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Intelligent designís long march to nowhere
Science & Theology News ^ | 05 December 2005 | Karl Giberson

Posted on 12/05/2005 4:06:56 AM PST by PatrickHenry

The leaders of the intelligent design movement are once again holding court in America, defending themselves against charges that ID is not science. One of the expert witnesses is Michael Behe, author of the ID movement’s seminal volume Darwin’s Black Box. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, testified about the scientific character of ID in Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, the court case of eight families suing the school district and the school board in Dover, Pa., for mandating the teaching of intelligent design.

Under cross-examination, Behe made many interesting comparisons between ID and the big-bang theory — both concepts carry lots of ideological freight. When the big-bang theory was first proposed in the 1920s, many people made hostile objections to its apparent “supernatural” character. The moment of the big bang looked a lot like the Judeo-Christian creation story, and scientists from Quaker Sir Arthur Eddington to gung-ho atheist Fred Hoyle resisted accepting it.

In his testimony, Behe stated — correctly — that at the current moment, “we have no explanation for the big bang.” And, ultimately it may prove to be “beyond scientific explanation,” he said. The analogy is obvious: “I put intelligent design in the same category,” he argued.

This comparison is quite interesting. Both ID and the big-bang theory point beyond themselves to something that may very well lie outside of the natural sciences, as they are understood today. Certainly nobody has produced a simple model for the big–bang theory that fits comfortably within the natural sciences, and there are reasons to suppose we never will.

In the same way, ID points to something that lies beyond the natural sciences — an intelligent designer capable of orchestrating the appearance of complex structures that cannot have evolved from simpler ones. “Does this claim not resemble those made by the proponents of the big bang?” Behe asked.

However, this analogy breaks down when you look at the historical period between George Lemaitre’s first proposal of the big-bang theory in 1927 and the scientific community’s widespread acceptance of the theory in 1965, when scientists empirically confirmed one of the big bang’s predictions.

If we continue with Behe’s analogy, we might expect that the decades before 1965 would have seen big-bang proponents scolding their critics for ideological blindness, of having narrow, limited and inadequate concepts of science. Popular books would have appeared announcing the big-bang theory as a new paradigm, and efforts would have been made to get it into high school astronomy textbooks.

However, none of these things happened. In the decades before the big-bang theory achieved its widespread acceptance in the scientific community its proponents were not campaigning for public acceptance of the theory. They were developing the scientific foundations of theory, and many of them were quite tentative about their endorsements of the theory, awaiting confirmation.

Physicist George Gamow worked out a remarkable empirical prediction for the theory: If the big bang is true, he calculated, the universe should be bathed in a certain type of radiation, which might possibly be detectable. Another physicist, Robert Dicke, started working on a detector at Princeton University to measure this radiation. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson ended up discovering the radiation by accident at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., in 1965, after which just about everyone accepted the big bang as the correct theory.

Unfortunately, the proponents of ID aren’t operating this way. Instead of doing science, they are writing popular books and op-eds. As a result, ID remains theoretically in the same scientific place it was when Phillip Johnson wrote Darwin on Triallittle more than a roster of evolutionary theory’s weakest links.

When Behe was asked to explicate the science of ID, he simply listed a number of things that were complex and not adequately explained by evolution. These structures, he said, were intelligently designed. Then, under cross-examination, he said that the explanation for these structures was “intelligent activity.” He added that ID “explains” things that appear to be intelligently designed as having resulted from intelligent activity.

Behe denied that this reasoning was tautological and compared the discernment of intelligently designed structures to observing the Sphinx in Egypt and concluding that it could not have been produced by non-intelligent causes. This is a winsome analogy with a lot of intuitive resonance, but it is hardly comparable to Gamow’s carefully derived prediction that the big bang would have bathed the universe in microwave radiation with a temperature signature of 3 degrees Kelvin.

After more than a decade of listening to ID proponents claim that ID is good science, don’t we deserve better than this?


Karl Giberson [the author of this piece] is editor in chief at Science & Theology News.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: crevolist; evochat; goddoodit; idjunkscience; idmillionidiotmarch; intelligentdesign
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To: bobdsmith
It would be astonishing to think chemistry could have dealt such an extraordinary hand if chemistry was random. But it isn't, so there is no necessary reason to be astonished by it.

