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Tim Wallace answers Tom Schneider


Wallace’s response to Mr. Schneider’s critical summary of their dialogue, initiated
by Schneider, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing thermodynamics.

© Timothy Wallace.  All Rights Reserved. 


It’s always disappointing when people go to great lengths to disparage those with whom they disagree, and it’s particularly sad when a reasonably intelligent individual does so under the misguided belief that science is an ally to the dogma of philosophical naturalism.  Tom Schneider presented himself to me as such a person.  While I find his credentials and occupation noble and worthy of respect, his standards for objectivity and ethics in advancing his religious views appear to be of a lesser caliber.

Schneider initiated a dialogue with me on 07/21/99 with a single question about my treatment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics vis-à-vis biological macro-evolution.  The exchange is archived here at the TrueOrigin site in a reader-friendly format, and again at the government-funded website of Mr. Schneider, featuring message headers and all.  While the contents of either archived version might have spoken for itself, Mr. Schneider saw fit to publish a summary to which I am pleased to respond with this document.

Mr. Schneider begins his summary of our discussion by describing it as his “attempt to understand what happened in my discussion with Tim Wallace”—as if perhaps he were the victim, left confused and without understanding as a result of our discussion.  Yet Mr. Schneider displayed remarkable lucidity throughout our dialogue, so I suggest he knows very well “what happened”.

“My final conclusion was a surprise!” Schneider announces.  But neither before, during, nor after our dialogue did he give a credible hint that he expected to arrive at any conclusion other than the assumption with with he began the exchange.  (I think the technical term is “prejudice.”)  One may well wonder that he not only assumes the posture of a “victim” (God knows, America is “full” of them), but also pretends his purpose in our exchange was something other than to impress upon me (and all who would listen) his empirically unsubstantiated conjectures about the second law of thermodynamics.

What follows is a point-by-point response to the balance of Mr. Schneider’s summary, following the order of his own document as it appeared as of 5 January, 2000:

An Agreement on the Second Law!

“After much hullabaloo Mr. Wallace finally agreed in a single, clear, direct statement (with only one typo) that the Second Law does allow for a decrease of entropy...

“However as of 1999 September 8, Mr. Wallace's web page still states that:

‘The second law presents an insurmountable problem to the concept of a natural, mechanistic process ... by which biological life could have arisen and diversified (also spontaneously) from a non-living, inanimate world.’

“Since he has not removed or corrected this quote, (and the entire web page for that matter) Mr. Wallace still does not understand that since the Second Law does not prevent decreases of entropy, it cannot be an impediment to evolution.”

Here Mr. Schneider has started off with an erroneous assumption, a “straw man” argument, and the same faulty logic which he persistently tried to foist on me throughout our exchange.  His erroneous assumption was that I believed—and wrote with an intent to communicate—that the Second Law prohibits a decrease in entropy.  He began the exchange by politely (but falsely) accusing me of embracing and espousing precisely this error, and never relented in his attempt to hang his prejudiced assumption on me.  When I asked for substantiating documentation from my writing, he either ignored my request or quoted a portion of my writing not intended to convey the notion that entropy cannot decrease (see above).  The passage he cited could be interpreted to say “entropy cannot decrease” only through the turning of a prejudiced blind eye to the straightforward meaning and context of my words.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the passage quoted by Schneider (above), to “prove” that I don’t believe the Second Law allows decreases in entropy, contains neither the word “entropy” nor “increase” or “decrease”—and the reliability of the cited statement is explained in the balance of the essay, which also happens to be devoid of any suggestions that the Second Law prohibits a decrease in entropy.  I am frankly perplexed as to how Mr. Schneider awards himself the right to deliberately misinterpret my words so as to falsely accuse me of embracing a belief which we both know is incorrect.  In any case, he sought so meticulously and relentlessly to slay the “straw man” he so proudly erected, that well before the end of our exchange, it would have been better described as a “straw dead horse.”

The logical fallacy introduced in Schneider’s line of reasoning (above) is one of “begging the question” (petitio principii) in that he has assumed in advance that IF the Second Law allows for a decrease in entropy, THEN the Second Law “cannot be an impediment to evolution”.  This seems to stem from a simplistic perception—if not a caricature—of the Second Law argument against evolution.

