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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: Ike
Maybe my naivete is extreme, but it seems to me that science would have nothing to research if there was no reason in creation. Isn't that what scientists DO... try to find out how things work? If they kept discovering chaos, they would stop.

Sure, scientists look for patterns and principles that describe the underlying order in what may look superficially like chaos. And many people (the famous Deist from whom I took my screen name, for example) have regarded the existence of such order generally as evidence of a "cosmic architect" or "designer."

But that's not what the ID folks argue. They claim to be able to tell apart two different kinds of order: one that can be explained in terms of the operation of natural law, and one that can't. It's only the latter that they attribute to the operation of intelligence.

As a matter of science, their "argument" founders on the fact that they haven't got any reliable way to tell the two apart or any real program for investigating the matter scientifically.

21 posted on 12/05/2005 4:56:14 AM PST by TheGhostOfTomPaine
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To: Clemenza
I didn't suggest going to the general public for science; I'm saying that science has done a very poor job of presenting their case to the general public.

Laying out a theory in a way a lay person can understand it rather than calling them idiots might be a better strategy.

22 posted on 12/05/2005 4:57:46 AM PST by Proud_texan ("Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." - Barry Goldwater)
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To: Junior
I never thought of it that way....but ID'ers are the Democrats of Science. No plan, No ideas....just "we hate Darwin" and "It's Darwin's Fault". And, if you don't agree with them....you get called names such as "purile" and be called a "truth nazi".

It all sounds SOOOOOO familiar....

23 posted on 12/05/2005 4:58:06 AM PST by KeepUSfree (WOSD = fascism pure and simple.)
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To: liliesgrandpa
"The chances of at least 410 amino acids accidentally forming a chain to produce one protein molecule is 10123.
The odds against this happening in at least 239 protein molecules to form the smallest living organism are 1029345.
The odds of that one organism surviving long enough to learn to eat, breathe and reproduce are beyond calculation."

I don't know from where you get your probability calculations, but assuming they are correct, if these processes occured millions and millions of times, one would get 410 amino acids forming a protein molecule fairly quickly and easily. Same with forming the smallest organism.

24 posted on 12/05/2005 4:58:47 AM PST by DaGman
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To: Proud_texan
If evols want to continue to insult those they wish to convince by all means, that is certainly the way to go.

Evols realize that Creationist IDealogues have demonstrated by their refusal to either defend or abandon discredited arguments that they are not open to convincing .

Ergo Plan B: "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."

25 posted on 12/05/2005 4:59:07 AM PST by Oztrich Boy ( the Wedge Document ... offers a message of hope for Muslims - Mustafa Akyol)
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To: TheGhostOfTomPaine

"They claim to be able to tell apart two different kinds of order: one that can be explained in terms of the operation of natural law, and one that can't. "

How do they explain "natural law" in the first place? Where do they say it comes from?


26 posted on 12/05/2005 4:59:41 AM PST by Ike
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To: KeepUSfree
ID'ers are the Democrats of Science.

Could be a tagline

27 posted on 12/05/2005 5:01:20 AM PST by Oztrich Boy ( the Wedge Document ... offers a message of hope for Muslims - Mustafa Akyol)
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To: Proud_texan

Fair enough.


28 posted on 12/05/2005 5:01:28 AM PST by Clemenza (I am here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubblegum!)
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To: liliesgrandpa

And if these things occured on a second or so worldwide, in the 6 BILLION years they earth has been around that means that this could have occurred 6,000,000 x 365 x 24 x 60 x 60 = 1,892,160,000,000,000 times so far (at a minimum)...so those "1 in a billion" odds don't look so bad when you do something 1 quadrillion times....


29 posted on 12/05/2005 5:02:17 AM PST by KeepUSfree (WOSD = fascism pure and simple.)
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To: BelegStrongbow
I cannot say that S&T News is any kind of friend for ID, nor that it ever would have been. I tried it out and found it resolutely opposed to the very notion of Theology having any dependability for any question whatsoever. The magazine appears designed to destroy whatever credibility theology might have ever had. It should really be named Science trumps Theology News.

You are missing the point completely.

Science is the study of what happens when God does not intervene.
Theology is the study of what happens when God does intervene.

Inteligent Design might be true, but it can never be Science. It is by definition Theology. Therefore is shold never be taught in Science Classes.

If people want to be honest and add Theology classes to public schools, that would be OK with me, but don't debase science.

So9

30 posted on 12/05/2005 5:04:25 AM PST by Servant of the 9 (Trust Me)
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To: DaGman
if these processes occured millions and millions of times

Infinite combinations of matter over an indefinite period of time can explain everything that exists. Shall we call this "science?"

31 posted on 12/05/2005 5:05:01 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Proud_texan
The problem is that scientists aren't typically the types that go into public relations and the media types who report on science seek controversy over accuracy. I've had some of my research reported on by the NY Daily News and Newsday...I didn't recognize my own work (I had been doing for two years.)

I opt for more and better Sci-Fi movies as a substitute for the MSM. (with tongue in cheek).

32 posted on 12/05/2005 5:05:23 AM PST by Rudder
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To: liliesgrandpa

I'm curious. 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.


33 posted on 12/05/2005 5:10:01 AM PST by RogueIsland
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To: liliesgrandpa
" The chances of at least 410 amino acids accidentally forming a chain to produce one protein molecule is 10123."

10123 is not a probability.

BTW, there is no reason at all to think that abiogenesis would work that way. The rules of chemistry are no random.
34 posted on 12/05/2005 5:13:09 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: Rudder
"I opt for more and better Sci-Fi movies"

Allow me to be the first to sign on to that proposal!

And yes, the few times I've been involved in a story I haven't recognized it either. Scary.

35 posted on 12/05/2005 5:16:06 AM PST by Proud_texan ("Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." - Barry Goldwater)
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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.)

Human myoglobin has 153 amino acids. Human cytochrome c has 104 amino acids. Hen egg lysozyme has 129 amino acids. Where do you dig up this rubbish?

36 posted on 12/05/2005 5:24:06 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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To: liliesgrandpa
All formed in left handed spirals. (Protein molecules do not have right handed spirals for some unknown reason.)

It's all based on the stereochemistry involved.

Simple chemistry dictates that amino acids can condense and that a chain containing 410 amino acids units will form via condensation quite readily. It's freshamn chemistry.

37 posted on 12/05/2005 5:29:28 AM PST by doc30 (Democrats are to morals what and Etch-A-Sketch is to Art.)
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To: PatrickHenry
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.

38 posted on 12/05/2005 5:34:29 AM PST by VadeRetro (Liberalism is a cancer on society. Creationism is a cancer on conservatism.)
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To: Rudder
... should we let those who are uneducated and unqualified dictate the course of science?

Of course not. Those ignorant, unwashed masses of little people have no business doing anything other than what WE tell them to do.

I read your comment just as I was falling off yet another turnip truck so I may have misinterpreted what you wrote. But it seemed a bit elitist, don't you think?

39 posted on 12/05/2005 5:35:35 AM PST by catpuppy
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To: Fester Chugabrew
Infinite combinations of matter over an indefinite period of time can explain everything that exists. Shall we call this "science?"

Believe it or not, there are scientific theories based on essentially that idea. Provided an infinite universe, there will be a region of space with the exact same arrangements of matter and energy as we have here. There is a statistical probability for this. A very low probability, but a finite one. But given an infinite universe, that makes that low probability a certainty. That means there are multiple Fester Chugabrew's and doc30's out there.

40 posted on 12/05/2005 5:37:49 AM PST by doc30 (Democrats are to morals what and Etch-A-Sketch is to Art.)
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