observe that we come to place in them such a high degree of confidence that we may become comfortable referring to them as 'facts'. But, as I mentioned at the top of the thread, there is a reciprocal relationship between evidence and interpretations of evidence. New evidence may undermine or overturn old interpretations, and a high degree of confidence in an interpretation is not a guarantee that it can never be overturned.

Returning to the Sarfati quote, however:
"It’s important to realize that all ‘facts’ of science do not speak for themselves, but are interpreted within a framework."
If you didn't bother to use the link I provided (and it certainly doesn't look like you did), you missed the vital context provided by some things Sarfati said leading up to the sentence I quoted:
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"The authority of the Bible is the main emphasis of Answers in Genesis. We don’t try to ‘prove’ the Bible with science; rather, we accept the Bible’s propositions as true without proof, i.e. as axioms or presuppositions.

All philosophical systems, not just Christianity, start with axioms. There are good reasons for accepting the axioms of Scripture as true, because it can be shown that they lead to a consistent view of physical and moral reality, which other axioms can’t provide.
"
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I wonder if you will continue to try to deny that what Sarfati was saying is essentially the same as the statement I made: evidence cannot lead anywhere on its own?


science is not about proving anything

I couldn't agree more. But (as you would have learned during about the first week of freshman philosophy) the reason science isn't about proving anything is that the fundamental axioms on which it is based are unproven and unprovable; they are accepted as self-evident, which is the very antithesis of proof.

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 02:17 AM

I'm going to take the deafening sound of chirping crickets as an indication that we may have reached at least a grudging agreement as to what is meant by the term: axiom. Now that that little housekeeping matter has been attended to, maybe we could return to the questions I had in mind when I started the thread:

What axioms (if any) do you see creationism and evolution as having in common, and where, in your opinion, do the two thought systems first diverge? Is it indeed a difference in assumptions that leads to the two different interpretations of the same evidence, or is it a difference in the logical steps taken from identical (or nearly identical) assumptions? Do you feel that creationists employ a superior brand of logic to that used by scientists, and if so, can you explain why you think it is it better? (Lest I be suspected of simply laying mines here, I am prepared to argue that science uses fewer assumptions than creationism, and I will attempt to defend the logical basis for this practice -- but only if someone is holding up the other end).

Maybe it would help if I suggested some possible responses to what I am asking:

1) This forum was not intended to provide you with free blog space. I have better things to do than wade through 750 word essays. Get a life.

2) I managed to get through your blog without dozing off, but just barely; I find the topic too uninteresting/unimportant to deserve a response. Don't bother flogging the thread.

3) I have read what you have to say, but I have no response as I find myself struck dumb in the face of your powerful arguments. I need time to think this over.

4) I challenge your proposed [select axiom] on the basis of: [insert arguments here].

5) I agree that the axioms you listed serve as the starting point for both science and creationism, and I feel that the two diverge when [axiom] is added to [thought system] because [supporting arguments].

6) I take exception to a number of points you make, but real world time constraints prohibit me from responding in detail.

7) Other (explain).

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 04:43 PM

Do you feel that creationists employ a superior brand of logic to that used by scientists, and if so, can you explain why you think it is it better?


Careful, creationists can be scientists to. Materialists/naturalists do not hold a monopoly on science, just a narrow minded view of it..... :unsure:

Terry

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Posted 09 August 2005 - 05:53 PM

Careful, creationists can be scientists to.  Materialists/naturalists do not hold a monopoly on science, just a narrow minded view of it.....

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It was bait. You nibbled, but you didn't quite bite.

In what ways, specifically, do you consider the view of science held by (scientists in general?) (the majority of scientists?) to be narrower than that of creationists?

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 02:20 PM

In what ways, specifically, do you consider the view of science held by (scientists in general?) (the majority of scientists?) to be narrower than that of creationists?


Logical/possible outcomes are excluded by naturalists and materialists, simply because they don't like the argument, not becuase they aren't valid, even in the face of absurdity of materialistic claims.

Professor Richard Lewontin:

‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’


Lewontin's amazing admission

IOW, it is possible that God created the universe and life, and since that's true, adopting a purely materialistic viewpoint is willful ignorance.

The Word of God puts it this way:

ROM 1:18-21 ¶ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Terry

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Posted 10 August 2005 - 10:29 PM

First, G, thanks for your response.

Logical/possible outcomes are excluded by naturalists and materialists...

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I agree up to this point. The alternative to naturalism, supernaturalism, is a logical possibility.

