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?
Something not mentioned very often is that DNA readily takes a crystaline form. I can't help thinking this will eventually have some relevance to calculating the odds.
As well it should. The preachers running around lying to kids in museums are despicable.
What's wrong with being elitist? Conservatives (as opposed reactionary populists) are by nature elitist.
Nobody is trying to tell Behe and others they can't present their work to the scientific community to try to get it accepted. You confuse rejection based on lack of merit with stifling.
Each shuffle of a deck of cards has an outcome which is one in 52! (That's 52 factorial, which is 8.06581752 × 1067.) It's a huge number. For comparison, the estimated number of stars in the universe is "only" 1021. Source: this NASA website.
So the odds against any particular card shuffle are truly beyond astronomical. Yet, if you go ahead and shuffle a deck ... ta-DA! There it is. You've obtained a virtually impossible outcome. Similarly, the odds against the history of England being what it has been are probably even greater (I wouldn't even guess at how to quantify that).
The point is that computing the odds against such things doesn't do much for you -- especially when you're dealing with events that have already happened, when the events have become a 100% certainty. I've labeled this kind of thinking the fallacy of retrospective astonishment. It applies to the existence of each of us, when you consider the odds against each specific conception for each of your ancestors. And it also applies to the development of the presently-existing biosphere on Earth.
One can, if so inclined, see the hand of Providence in each such outcome. Or not (as each step along the way is a natural event). There's no scientific answer to such speculations. But there's always Occam's Razor.
Yet here we are. Just like a shuffle of a deck of cards. We're highly improbable. If it were to start all over again, some other shuffle of the cards would take our place. We're unique. Never to be repeated. Irreplaceable. Priceless.
Which might cause some wondering about the conservative credentials of those who toss around "elitist" as though it were a stick to beat someone with...
Thanks for the ping!
Such calculation of odds assumes that life as we know it today is the desired end point. I'd have extremely bad odds on predicting right now what movie will win the 2020 Academy Award for best picture (especially since it hasn't been made yet), but it's pretty good odds that one will. After the 2010 ceremony, do we say "This movie couldn't have won because the odds against it winning were beyond calculation."
I don't support or adhere to ID either...but I would never quote Giberson and/or The John Templeton Foundation in defense of my objection to ID.
In your case, I believe that it is must be an instance of...my enemy's enemy is my friend.
BTW, when creationists do that...you guys call it quote-mining.
Doctor James F. Coppedge is a real-life scientician - clearly the mistake is ours, somewhere. If only we weren't so thick-headed, we'd be able to see how 1 is equivalent to 2.6...
Speciation in progress?
It's not quote mining when you provide a link to the full text.
You should read the reasons that Templeton does not support ID. It's very interesting.
Given infinity, everything has a probability approaching 1.
If you're willing to grant the status of "science" to reasonable inferences based upon unobserved, unrecorded processes, then don't be surprised when certain folks who cannot produce an intelligent designer infer that one exists where organized matter presents itself, and call such inferences "science," too.
Don't forget lab coats.