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?
To quote Vanilla Ice - "word to your mother!"
Right, he says it, then he tries to take it back. Sorry, no take backs. Punctuated Equilibria cannot explain away the absence of the overwhelming transitional fossils there ought to be. If Darwin/Gould/Dawkins were right, then we should be tripping over them on our front lawn. Duplicitous!
The burden of proof is on the Darwinist to demonstrate that the bacterial flagellum could have formed by a gradual Darwinian, undirected process, not for the ID'r to prove a universal negative, and such proof is not the IDr's demand, it is the Darwinist demand. If it possible to show that no Darwinian pathway could reasonably lead to an irreducibly complex biological structure, that, at least in my mind constitutes refutability.
It's absolutely nothing to the way you're dancing around the presence of them. It's getting EXTREMELY hard to give you the benefit of the doubt here.
Not when the ID'er advances an affirmative claim - e.g., X is impossible. Then they take on the burden of supporting such a claim.
And it's also nothing to the way he dances around the fact that the scientific proponents of ID actually support the theory of evolution that he rejects.
Right, he says it, then he tries to take it back. Sorry, no take backs.
Wow. "No take backs?" That's your idea of a scientific argument?
Darwin anticipated objections to his theory, then addressed each of the objections in turn, showing how his theory withstood such a criticism. For you to single out his anticipated criticisms while then ignoring his response to them is disingenuous at best, and the very definition of "quote mining."
When you finally DO answer the mail, here's a trap to avoid. Don't let the dialogue take this route:
You don't want to go that way because I'm sure you think your target audience is smarter than that. [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!]
But wasn't the evidence valid when it was supposedly missing?
- Tap-Dancing Science-Denier declares that the fossil record lacks instances of things changing in an orderly series from some Thing A to Thing Z. As this kind of evidence is to be expected, the lack of it must weigh against evolution having happened. By the very statement of this objection we are invited to believe the Tap-Dancing Science-Denier would accept such evidence IF ONLY IT EXISTED but the thing is it doesn't exist.
- Someone who disagrees demonstrates many instances well known in the literature of fossil series intermediate in form and time between some Thing A and some Thing Z.
- The Tap-Dancer then declares fossil series evidence to be irrelevant. How do we know ... various things? The dates of the fossils? Whether fossil A lies exactly on the ancestral line of fossil B?
Well, morality, unlike gravity, seems to be an activity that is at least in some senses uniquely human, and so should be able to accounted for in naturalistic, evolutionary terms, since the theory says that humans are the product of undirected natural forces.
See for example, The Moral Animal Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright.
The Origins of Virtue : Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley
That's a pretty large leap. You might as well insist that evolution account for television, since that is uniquely human as well - that makes about as much sense.
According to Professor Behe, this is no longer an issue. His sworn testimony in the Dover trial is that ID requires no physical evidence at all.
Since ID is no longer considered by it's major proponent to be science, it's no longer relevant to discuss facts in it's support or denial.
Plus the flagella has already been shown to be made up of secretion proteins.
And natural selection is not an "undirected process".
You guys don't really read this stuff, do you?
The claim is that the Darwinian mechanism is causally insufficient, not that it is inconceivable or logically impossible.
I'm sorry, but no - the claim is that it is physically impossible for an irreducibly complex structure, as the flagellum is purported to be, to have evolved without some variety of intelligent intervention. That's straight from Behe (emphasis mine):
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. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional.
- Behe, Darwin's Black Box.
I didn't see that. Is that a quote, a paraphrase or a summary of his testimony?
And natural selection is not an "undirected process".
I didn't say merely, "natural selection". There are many things I don't get. This isn't one of them. Natural selection has random and non-random elements. In the naturalistic Darwinian framework natural selection has no directed goal, and no designer imbedded in it.
Ok, I'll go along with that modification with the word, "physically". But that's different from "logically possible" or simply, "conceivable". And the standard, it seems to me, should be what can reasonably be expected, not merely what is logically possible or conceivable.
I think we have another giggling 15-year-old here.
Science is not philosophical strong materialism. Science concerns itself with material explanations of material phenomenon, because that's the function of science. 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.
The only pitched battle here is in the overactive, paranoid imaginations of creationists.
The whole premise of the Scopes Monkey trial was based on a lie. The idea that these so called missing links would be discovered has been found out to be a myth. Now that it is a proven fact that the fossil record shows creatures appearing "fully formed" as Gould put it, then no, you can't take it back.
I think your definition of "conceivable" is a bit stronger than what is usually intended in this debate. It is conceivable - that is, I can imagine such a thing - for me to get up out of my chair, hang a left, and walk directly through the wall currently blocking me. That does not mean it is physically possible or that I can actually do it - merely that I can conceive of such a thing. In that light, simply demonstrating a potential pathway for the evolution of the flagellum is sufficient to refute claims that it is impossible - so long as that potential pathway is physically possible, of course. And there is no physical barrier to the type-III secretion system, or analogue, evolving into a flagellum. Not in the way that walking through walls has problems :)
Television is of human design, which would mean that naturalistic evolution ends up producing design. But is morality, like television, merely a human invention? Neither analogy of morality to an impersonal physical force like gravity or a human invention like television seems to work very well. My point is that evolutionary theorists are attempting to explain how morality evolved.