...simply because they don't like the argument, not because they aren't valid

Supernatural explanations are not rejected because they aren't liked. Refer to my opening post for an example of willingness on the part of scientists to entertain explanations they didn't like. Supernatural explanations are rejected because their validity is untestable. Scientific investigation is a set of procedures: it relies on careful observation, accurate measurement, and meticulous recording. Supernatural forces, if they exist, cannot (by definition) be observed, measured, or recorded. We have no way of evaluating any one of the infinite number of supernatural explanations that might be offered, whether they posit gods, angels, leprechauns, or invisible pink unicorns.

I want to thank you in particular for the Lewontin quote. It bears careful consideration.

When Lewontin says:

"we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes"

he is pointing directly to one of the axioms of science I mentioned above. The mistake the creationist (in particular, the 'creation scientist') makes is failing to understand that material causes and supernatural causes are mutually exclusive.

The creationist thinks he can invoke material causes (for example, the same laws of conservation of mass and energy used by the naturalist) when no supernatural cause appears necessary -- and then, at his convenience, insert supernatural causes to bridge any gaps he encounters. If he likes, his super-being of choice may merely set things in motion and then retire to let them take their course, afterward perhaps intervening periodically, perhaps selectively, or randomly, or not at all -- or perhaps all the time; perhaps what we refer to as: 'gravity', and 'electromagnetism' are not actually physical forces, but the result of actions on the part of invisible spirits. The problem is that all of these propositions are equally logically defensible, equally unfalsifiable, and equally supported (or unsupported) by empirical evidence.

Lewontin was using strong language (and, as the AIG link demonstrates, running a high risk of being quoted out of context) in order to express an important point: that because each link in a causal chain is dependent upon its predecessor, the insertion of a single supernatural link taints the entire chain; at that point any explanation relying on that causal chain becomes a supernatural explanation.

What I think it amounts to is this:

If you decide to rely on supernatural explanations, you not only don't need natural ones, but you forfeit your right to invoke them; you have willingly aquired a 'supernatural Midas touch'.

If you decide to rely on natural explanations, you can't use supernatural ones, even though you may be forced to accept that supernatural causes are logically possible.

#15 John Paul

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Posted 11 August 2005 - 04:36 AM

I said it before and I will say it again, natural explanations do not and can not exist for the origin of nature.

On science & the supernatural:

”It is often said that science must avoid any conclusions which smack of the supernatural. But this seems to me to be both bad logic and bad science. Science is not a game in which arbitrary rules are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted. Rather, it is an effort to make true statements about physical reality. It was only about sixty years ago that the expansion of the universe was first observed. This fact immediately suggested a singular event-that at some time in the distant past the universe began expanding from an extremely small size.

To many people this inference was loaded with overtones of a supernatural event-the creation, the beginning of the universe. The prominent physicist A.S. Eddington probably spoke for many physicists in voicing his disgust with such a notion:

“Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind”.”
(Dr. Behe)

Even though what Dr. Behe is saying makes it obvious that a priori exclusion is not the scientific way, it hides the fact that all “first-cause” scenarios require something non or super natural. If it is true that everything which has a beginning requires a cause, then seeing science has told us the universe, i.e. nature, had a beginning, it also had a cause. Nature by definition could not have originated via natural processes because natural processes exist only in nature.

The point being, of course, is that it all “turtles-down” to something beyond nature/ beyond the universe. Even positing multi-verses does not get around the origins issues. And just as Ockham’s Razor would favor one designed universe over a universe constructed from unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes, Ockham’s Razor would favor one designed universe over a multi-verse, and also metaphysical, explanation.

What the above demonstrates is that one cannot define ID out of science without doing the same to any anti-ID position.

Yet we exist. The verse we live in exists and since it is the only observable verse we have labeled it the universe. If the multi-verse hypothesis is held to the same standards as ID it has to be able to tell us, at a minimum, how many verses there are, where those verses exist and what number we live in. But anyway, we exist. What are the options to our existence?

1) Unintelligent, blind/ undirected (non-goal oriented) processes
2) Intelligent, directed (goal oriented) processes
3) A combination of 1 & 2

(If other options exist I would love to hear about them so they too can be discussed.)

Only option 1 excludes the design inference.

The motives of IDists are clear- we want to know the truth, i.e. the reality, behind our existence. If that reality, i.e. the evidence, leads us to the metaphysical then so be it. We explain the evidence and we don’t have to explain the metaphysical to do so.


Cal:
The creationist thinks he can invoke material causes (for example, the same laws of conservation of mass and energy used by the naturalist) when no supernatural cause appears necessary -- and then, at his convenience, insert supernatural causes to bridge any gaps he encounters.


Any examples? It should be noted that those "naturalists" who use those "natural" laws have no idea how those laws came to be.