It seems highly ironic, to say the least, for a man of Mr. Schneider’s credentials to suggest that a decrease in entropy is the only thing necessary for evolution.  I suggest that his dogmatic defense of this gross oversimplification can best be attributed to his allowing religious/philosophical presuppositions to supersede empirical science—the very thing of which creationists are commonly accused.

“When the going got hot in our discussion, he avoided the question by terminating our conversation.”

This is a false claim.  One need only examine the exchange firsthand to recognize that my reasons for terminating the dialogue were spelled out well in advance.  As a matter of policy, I terminate a dialogue when my counterpart 1) will not take responsibility for his own assertions, and/or 2) changes the subject or his line of argument when challenged, and/or 3) persistently attempts to extend the dialogue by introducing comment or argument that is essentially superfluous with regard to the original exchange.  Mr. Schneider had engaged in all three of these tactics well before I elected to end the dialogue.

I gave Mr. Schneider multiple, clear opportunities to make a defensible case in support of his original accusations, to provide some unequivocal empirical support for both his original accusations and his subsequent claims, and (thus) to work towards some form of closure in his apparent dispute with me.  Since he opted to take no advantage of these opportunities, it eventually seemed prudent to end the (already lengthy) exchange, lest Schneider misread my continued participation as an invitation to continue conducting himself as if he were delivering a monologue rather than participating in a dialogue.

The only questions from Mr. Schneider which I “avoided” were those that were ostensibly framed for the purpose of manipulating our exchange along the lines of his logically flawed argument (“begging the question” as described above).  It seemed rather obvious early on, that Mr. Schneider thought abundant emphasis on the phenomenon of entropy decrease would somehow lend credibility to his largely disconnected conclusion that evolution would be shown to be therefore inevitable.

Attempts to Avoid, and Violations of Agreements

“In our conversation Mr. Wallace first attempted to avoid an agreement on rules of web publication by ignoring it. When I pointed this out he agreed. Later he blatantly violated our written agreement by giving an incomplete posting. He corrected his web site immediately, however. On small points he will be honest but only when forced by law or logic.

“However Mr. Wallace violated rule 1 of our written agreement which states that "My complete messages are to be posted, without any modifications." by

  • modifying my initial message.
  • Deleting portions of my messages.”

Mr. Schneider’s claim that I “attempted to avoid” an agreement is another false accusation.  I did not deliberately attempt to avoid his request for an agreement.  I had no reason, at the beginning, to think Mr. Schneider would give me reason to make modifications to our exchange, which I routinely do—but only for the purpose of making content as reader-friendly when posted at the TrueOrigin site—not to alter the content itself.

I readily concede that I did in fact fail to keep our original agreement, however, and that Mr. Schneider’s accusation is 100% correct in this respect.  For this I can only offer my apologies.

And while I wish to make no excuse for the above infraction, I can say with a clear conscience that my doing so was by no means motivated by any malicious or deceptive intent.  Any changes I made to the content of our exchange were strictly for the purpose of keeping it as reader-friendly as possible for readers at the TrueOrigin website without altering the meaning of either Mr. Schneider or myself.

For example, retaining the error which both Mr. Schneider and I perpetuated in the first few messages of the dialogue (substituting the word “increase” for the word “decrease”) would only have made reading the dialogue more confusing and difficult.  Since both Mr. Schneider and I committed, acknowledged, and corrected the error, I saw no reason to include it in the exchange as formatted for TrueOrigin readers.  The modification, while technically violating Mr. Schneider’s rule, actually conveyed the intended meaning of his messages—in fact it clarified them.  He may be entitled to complain that his rule was violated, but not that it did damage to his argument; and this he apparently knows, for amidst all his legalistic nit-picking, Schneider can’t actually accuse me of modifying the actual meaning of any of his correspondence.

This aspect of the matter also holds true for any other places where modifications were made in the exchange.  I say with a clear conscience that I did not change or remove any portion of the dialogue for purposes of deception or malicious effect, but purely for the purpose of making it as reader-friendly as possible.

