"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's a New Ballgame on an Old Debate

Check out the Washington Post on the Dover school board Intelligent Design case:

By any measure, the professor appeared trapped on the legal ropes.

Biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe had just conceded in federal court that precious few scientists support the intelligent design theory, which holds that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand of an intelligent creator. Now came another question: Isn't it true, professor, that the nation's most esteemed scientific organization denounced the theory as non-science?

Behe, who is bespectacled and bearded, sat straight up in the witness chair.

"Their statement is a political document without any marshaling of evidence," Behe said with rising voice earlier this week. "Talk about scholarly malfeasance. . . . Science has marched on. We have now data to reopen the evidence for design in nature."

It has been hailed as another Scopes "Monkey Trial," in which the forces of science would again vanquish those who would inject religion into the science classroom. But as the trial in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg reached a midpoint this week, victory has proven elusive.

Good article. Much more balanced than expected.

19 comments:

Jay D. Homnick said...

Perhaps I should go back to wearing glasses. It's clear that being bespectacled helped him escape becoming a spectacle.

As Hunter Baker pointed out in the American Spectator, you have got to have the look...

Jay D. Homnick said...

More seriously, there is an important point that everyone misses.

While it is true that Darwinism is the reigning orthodoxy among science nerds, the fact is that after nearly a century and a half of hearing it, including eighty years of it enjoying a monopoly in the classroom, the vast majority of Americans of all ages and IQs simply do not buy it.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"the vast majority of Americans of all ages and IQs simply do not buy it."

Good point, but our public school system is so awful ...

I think even the most hard-right young-earth creationists understand and concur with "survival of the fittest" (micro-evolution); its the macro-evolution that people are skeptical about.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

A scientist looks at the flagellum and asks the question, "How did this evolve?"

Do you think the scientist will get the answer s/he is looking for?

tbmbuzz said...

Jay D. Homnick said...
........

While it is true that Darwinism is the reigning orthodoxy among science nerds, the fact is that after nearly a century and a half of hearing it, including eighty years of it enjoying a monopoly in the classroom, the vast majority of Americans of all ages and IQs simply do not buy it. <<


Any stats to back up this blanket claim? Can a "vast majority" of Americans (or anyone else for that matter) be claimed to be science-literate? If not, then even if your blanket claim is true, so what?

James Elliott said...

You know what, I'm not even going to dispute Homnick's "vast majority" statement.

Are you arguing for consensus reality now, Jay? The measure of a fact is directly proportionate the number of people who believe it and its truth is measured by their fervence in that belief? Are you arguing for rank relativism? Because that's where your argument ends.

If you're honest for a second, you know why many people of faith find evolution hard to swallow: It implies that God had to create a world wherein ruthless evil and avarice are the primary means of survival in a world (and a species - man) modeled on His image. No one wants to admit that they worship an evil, selfish God.

And so, evolution must go, because otherwise the world becomes an unappealing place. Intelligent Design addresses the need for a "fact-based" subjective "truth" that doesn't bruise man's fragile sense of worth.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

A scientist looks at the flagellum and asks the question, "How did this evolve?"

A watches a flagellum evolve in a lab. That's how we know. (Check out Science February 20 2004: 1185-1189)

Hey, what do you know. Following that article, everybody who makes the flagellum claim is now officially either ignorant or a liar!

tbmbuzz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tbmbuzz said...

If the teaching of "Intelligent Design" is forced on school kids, why does it have to be the Bible Genesis version? Personally, I prefer the old Norse mythology, a mix of WWF and heavy metal (LOL!):

"before there was Earth (Midgard), there was Muspell, a fiery land guarded by the fire sword-wielding Surt; Ginnungagap, a great void, and Niflheim, a frozen ice-covered land. When the cold of Niflheim touched the fires of Muspell, the giant Ymir and a behemothic cow, Auðhumla, emerged from the thaw. Then, the cow licked the god Bor and his wife into being. The couple gave birth to Buri, who fathered three sons, Odin, Vili, and Vé. The sons rose up and killed Ymir and from his corpse created from his flesh, the Earth; the mountains from his bones, trees with his hair and rivers, and the seas and lakes with his blood. Within Ymir’s hollowed-out skull, the gods created the starry heavens."

(quoted from livescience.com)

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

That article, if combined with dozens like it, may very well make the flagellum argument moot.

I believe Behe asks a different question than what that article addresses: "How do you go from having NO flagella to having ONE flagella?"

While I am admittedly not a biologist, I don't see that article as sufficient to discredit Behe.

I could be wrong ... oops, I mean I could be ignorant or a liar.

Matt Huisman said...

If you're honest for a second, you know why many people of faith find evolution hard to swallow: It implies that God had to create a world wherein ruthless evil and avarice are the primary means of survival in a world (and a species - man) modeled on His image. No one wants to admit that they worship an evil, selfish God.


