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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: edsheppa
“The extreme rarity of transitional forms is the trade secret of paleontology ... The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.’” [S.J. Gould (evolutionist); Natural History 86:14 (1977)]
681 posted on 12/06/2005 12:57:10 PM PST by dotnetfellow
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To: dotnetfellow
I was about to take it back then I noticed the quotes. If it is Gould's term, why does he quote it?

Say, why don't you provide a link? Did you type that from a text? Please tell me you didn't just copy it from a creationoid web site.

682 posted on 12/06/2005 1:02:03 PM PST by edsheppa
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To: VadeRetro
Regarding Darwin's own tests, I advise you to read The Biotic Message by Walter Remine.
683 posted on 12/06/2005 1:05:02 PM PST by Paul Ross (My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple...It is this, 'We win and they lose.')
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To: Thatcherite
Why is a hypothetical path not sufficient to disprove the notion, since the essential contention of Behe is that no hypothetical path exists.

Well, it depends on what you mean by a hypothetical path. The bar is not unreasonably high - it is just what can reasonably be expected physically to occur or not occur. Imaginary scenarios may be interesting but they are no substitute for specific evidence. Behe obviously thinks there are insurmountable physical hurdles to overcome for any such hypothetical pathways to actually succeed in forming a BF by numerous, successive, slight modifications via the Darwinian mechanism.

Cordially,

684 posted on 12/06/2005 1:09:15 PM PST by Diamond (Qui liberatio scelestus trucido inculpatus.)
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To: Diamond
The ability to imagine such a scenario is not evidence that such a scenario happened.

Tut, tut - let's rewind the tape a bit, and remind ourselves that the original ID claim is not that this specific pathway didn't happen, but that it couldn't happen by any pathway, because it's impossible.

Now we are, perhaps unintentionally, moving the goalposts by demanding that the proposed pathway not only be possible, but that it's the actual pathway that was used. Which is a completely legitimate question on its own merits - is this how flagella actually evolved? - but it most assuredly does not obviate the fact that the original claim of impossibility is now totally dead in the water. I don't know for a fact if the ancient Egyptians actually used a block-and-tackle to build pyramids, but merely pointing out that they could have is sufficient to refute the claim that it's impossible for humans to have built the pyramids.

685 posted on 12/06/2005 1:12:51 PM PST by Senator Bedfellow (Sneering condescension.)
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To: KamperKen
In Fred Hoyle's book on panspermia, one of the pieces of evidence he adduces is that we have turned down noses. Why? So that the space germs we are being constantly bombarded with won't go up our noses.

Tell me this isn't funny. Actually, if you haven't read it, this book is chock-a-block with entertaining evidence, some of which isn't laughably dismissable, but most of which is.

"Our Place in the Cosmos: The Unfinished Revolution" by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe

686 posted on 12/06/2005 1:24:01 PM PST by donh
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To: edsheppa

The quote was cited. It came from his own writings. Just google it. You can substantiate the claim just about anywhere.


687 posted on 12/06/2005 1:30:00 PM PST by dotnetfellow
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To: Diamond

So what are you contending? That ID proponents can name any molecular system and demand that those who support natural evolution not only show hypothetical pathways but demonstrate those pathways through physical experimentation? Where would this end? And how do you propose to discount the argument that the Designer may be intervening in the petri-dish?


688 posted on 12/06/2005 1:31:07 PM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: dotnetfellow

Any decision on whether or not you support Behe's opinions about evolution? Behe is of course fully aware of the molecular evidence supporting evolution, such as the predicted (and crushingly supportive of evolution) match between the endogenous retroviral evidence and the morphological evidence. So, do you agree with Behe or not that evolution is true, and that there is no physical evidence that the Designer has intervened for many millions of years, and that all life on earth shares common descent? Or is your support of ID just an opportunistic sham?


689 posted on 12/06/2005 1:34:53 PM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Paul Ross
Regarding Darwin's own tests, I advise you to read The Biotic Message by Walter Remine.

Come on now. This guy is a working mechanical engineer, & he pretty much recapitulates Behe, and the rest of the current crop of darwinian naysayers, and his big falsifiable test for ID is to search for "Kilroy was here" encoded in some musty corner of the genome.

690 posted on 12/06/2005 1:35:01 PM PST by donh
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To: dotnetfellow

Incidentally both Denton and Dembski are on the record as being in agreement with Behe that fundamentally the evidence from numerous fields shows that evolution has occurred. Do you agree with them or not?


691 posted on 12/06/2005 1:36:24 PM PST by Thatcherite (F--ked in the afterlife, bullying feminized androgenous automaton euro-weenie blackguard)
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To: Free Baptist
" There is no model deliberately created...or is there?!"

There isn't. Only in your imagination. Evolution, like every other science, is descriptive, not prescriptive.

"The religion of Darwinianism is called Humanism (although you may claim not to adhere to it). It is the worship of man by man."

There is no religion of Darwinism. Only in your paranoid delusions. There IS an area of science called evolutionary biology though. I'm quite certain you have never read anything about it.
692 posted on 12/06/2005 1:46:56 PM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: Diamond

"Isn't morality also part of what is?"

It is not part of science, and certainly not a part of evolutionary biology.