You don't have the integrity to leave the poster's name in the "To:" window when replying to a post. You fear the answers. You fear the evidence. You fear truth.
Speciation by Punctuated Equilibrium. I will quote extensively since you probably don't do links.
In 1972, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould revived this idea, under the name Punctuated Equilibrium. They agreed that transitional fossils are plentiful, and that smooth transitional sequences are sometimes found. However, they argued that these are not as common as theory predicted. Instead, we often see a species go on unchanged for a long time. And then the species is replaced, without any transition, by a new species that looks like a variation of the old one.
Their explanation is that a group of creatures was cut off from the rest of their species. Since the group probably lived in a small inhospitable fringe area, they would be under selection pressure. Being a small group, they were able to evolve fairly quickly. Then, later, they spread, and replaced their parent species.
Now, imagine the fossil record. In the small fringe area, the complete history might be recorded. In the much larger main region, we would see the parent species, and then suddenly see a slightly different species. The chances are very good that we will never happen to dig for fossils in the small region. So, there's a reduced chance of finding transitional fossils.
Is There Any Evidence For Punctuated Equilibrium?Yes. Several examples of this exact scenario are known. For example, there's a marine microfossil, a trilobite, a brachiopod, and some dinosaurs (including a Tyrannosaurus).
There's no theoretical reason why it needs to take more than hundreds or thousands of years. In practice, 500,000 years is still "suddenly", when it comes to dinosaurs.
How Quickly Does This Happen?
The theory of Punctuated Equilibrium does not say, and it shouldn't. There are a number of known evolutionary mechanisms, such as the Founder Effect, Natural Selection, neutral drift, sexual selection, and so on. Other mechanisms may be discovered in the future. There is no particular reason to expect that cases of Punctuated Equilibrium must all use the same mechanism. The point of the theory is only that evolution is more likely to happen to small groups, isolated from the homogenizing effect of the larger main group.
What Is The Mechanism Of Evolution In These Cases?
That varies. If there was a mass extinction (or even a small one), they may be gone, and the descendant species moves into the resulting vacuum. Or, in the dinosaurs example, the parents had all migrated elsewhere. In the microfossil example, the parent species co-exists to this day with the new species. Or, the new species might fight it out with the parent species. It depends on why this happened, and on how different the child species is.
What Happens To The Parent Species?
It seems to have happened a lot. For example, we have been learning recently that the ocean has risen and fallen a great many times. Each time it happened, it would fragment any wide-ranging species into a bunch of little geographic areas. Later, when the ocean level changed back, the fragments would try to spread back into the main area. This would leave "punctuated equilibrium" in the fossil record.
Is This Common? Why?
I'm paraphrasing Behe from the trial.
Why would natural selection have no goal? Didn't it result in us? Isn't this the point of ID?
I think Alamo Girl has some interesting ideas about evolution creating intelligence. I'm not going to speak for her because I'm not sure I always understand what she's saying.
Genesis says that God created us in his image. Maybe the goal of evolution is intelligent beings who reach out and receive the Word of God.
This isn't science, but I think the root causes of the universe will always be beyond science.
My experience is that many scientists think this. Engineers are sure it's true.
Name 10, and show me one whose compelling argument compelled a confirming cite in a widely recognized biological journal.
None of them strike me as particularly religious, merely intrigued. Cosmologists, mathmeticians and molecular biologists have weighed in.
Meaning, Dempski, Behe, and Hoyle or Watson, I presume.
One thing I notice about the comments that anyone who even remotely suggests that its worth studying the ID arguments is automatically assumed to not only be a religious zealot in the tradition of a Torquemada, but a consumer of "comic book brainfood" as well. It is possible to be intrigued, find the discusions meritorious and not be a Christians fundamentalist (or any other sort of religious fundamentalist). Recognizing that such people do exist seems to be the greatest intellectual hurdle of all.
Nobody is gainsaying you your right to speculate, or to decide for yourself what sparks your fancy, but that still doesn't make ID a science, or even a speculation that most scientists deem worthy of more than a college bullsessions' worth of attention. Now you can call this an "intellectual hurdle" if you want, but I find that a pretty pretentious, and somewhat rude conceit, myself.
I doubt very much this is Gould's term, rather it is a creationoid term of art which they steadfastly refuse to define. Gould's PE was about "sudden" appearance, that is in geologic terms a million or a few hundred thousand years.
I think there are huge physical hurdles to overcome, including not just the metabolic pathway, but also the assembly. As far as I can tell nobody at present even knows which came first, the type-III secretion system or the flagellum. To say that there is no physical barrier to a type-III secretion system evolving into a flagellum is not the same as demonstrating it. The ability to imagine such a scenario is not evidence that such a scenario happened. Evolving the Bacterial Flagellum Through Mutation and Cooption by Mike Gene
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.
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.
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.
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
The quote was cited. It came from his own writings. Just google it. You can substantiate the claim just about anywhere.
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?
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?
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.
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?
"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.
1) Atheistic liberatarians can never live down that they live under a system instituted 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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)