"Intellectual Honesty"

“[Wallace] claims his web site is ‘intellectually honest’, but he is an expert at quoting out of context, as this example demonstrates.  His quote was:

‘One problem biologists have faced is the apparent contradiction by evolution of the second law of thermodynamics.  Systems should decay through time, giving less, not more, order...’ [Lewin, Roger, ‘A Downward Slope to Greater Diversity,’ Science, vol. 217 (September 24, 1982) p. 1239

“I went back to the original paper on microfilm and discovered that this quote is incomplete. It should not have ended with an ellipsis, since it is the end of a sentence and the end of a paragraph. The next paragraph begins:

‘One legitimate response to this challenge is that life on earth is an open system with respect to energy and therefore the process of evolution sidesteps the law's demand for increasing disorder with time.’

“Thus he extracted only the part of the quote that he wanted, and deleted the remainder. The use of elipsis [sic] (where there was a period originally) leads the reader to feel that Lewin was going to continue in the same line. Use of ellipsis and truncating the quote is intellectually dishonest because it (probably intentionally) fools the reader into thinking that Roger Lewin thought there was an unresolvable issue here.”

While I happily acknowledge that the ellipsis (cited above) was erroneous—and has since been corrected—Mr. Schneider’s complaint seems both petty and presumptuous.  Again he has awarded himself the right to interpret my motives to suit his own agenda, accusing me this time of being “an expert at quoting out of context” (a very popular accusation among evolutionists) and of wishing to intentionally “fool the reader.”

Anyone who has bothered to examine the contents of the TrueOrigin site already knows that the “open system” argument (which Mr. Schneider hastens to accuse me of “deleting” from Roger Lewin’s text) was and is already addressed in detail in more than one location elsewhere on the site.  Whether either Lewin or Schneider consider the “open system” ploy a “legitimate response” turns out to be irrelevant—unless one considers the facts of empirical science subordinate to speculative and highly generalized extrapolations contrived in defense of presupposed dogma.

Inconsistency

“Mr. Wallace claimed to understand that the Second Law does not have any contradiction with evolution or living processes but he at the same presented this quote. He repeatedly refused to clarify how there was a problem, and then came back and said there was a problem.  This makes him inconsistent.  I would understand this if it had happened only one time, but the entire conversation was waffling on his part.”

Once again, Mr. Schneider seems to be so busy projecting his prejudices onto both my words and those of Lewin, that he fails to recognize what either of us actually say, as he continues to cling tenaciously to his leap (of faith) from the reality of entropy decreases to the myth of evolution’s subsequent automatic inevitability.

In fact, the blinding effect of such a strong prejudice seems to be the only explanation for his (false) claim that I “refused to clarify how there was a problem”—lending further support to my suspicion that my words were being wasted on Mr. Schneider, who apparently fancied himself delivering a monologue, without obligation to hear and consider my comments and questions.  Had I actually behaved as he (falsely) describes me in the above paragraph, I would indeed have been acting with inconsistency.  But I most certainly offered clarification, even asking him direct questions, the answers to which would have added further clarification (but which he chose to ignore instead).

To be specific, I offered clarification in at least the following specific ways:

  • By differentiating between entropy decreases in general, and the assumption of a spontaneous, sustained decrease as a necessary (but unobserved) corollary to evolutionary theory.

  • By emphasizing that a ‘possibility’ is not ipso facto either an ‘inevitability,’ or ‘spontaneous,’ or a likely ‘causeless event,’—that there is a significant difference between the former and the collective latter, and that there is no basis for taking for granted that something that is thermodynamically possible is ipso facto highly probable, inevitable, or spontaneous in nature (particularly in an entirely different system and on an entirely different scale).

  • By pointing out that the entropy of an unisolated system can decrease (at the expense of its surroundings), is no basis for assuming that it therefore must do so (without cause), nor for assuming that it therefore commonly and/or spontaneously does do so (without cause), or for compelling anyone (me, for example!) to accept or define a specific rate of permissible frequency.

