<$BlogRSDURL$> abbr, acronym { cursor: help; font-style: normal; font-weight:bold; color: #2a548d; /*border-bottom: 1px solid; */ }

Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Thursday, September 23, 2004


Evolution vs. Creationism: Round 5

Here we go again.

I've just finished an article by Michael Behe, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, in which he argues that the irreducible complexity of a few biological systems defy, in principle, their development by any gradual, Darwinistic, mechanism. Therefore, he argues, the only logical conclusion is that such systems were designed by an intelligent being.

The members of this group have so far proven to be quite adept at forcing me to think about the various issues and deficiencies concerning evolutionary theory. This particular article is no exception. Let me state upfront that I do not have the answers that would definitively turn Darwin's Theory into a Law. On the other hand, I do not believe that Dr. Behe has the answers that would definitively relegate Darwin's Theory to the trash bin of history and/or elevate Intelligent Design to a true Scientific Theory. I will try to explain why.

Dr. Behe spends most of the article pointing out various biological systems that he labels "Irreducibly Complex." The definition of such being a system whose function is completely dependent on the proper arrangement of all it's parts. He deftly describes such systems as cilia and protein targeting within cells, comparing them with the common back-breaking mouse trap. Since none of these systems work without all of their constituent parts properly arranged, none of them (according to Dr. Behe) could have possibly developed by the process of Natural Selection acting on Genetic Variation.

Michael hedges his bets, however, in saying that:

Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of "neutral," nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important. (emphasis added)
So, according to Dr. Behe, only Irreducibly Complex (IC) systems are intelligently designed. Further, it seems reasonable to extend this thinking to conclude that any system that is not IC was, in fact, not designed by an intelligent force. Extending this reasoning even further I think it fair to conclude that Dr. Behe would agree that any supposedly IC system that is shown to be not IC would then be assumed to have come into existence through some natural process (and yes, I am going to continue to refer to Intelligent Design as 'unnatural').

When you get right down to it, the problem I have with Intelligent Design is that its proponents attempt to describe what is currently considered a natural process by ascribing its genesis to an unnatural cause. This act, if accepted and allowed to stand, jeopardizes the very drive behind science. That drive being the simple assumption that all natural phenomena are understandable by the human mind through the processes of observation and experiment. The question is how do we determine which systems are intelligently designed and which are not? Do we stop looking for the answer once a particular system has been labeled irreducibly complex and therefore designed by some active intelligence? I think Dr. Behe and his colleagues would answer that of course we continue to look at those systems that appear irreducibly complex. Who knows, maybe we'll some intermediate that allows for gradual development.

Regardless of their answer the fact is, in my opinion, that such a mindset would harm science in a fundamental way. Further, if we were to generate data that definitively proved a supposedly irreducibly complex system could actually develop via a gradual mechanism would that forever refute the Intelligent Design inference? By Dr. Behe's reasoning, apparently not. Why not?

Simply, Dr. Behe concedes that, "The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important." So let's transport ourselves back to Darwin's time. He and his contemporaries saw life as reducibly complex, and so Gradual Evolution made sense. Now we see systems to which we cannot ascribe intermediate states and so some conclude that they were actively designed by an intelligent force. In the future, we may very well find that intermediate state, disproving at least one example in support of ID. But would that really be the case? Would we really only be disproving one example in support of ID? I would argue that finding a single example refuting even one system previously 'shown' to be IC would destroy the entire system and relegate Intelligent Design to its own place in the trash bin of history. Why? Read on.

I would argue that there are no arguments in support of Intelligent Design. Rather, it is the default theory that takes over when we don't have the answer. Further, we cannot, by definition, obtain data in support of Intelligent Design. Any data that would, at first glance, appear as supporting ID in a positive sense are really data refuting Gradual Evolution in a negative sense.

If you can think of an example that does not fit into this mould I would appreciate you alerting me to it. If not, then there is no choice but to agree. In doing so, Intelligent Design begins to sound suspiciously like religion. There my very well be plenty of reason to believe the ID theory in a specific case because scientific knowledge is insufficient in that area. However, as science advances it inevitably answers questions, pushing the frontier of religion/ID back and back until we hit the new boundary of science. Since I cannot fathom a way by which something could be proven Irreducibly Complex beyond the possibility of future refutation I cannot accept ID as a scientific inference/hypothesis/theory/whatever.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?