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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: catpuppy
But would you not agree that at least some important scientific work has been accomplished by persons who had little formal "scientific" training?

It happens but it's rare.

161 posted on 12/05/2005 9:06:51 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Servant of the 9
Inteligent Design might be true, but it can never be Science. It is by definition Theology.

I hasten to quibble. Although I'm highly confident that ID, or anything similar, will never be a useful and successful part of science, I disagree with ruling it out, especially "by definition".

It was once widely agreed, for instance, that "occult forces" involving "action at a distance" were inherently unscientific (or "unphilosophical," this being before the term "science" had been invented). And yet Newton appealed to just such a force -- gravity -- which was rapidly accepted because it demonstrably worked in explaining nature and stimulating new research.

Now I can't imagine how "non-natural" forces or causes could possibly work in natural science. How can you possible deduce empirical consequences from a theory which includes a mechanism that is basically unconstrained, or at least very weakly constrained, in the effects it can produce?

But maybe, just maybe, someone might be able to DEMONSTRATE (anti-evos please note this is what is required!) how such a theory might work and produce genuinely useful results. However unlikely I won't define the possibility, or any similar possibility away.

My philosophical position is that there is no fixed or predefined "nature of science," nor certain set of characteristics to which scientific theories must adhere. (Or rather the characteristics are operational rather than definitional, regarding how theories function as opposed to their inherent characteristics.)

The "nature of science" is determined by the content of science. Before Newton is was part of the nature of science that theories involving the transfer of force appealed exclusively to physical impact between bodies. Newton actually changed the nature of science by producing ideas that were so useful that they had to be accommodated despite their novel character.

162 posted on 12/05/2005 9:07:47 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: antiRepublicrat

I'm probably not qualified to set the flaps on his driving cap.

163 posted on 12/05/2005 9:07:56 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: bobdsmith
For example getting all the cards in strict order of suit and number would be an extraordinary hand

According to your perception, because you value that particular combination. But it's not statistically any less likely than any other combination.

164 posted on 12/05/2005 9:10:08 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: MissAmericanPie
Speaking as a believer, I think science would be aided in it's advancement by not ignoring the 100% accuracy of the Bible regarding physics.

Does this 100% accuracy extend to the global flood, at around 4200-4300 years ago?

165 posted on 12/05/2005 9:10:53 AM PST by Coyoteman (I love the sound of beta decay in the morning!)
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To: Doctor Stochastic
I'm probably not qualified to set the flaps on his driving cap.

Don't forget, he's just a man. Besides, nothing in his bio suggests being a skilled driver, especially since he's been limo'd around for over a decade.

166 posted on 12/05/2005 9:13:15 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Junior
So far, there hasn't been one piece of research done with the aim of finding evidence for design.

Wrong. Here's a partial list:

Stephen Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2004):213-239.

Meyer argues that competing materialistic models (Neo-Darwinism, Self –Organization Models, Punctuated Equilibrium and Structuralism) are not sufficient to account for origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms present in the Cambrian Explosion. He proposes intelligent design as an alternative explanation for the origin of biological information and the higher taxa.
Lönnig, W.-E. Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity, Dynamical Genetics, Pp. 101-119. PDF(2.95MB)HTML

Biology exhibits numerous invariants -- aspects of the biological world that do not change over time. These include basic genetic processes that have persisted unchanged for more than three-and-a-half billion years and molecular mechanisms of animal ontogenesis that have been constant for more than one billion years. Such invariants, however, are difficult to square with dynamic genomes in light of conventional evolutionary theory. Indeed, Ernst Mayr regarded this as one of the great unsolved problems of biology. In this paper Dr.Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig Lönnig Senior Scientist in the Department of Molecular Plant Genetics at the Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research employs the design-theoretic concepts of irreducible complexity (as developed by Michael Behe) and specified complexity (as developed by William Dembski) to elucidate these invariants, accounting for them in terms of an intelligent design (ID) hypothesis.
Jonathan Wells, “Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force? Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 98 (2005): 37-62.

Most animal cells contain a pair of centrioles, tiny turbine-like organelles oriented at right angles to each other that replicate at every cell division. Yet the function and behavior of centrioles remain mysterious. Since all centrioles appear to be equally complex, there are no plausible evolutionary intermediates with which to construct phylogenies; and since centrioles contain no DNA, they have attracted relatively little attention from neo Darwinian biologists who think that DNA is the secret of life. From an intelligent design (ID) perspective, centrioles may have no evolutionary intermediates because they are irreducibly complex. And they may need no DNA because they carry another form of biological information that is independent of the genetic mutations relied upon by neo-Darwinists. In this paper, Wells assumes that centrioles are designed to function as the tiny turbines they appear to be, rather than being accidental by-products of Darwinian evolution. He then formulates a testable hypothesis about centriole function and behavior that—if corroborated by experiment could have important implications for our understanding of cell division and cancer. Wells thus makes a case for ID by showing its strong heuristic value in biology. That is, he uses the theory of intelligent design to make new discoveries in biology.
Scott Minnich and Stephen C. Meyer, “Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits,” Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Design & Nature, Rhodes Greece, edited by M.W. Collins and C.A. Brebbia (WIT Press, 2004).