  • By using the Law of Gravity as an illustration.  To wit: The fact that one might postulate, from the standpoint of physics, the possibility of engineering sustained flight, in which tons of specific matter may be transported through the air for many miles, does not by itself serve as evidence that tons of random matter will spontaneously and without cause levitate off the surface of the earth.  Actual flight requires much intelligent input and a variety of compound mechanisms—it doesn’t just “happen” (not even over vast periods of time!).  Likewise, knowing that a decrease in entropy (whether thermal or otherwise) is possible doesn’t make evolution inevitable, for every aspect of biological life involves systems and mechanisms which make it exceedingly more complex and rich with intelligence than any man-made aircraft.  The evolutionist must cite the specific, empirically verifiable, entropy-decreasing processes and mechanisms necessary for evolution, before he can rightfully claim that “entropy decreases” and “open systems” somehow solve the Second Law problem for evolution.

  • By stating, “Evolution calls for the development of life itself and subsequent life forms from a purely natural process.  Life does not function without the strictly controlled conversion of raw solar energy into useable energy.” ...and then asking, “What are the specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes that led from zero such conversion capability in raw matter to the multiple and varied mechanisms and processes that are inherent in every living organism as we know them?”

  • By stating, “Evolution calls for the development of ever more volume and ever greater variety and complexity of data in the genetic code of living organisms as they allegedly first emerged, then progressed from, simplest forms to the present broad spectrum of variety.” ...and then asking, “What specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes have led from zero genetic data in raw matter to the vast array of voluminous genetic data inherent in living organisms as we know them?”

In light of the above, it seems absurd that Mr. Schneider would accuse me of being “inconsistent” in maintaining and “refusing to clarify” my position, and that “the entire conversation was waffling on [my] part.”  His accusations could hardly be more contrived.

Revising History to Suit His Needs

“At his web site one can see that (as of 1999 Sep 8 11pm) he says:

‘It isn't clear to me what has given you the impression that I do not understand that the entropy of an unisolated system can decrease, at the expense of its surroundings, or that I am ignoring the fact.’ [my emphasis]
“the original message said increase.

“In other words, Mr. Wallace altered the conversation to make it appear that neither of us had made a mistake. When I saw the mistake I pointed it out. Although he agreed it took numerous rounds to get him to clarify his statements, and until the very end he kept implying that he thinks that entropy decreases are rare events.”

As I have already freely acknowledged (above), I did indeed make modifications to the exchange wherever such modifications would make the exchange more reader-friendly—but in no way altering the writer’s intent in any case.

In the instance cited by Mr. Schneider above, he has told only part of the story—and he has told it so as to make it appear more that it was my mistake that was modified.  As a matter of fact, I changed the word “increase” to “decrease” in both my message, and in Mr. Schneider’s own first message, in which his(!) mistake first appeared.  Schneider actually wrote:

“I find it amazing that you could write so much about the second law at http://www.trueorigin.org/steiger.asp and still not understand that the entropy of an unisolated system can increase, at the expense of the rest of the universe, of course. dS >= dq/T can just as easily be written -dS  <= -dq/T.” [emphasis mine]

...but he has freely confessed that he meant to write:

“I find it amazing that you could write so much about the second law at http://www.trueorigin.org/steiger.asp and still not understand that the entropy of an unisolated system can decrease, at the expense of the rest of the universe, of course. dS >= dq/T can just as easily be written -dS  <= -dq/T.” [emphasis mine]

This was clearly indicated later by Schneider:

“Aha! My mistake! I meant to say:

“The entropy of an unisolated system can DECREASE, at the expense of the rest of the universe.

“I presume you understood this error, or were intending to point it out.”

To which I answered:

“Actually, although I understood what you meant, I followed you in your error, mentally substituting “decrease” for “increase”.  No harm done.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Schneider’s unwillingness to do so, perhaps the reader now understands why I saw no harm in eliminating the error, as well as references to it by both Schneider and myself.  The action was not taken with a motive of maliciousness or deception, but to spare readers from incidental and potentially confusing or distracting content that was otherwise superfluous to the true essence of the exchange.

Readers to whom the details of this matter seem important are welcome to verify them at Mr. Schneider’s archive of our exchange, in which [as of 7 January, 2000] such clutter remains fully preserved.