Cal:
If you decide to rely on supernatural explanations, you not only don't need natural ones, but you forfeit your right to invoke them; you have willingly aquired a 'supernatural Midas touch'.


That is false:

Dr. Behe:
“Intelligent design is a good explanation for a number of biochemical systems, but I should insert a word of caution. Intelligent design theory has to be seen in context: it does not try to explain everything. We live in a complex world where lots of different things can happen. When deciding how various rocks came to be shaped the way they are a geologist might consider a whole range of factors: rain, wind, the movement of glaciers, the activity of moss and lichens, volcanic action, nuclear explosions, asteroid impact, or the hand of a sculptor. The shape of one rock might have been determined primarily by one mechanism, the shape of another rock by another mechanism.

Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of "neutral," nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important.”


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Posted 11 August 2005 - 07:56 AM

"Science is not a game in which arbitrary rules are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted. Rather, it is an effort to make true statements about physical reality." - Behe (according to JP).

Science does use rules. No, those rules are not arbitrary. Though a priori exclusion is the scientific way, this is by necessity rather than by choice. In simplest terms, naturalism grounds its metaphysics in science, while ID attempts to ground its science in metaphysics.

Now here's me quoting John Paul quoting Behe quoting Eddington (I think):
-----------------------
"Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind."
-----------------------

JP, if you had interpreted that passage correctly, I suspect you wouldn't have presented it here, as it underscores what I've said above. What Eddington is saying here is that intuition -- the same intuition that serves us so well in our daily lives -- often fails miserably when applied to certain types of questions. He is pointing out that the inconsistency of the 'First Cause/Secondary Cause' model (popular in the natural theology of the eighteenth century) should be apparent even to [say, a creationist].

The idea can be traced to the Roman Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas:
-----------------------
"In the world of sensible things, we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known ... in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go to infinity, because... the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause... Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate, cause... therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name god."
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (New York: Benziger Bros.,
Inc., 1947).

-----------------------

In other words:
1) Everything is caused by something other than itself.
2) Therefore X was caused by something other than itself.
3) The chain of causes cannot be infinitely long.
4) If the chain of causes cannot be infinitely long, there must be a first cause.
5) Therefore, there must be a first cause, namely god.
There is one more step in this logical series which simply cries out to be included, and the self-refuting nature of Aquinas's argument becomes obvious when we go ahead and include it:
6) GOTO 1.


Nature by definition could not have originated via natural processes because natural processes exist only in nature.

When you say 'nature' here, I get a fleeting image of Bambi. I assume that by 'natural processes', you again refer to the above-mentioned laws of conservation, etc -- and that your position is that these are secondary causes which could not have existed prior to having been brought into being by first causes, i.e.: godly processes. Is that correct?


The motives of IDists are clear- we want to know the truth, i.e. the reality, behind our existence. If that reality, i.e. the evidence, leads us to the metaphysical then so be it. We explain the evidence and we don’t have to explain the metaphysical to do so.

So if I propose that the metaphysical explanation to which the evidence leads is the conclusion that the universe we observe is a simulation on the holodeck of a starship Enterprise that exists in an infinitely larger parallel universe, that must be accepted as a complete explanation for the reality behind our existence?

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Posted 11 August 2005 - 07:31 PM

:) oops.....

#18 John Paul

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 05:40 AM

"Science is not a game in which arbitrary rules are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted. Rather, it is an effort to make true statements about physical reality." - DR. Behe.

Cal:
Science does use rules.


Please post them.

Cal:
No, those rules are not arbitrary.


Post them and we will see. Then keep the following in mind:

In any case, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, debate about methodological rules of science often forms part of the practice of science, especially during times when established paradigms are being challenged. Those who reject the "teach the controversy" model on the grounds that ID violates the current rules of scientific practice only beg the question. The present regime of methodological rules cannot prevent the controversy for the simple reason that those rules may themselves be one of the subjects of scientific controversy. page xxv of Darwinism, Design and Public Education

Cal:
Though a priori exclusion is the scientific way, this is by necessity rather than by choice. In simplest terms, naturalism grounds its metaphysics in science, while ID attempts to ground its science in metaphysics.


A priori exclusion is not the scientific way. Open and objective reasoning are the scientific way. Naturalism has been refuted as it all turtles down to something other than "natural", unless you want to redefine natural.

Cal:
Now here's me quoting John Paul quoting Behe quoting Eddington (I think):
-----------------------
"Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind."
-----------------------

JP, if you had interpreted that passage correctly, I suspect you wouldn't have presented it here, as it underscores what I've said above. What Eddington is saying here is that intuition -- the same intuition that serves us so well in our daily lives -- often fails miserably when applied to certain types of questions. He is pointing out that the inconsistency of the 'First Cause/Secondary Cause' model (popular in the natural theology of the eighteenth century) should be apparent even to [say, a creationist].


