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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: Junior

Noted.


201 posted on 12/05/2005 10:31:28 AM PST by catpuppy
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To: DoctorMichael
Ditto! CK is an amazing intellect and I savor his columns both on-line in in my local tabloid, The Boston Herald. I had a friend who was wheelchair bound and, though he was charmingly anti-intellectual, I grew to have great admiration for his personal courage and optimism. In Charles Krauthammer you have the best of both worlds. He has overcome daunting physical obstacles to share with the world his fine writing and elegant reasoning.
202 posted on 12/05/2005 10:35:49 AM PST by rootkidslim (... got the Sony rootkit on your Wintel box? You can thank Orrin Hatch!)
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To: Stultis

On the other hand, non-breeders may be helpful to breeders by aiding them in producing more offspring. Worker bees don't breed but they gather.


203 posted on 12/05/2005 10:35:53 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: catpuppy

Da Vinci had extensive training for the time. He worked 6 years as del Verrocchio's apprentice. So da Vinci did get both formal and informal training.


204 posted on 12/05/2005 10:38:55 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch ist der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: js1138
Are you suggesting that counting could be part of an unbiased IQ test?

No, none of the IQ tests I have ever encountered included counting. However, Charlie's ability to count to ten can be measured by IQ testing. There are many instances in which someone with a low IQ has the ability to derive complex correct mathematical answers without training in mathematics but cannot do the simple tasks for everyday existence. I will agree that all tests are biased if the parameters are unlimited. However what purpose does it serve other than to make all tests invalid for a specific agenda.
205 posted on 12/05/2005 10:43:18 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: Stultis
Consider this possible Darwinian irony, that whatever genetic component there is for homosexuality, they are less fit in a society that allows them to freely identify and act upon their preferences. In a more "repressive" society they are forced to hide their orientation and participate in reproductive activity in biologically viable ways. I'm sure Gregory Bateson would have fun with that idea.
206 posted on 12/05/2005 10:47:20 AM PST by rootkidslim (... got the Sony rootkit on your Wintel box? You can thank Orrin Hatch!)
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To: antiRepublicrat

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

Heck, I'm 64 with a major in math and a degree in chemical engineering and I couldn't remember it. Concepts are fine but details are a no no.


207 posted on 12/05/2005 10:49:17 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: Doctor Stochastic
He worked 6 years as del Verrocchio's apprentice.

Until Verrocchio became a real boy.

208 posted on 12/05/2005 10:50:27 AM PST by Senator Bedfellow (Sneering condescension.)
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To: Junior

On the contrary, it is an easy matter to dismiss all phenomena as occuring "naturally." That does not make one's conclusions necessarily more reliable, true, or "scientific."


209 posted on 12/05/2005 10:59:23 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Junior

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.

Change that to research they don't understand.


210 posted on 12/05/2005 10:59:33 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: jec41
However, Charlie's ability to count to ten can be measured by IQ testing.

I sure that specific skills vary genetically, but I do not accept the concept of g. Any large population will have those factors that contribute to survival in that culture. We value counting and reading. It is circular to say that the factors we value define general intelligence.

All populations have exceptional individuals, by any standards. The frequency of these exceptional traits can shift rapidly if they become valuable to the population.

211 posted on 12/05/2005 11:06:43 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: jec41
"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.

Change that to research they don't understand."

What research? When has ID ever been put to the test?
212 posted on 12/05/2005 11:07:29 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: jec41

Oops, I think I misread your post. Friendly fire alert!

Sorry. :)


213 posted on 12/05/2005 11:15:40 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: rootkidslim
The scary thing is that after Great Britain, America has the one of the highest, if not the highest, average national IQs. 98.

You'd soon shake yourself of that notion if you walked along some of the streets near my home. Either that or everyone else out there has the IQ of a fencepost. I'm not sure which prospect is more alarming. (anecdotal observations applying to population of many millions disclaimer, before Dr Stoch gets on to me)

214 posted on 12/05/2005 11:19:03 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: rootkidslim; Stultis

Congratulations, the pair of you have come up with the first interesting and novel (to me) comments that have ever arisen as a result of creato homo obsession.


215 posted on 12/05/2005 11:22:15 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: RogueIsland; liliesgrandpa
If you deal every card in a deck of playing cards out in front of you, what are the odds of you dealing the exact sequence of cards you end up with? Funny thing, those probabilities.

52! ~ 8.065 x 1067.

Of course that's only one deck, dealt one time.

216 posted on 12/05/2005 11:24:20 AM PST by dread78645 (Sorry Mr. Franklin, We couldn't keep it.)
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To: CarolinaGuitarman
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.

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

Indeed, that's just my point. You do not have to adhere to "creationism" or ID to believe in a God who created the universe and life, and you're right, this isn't open to scientific investigation. I might recommend the book Finding Darwin's God, by Kenneth Miller; he is a prominent biologist who is a Roman Catholic, who explains why evolution is compatible with Christian theology but why ID is bad theology and bad science.

217 posted on 12/05/2005 11:24:38 AM PST by megatherium (Hecho in China)
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Rampant agreement placemarker


218 posted on 12/05/2005 11:26:08 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: rootkidslim

evolution works on populations, not individuals. There are examples of species with a high proportion of nonreproducing individuals. You can't simple deduce the correct answer to questions like this.


219 posted on 12/05/2005 11:28:41 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: antiRepublicrat
According to your perception, because you value that particular combination. But it's not statistically any less likely than any other combination.

No, but the probability of getting a combination that I value is extremely low, which is why I would find it astonishing to get one.

Take a better analogy: A lottery machine containing 100 billion blue balls and just one red ball. The lottery machine randomly selects a ball. If the selected ball is red I would find that astonishing because the odds of that happening were so low (this is entirely valid astonisment, showing that retrospective astonishment is not always a fallacy)

An argument parallel to your above argument would be that my astonishment at getting a red ball is only due to my perception because I value red balls, and pointing out that the red ball had just as much chance of being selected as any particular blue ball. But it isn't the particular ball that astonishes me, it is the particular color of that ball.

220 posted on 12/05/2005 11:31:20 AM PST by bobdsmith
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