Avoiding Scientific Questions

“Mr. Wallace consistently refused to respond to simple scientific questions.  He was unwilling to say what would happen to a hot jar of water. He was unwilling or unable to answer a simple question about how to determine when two DNA sequences are of the same "kind" (Notably this is not a concept in modern biology.) His claim is that he does not want a teacher/student relationship, which immediately implies to me that he is unwilling to learn anything new.”

I did indeed refuse to respond to several of Mr. Schneider’s questions.  He had arbitrarily misrepresented me as having said that the Second Law disallows entropy decreases.  He didn’t start asking “scientific questions” until I apparently failed to respond as expected to his false accusation and—instead—persisted in pointing out the error of his arbitrary misrepresentation.

Apparently unwilling to take responsibility for his own words, Mr. Schneider began trying to draw the focus of our exchange away from his original false accusation by asking me manipulative questions, ostensibly leading to a demonstration of entropy reduction.  Having already indicated his error in assuming I needed to be “taught” that entropy decreases are not prohibited by the Second Law, I was unwilling to be drawn into his lecture-style approach, preferring to clarify my actual position on the topic and continue pressing Schneider to take responsibility for his false accusation—to which he was now adding false claims, portraying his evolutionary beliefs as empirical fact.

It is not surprising that my refusal to submit to his rather arrogant, lecture-style monologue “immediately implies to [Schneider] that [I am] unwilling to learn anything new.”  Had he bothered to consider my comments early on, he would have understood that I did not need to be convinced (whether via “scientific questions” or otherwise) that entropy decreases are not only allowed by the Second Law, but are commonplace under the right conditions.  The only thing I was “unwilling to learn” was something I already understood.

For whatever reason, Schneider preferred to plow doggedly ahead with his agenda, piling on unsubstantiated claims, posing more “scientific questions” (and evading many of mine), all of which threatened to unnecessarily complicate our dialogue and conceal from many potential readers the simplicity of the original bogus assumption with which Schneider began the exchange and from which he was now distancing himself by whatever means of obfuscation he could muster.

“Mr. Wallace attempted several times to redefine terms to suit his purposes.  The most blatant attempt was to assume that mutations are always deleterious.  This is a clear case of assuming what he wants to prove (that information gain is impossible because genetic sequences would always decay). He avoided acknowledging this by attacking me personally.”

The falsehood of Mr. Schneider’s criticism should be rather plain to anyone objectively familiar with our exchange.  In the first place, the matter which he is complaining about has nothing to do with his (false) charge (i.e., that I “attempted several times to redefine terms”), for his accusation turns out to be one of his persistence in begging the question, rather than my redefining terms.

Furthermore, on the very topic of mutations, it was I who had to caution Mr. Schneider against the blurring of distinctions between terms (not the other way around!).  I wrote:

“Let’s keep our terminology clear:  Variation is limited to the manifestation of variables inherent in the genetic code.  Mutation is limited to (degenerative) changes to the genetic information itself.  While it is a popular practice to treat these two as synonymous, they are not:  one is an empirically established natural phenomenon in healthy populations, the other is an empirically established source of disease and defect, the effects of which are largely weeded out by selection (a process for which we should be thankful!).

“...[The phenomenon of DNA copying mistakes] has a corruptive, degenerative effect on the genetic code.  Errors do not create new information; they damage existing information.  There is no empirical basis for postulating new or more complex information from a process that degenerates existing information.”

Schneider’s accusation that I merely “assume” that mutations are always deleterious is completely false.  My position was shown to be corroborated in the statements of the following respected evolutionists, who—apparently unlike Mr. Schneider—are willing to acknowledge the truth, even when it may not appear favorable to their personal bias:

