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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: Rudder
Exactly one-half of the population of America has an IQ of 100 or less. And, even if the majority believe in space aliens and ghosts...should we let those who are uneducated and unqualified dictate the course of science?

Actually the IQ mean in the US has declined and the mean is now only 99. That means that over 50% of the population is now under a 100 IQ. There position is that opinion is of a higher order than fact, proof, or science.
61 posted on 12/05/2005 6:40:00 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: TheGhostOfTomPaine
Of course, the odds against Avogadro's number of sodium chloride molecules "just happening" to arrange itself into a cubic crystal are also so astronomically huge as to make the event a practical impossibility.

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.

62 posted on 12/05/2005 6:40:14 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: PatrickHenry
ID is running out of friends

As well it should. The preachers running around lying to kids in museums are despicable.

63 posted on 12/05/2005 6:40:23 AM PST by montag813
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To: catpuppy

What's wrong with being elitist? Conservatives (as opposed reactionary populists) are by nature elitist.

64 posted on 12/05/2005 6:41:01 AM PST by oblomov
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To: Doc Savage
Your puerile attempts to suppress other points of view are useless. People are free to investigate and inquire based on their own beliefs.

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.

65 posted on 12/05/2005 6:42:08 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: shuckmaster
... the odds of shuffled deck of cards ...

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.

66 posted on 12/05/2005 6:42:36 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, common scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: Dimensio
He might also have meant 010123, which is really really hugh.
67 posted on 12/05/2005 6:44:05 AM PST by oblomov
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To: oblomov

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...

68 posted on 12/05/2005 6:45:30 AM PST by Senator Bedfellow (Sneering condescension.)
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To: Senator Bedfellow
Loved this gem:

"The equivalent of 2410 is roughly 10123."

Yeah, "equivalent", if you don't count that one is more than twice the other.
69 posted on 12/05/2005 6:45:32 AM PST by Dimensio ( <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: PatrickHenry

Thanks for the ping!

70 posted on 12/05/2005 6:46:23 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: liliesgrandpa
The odds of that one organism surviving long enough to learn to eat, breathe and reproduce are beyond calculation.

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."

71 posted on 12/05/2005 6:47:54 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: PatrickHenry
I knew that the John Templeton Foundation and Dr. Karl Giberson did not support ID.

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 enemy's enemy is my friend.

BTW, when creationists do guys call it quote-mining.

72 posted on 12/05/2005 6:48:24 AM PST by pby
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To: Senator Bedfellow

I agree...

73 posted on 12/05/2005 6:50:20 AM PST by oblomov
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To: Dimensio

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...

74 posted on 12/05/2005 6:51:17 AM PST by Senator Bedfellow (Sneering condescension.)
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To: jec41
Actually the IQ mean in the US has declined and the mean is now only 99...

Speciation in progress?

75 posted on 12/05/2005 6:52:46 AM PST by Rudder
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To: pby
BTW, when creationists do guys call it quote-mining.

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.

76 posted on 12/05/2005 6:53:38 AM PST by js1138 (Great is the power of steady misrepresentation.)
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To: doc30; Fester Chugabrew
There is a statistical probability for this. A very low probability, but a finite one. But given an infinite universe...

Given infinity, everything has a probability approaching 1.

77 posted on 12/05/2005 6:53:41 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: DaGman
Have this finite number of combinations attempt to happen milions and millions and millions all of times all over the earth where the primordal soup existed and bingo, you start having protein molecules. That's called science.

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.

78 posted on 12/05/2005 6:53:46 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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To: Dimensio
I know he didn't mean 10123. It's just that it's the second time in a few days that I have seen this same mistake being made in these threads. And it was early and I felt like being a smart ass. :)
79 posted on 12/05/2005 6:54:09 AM PST by CarolinaGuitarman ("There is a grandeur in this view of life...")
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To: Doctor Stochastic
Doing science takes knowledge and practice.

Don't forget lab coats.

80 posted on 12/05/2005 6:57:20 AM PST by Fester Chugabrew
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