Drinking Deeply

Monday, May 02, 2005 at 6:00 PM

"The Empire Strikes Back"

Notes on Michael Behe's response to critics of Intelligent Design.

My notes (with some thoughts thrown about, I'll try to keep them separate, but seeing as they're my notes there's a lot of bias in what I did and didn't take down =p) from the talk

"The Empire Strikes Back" - Criticisms of ID

Behe mentions that the scientific objections were going to be saved for tonight (which looks to be pretty crazy judging from what some of the questions and comments were about the talk afterwards)

To start, Behe provided a brief description of ID and the Darwinian challenge. Darwin stated something along the lines of "If anything could not be explained by numerous successive slight modifications, his theory would break down"

Behe proposes that Irreducible Complexity is that inexplicable case.

Pulls out the analogy to the mousetrap (I'm sure you've both heard it). Basically the mousetrap requires all the parts in order to function, and without one of them it would not be able to. If something like this existed in biology, it would be the same thing.

Common example (which Behe says there will be more in the talk tonight): Bacterial Flagellum, made up of (insert some large number) different components which are all required in order for it to move about.

Scientists are also (sort of) in agreement that there are problems with evolution, but where Behe is different is that he says this points to intelligent design.

Some criticisms:

Conceptual: People claim that the mousetrap analogy does not work, it is possible to reverse design a mousetrap that requires less pieces. Behe shows that in order to go from one piece to two, and from two to three, it requires some sort of intelligence. Even with biological precursors, irreducible complex things are irreducible complex because there is no Darwinian mechanism in order to proceed from a precursor to the thing itself. It requires intelligence. IMO Behe spent way too long on this section pointing out the painfully obvious flaws that the critics had.

Theological: Behe points out that not all Christians are in agreement with him, noticeably the Roman Catholics as a whole believe in theistic evolution. Behe is RC. Behe points to Ken Miller who argues that ID by stating that "evolution sets us free" (the whole free will argument) and says that God can control the minute parts, like the quantum mechanics and all sorts of stuff so that evolution can work. Behe says that is exactly what he said! You need intelligent design (God). (I wonder if Behe is Calvinist, I'm going to send him an email about it, from what he said he sounds very Calvinistic)

Rebecca Fliestra - Claims ID sets up a false dichotomy between God's "supernatural" and "living" providence, and as science progresses (if we believe ID) then God's presence retreats. Behe denies this "dichotomy" since it seems obvious that her argument against intelligent design (based upon the fact that God controls nature, so he controls evolution too) is exactly what he said ID is, except that darwin doesn't work. He points out that if Darwin is true, then we don't need a creator to take control of anything, it's all done by natural selection.

Behe emphasizes over and over that: even if design is unmeasurable (quantum, daily life, whatever) it is still detectable. (Easter island)

Social: Behe points out that these are the strongest criticisms, not because of their logical basis, but because of the sheer force of it all. As a whole, people react to ID (and a denial of evolution) with a bit of scorn, especially in the scientific community. He points to some scientists who've been ousted from their research positions because they've brought up questions about evolution. Teachers criticize ID because they dont' like it, because they've been teaching evolution all their years. There really isn't much of a logical refutation against ID, but just a lot of social pressures.

Behe's site: www.crsc.org

Q&A section: This was mostly occupied by the critics in the room (and expecting a lot more tonight!). First girl asked the question "as a falsifisist, I believe everything must be falsifiable, so how can ID be falsifiable?" Behe provided a nice answer that all one had to do was to come up with a darwinian mechanism minus intelligence and create one of these "irreducible complex" machines. (He elaborated a bit, but that was the foundations of it, I wonder if the statement "everything must be falsifiable" is a falsifiable statement. )

Some other questions which seems just plain silly, then someone asked if "imperfect design" was evidence for evolution. Behe replied that this begs the question of what "perfect" design actually was. Was being bald evidence for evolution?

Another guy stood up there and asked "if the entire scientific community disagrees with you, how come you still believe you're right?" and "What's the source of the objections against ID?"

Ummm yeah, I thought it was just a stupid question, but Behe answered it and the kid kept asking the same question over and over. Just kind of annoying because other people wanted to ask questions but didn't get to. alas alas.


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