Monday, February 07, 2005

Behe in the NYT

ID proponent Michael Behe managed to get this silly op-ed published in today's New York Times. Liberal media indeed. I'll be surprised if the Times runs a pro-evolution op-ed to counter Behe, and if they do it will surely be littered with too many caveats and punch-pulling to be effective.

Over at The Pandas Thumb Nicholas Matzke has already given Behe a proper fisking.. P.Z. Myers does likewise in this post.

Nonetheless, let me add a few comments of my own.

First, nowhere in the fairly lengthy op-ed does Behe mention irreducible complexity (IC). He has made it clear elsewhere that Darwinian mechanisms can account for some complex systems. But IC was supposed to be a special kind of complexity that could not, even in principle, be plausibly explained by Darwinian mechanisms. Yet here he is suggesting that it is mere complexity that allows us to infer design.

Second, he continues to make statements like this one:

Darwinists assert that their theory can explain the appearance of design in life as the result of random mutation and natural selection acting over immense stretches of time. Some scientists, however, think the Darwinists' confidence is unjustified. They note that although natural selection can explain some aspects of biology, there are no research studies indicating that Darwinian processes can make molecular machines of the complexity we find in the cell.

Behe knows this claim is false, of course, but he repeats it anyway. What he meant to say was that there are no such studies that he finds compelling. That is a far different assertion. See Myers and Matzke for the relevant links.

Finally, the way we know that ID is about religion and politics, and not science, is that ID proponents make no attempt to examine the consequences of their ideas. They seem to lose all interest in the subject as soon as they have established the existence of the intelligent designer. If they were serious, they would take the logical next step: They would ask what living organisms were designed for, and what we can infer about the designer by examining them. Considering this question would force them to confront the fact that no one not already holding certain religious views would conclude from the structure of organisms that they were designed by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent intelligence.

There is much more to say about Behe of course, but, alas, I have an evening course to teach. Until tomorrow...


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