“In the meantime, the educated public continues to believe that Darwin has provided all the relevant answers by the magic formula of random mutation plus natural selection—quite unaware of the fact that random mutations turned out to be irrelevant and natural selection a tautology.”
[Koestler, Arthur, Janus: A Summing Up (New York: Vintage Books, 1978) p. 185]
“It has been estimated that those chance errors occur at a rate of about one per several hundred million cells in each generation.  This frequency does not seem to be sufficient to explain the evolution of the great diversity of life forms, given the well-known fact that most mutations are harmful and only very few result in useful variations.”
[Capra, Fritjof, The Web of Life (New York: Anchor Books, 1996) p. 228]
“It should be clear that the claim for an inherent evolutionary increase in entropy and organization is based on an arbitrary model which shows signs of having been constructed simply to yield the desired result.  There is nothing in evolutionary or developmental biology that justifies their assumptions that a successful mutation (which seems merely to mean a selectively neutral one in their model) is always associated with an increase in some global measure of phenotype.  Nor is there anything to support the assumption that new species arise as the result of single gene mutations and are initially genetically uniform.  If these assumptions are removed, the whole edifice collapses.”
[Charlesworth, Brian, “Entropy: The Great Illusion,” review of Evolution as Entropy by Daniel R. Brooks and E. O. Wiley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, 335 pp.), Evolution, vol. 40, no. 4 (1986) p. 880]
“The fruit fly has long been the favorite object of mutation experiments because of its fast gestation period (twelve days).  X rays have been used to increase the mutation rate in the fruit fly by 15,000 percent.  All in all, scientists have been able to ‘catalyze the fruit fly evolutionary process such that what has been seen to occur in (fruit fly) is the equivalent of many millions of years of normal mutations and evolution.’ Even with this tremendous speedup of mutations, scientists have never been able to come up with anything other than another fruit fly.”
[Rifkin, Jeremy, Algeny (New York: Viking Press, 1983) p. 134]
“The proof of the occurrence of mutations is by no means a proof of a current evolution.  The most important the inescapable question, is whether the mutations are fully vital, so that they are able to survive in natural stands.  A review of known facts about their ability to survive has led to no other conclusion than that they are always constitutionally weaker than their parent form or species, and in a population with free competition they are eliminated.”
[Nillson, Heribert, (Lund, Sweden: Verlag CWK Gleerup, 1953), (English summary) p. 1186]

It is thus a peculiar thing indeed, that Mr. Schneider would accuse me of simply “assuming” that mutations are harmful.  It seems rather that his (false) accusation may have been designed as a preemptive effort to conceal the fact that it is he who is merely assuming that mutations are not deleterious, though he never offered unambiguous evidence or documentation in support of his assumption.

In any case, the charge that I “attempted several times to redefine terms” falls on its face in the absence of any substantiating documentation, and is thus rendered false by precisely the same fully documented exchange that contains many of Schneider’s other bogus accusations and claims.

“I have had plenty of scientific arguments over the net. The discussion with Mr. wallace was strikingly different because of his (I infer) intentional lack of focus (ie redirecting the conversation away from his weak points) and his personal attacks. I have yet to meet a real scientist who does this. It does no service to his cause.”

Again, anyone familiar with the exchange can see that the charge that I reflected an “intentional lack of focus” through “redirecting the conversation away from [my] weak points” is another false accusation.  My refusal to cooperate with Schneider’s attempted delivery of an unsolicited (and superfluous) lecture may well have been interpreted by him as “redirecting the conversation away from [my] weak points”, but his interpretation doesn’t ipso facto render itself accurate, and I think the balance of our dialogue bears out the falsehood of both his interpretation and his subsequent (false) accusation.

While Mr. Schneider may be able to say that he has “yet to meet a real scientist who does this,” I regret that—having had an encounter with him—I am unable to say the same.

Tactics
"The Creative Creationist credo:
When in doubt, attack the lout."
---Tom Schneider

“Tim Wallace's tactics:

  1. Start a reasonable and calm scientific discussion.
  2. Jump on the other person with libelous attacks on their polite questions, implying that they are a horrible person.
  3. When the person objects to the unfounded statements, attack their objection.
  4. Avoid answering any tough questions, sidetrack the conversation.
  5. Terminate the discussion with a sermon on how immoral the person is for not following his philosophy.
  6. Add comments into the middle of the other person's postings. Insert web pointers to "counter arguments" into the other person's postings.  Conclude the web listing with a personal attack.”