If Cal had read the whole quote properly then it would be obvious the Eddington was wrong in his reasoning.



QUOTE
Nature by definition could not have originated via natural processes because natural processes exist only in nature.

Cal:
When you say 'nature' here, I get a fleeting image of Bambi.


That sounds like a personal problem as I have clearly stated what I mean when I say that in other threads.

Cal:
I assume that by 'natural processes', you again refer to the above-mentioned laws of conservation, etc -- and that your position is that these are secondary causes which could not have existed prior to having been brought into being by first causes, i.e.: godly processes. Is that correct?


Natural processes can't exist outside of nature, therefore nature could not have arisen via natural processes. As for those above-mentioned laws:

Of Newton, Kepler, & Galileo in the book Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty by Morris Kline, Kline states that these scientist-mathematicians believed that " God had designed the universe, and it was to be expected that all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. One mind designing a universe would almost surely have employed one set of basic principles to govern all related phenomenon. "

Then we have the following little ditty from The Privileged Planet

Imagine you’re taken captive by some powerful aliens, like Q on Star Trek: Generations, a group of highly intelligent if utterly obnoxious beings who exist as a sort of unified community called the Q continuum. Among their many qualifications, the Q can travel back in time. In the story we’re concocting, imagine that the Q transport you back to the moment of the Big Bang. After arriving, one Q takes you to a spacious room, with a large, complicated device on one side, adorned with scores of enormous dials not unlike the dials on a Master padlock. On closer inspection, you notice that every knob is inscribed with numbered lines. And above each knob are titles like “Gravitational Force Constant”, Electromagnetic Force Constant”, Strong Nuclear Force Constant”, and “Weak Nuclear Force Constant”.

You ask Q what the machine is, and after some snide and dismissive comments about the feebleness of the human mind, he tells you that it’s a Universe-Creating Machine. According to Q, the great collective Q continuum used it to create out universe. The machine has a viewing screen that allows the Q to preview what different settings will produce before they press Start. Without going into detail about it works, Q explains that the dials must all be set precisely, or the Universe-Creating Machine will spit out a worthless piece of junk ( as shown on its preview screen), like a universe that collapses on itself within a few seconds into a single black hole or drifts along indefinitely as a lifeless hydrogenated soup.

“Well how precisely do the knobs have to be set?” you ask. With some embarrassment, Q tells you that, so far, they’ve only found one combination that actually produces a universe even mildly habitable- namely, our own. “So”, you ask, “do you mean that there are only two habitable universes, the one the Q exists in, and ours that you have created?” In a volatile mixture of anger a chagrin, he admits, “Um, no, there’s just this one.” This arouses your suspicions: “Now, what sort of bootstrapping magic allowed you to create the universe you live in?” Crushed by your keen command of logic and highly sensitive baloney detector, Q finally admits, “Well, we didn’t actually find the right combination ourselves. In fact, the machine doesn’t exactly belong to us. We merely found it, with the dials already set. The machine had done its work before we arrived. Ever since then, we’ve been looking for another set of dial combinations to create another habitable universe, but alas, so far we haven’t found one. We’re certain that other habitable universes are possible, though, so we are still looking.”






QUOTE
The motives of IDists are clear- we want to know the truth, i.e. the reality, behind our existence. If that reality, i.e. the evidence, leads us to the metaphysical then so be it. We explain the evidence and we don’t have to explain the metaphysical to do so.

Cal:
So if I propose that the metaphysical explanation to which the evidence leads is the conclusion that the universe we observe is a simulation on the holodeck of a starship Enterprise that exists in an infinitely larger parallel universe, that must be accepted as a complete explanation for the reality behind our existence?


If the evidence supports it. Present the evidence and we will see if it holds water.

As I said earlier in this thread what we observe has one, and only one true beginning- ie its initial cause. That is the only "place" the evidence can lead. And yes I do understand that people can steer the evidence so that it "leads" to other places. That is done by the biased interpretations you mentioned in your OP.

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 10:09 AM

Me:
"Science does use rules."

JP:
"Please post them."

Most relevant here are those rules that: "are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted" (i.e., to qualify as empirically scientific):

Rule #1) Theories must be logically consistent.