Right. Especially when organic compounds form so readily, thus before very long, the oceans are full of sub-assemblies that don't need to be "invented" all over again from ground zero.

Additionally, all these "the odds are against DNA" computations totally ignore the powerful effect of what me might call parallel processing. Each cubic meter of ocean has millions (billions?) of "experiments" going on all the time. So in a few hundred million years, an amazingly large number of combinations is possible.

121 posted on 12/05/2005 7:55:31 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, common scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: oblomov; TheGhostOfTomPaine

You'd be amazed how many people can't figure that one out.


122 posted on 12/05/2005 7:59:42 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Clemenza

They will morph into something else. I'm anticipating "Designed Macroevolution".


123 posted on 12/05/2005 8:01:07 AM PST by furball4paws (The new elixir of life - dehydrated toad urine.)
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To: TheGhostOfTomPaine

OK, but the point is that while there are many (in fact an infinite number of ) theoretical circumstances in which the mean and median are the same, this is not true in general, and it shouldn't be assumed to be so.


124 posted on 12/05/2005 8:01:19 AM PST by NonZeroSum
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To: Snowbelt Man
if evolution is true and homosexuality is genetic - why are there still homosexuals? wouldn't this non reproductive gene have been eliminated from the gene pool at some point?

Not if the gene is recessive.

125 posted on 12/05/2005 8:03:23 AM PST by JeffAtlanta
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To: TheGhostOfTomPaine
More precisely, if the probability of an event is more than zero, it will occur with probability approaching one as the number of repeated trials increases without limit.

You need to add, "If the events are independent."

This is one of the Borel-Cantelli lemmas. (Wikipedia's entry is correct here; I checked.)

126 posted on 12/05/2005 8:04:55 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: js1138
Lots of people have tried to make unbiased, but it's pretty futile.

I would suppose that any test, opinion, or thought could be deemed biased based on pc and the persons history and background. It is a good way to make Charlie, who cannot count to ten feel good.
127 posted on 12/05/2005 8:05:06 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: PatrickHenry
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
-- Arthur C. Clarke (Clarke's First Law)

When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
-- Isaac Asimov's Corollary to Clarke's First Law

Terry Goodkind's 'Wizard's First Rule' seems appropriate here, too...

People are stupid. They will believe anything they want to be true or fear to be true.

128 posted on 12/05/2005 8:06:16 AM PST by Antonello
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To: Snowbelt Man
if evolution is true and homosexuality is genetic - why are there still homosexuals? wouldn't this non reproductive gene have been eliminated from the gene pool at some point? when it comes to science, i'm one of those ignoramuses who believes that God created man in His own image and homosexuality is a choice that people make.

Presuming for a moment that homosexuality is in fact genetically determined (a hypothesis far from demonstrated), I'd have two responses:

  1. Genetic homosexuality might be a recessive trait, passed along by a parent in whom the trait did not actually express itself.
  2. Do you think that there are no homosexuals in this world who choose to marry and have children?

129 posted on 12/05/2005 8:06:28 AM PST by highball ("I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." -- Thomas Jefferson)
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To: jec41
Darwin wasn't a Doctor. He received a degree from Cambridge.

"His freethinking father wanted him in a profession, and what better for a wastrel naturalist than the Church? So Darwin was bounced back again to conventional Anglicanism - three years of high living and divinity at Christ's College, Cambridge (1828-31). Darwin had little calling (not that much was needed!), but his collateral education continued, as the beetling fanatic learned a conservative botany from Revd J.S.Henslow and strata mapping with geologist Revd Adam Sedgwick. He received his B.A. degree, but, as Henslow placed him at the captain's table aboard a surveying ship, HMS Beagle, the parsonage faded away."http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/darwin/leghist/desmond.htm

He learned geology and had extensive training as a naturalist though it was mostly extracurricular. Up until he published the Origin of Species in 1859, we was mostly known as a geologist. You have to remember, he came along right at the end of the era of the gentleman naturalist. There was no biology profession until the second half of the century.

"Although he is credited with a lot his ideas were not that new. Aristotle, the father of science speculated much of the same ideas centuries before the bible and its new ideas was written."

