Skip to comments.Intelligent designís long march to nowhere
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 movements seminal volume Darwins 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 bigbang 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 Lemaitres first proposal of the big-bang theory in 1927 and the scientific communitys widespread acceptance of the theory in 1965, when scientists empirically confirmed one of the big bangs predictions.
If we continue with Behes 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 arent 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 Trial little more than a roster of evolutionary theorys 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 Gamows 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, dont we deserve better than this?
Miller and Urey did not set out to produce life (abiogenesis) but they did demonstrate how, under certain conditions, biological molecules could have been created via an abiotic (non-biological) process.
Are you citing this work as a example of ID experimentation?
If some 250 to 500 or even several thousand years is simply nothing on an evolutionary time scale, what about the last 2.3 million years of European life history?And 2.8 Mya is still nothing on an evolutionary time scale.
This is characterized by comparatively slow rates of evolution , and Lang continues: At the end of the Tertiary the organisms consisted of species, almost all of which can be assigned to present genera, a large section even to living species. This applies not only for the European flora but also for its fauna and appears to be true for other parts of the world, too.Hardly surprising, given that the end of the Tertiary was about 1.8 million years ago.
A first hint for answering the questions raised in last paragraph is perhaps also provided by Charles Darwin himself when he suggested the following sufficiency test for his theory : If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. Darwin, however, stated that he could not find out such a case which would, in fact, have invalidated his theory.Refreshing honesty.
Biochemist Michael J. Behe  has refined Darwin's statement by introducing and defining his concept of "irreducibly complex systems", specifying: By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.Each of which has been debunked. I guess honesty only goes so far in ID-land.
Among the examples discussed by Behe are the origins of (1) the cilium, (2) the bacterial flagellum with filament, hook and motor embedded in the membranes and cell wall and (3) the biochemistry of blood clotting in humans.
In a strict gradualistic scenario of the origin and evolution of life forms one would expect that except in catastrophic events (also long denied in uniformitarian geology) like the Permian or Tertiary impacts most species would continually adapt to varying environmental conditions.Long denied by geologist? News to me.
If the environment changes faster the the rate of mutation, the long term outcome for the organism is not good. But for survival in new environments there has to be a mutation that gives a advantage in it.
And it's possible that no satisfactory mutation occurs before the organism goes extinct.
Thus, it appears to be entirely clear that irreducible complexity of biological systems and/or correlated subsystems could explain the typical features of the fossil record and the foundations of systematics (morphological stasis the basic constancy of characters distinguishing higher systematic categories) and the basic genetic processes and major molecular traits, which are thought to have persisted essentially unchanged , and the perseverance of the molecular mechanisms of animal ontogenesis for more than a billion years equally well.Scientists have a pretty good handle on basic genetic processes and major molecular traits. None of which involves "XenuDidit"
When they find the pre-Cambrian rabbit, or the post-Permian trilobite, then we'll have to address "essentially unchanged for more than three-and-a-half billion years".
To identify design, an event has to display the following five features, for whose mathematical formulation and exemplary composition the interested reader is referred to Dembskis monographs (in the ensuing paragraphs again a few unsophisticated but illustrative examples, mostly following Dembski, may be sufficient for our present purposes):Calculating probability after the fact ... I would own Las Vegas !!!
[... sniped in the interest of reducible inanity (involving numbers like 1050 and 10120 ...]
For something to exhibit specified complexity therefore means that it matches a conditionally independent pattern (i.e., specification) of low specificational complexity, but where the event corresponding to that pattern has a probability less than the universal probability bound and therefore high probabilistic complexity . For instance, regarding the origin of the bacterial flagellum, Dembski calculated a probability of 10-234 (for further points, see below).
On the strictly scientific level the combination of stasis and ID does not mean the end of inquiry (as is sometimes objected), but the very beginning of entirely new research programmes. For several questions have to be thoroughly investigated before valid scientific inferences can be suggested. To name but a few:Already done. Waiting for the next mole to whack.
...Dembskis improbability calculation of of 10-234 for the origin of the bacterial flagellum quoted above constitutes nothing but a first potentially falsifiable hypothesis in that research programme [7, 64].
... to what extent a species can relinquish certain subsystems without selective disadvantages under special circumstances.Such as yeast producing human isulim or hamsters (and fish) making human serum clotting factor?
On the other hand, as to the candidates of irreducibly complex systems mentioned above (the cilium, bacterial flagellum, blood clotting, traps of Utricularia and some other carnivorous plant genera, joints, echo location, deceptive flowers as displayed by Coryanthes and Catasetum etc.), it can be confidently stated that up to now, none of these synorganized systems has been satisfactorily explained by the modern synthesis or any other evolutionary theory.And probably never will be if your criteria of "satisfactorily explained" involves a supernatural being.
Last not least, it should perhaps be pointed out that research on irreducible and/or specified complexities in biology definitely do not constitute metaphysical research programmes, but is at least as scientifically valid as the SETI ...And throughly refuted by the SETI folks at Berkley.
This and a few other authors, geologists and biochemists, have said that it's more than a little "coincidental" that life seemed to develop the second the Earth had cooled sufficiently to allow it to exist.
I don't believe in coincidences.
We've always been told that it would take billions of years for life to evolve...Okay, but why did it arise so quickly, the minute Earth was cool enough? Suspicious!!
I'm old enough to recall that we were told we'd never know what killed the dynosaurs. We'd never know what an atom looked like. We pretty much know both, now.
I've learned to be suspicious--but not hostile towards--our esteemed scientists. They don't have all the answers, but they're trying, which is good.
What I've found, however, is that they don't always present all the evidence on the table for public discussion when they should.