As I stated in our exchange, the motto which Mr. Schneider seeks to project onto me (“When in doubt, attack the lout”) reflects an apparent difficulty in dealing with criticism on his part.  While I do not particularly enjoy the prospect of disparaging Mr. Schneider, he presents himself as an individual who wastes no time assuming the ever-popular “victim’s posture” of having been “insulted” and “personally attacked” when his repeated errors are persistently pointed out to him.  This is nothing less than a mechanism of denial, which serves to redirect guilt away from the guilty party, and onto the one who has pointed out the offense.  (I have often seen this in my children, and recognize it well.)

Regrettably, it is extremely difficult to conduct a genuinely rational exchange with a person who engages in making multiple and repeated false accusations and claims, and then—when this pattern is pointed out—claims to be an insulted victim of “libelous attacks”.  This, by and large, is how Mr. Schneider conducted himself in our exchange, and is also why I chose to terminate the dialogue when I did.

Mr. Schneider apparently believes I called him personally “immoral” for “not following [my] philosophy.”  But it shouldn’t escape any alert reader’s notice (as it apparently has Mr. Schneider’s) that the only thing I have described as immoral has been his conduct—specifically his repeated and unsubstantiated false accusations.  I suppose that if lying were morally acceptable in Mr. Schneider’s philosophy, then one might reasonably construe the charge of immoral conduct as a charge of “how immoral [Schneider] is for not following [my] philosophy,” but I chose (perhaps erroneously?) to give Mr. Schneider the benefit of the doubt, crediting him with holding to such a caliber of ethics that renders lying (a.k.a. “bearing false witness”) as morally culpable, even though he might deny his Creator as the ultimate source and judge of the same standard.

And while I do not deny that I refused to entertain Schneider’s superfluous and manipulative questions (which he apparently believes were “tough questions”), it seems rather hypocritical of him to disparage me for this, when he failed to answer the “tough questions” I posed, the two chief ones being namely:

  1. “Evolution calls for the development of life itself and subsequent life forms from a purely natural process.  Life does not function without the strictly controlled conversion of raw solar energy into useable energy.  What are the specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes that led from zero such conversion capability in raw matter to the multiple and varied mechanisms and processes that are inherent in every living organism as we know them?”

  2. “Evolution calls for the development of ever more volume and ever greater variety and complexity of data in the genetic code of living organisms as they allegedly first emerged, then progressed from, simplest forms to the present broad spectrum of variety.  What specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes have led from zero genetic data in raw matter to the vast array of voluminous genetic data inherent in living organisms as we know them?”

Objecting that I am not a Mind Reader: an Abusive Tactic

“Mr. Wallace kept changing his statements and I could not get clear statements from him. It is for this reason that I would not agree about his understanding, which he bitterly complains about several times on his web site. I have no idea what a person is thinking without them making a clear statement. Mr. Wallaces statements were anything but clear and he waffled numerous times. Do entropy decreases occur frequently? Mr. Wallace said:

“‘I do not (to my knowledge) deny the thermodynamic *possibility* of the entropy decrease you describe.’
“When I said that was vague and thought he meant by the asterisks that it is unlikely he responded:
“‘Sorry, I don't mean to be vague:  I mean to emphasize that by being a "possibility" it is not also ipso facto an "inevitability," or "spontaneous," or a likely "causeless event."  There is a significant difference between the two, and there is no basis for taking for granted that something that is thermodynamically possible is ipso facto highly probable, inevitable, or spontaneous in nature.’
“This verbiage did not address the point, and further implied that he thought it unlikely. I said:
“‘I'm interpreting your statements to mean that you think that entropy decreases don't occur often.’
“How did he respond? He ignored this statement and said:
“‘Let's cut to the chase...’
“so he avoided the issue.”

It seems to me that what Mr. Schneider perceived as “changing statements” on my part was attributable to:

  1. Schneider’s persistent questioning on the matter of entropy decreases, ostensibly because he sincerely wanted to understand my point of view

    and

  2. What seemed to me to be a rather manipulative and agenda-driven bent in Schneider’s line of questioning, in that he seemed intent on using an affirmation of the reality of entropy decreases (which he aimed to extract from me) as a basis for demanding that I join him in making the logically untenable leap from that fact to a purely contrived “inevitability” of evolution.

