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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: sauron
We're sitting here discussing the evidences for Design in biology. There's PLENTY, if you want to be honest about it.

I think we're all honest about the appearance of design in life, even Dawkins admits that. It is that some assert that it can appear by chance and unguided selection.

541 posted on 12/05/2005 11:40:29 PM PST by AndrewC (Darwinian logic -- It is just-so if it is just-so)
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To: sauron
I noted that many in this discussion (and there have been excellent arguments on both sides) abandoned ship, fled for the hills, or diverted arguments when abiogenesis was mentioned.

Abiogenesis is not part of the theory of evolution, and the theory of evolution says nothing about creation. The tenor of your posts suggests that you have a bizarre idea that those who support evolution are atheists. That is false, and so your following few paragraphs are based on a false premise. BTW abiogenesis is being studied, and if I were you I wouldn't predicate my faith on those studies ultimately failing to provide a naturalistic explanation. Worshipping the God of the Gaps is risky.

There's a huge amount of peer pressure to toe the line in science. If you want continued grant funding, you need a good word from your peers as a future reference. If you don't have it, you lose your livelihood. Few will dare to buck the establishment.

THis is just paranoid nonsense. The fame and fortune that would await anyone who falsified a central unifying theory such as evolution with genuine evidence would be undying. The idea that scientists (most of whom are religious believers) are hiding the evidence to further some kind of evolutionist agenda is beyond parody.

ID is new. There's no hurry. I think they're onto something, because they can't disprove Intelligent Design. In fact, many unanswered questions are hinting at, pointing at, Intelligent Design as the cause for why we can't answer a simple question: How did Life begin?

ID isn't new, it is one of man's oldest ideas. In the last few-thousand years ID hasn't produced one single insight. Incidentally are you aware of the opinions of the main scientific exponent of ID, Michael Behe?

Is that a set of beliefs you are happy to sign up to? If not then best drop the support for ID.

Either way, I think this univese was meant to have life in it. We have some bacteria that have more than a hundred times the genetic material you would expect for a bacteria...is it meant to be "seed material" to create other organisms? Here we are, living on this Goldilocks world...right orbit, smack dab in the ecospshere...right inclination...right star...right part of the spiral arm...right age...a tiny fraction in change of temperature and matter wouldn't exist...quantum gravity "tuned" to be just right...even Hoyle said that it appeared as if Someone has "monkeyed" with the physics of the universe, that it was fine-tuned for life....

About .000000000000000000000001% of the universe appears to be "fine-tuned for life" as you put it. Isn't that rather wasteful. Another way of putting it would be, "to get life like us, you'd need a universe and a planet just like ours", Well duh! And wasn't your argument just now that life was so unlikely that God had to tinker to make it appear. Now you've reversed that stance to say that we've got a goldilocks universe where all this is inevitable. Which is it, then?

It all gets down to the desire to be libertine, rather than accountable. If the universe is ultimately uncreated, eterally self-existent, or even accidental...then it has no purpose, and neither do we. Morality becomes irrelevant. If, however, it was created, then morality becomes paramount. And this frightens some. But on the good side, it would mean that love, perception of aesthetic beauty, and the concept of altruism and mercy actually do have meaning, and our having them was by no means an accident.

You make an enormous jump from "The universe was created" (if we accept that, for the sake of argument). To "morality becomes paramount". Whence comes this jump. Why should the creator of the universe share our notions of morality? Why should the creator of the universe care about us at all? He seems to have created this "rather large" artifact of which we form a vanishingly tiny and insignificant portion. To get a sense of the scale of the universe, imagine a cubic mile of fine powder, 10 grains to the mm, 1000 grains per cubic mill. Each of those grains is a sun in the universe, spread them out so the average distance between them is many miles. Near one of them, and a thousand times smaller is a miniscule speck, and on its surface is... us. You really think that the whole shebang was created just to get us? What kind of Goldilocks universe is that wastefulness?

542 posted on 12/06/2005 12:14:35 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: KamperKen
No trace of charaltanism anywhere that I could detect,

The joke's on you kid. The whole book is a hoax.

543 posted on 12/06/2005 3:09:44 AM PST by shuckmaster
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To: highball
I apologize for my tardy reply, work sometimes interjects itself...

If I created the impression that I was suggesting that science should be poll driven I made my argument poorly.

My intention was that the "public relations" of the situation isn't being handled well.

I work in a fairly technical area (not science) and I work with clients every day that don't have a clue. They're not stupid, they're not morons, they're ignorant of the issue surronding a reasonably technical area.