Oh, and creationists would not be able to say that was proof that life was designed.
If science can't explain abiogenesis--hey, man, it's THEIR theory, not ours (Christians)--shouldn't we hold them accountable? (Some lady earlier suggested they be spanked. That's ridiculous. Accountability is for them to acknowledge in public discussion that, NO, there has been no progress, none, in this area to date.)
Nice discussion, all.
Do they just dismiss it as "not important" (because they're secretly embarrassed by an inability to explain the process)?
Sorry to butt in, but these are interesting questions on their own.
There is a large and colorful literature on this topic that now includes PANH's (nitrogen-containing aromatic hydrocarbons) that seem to be present in nearly all of space.
Unfortunately there are still lots of hypothesis and limited resources to to test them out. There isn't a lot of use for the solutions that this research would generate. Would you give up cancer or heart disease research to find out the likely candidates for the original replicating molecules on earth?
The tools to do this kind of research are finally available, although they are still expensive and cumbersome. They will become inexpensive quickly. There are already companies that are creating DNA libraries and building the capability to build organisms one base pair at a time.
For example, 454 Life Sciences Corporation can assemble the complete 580,000-base genome of Mycoplasma genitalium in 4 hours on a machine that can be purchased for half a million dollars. Dharmacon has completed the world's first genome-wide, siRNA library that targets over 21,000 human genes.
Scientists aren't embarrassed. They're mostly excited.
I'm pretty sure Behe is not an intentional charlatan, but his book is riddled with problems, among them, that some of his predictions of scientific events that would never occur because of intractable complexity, had, in fact, already seen publication before his book went to press. Not a great job of bench checking. If you want the whole miserable story, and nearly a page by page takedown of Behe's presumptuousness and carelessness with the facts, find a copy of Miller's "Finding Darwin's God", by a deadly serious, mainstream biologist who cowrites the principle textbook for beginning biology majors, and who is also a deadly serious catholic.
Behe's basic argument, like that of the rest of the stars, of ID can be stated very simply: "If my giant brain can't conceive how something happened, it must be a miracle!".
This is a clinically interesting form of theological conceit, but it is an inherently barren attitude to try to do science with.
Just because someone throws a lot of techie words, math, and great looking engineering diagrams at you, doesn't necessarily mean he's doing science.
Now that is what's best in life!
The Earth evidently cooled rather faster than we have until recently thought. Evidence for this has been found in some very old zircons and sophisticated modeling. Say it was about 100,000 years instead of half a billion. That leaves an extra 400,000 years we didn't know we had.
I don't believe in coincidences.
No. You believe in magical invisible people poofing everything out of nothing.
Accountability is for them to acknowledge in public discussion that, NO, there has been no progress, none, in this area to date.
I don't really keep up to date on abiogenesis research, but I'd be stunned if you're ahead of me on it. Just for one thing, you've already posted that the Miller-Urey experiment was a failure because it didn't produce a bacterium, a trilobite, or whatever. That's something beyond willful ignorance; call it "willful self-misinformation."
The Foundation does not support the ID political/lobbying/legal wedge approach to the issue...But Templeton is quoted on the Foundation's website stating that "There is no knockdown argument for design and purpose" just "strong hints" for it.
John Templeton is deeply "religous", in a very universalist way, and believes that "Scientific revelations may be a goldmine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century."
Karl Giberson also states that, "Behe is right, of course, that there are many such complex things in nature that evolution cannot presently explain." (SAY IT AIN'T SO, Applied Developmental Science, Lawerence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., http://www.erlbaum.com)
It is obvious that the context in which Giberson and The John Templeton Foundation disagree with ID is not the same context in which those at Darwin Central disagree with it.
Other than disdain for creationists, those at Darwin Central will probably not find much in common with Karl Giberson and John Marks Templeton (In fact, given history, I believe that many at Darwin Central would be calling these guys crackpots).
Maybe that is enough context for you...The standard seems much higher when it is the other way around.
You have not been paying attention on these threads. Any designed lab experiment is proof of ID and nothing but. What's even cooler: anything NOT replicable in a lab via designed experiment isn't science at all. Thus, ID is the ONLY science! Tah-dah!! (Can you spell "CATCH-22," kiddies?)
Which is it?
This is better evidence for panspermia, than it is for ID. Which is, by the way, the opinion of the authors of "Rare Earth".
Come again? There are examples of punc eq in the fossil record: that is cases where the gradual transition between species in a particular geographic area and in a geologically brief time horizon has been captured in the fossil record. For instance Niles Eldgridge found a smooth transition between two species of trilobites that elsewhere in fossil record appeared abruptly without transition.
Nor is punc eq the only mode of change in the fossil record. Cases of phyletic gradualism have also been documented in the fossil record.
IOW species sometimes evolve rapidly in small and isolated populations and at other times change from one species to happens gradually and among larger populations.
I fail to understand the difficulty you think you see.
Part of the fault is that the MSM at the time hailed the demonstration as a sort of "creating-life-in-the-test-tube" event.
Yeah, and they turned down Behe before he even submitted the written proposals.
Oh come now. There is no organized cabal of scientists trying to cover up and manipulate certain embarassing scientific facts. You'd have to look to politicians for that kind of behavior. It is science's job to figure out things, not to figure out how to dole those things out to the public in a timely manner.
Which is it?
It was the later. A close relative of the Beagle's captain, Robert Fitzroy, had gone insane as a ship's captain and had committed suicide. Fitzroy was worried about a familial tendency to insanity and wanted a gentleman companion to dine and have conversation with. (The authoritatian ethos on British naval ships of the period prevented the captain from socializing much with members of the crew, even other officers.)