This article underwent conference peer review in order to be included in this peer-edited proceedings. Minnich and Meyer do three important things in this paper. First, they refute a popular objection to Michael Behe’s argument for the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum. Second, they suggest that the Type III Secretory System present in some bacteria, rather than being an evolutionary intermediate to the bacterial flagellum, is probably represents a degenerate form of the bacterial flagellum. Finally, they argue explicitly that intelligent design is a better than the Neo-Darwinian mechanism for explaining the origin of the bacterial flagellum.
Peer-Reviewed Books Supportive of Intelligent Design Published by Trade Presses or University Presses

W.A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

This book was published by Cambridge University Press and peer-reviewed as part of a distinguished monograph series, Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction, and Decision Theory. The editorial board of that series includes members of the National Academy of Sciences as well as one Nobel laureate, John Harsanyi, who shared the prize in 1994 with John Nash, the protagonist in the film A Beautiful Mind. Commenting on the ideas in The Design Inference, well-known physicist and science writer Paul Davies remarks: “Dembski’s attempt to quantify design, or provide mathematical criteria for design, is extremely useful. I’m concerned that the suspicion of a hidden agenda is going to prevent that sort of work from receiving the recognition it deserves.” Quoted in L. Witham, By Design (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003), p. 149.


167 posted on 12/05/2005 9:15:11 AM PST by Diamond (Qui liberatio scelestus trucido inculpatus.)
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To: Diamond

Rsearch? You didn't cite any experiments done by ID.

168 posted on 12/05/2005 9:20:50 AM PST by Rudder
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To: antiRepublicrat
I still call it "cancelling".

20 points to any old-timers who get that one.

Fortran implicits: a through h real, i through o integer, p through z real, IIRC.

169 posted on 12/05/2005 9:20:58 AM PST by Physicist
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To: shuckmaster
The odds of getting a bridge hand with all 13 cards the same suit is very small, small to the point where it is unlikely that this has ever happened by chance in tournament bridge. Such hands have been claimed to have happened by chance, but each time, it turned out to be a prank or fraud.

This is the problem with the origin of life: You can shuffle those amino acids all day long, but whether you get a structure that fulfills the functions of a living organism is another matter entirely.

170 posted on 12/05/2005 9:22:41 AM PST by megatherium (Hecho in China)
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To: DoctorMichael

Looks like he is eminently qualified to express his opinions in eloquent form. Is he your source of ultimate truth?

171 posted on 12/05/2005 9:24:26 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Diamond

Your first example was rejected for failing to meet the publication's criteria. Your second I haven't been able track down. The next two do not have anything to do with IC, from what I can tell (just because a guy advocates ID does not mean all his research is geared toward it). And, what the hell is a peer-reviewed book?

172 posted on 12/05/2005 9:25:53 AM PST by Junior (From now on, I'll stick to science, and leave the hunting alien mutants to the experts!)
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To: CarolinaGuitarman
BTW, there is no reason at all to think that abiogenesis would work that way. The rules of chemistry are not random.

We live in a universe that supports life, where the laws of physics and chemistry are not random and appear to have lead to the origin of life. There is where I personally see the Creator, a Creator who has chosen the most elegant way possible to create life.

173 posted on 12/05/2005 9:27:33 AM PST by megatherium (Hecho in China)
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To: megatherium

"We live in a universe that supports life, where the laws of physics and chemistry are not random and appear to have lead to the origin of life. There is where I personally see the Creator, a Creator who has chosen the most elegant way possible to create life."

That is a very nice position, but it is not open to scientific investigation.

174 posted on 12/05/2005 9:33:01 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: Junior
And, what the hell is a peer-reviewed book?

It's when an editor decides to run a manuscript past someone else to get their take on it. Obviously, it's a highly informal process, done (or not done) totally at the editor's discretion, unlike peer-reviewed journals. Likewise, there's no real reason to expect the reviewer to have any particular expertise in the subject material - they may be "peers" purely in the sense that they also have two arms and a head, like the author. In fact IIRC the "peers" that "reviewed" Design Inference were philosophers, not mathematicians, or biologists. Curious, since the book is all about math and biology...

175 posted on 12/05/2005 9:38:31 AM PST by Senator Bedfellow (Sneering condescension.)
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To: catpuppy; Javelina

Actually, it's the second rule (the first is Godwin's Law). There is a way around this, though. One need only include "[sic]" within the excerpted text to which you are replying; this indicates you recognize the lack of knowledge of spelling or grammar on the part of your opponent without actually bringing it to the world's attention.

176 posted on 12/05/2005 9:41:10 AM PST by Junior (From now on, I'll stick to science, and leave the hunting alien mutants to the experts!)
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To: Antonello; PatrickHenry

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.

Don't forget Paul Simon:

...still the man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.

177 posted on 12/05/2005 9:42:10 AM PST by forsnax5 (The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.)
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To: Doc Savage

Yes, it really ought to be removed to "chat"--

178 posted on 12/05/2005 9:45:52 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: jec41
It is a good way to make Charlie, who cannot count to ten feel good.

Are you suggesting that counting could be part of an unbiased IQ test?

179 posted on 12/05/2005 9:47:53 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: Physicist
Fortran implicits: a through h real, i through o integer, p through z real, IIRC.

We have a winner!

180 posted on 12/05/2005 9:48:29 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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