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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: 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.

Assorted answers that would occur to anyone who thought open-mindedly about the problem posed for a few minutes:

Just because a particular trait makes offspring less likely it doesn't follow that it cannot persist in the population. Homosexuals still have the physical equipment to be the biological parents of children.

Homosexuality may be expressed by several genes, and may form a continuum rather than being a straight on/off switch.

Perhaps the assumptions of the question are wrong and homosexuality is not genetic at all.

Perhaps the principal genes for homosexuality are recessive. Plenty of traits survive in the population for that reason.

Latent genetic homosexuality might be triggered into actual homosexual behaviour by certain environmental events during one's lifetime, and people who didn't experience such events would grow up straight despite having one or more of the homosexuality genes.

What I find more curious, is why are so many creationists obsessed with homosexuality, to the point that again and again it is dragged into crevo debates for no discernable reason?

181 posted on 12/05/2005 9:48:44 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: antiRepublicrat; Physicist
We have a winner!

Hey! Wait a minute, wasn't it 'i' through 'n' for I N teger? That's how I used to remember it.

182 posted on 12/05/2005 9:50:39 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Thatcherite
Hey! Wait a minute, wasn't it 'i' through 'n' for I N teger? That's how I used to remember it.

Do you know how long it's been since I used FORTRAN? But, IIRC, you're right.

What do you do when you forget a memory-aiding device?

183 posted on 12/05/2005 9:56:37 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: PatrickHenry
An additional portion from your link to The John Templeton Foundation as it relates to ID:

"...it is not clear to what extent the process of evolution or the study of the history of life on Earth may reveal hints of broader cosmic, perhaps even Divine, purpose and intention...It is therefore possible that from time to time, the Foundation will support well-designed projects or research that some others may label as "intelligent design"...Some advocates of the ID position have received grants from the Foundation on the basis of successful participation in intellectually-rigorous, openly judged and peer-reviewed grant competitions.

Still think that they're legit?

184 posted on 12/05/2005 9:58:27 AM PST by pby
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To: antiRepublicrat

I'm just waiting to collect my prize now. I believe it is a night out with a selected cohort of the Darwin Central Grand Master's Bathing Beauty Team. Just picture the Dallas Cowgirls, but somewhat less reticent in coming forward.


185 posted on 12/05/2005 9:58:49 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Senator Bedfellow
More curious facts about peer-reviewed books, if the Dover testimony of the IDers is to be believed, is that:

a. The author is sometimes the reviewer of his own work.

b. Failing (a) if a reviewer reviews a portion of the book negatively, you just go and ask another reviewer.

c. The review process apparently consists not of the question, "Is this work valid science?", but "Will this book find a ready market?"

186 posted on 12/05/2005 10:02:38 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Thatcherite

Yet another possiblity re homosexuality is that it's a linked trait. It may not be adapative, may even be maladaptive in itself, but closely associated with some trait that IS adaptive. Let's say (just as a merely illustrative "for instance") that the genetic factors associated with homosexuality only actually cause homosexuality 25 percent of the time; the other 75 percent of the time they cause individuals to have greater empathy with the opposite sex, and a much improved "fashion sense," both of which qualities make bearers of the "homo factor" more successful in securing mates and reproducing. Clearly such a set of factors might be transmitted and even favored by reproduction and natural selection.


187 posted on 12/05/2005 10:03:06 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: Fester Chugabrew
"If you're willing to grant the status of "science" to reasonable inferences based upon unobserved, unrecorded processes, then don't be surprised when certain folks who cannot produce an intelligent designer infer that one exists where organized matter presents itself, and call such inferences "science," too."

Actually, science can recreate conditions from millions of years ago and duplicate the results. That's science. ID cannot reproduce results. That's not science, or if anything that's a theory not able to be proven through science.

188 posted on 12/05/2005 10:03:30 AM PST by DaGman
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To: Junior; Diamond

Ping to above post.


189 posted on 12/05/2005 10:04:10 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Diamond

Your "research" is just a list of articles reviewing the liteature on certain problems. Reviews of literature are sometimes valuable, and may reveal problems in accepted explanations, they are not research.

ID accomodates everthing from young earth creationism to Denton's fine tuning. It says nothing about what to expect, projects no data and makes no falsifiable claims.

Before ID begins a research project it will need to have a hypothesis that is something other than a list of unexplained phenomena. It will need to offer an explanation that expects something different from Darwinian evolution.

I'm not sure how that can come about when Behe and Denton accept most of evolution as a given.


190 posted on 12/05/2005 10:05:54 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: Thatcherite; antiRepublicrat
You're probably right. I was above such theological minutiae, having always followed the righteous path of IMPLICIT NONE. But my "IIRC" disclaimer has me covered.
191 posted on 12/05/2005 10:06:49 AM PST by Physicist
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To: Vaquero

You left out the fact that RC gave us one of the truly great leaders of the Twentieth Century, Carol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II. I was raised prot in New England and I am a lifelong atheist, but if there is one person whose life could test my non-belief, it would be him. The greatness of Carol Wojtyla's intellect, his vast knowledge, and amazing charisma will forever intrigue me. How could such a man be wrong in believing? As long as he lives in my consciousness there will be an asterisk beside my atheist label. The RC Church has traditionally been a vehicle for higher learning and philosophical and theological inquiry. (the conduit for classical learning through the Dark Ages to modern times) I was raised to admire the Jesuit Order before they veered so far to the left. RC is the original "Big Tent," including all the best and worst of religion. The RC will always be welcoming to knowledge, even during the Inquisition the resistance often came from within the Church.


192 posted on 12/05/2005 10:10:59 AM PST by rootkidslim (... got the Sony rootkit on your Wintel box? You can thank Orrin Hatch!)
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To: DaGman
Actually, science can recreate conditions from millions of years ago . . .

Not without indulging a set of untestable assumptions.

193 posted on 12/05/2005 10:12:32 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: shuckmaster
There is an old saying that I cannot attribute to anyone...

"Nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

The scary thing is that after Great Britain, America has the one of the highest, if not the highest, average national IQs. 98.
194 posted on 12/05/2005 10:17:51 AM PST by rootkidslim (... got the Sony rootkit on your Wintel box? You can thank Orrin Hatch!)
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To: Physicist
having always followed the righteous path of IMPLICIT NONE.

Same here. I had to suffer through a couple years of Visual Basic work, so "Option Explicit" (same meaning) was always the first line.

195 posted on 12/05/2005 10:18:45 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: Fester Chugabrew
Not without indulging a set of untestable assumptions.

Not true. The environment leaves traces in the fossil record in much the same manner as organisms do. The biggest example is the band of rust found in the geological column corresponding to the introduction of atmospheric oxygen.

Certain types of minerals will only form under certain conditions, meaning those conditions had to be present when those minerals formed.

This whole "untestable assumptions" crap you (and other anti-E types) toss out willy-nilly to dismiss research you don't like just does not hold water when looked at objectively.

196 posted on 12/05/2005 10:21:13 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: Doctor Stochastic

Yes, thanks. I should have said "repeated independent trials."


197 posted on 12/05/2005 10:25:15 AM PST by TheGhostOfTomPaine
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To: NonZeroSum

Yes, I understood that to be your main point and agreed that you were correct.


198 posted on 12/05/2005 10:27:21 AM PST by TheGhostOfTomPaine
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To: Doctor Stochastic
It happens but it's rare.

Yes, and da Vinci would fall into the "It happens but it's rare" category.

199 posted on 12/05/2005 10:29:26 AM PST by catpuppy
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To: longshadow

200


200 posted on 12/05/2005 10:29:40 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, common scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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