Not that I would even use the word ignorant, rather I try to explain, using situations that they can relate to their lives, the reasons why they're morons (there's a bit of an attempt at humor there). If I were to simply say "hey, you guys are morons" I suspect I'd be shown the door immediately and lose a client.

For instance as a non-scientists I have an idea of what the word "theory" means: "An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture.". However the scientific definition of theory is, of course, quite different.

It's not the publics fault that they go with the one they're likley to understand from their non-scientific lives. They're not morons, they've simply not been exposed to the fact.

So the point I was trying to make, perhaps poorly, is that it is incumbent on science to educate, not simply call people morons. Present a cogent argument starting with the basics and continue from there.

It may not work, but I would observe that in the last 30 years science hasn't engaged in enough education. We see junk science used to advance an agenda and fairly or unfairly, it's a big brush that the public sees as tarring all science. We also see science that has become, at least in my view, timid in challenging junk science because of tenure, funding or even being outcasts in their peer group.

Rather than education it's been more of a case of "we're real smart, we're right, you don't agree, you're an idiot".

Simply a thought.

544 posted on 12/06/2005 3:13:07 AM PST by Proud_texan ("Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." - Barry Goldwater)
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To: sauron
Oh, I forgot one of Michael Behe's beliefs (founded, he maintains, on the physical evidence):

* Evolution is true

* All of life on earth shares a common ancestor (by implication including men and other apes)

* The earth is billions of years old

* There is no physical evidence that the designer has intervened in natural processes such as evolution for many millions of years

* The Designer may not still be around

Of course you may well be content to agree with that set of beliefs, but it is hard to be sure without asking you. Most self-professed Freeper IDers recoil when they discover what the scientific vendors of ID are selling. Curiously they seem to have signed up to it without checking what it is.

545 posted on 12/06/2005 3:17:12 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: KamperKen
There are things, like the Cambrian Explosion, that should make one wonder about ID

The "Cambrian Explosion" is an oft quoted troublesome event of creationists and IDers. Explosions sound like exciting events don't they. But it doesn't seem to bother professional biologists so much. The "explosion" did last for tens of millions of years, which is actually a very large number of generations, and there were pre-cambrian organisms, but their fossils were just so small we didn't have the techniques to spot them until relatively recently.

546 posted on 12/06/2005 3:26:11 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Proud_texan

What you say isn't unreasonable. Part of the problem that those of us on the evo side of the debate is that we see the same canards and easily refuted weak arguments for creationism/ID coming at us again and again.

Various forms of this behaviour can be very irritating, which makes us tend to post snappily.

* The same Freeper posting the same refuted argument again and again in a thread
* An evo refutes an argument, and then sees it pop up again from the same poster in a later thread as if the refutation had never happened
* Argument by lucky dip, where a Freeper posts a succession of arguments and as each one is refuted just goes back to their favourite creationist website for more, ad nauseam within the same thread. Don't they realise how stupid this makes them (and by extension their religion) look?
* Argument by continuous cheerleading for bad arguments being posted by other Freepers, without ever actually proposing any arguments of their own.
* Putting forward arguments which could only be true if 99% of professional biologists are either stupid or liars engaged in an enormous atheist conspiracy. (the classic 2LOT argument falsifies evolution is an example of this, do the posters really think that biologists are unaware of the 2LOT?)

But you are quite right. We owe it to the lurkers and newby creationist posters who have genuinely been misled to be as factual and down-to-earth as possible, and to avoid being snappy. I fail all the time myself though.


547 posted on 12/06/2005 3:38:21 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Proud_texan
We also see science that has become, at least in my view, timid in challenging junk science because of tenure, funding or even being outcasts in their peer group.

Do you have any examples of what you mean by "Junk science" in this regard. The scientists of my acquaintance are an opinionated bunch who are quick to deride any notions that they regard as fallacious, and who don't seem overly concerned with maintaining the status quo and not rocking the boat. Scientists are naturally argumentative.

In the past I've seen "junk science" used as a catch-all term that describes science whose conclusions a poster feels uncomfortable with, without regard to the actual validity of the science.

548 posted on 12/06/2005 3:43:35 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Thatcherite

The range of dates I've seen for the Cambrian explosion from 5 million to 30 million years, which is hugely problematic for the theory of evolution. So, in literally no time at all geologically, all of the phyla of the world appear literally at once. Their fossil precursors were all microbes.

BTW, the term "explosion" has no meretricious appeal for me. I find that "explosions" are used by theorists to get themselves out of the corners they've painted themselves into.