I actually sought to keep my statements as consistent as possible, while striving to provide appropriate answers to Schneider’s seemingly endless line of interrogation.  Yet I remained reluctant to let myself become manipulated into a position wherein it would be easier for Mr. Schneider to pretend that I had no choice but to agree that evolution were inevitable, merely on the grounds that the Second Law does not prohibit decreases in entropy in “open” (i.e., unisolated) systems.

I was not “avoiding the issue”—I was resisting Mr. Schneider’s manipulative line of questioning.  Nor did I ever engage in “bitterly complaint” over the matter, Mr. Schneider’s colorful innuendo notwithstanding.

My suggestion that we “cut to the chase” was intended precisely to bring Mr. Schneider’s line of reasoning to its logical end (without my agreeing to it), and then to invite him to substantiate his arbitrary conclusion (i.e., that “since the Second Law does not prevent decreases of entropy, it cannot be an impediment to evolution”).  More than once I deliberately gave him opportunity to substantiate his conclusion as something more than a tautology of his beginning assumption by presenting two fundamental questions, the answers to which would determine the plausibility of the very same specific class of entropy decreases that he was inferring were commonplace in nature.

Regrettably, Mr. Schneider chose to react to those clear and thorough questions by doing precisely what he now has accused me of doing:  by avoiding the issue and sidetracking the conversation.  Can one really be blamed for refusing to continue an exchange with an opponent who practices such tactics?

“Mr. Wallace seems to have made a classical abusive mistake here.  After being vague and inconsistent, he demanded that I should now understand what he is thinking (as opposed to what the science is!) and then he jumped on me for not agreeing that I knew what he was thinking.  That is, he demanded mind reading and when I "failed" he became verbally abusive.”

These comments barely merit a response, as a careful reading of the original dialogue should confirm.  As best as I can tell, Mr. Schneider has used his summary to accuse me of (among other things):

  • avoiding questions
  • avoiding agreements
  • quoting out of context
  • intentionally fooling (i.e. deceiving) others
  • refusing to clarify my position
  • being inconsistent
  • waffling throughout our entire conversation
  • being unwilling to learn anything new
  • redefining terms to suit my purposes
  • attacking him personally
  • having an intentional lack of focus
  • being verbally abusive
  • libelous attacks
  • implying that he is a horrible person
  • calling him an immoral person for not following my philosophy
  • changing my statements
  • (again) waffling numerous times
  • jumping on him with verbal abuse for not reading my mind

I am perfectly content to let the reader discern how legitimate Mr. Schneider’s accusations may or may not be, and to what extent his aggressive disparagement may be a diversionary smokescreen for the ethical questionability of his other false claims about me, about the relationship between entropy and evolution, and about other science-related matters—none of which were accompanied by empirical or documented substantiation.

“Having had personal experiences with an abusive personality, I can attest that Mr. Wallace is verbally abusive.”

Again, I can only answer that Mr. Schneider’s description of my ethical challenge to him as “verbal abuse” seems to be his way to avoid facing the challenge altogether.  He apparently remains convinced that he is entitled to willfully and repeatedly broadcast false statements (i.e., lie) with impunity.

Mr. Schneider ends his summary by associating himself with the quote:

“The more I defend myself and speak the truth, the more abusive he becomes.”

...Yet he was by and large on the offensive—not the defensive—throughout our dialogue, and he failed repeatedly (though given multiple opportunities) to demonstrate any truthfulness that could be attributed to his series of accusations against me and claims concerning evolution vis-à-vis open systems in thermodynamics and genetics.  That he wishes to portray himself as a victim of “abuse” rather than take responsibility for his words is his own personal matter, but it hints strongly at a reluctance on his part to face the real world about which he otherwise pretends to be so knowledgeable.

While Mr. Schneider might ordinarily be thrilled to know that he has taught me something through our dialogue after all, it must surely be a disappointment for both of us that what he has taught me has more to do with his personal standard of ethics in communication than with science.

 Timothy Wallace
January 2000


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