Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, May 03, 2005 at 12:05 AM

The ID arguement

Same sort of disclaimer applies. Lots of bias from what I believe and what I choose to take down and not, but I tried to write down/remember as much as I could for you guys. I do disagree with a lot of his claims because they seem like just... claims and I could simply claim the opposite. But he does put forth a number of convincing arguments from his claims that do seem "intuitively" true.

First a book recc. from Behe for a decent overview: Debating Design - William Dembski and Michael Ruse. Lots of good articles from all sorts of viewpoints and opinions both on the evolutionary, ID, punctuated equilibrium and so forth.

5 main points

1) Design not mystical. Deduced from physical structure of a system. (I disagree with this, evidence cannot speak for itself. Design is not a deductive argument, but an inductive one, so does require "hand-waving")

Points to Mount Rushmore - obvious examples of design. No question about it he says.

2) Everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed. (I disagree that anyone can claim anything about "everyone")

Provides several examples from noted evolutionary proponents. All of them admit that it looks designed, but deny that it indeed was designed.

Dawkins - "Natural design is a blind watchmaker"
Alberts - "entire cell can be viewed as a factory of machines"

3) There are structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution

Darwin claims that all things can be made by slight successive modifications. If we find some that are "irreducibly complex" then we have strong evidence that Darwin does not hold.

Mousetrap analogy. Bacterial flagellum: 30-40 parts, many which are absolutely necessary. Impossible for numerous successive slight modifications!

Behe notes that points 1-3 are generally accepted, where he differs is he claims there is intelligence behind a designer. Critics claim this is a religious claim and is not real science. Behe claims (and I disagree again) that ID is completely empirical, the evidence speaks for itself.

4) Grand Darwinian claims rest on imagination.

Behe does not actually define what he means by "grand" but he seems to be giving nod to the idea of "micro" evolution inside an already made organism, but denying that it can happen on a biochemical scale. He states somewhere along the lines that some evolutionary claims he does agree with (though he does not state which or why) But he does present evidence:

Behe states that though many people "assume" that there is a refutation of Behe's claims about blood clotting or bacterial flagellum, though when examined there is only oblique references to the "well known" documentation. If there were it would have been brought up.

Franklin M. Harold (evolutionary proponent) states that: 1) No real explanations of how evolution works. 2) We are not allowed to assume intelligent design. Behe clearly disagrees with 2 but and feels 1 is sufficient enough evidence to claim that it cannot stand as a theory.

5) Strong evidence for design

Behe gives the blood clotting system as an example. Dozens of different steps necessary in order for a simple blood clot to form (and then for it to be removed at the right time). Each one is absolutely necessary and without it, it doesn't work. Behe argues that this requires ID.

Behe mentions the refutation given by R. Doolittle, who has studied blood clotting for 40 years. Doolittle claims that one scientific study shows that mice who were missing one gene went wrong (couldn't remove clots, died), mice missing another gene went wrong (couldn't form clots) but mice who were missing both were fine! Claimed that this was an example of reducible complexity in a thought irreducible complex system. Behe goes to the study in question and finds that Doolittle got it completely wrong. The ones missing both genes had the same problem as the one missing the clotting gene and thus died as well.

Here Behe points to the fact that people in the scientific community (and outside of it as well) presuppose that the answer is out there and don't bother to do their own research and check up on the sources. If he had done this he'd be torn to shreds, but it's accepted by the community because its what they believe already. Quotes two people, both of whom reference this "common" refutation of the blood clotting mechanism as a general refutation without actually looking at the study in question. I was slightly bemused =)

Behe states: Bottom line - if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. This is known as in-duck-tion *groans from the audience* Induction by itself is not a deductive argument, so he throws out the idea that ID is a logical deduction from the evidence. Luckily no one seemed to have caught it (but of course, for them to point it out would be to undermine the authority of science itself!)

Q&A session: Here a lot of questions were thrown at Behe, most of them from the skeptics. I must say I greatly admire Behe's cordiality and kindness and true honesty in trying to answer many of the questions which I personally thought were just plain idiotic. Well here is a rundown on some of the questions

Q1) What exactly is intelligent design. Don't you need a theory of knowledge in order to determine if something is intelligently designed? How do you determine if something looks like it was designed?

A1) Points back to rushmore example: intuition (kind of a weak argument). Admits he doesn't know much and points to William Dembski (mathematician and philosopher, wrote the book which is sitting unread on my bookshelf called "intelligent design" )

Q2) Does life have a purpose?

A2) hem and haw, "I hope so" mentions that veritas forum would like people to believe that yes. Outside his scope of knowledge but I kind of expected an affirmative "yes" since he hasn't (last I checked) killed himself.

Q3.1) There are no claims for design, no example of how a designer designs anything. What if I claim that I designed a dandelion? How do you test it? (asked by an angry old guy)

A3.1) Doesn't quite understand claims (but responds with a lot of kindness, which I definitely would not have been able to), wonders why you would need to prove how a designer designs anything in order to infer design.

Q3.2) Old guy not satisfied and clearly angry. "I designed a dandelion! Prove it!"

A3.2) huh? You don't need to know how someone designed mount rushmore in order to infer that it was designed.

Q4) What is the Intelligent part of design?

A4) the question was incoherent, GIGO

Q5) Who designed the designer?

A5) You don't need to figure out everything about the designer in order to determine that design happened. (another weak answer, he is RC why doesn't he come out and say it?)

Q6) Why do you choose Irreducibly complex as a criteria for design? Why don't you conclude a different theory like (this was from Sam Yam, who had obviously done a bit of reading)

A6) IC is part of the things that Darwin himself set out, clear that it is a good place to start. Other theories are all trying to answer the question of design and dance around it. Behe is merely pointing to the obvious conclusion.

Q7) As a religious biologist, where does science fit in? Where do we stop and say "oh Creator" and where do we keep searching? What kinds of advice could you offer for those who are believers in ID and biology? (Asked by Dennis Adams, my roommate. I would say probably the most coherent question out there, rest of them were just personal attacks or challenges that he already dealt with)

A7) Basically, test it. Once again Behe skirts the issue of where "God" fits in since it seems like he's trying to keep from alienating those that may not be christian from his ideas.

There were a couple more, but I may have forgotten to take them down. A few of the people who had the "challenges" had follow up questions because they didn't believe his objections were valid (but none of the questions were about the science or methods he did or the research, they were all personal directed questions, I don't want to say attacks... well I guess I just did)

A link I've found: http://www.arn.org/authors/behe.html

Here he has refutations of a lot of arguments against him including many articles that he's written.

All in all I'm very impressed with his willingness to dialog, especially with large groups of people strongly opposed to his ideas, to the point where they're just seeking to tear him down. They really have not put forth a convincing argument against his ideas, but are all strongly biased against them (simply because of the implications it will mean) Well then again I guess I'm biased for them. ::chuckles:: boils down to what our presuppositions are!

Behe doesn't incorporate his faith as a RC into his talk in an effort to distance himself from the fundamentalist Christian wing that is viewed in a very negative light, but he comes across as a very kind man and I'm really glad he came out to talk.

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