549 posted on 12/06/2005 3:48:30 AM PST by KamperKen
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To: Thatcherite
In the past I've seen "junk science" used as a catch-all term that describes science whose conclusions a poster feels uncomfortable with, without regard to the actual validity of the science.

We have a winner.

550 posted on 12/06/2005 3:54:32 AM PST by RogueIsland
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To: KamperKen
So, in literally no time at all geologically, all of the phyla of the world appear literally at once.

Tens of millions of years isn't no time at all biologically. I don't think that is quite true that all phyla originate in the Cambrian, I'd have to check, but I agree many phyla do originate in the cambrian. Don't get over hung-up on the phyla thing anyway. The importance of phyla is retrospective. At the time the difference between one phylum and another would have been very small, just like modern speciations, its just that subsequently they ended up going different ways that formed different branches of the phylogenetic tree.

551 posted on 12/06/2005 4:03:46 AM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Thatcherite
I don't think that is quite true that all phyla originate in the Cambrian, I'd have to check, but I agree many phyla do originate in the cambrian.

From The List-O-Links:

WHAT ABOUT THE CAMBRIAN "EXPLOSION"?
Another service of Darwin Central, the conspiracy that cares.

552 posted on 12/06/2005 4:12:57 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, common scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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Comment #553 Removed by Moderator

To: Fester Chugabrew
Actually, what it looks like is that the position of all materialists and evolutionists is scientifically and morally bankrupt. Look, the guy lost a tooth. He was beaten severely. That proves beyond question evolutionists and materialists are plumb dumb and wrong. It also proves that you had best repent before the rest of us fundies don red baseball hats and wool gloves. Deal with it. Be sure to check the bushes outside before you go to sleep.

Pretty vile stuff.

554 posted on 12/06/2005 4:26:59 AM PST by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: Coyoteman
Inappropriate!

Derr! I know. These guys missed their cue. The red hats and wool gloves are scheduled for a later date.

555 posted on 12/06/2005 4:27:08 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Doctor Stochastic; Dimensio; Right Wing Professor; Physicist; DoctorMichael; doc30
Again, not unexpected.

No, not unexpected, but I had hoped for better anyway. :-(

556 posted on 12/06/2005 4:30:09 AM PST by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: PatrickHenry
. . . a course describing intelligent design as mythology would be a "nice slap in their big fat face."

Your Brain on Evolutionism worthy? With an abuse of brain cells like that it's no wonder nature took its course and rearranged a few particles.

557 posted on 12/06/2005 4:33:50 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: sauron
" 1) Atheistic liberatarians can never live down that they live under a system instituted by God-fearing men."

I live under a Constitution that ensures a secular government. Those God-fearing men were a lot wiser than you.

"Science could not have evolved anywhere else on the globe as rapidly as it did in Europe precisely because Christianity (almost always) was tolerant of scientific inquiry"

Tell it Galileo.

"Certainly far more so than Islam."

If it wasn't for medieval Islam, we wouldn't have had most of the ancient Greek writings. You need a history lesson.

"It also valued education, which directly supported science."

If you were a nobleman.
558 posted on 12/06/2005 5:10:57 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: Fester Chugabrew
With an abuse of brain cells like that it's no wonder nature took its course and rearranged a few particles.

Are you deliberately trying to make fundamentalist Christians look like ignorant, violent rednecks? Sometimes I think it's even odds whether you believe the stuff you post or if you have some serious axe to grind against Christianity and are engaging in a fairly inelegant subterfuge to make Christians look bad.

559 posted on 12/06/2005 5:11:47 AM PST by RogueIsland
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To: AndrewC
~And what will that be? A broad brush that equates your opponents with the village idiots surrounding castle Frankenstein? Well, it may come as a surprise to you, but I'm sure most Creationists decry physical violence against anyone.

They sure weren't represented on the first 100 posts on main thread. At least two people said the beating wasn't severe enough. You yourself were more concerned with weighing in on Fester's side than dissociating yourself from his disgusting reaction.

~But, whatever comes of the story, if the violators exist, they should be appropriately punished and it should be aggravated punishment for allowing opportunists to use Creationists/IDers as scapegoats.

Within the last month on this forum, a FREeper called on violence to be used against academics who criticize religion. I drew the attention of the mods. The post was allowed to remain. The practice here is violent rhetoric from the nuts, toleration from the moderators, and silence or acquiescence from the likes of you.

If this incident happened as Mirecki said, it was advocated by self-professed Christian FReepers with the knowledge and consent of management.

I have all the relevant posts stored on disk, so history is not going to be erased, either.

560 posted on 12/06/2005 5:13:56 AM PST by Right Wing Professor
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