This rests on an axiom I listed above: the universe is consistent. Acceptance of this premise as self-evident is not arbitrary; we simply have no other choice. If the universe is not consistent, any effort we make to understand it is futile. Of all the possible worlds that might be proposed, a great many can be eliminated on the basis of internal logical inconsistencies they involve -- but the number of logically possible worlds remaining is still potentially infinite. The only remaining means we have of assessing their relative values is by:

Rule #2) Theories must be testable.


JP:
Natural processes can't exist outside of nature, therefore nature could not have arisen via natural processes.

Perhaps if you offer up this empty tautology a few more times, it will begin to aquire some actual value as a logical argument.


Now here's me quoting JP quoting Kline paraphrasing Newton, Kepler, & Galileo:
-----------------------------------
"God had designed the universe, and it was to be expected that all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. One mind designing a universe would almost surely have employed one set of basic principles to govern all related phenomenon."
-----------------------------------
A clue to the logical inconsistency here (and in the "Q" metaphor as well) is contained in the qualifying phrase: "almost surely".

The argument is that the fundamental physical laws (or 'rules') we observe are expressions of ones more fundamental yet ("one set of basic principles"). Let's call that set of rules: "meta-rules". The "Q" metaphor tacitly assumes that the creators of the Universe-Creating Machine, whoever they were, made choices regarding the rules which their device would be equipped to manipulate, and choices regarding the ranges of settings for each control (the machine itself may be thought of as expressions of these choices). This decision-making process involved application of another, higher, (or is it lower?) set of rules... and composing that set required yet another... To halt this infinite regress, we must (arbitrarily?) pick a set of rules, or meta-rules, or meta-meta-rules, and declare them to be the only set available at that level. Why can't we simply do that at the level of the rules (physical 'laws') we already observe?

Present the evidence and we will see if it holds water.

The evidence is none other than the same which 'leads' both the creationist and the scientist alike to their respective conclusions; in your words: Same rocks, strata, volcanoes, testonic plates, water, Moon, Sun, solar system, galaxy, universe and the laws that govern them. Are you getting this yet? Maybe I should test your theory of 'increased truth value through repetitive assertion':

Evidence cannot lead anywhere on its own.

#20 John Paul

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Posted 12 August 2005 - 11:39 AM

QUOTE
JP:
Natural processes can't exist outside of nature, therefore nature could not have arisen via natural processes.

Cal:
Perhaps if you offer up this empty tautology a few more times, it will begin to aquire some actual value as a logical argument.


So now reality is an empty tautology. Interesting.

Me:
"Science does use rules."

JP:
"Please post them."


Cal:
Most relevant here are those rules that: "are used to decide what explanations are to be permitted" (i.e., to qualify as empirically scientific):

Rule #1) Theories must be logically consistent.

This rests on an axiom I listed above: the universe is consistent. Acceptance of this premise as self-evident is not arbitrary; we simply have no other choice. If the universe is not consistent, any effort we make to understand it is futile. Of all the possible worlds that might be proposed, a great many can be eliminated on the basis of internal logical inconsistencies they involve -- but the number of logically possible worlds remaining is still potentially infinite. The only remaining means we have of assessing their relative values is by:

Rule #2) Theories must be testable.


As Dr. Behe wrote:

“Coyne’s conclusion that design is unfalsifiable, however, seems to be at odds with the arguments of other reviewers of my book. Clearly, Russell Doolittle (Doolittle 1997), Kenneth Miller (Miller 1999), and others have advanced scientific arguments aimed at falsifying ID. (See my articles on blood clotting and the “acid test” on this web site.) If the results with knock-out mice (Bugge et al. 1996) had been as Doolittle first thought, or if Barry Hall’s work (Hall 1999) had indeed shown what Miller implied, then they correctly believed my claims about irreducible complexity would have suffered quite a blow. And since my claim for intelligent design requires that no unintelligent process be sufficient to produce such irreducibly complex systems, then the plausibility of ID would suffer enormously. Other scientists, including those on the National Academy of Science’s Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, in commenting on my book have also pointed to physical evidence (such as the similar structures of hemoglobin and myoglobin) which they think shows that irreducibly complex biochemical systems can be produced by natural selection: “However, structures and processes that are claimed to be ‘irreducibly’ complex typically are not on closer inspection.” (National Academy of Sciences 1999, p. 22)
Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum--or any equally complex system--was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.”


ID is testable and falsifiable. Testable by the IC & CSI observed in living organisms. Falsifiable by demonstrating unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes can account for it.

Cal:
Evidence cannot lead anywhere on its own.


But only for the simple reason it requires someone to follow it. And reality demonstrates that people can twist the evidence to fit their reality. People lie, evidence does not.

There is no getting around the fact that despite a possible many possibilities one and only one cause is responsible for that which is being questioned/ investigated.




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