"If so, then it must have evolved, but if that's the case why then wouldn't evolutionary theory have anything to say about it? How can one account for it, though, in evolutionary terms? Why is there any "ought" at all if evolution has nothing to say about it?"

Evolutionary studies can perhaps help explain where or how certain moral systems may have evolved, but it cannot say which ones we aught to follow. Morality is not a scientific question.


693 posted on 12/06/2005 1:49:57 PM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: sauron
1) Atheistic liberatarians can never live down that they live under a system instituted by God-fearing men.

They skirt that (ahem) inconvenient point.

(But I confess that I delight in it.)

Our wonderful (and brilliant!) system of government allows for the greatest latitude in personal freedoms exactly BECAUSE it was devised by God-fearing men.

Our system of government was designed by Christians who were suffering under the oppression of other Christians. They were part of a philosophical movement (the Enlightenment) that was in large part a reaction to the Catholic Church in France. The American system of checks & balances was inspired by the pagan Roman Republic.
694 posted on 12/06/2005 1:53:54 PM PST by jennyp (WHAT I'M READING NOW: Art of Unix Programming by Raymond)
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To: donh

In Fred Hoyle's book on panspermia...""

Thanks for the heads up. Sounds like there are gold nuggets in "them thar hills", but one has to move alot of earth to get at it. I will take the time to acquire and read it.

Ever since I became acquainted with the panspermia debate, the first thing that came to mind is that in olden times the appearances of comets were consider harbingers of plague. A conincidence, perhaps, but not so easily dismissed now as superstition.


695 posted on 12/06/2005 1:54:44 PM PST by KamperKen
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To: donh
Science is not philosophical strong materialism.

But the assumptions are

Science concerns itself with material explanations of material phenomenon, because that's the function of science.

Just as I said - many start from assumptions. Some start from the assumption of a deity and some start from the assumption of Materialism. Both are assumptions and both function as dogma. I think science is better defined as "the investigation or study of nature through observation and reasoning aimed at finding out the truth". Your definition sounds more like Materialistic dogma - your aim does not seem to be finding the truth but the reinforcement of the Dogma of Materialism. The purpose of science is to find the truth - seems the purpose of science as you define it is to find materialist answers to support materialistic dogma.

Science has neither the competence, nor the interest to formulate opinions for or against the notion that God guides each little sperm to each little egg, by materially indetectable supernatural intervention.

What the heck is that supposed to mean? Science studies nature through observation and reason - not through assuming all answers are materialistic in nature (even if materialism turns out to be correct AFTER true scientific study)

The only pitched battle here is in the overactive, paranoid imaginations of creationists...

...and the extreme denial of the proprietors of the Dogma of Materialism

Maybe all there is in the universe is Materialism but I think science must use the scientific method rather than just assuming.

696 posted on 12/06/2005 2:05:36 PM PST by Last Visible Dog
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To: KamperKen
Ever since I became acquainted with the panspermia debate, the first thing that came to mind is that in olden times the appearances of comets were consider harbingers of plague. A conincidence, perhaps, but not so easily dismissed now as superstition.

Uh...well, um. Actually, I'd guess it's still pretty easy to dismiss this one, given the ratio of comets to plagues. From the tenor of your contributions here, I advise you to lay in a few more kegs of critical skepticism before you set sail for Darwin's Universe.

697 posted on 12/06/2005 2:08:29 PM PST by donh
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To: donh

All I'm saying is that its more intriguing now that panspermia is considered a plausible mechanism. Actually, unlike virtually everyone else on this thread, I remain agnostic. Not enough information either way but I'm open-minded enough to entertain both sides of the argument. Anyone living in the Western World in the last 100 years or so has been totally immersed in one side of the debate only. Isn't free inquiry a wonderful thing? I understand that Medieval Popes and Stalin and Mao didn't care for it.


698 posted on 12/06/2005 2:13:06 PM PST by KamperKen
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To: Last Visible Dog
Maybe all there is in the universe is Materialism but I think science must use the scientific method rather than just assuming.

I am assuming you did not understand what I just said. Science does not make a base assumption that there can only be material explanations. Science merely makes a base assumption that material explanations are science's only realm of competence. This is an epistimological claim of very limiting, humble scope, not a universal ontological claim, such as, for example, "God created the heavens and the earth", and so it is not, as you persist in claiming, dogma, and it is not, as you persist in claiming, at odds with supernatural explanations commonly held by most Judeo-christians.

699 posted on 12/06/2005 2:16:52 PM PST by donh
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To: KamperKen
All I'm saying is that its more intriguing now that panspermia is considered a plausible mechanism. Actually, unlike virtually everyone else on this thread, I remain agnostic. Not enough information either way but I'm open-minded enough to entertain both sides of the argument. Anyone living in the Western World in the last 100 years or so has been totally immersed in one side of the debate only. Isn't free inquiry a wonderful thing? I understand that Medieval Popes and Stalin and Mao didn't care for it.

I totally agree with your position as I feel that is my position also. I am certain the FreeRepublic Evo's will be calling you a "creationist" in no time (if they have not already)

700 posted on 12/06/2005 2:20:06 PM PST by Last Visible Dog
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