While the idea of the transmutation of species was not new with Darwin, his presentation and explanation for the causative agent (Natural selection) WAS new. Aristotle did not speculate about natural selection. The main Aristotelian contribution to the *species problem* as it was called in Darwin's day was negative; a rigid essentialism (That Aristotle probably did not share) that made the idea of a species changing impossible.
130 posted on 12/05/2005 8:08:27 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: liliesgrandpa
"Each protein molecule requires a minimum of 410 amino acids. All formed in left handed spirals. (Protein molecules do not have right handed spirals for some unknown reason.)"

I read somewhere that left handed molecules are more stable against ultraviolet light than right handed ones. Can anybody provide a source for that statement. I can't remember my source.
131 posted on 12/05/2005 8:09:10 AM PST by MHalblaub (Tell me in four more years (No, I did not vote for Kerry))
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To: Rudder

negative eugenics.


132 posted on 12/05/2005 8:09:35 AM PST by furball4paws (The new elixir of life - dehydrated toad urine.)
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To: antiRepublicrat
cancel(a-b) a+b = b

Sorry, no "canceling" after junior high. And no dividing by zero before or after junior high.

133 posted on 12/05/2005 8:12:25 AM PST by jwalsh07
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To: pby
I knew that the John Templeton Foundation and Dr. Karl Giberson did not support ID.

I don't support or adhere to ID either...but I would never quote Giberson and/or The John Templeton Foundation in defense of my objection to ID.

In your case, I believe that it is must be an instance of...my enemy's enemy is my friend.

BTW, when creationists do that...you guys call it quote-mining.

Nice try, but that's not quote mining.

Quote mining is taking parts of a quote out of context to try and make the quote appear as though the person was saying the opposite of what they were actually saying.

For example, Darwin in his writings anticipated a series of objections to his ideas, and then answered them, demonstrating why those objections were baseless. Several creationist websites have listed those objections without his answers, making it appear that Darwin knew his theories were flawed. That's quote mining.

This may be a case of strange bedfellows, or a broken clock being right twice a day (as in the case of Pat Robertson and radical feminists agreeing on pornography or the ACLU supporting Rush Limbaugh's case in Florida), but so long as Patrick Henry isn't misrepresenting their views on this subject it isn't quote mining.

134 posted on 12/05/2005 8:12:40 AM PST by highball ("I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." -- Thomas Jefferson)
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To: PatrickHenry
"...........After more than a decade of listening to ID proponents claim that ID is good science, don’t we deserve better than this?.........."

"Intelligent design" may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud.
~Charles Krauthammer

135 posted on 12/05/2005 8:20:30 AM PST by DoctorMichael (The Fourth-Estate is a Fifth-Column!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: highball

i don't presume that homosexuality is genetic. in fact, like all other behavior, i believe that it's chosen. thanks for the explanation. it seems this recessive trait is becoming more and more prevalent - at least in post Christian europe and america. it'll be very interesting to see where america is in 50 years. my guess is we're about a half century "behind" europe. the only hope for america is if the evangelical church can withstand the stampede toward secularism both inside and outside of the church. based on the rest of western civilization's track record, i wouldn't bet on it.


136 posted on 12/05/2005 8:22:02 AM PST by Snowbelt Man (ideas have consequences)
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To: DoctorMichael

Who is Charles Krauthammer?


137 posted on 12/05/2005 8:27:01 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Doc Savage; PatrickHenry
Your puerile attempts to suppress other points of view are useless.

Huh? PH possibly posts more articles on ID than anyone here. Posting articles on a subject and pinging people to them is a strange way to "suppress" something!

Or when you write "suppress," should we read "disagree with"? (Easily done if so, as we're used to the same decoding when reading whining rants from leftists.)

138 posted on 12/05/2005 8:27:24 AM PST by Stultis (I don't worry about the war turning into "Vietnam" in Iraq; I worry about it doing so in Congress.)
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To: Snowbelt Man

It's still not clear how homosexuality is relevant to the evolution vs ID debate.


139 posted on 12/05/2005 8:28:28 AM PST by JeffAtlanta
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To: VadeRetro
The story has a hint for the ID crowd. The Big Bang made a prediction of something that 1) we hadn't seen or guessed before, and 2) came true.

So, IDers, tell us something we didn't know, based on your theory. Then go find it.

They can't, because it makes NO useful (meaning testable) predictions; hence the reason why IDers are so determined to try to change the very definition of science itself to include the supernatural.

140 posted on 12/05/2005 8:28:54 AM PST by longshadow
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