Religious people believe that God created the world. They also believe that evil and pain exist in that world, and have to deal with that issue whether God created the world through an evolutionary or creationist process.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons why religious folk get so bent out of shape with respect to evolution. First, evolution is often sold as a materialist worldview that disproves God rather than mere naturalistic science (which I believe you once called a false dichotomy). Second, some on my side (falsely) assume that God couldn't have used an evolutionary process to create the universe.

Matt Huisman said...

By the way, do you really believe that ruthless evil and avarice are the primary means of survival in this world? It may be that people can use those characteristics to exploit a given situation, but as the primary means of survival?

Nature is full of examples of animals working together to survive. If I were to look back on your posts (or any one else's here), my guess is that I would find all kinds of thoughts about how we ought to help each other out in one way or another...the implication being that we all seem to know that we are somewhat dependent on each other (as opposed to being enemies that can only survive at someone else's expense).

If I've misread you, please clarify...but I don't think you really believe that.

tbmbuzz said...

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...
That article, if combined with dozens like it, may very well make the flagellum argument moot.

I believe Behe asks a different question than what that article addresses: "How do you go from having NO flagella to having ONE flagella?" <<

From an essay by Ker Than, LiveScience writer:
" Irreducible complexity asserts that certain biochemical systems in nature contain parts that are too well matched to be products of evolution.
Every part of an irreducibly complex system is necessary: take away even one, and the entire system will no longer work. Because their parts are so intricate and so interdependent, such systems could not possibly have been the result of evolution, ID supporters argue.
Irreducible complexity's main proponent is Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Among the systems that Behe claims are irreducibly complex are the bacterial flagellum, a microscopic whip-like structure that some bacteria use to swim, and the cascade of proteins that make up the human blood-clotting system.
Darwin himself admitted that if an example of irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of natural selection would crumble.
"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down," Darwin wrote.
Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found. The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.
To understand why, it is important to remember that Behe's main argument is that in an irreducibly complex system, every part is vital to the system's overall operation.
A necessary—and often unstated—flipside to this is that if an irreducibly complex system contains within it a smaller set of parts that could be used for some other function, then the system was never really irreducibly complex to begin with.
It's like saying in physics that atoms are the fundamental building blocks of matter only to discover, as physicists have, that atoms are themselves made up of even smaller and more fundamental components.
This flipside makes the concept of irreducible complexity testable, giving it a scientific virtue that other aspects of ID lack.
"The logic of their argument is you have these multipart systems, and that the parts within them are useless on their own," said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "The instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts that has a function, that argument is destroyed."
Viewed this way, all of the systems that Behe claims to be irreducibly complex really aren't.
A subset of the bacterial flagellum proteins, for example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins into other cells and several of the proteins in the human blood-clotting system are believed to be modified forms of proteins found in the digestive system.
Evolution takes pieces and parts and re-uses them. "

Hunter Baker said...

Matt, I think you are definitely right about the false dichotomy. I've never been particularly concerned with evolution as a threat to my faith. Those Christians, like Hank Hannegraaf, who go out on a limb and say God couldn't have used evolution because of the cruelty of the process are going too far. Ditto the Christians who deny anyone could be "born gay."

There is simply no need to take that extra step. I am interested in the intelligent design argument because I recognize macro-evolution isn't a slam dunk. I'd like to see where this goes. I imagine we'll end up with something a bit different in twenty years or so.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Evolution should never be perceived as a threat to religion. The false dichotomy was set up by the evolutionists, not the religionists.

See my much-reprinted article, Dare To Win.

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0105/homnick_evolution.php3

Jay D. Homnick said...

The great rabbi of Hamburg in Darwin's own time, Samson Raphael Hirsch, famously wrote that if Darwin's theory becomes proven over time then...

"...we should give even greater reverence to God, Who in His boundless creative wisdom... needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of 'adaptation and heredity' in order to bring forth... the infinite variety of species we know today."

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

"Evolution should never be perceived as a threat to religion."

Amen, brother, and thank you.

The Liberal Anonymous said...

Those of weak faith see threats everywhere.

Tom Van Dyke said...

From Jay's article. Delicious:

The plaintiff's attorney must have had visions of Darrow and Bryan dancing in his head when he stood up to cross-examine. He used a similar approach, asking if the rabbi believed that all the events described in the Bible were literal, such as the splitting of the Reed Sea and manna raining from the sky. He acknowledged that he did.


"And do you mean to tell this court and the learned gallery that you believe the story of Balaam in the Book of Numbers, that an ass could actually speak?"


"Sure I do. I'm seeing it with my own eyes."


The courtroom exploded in laughter and the case was essentially won by a single well-timed witticism.