Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Rosin on Behe

Over at Slate, Hannah Rosin has a good run-down of Michael Behe's testimony in the Dover ID trial. She writes:


But when he gets any closer to explaining how one would actually go about proving the existence of intelligent design, Behe starts chasing his tail. Design, he says over and over, is merely the “purposeful arrangement of parts.” We can detect it when “separate, interacting components are ordered in such a way as to accomplish a function beyond the individual components.” This is a perfectly tautological argument. It is reasonable to infer design, he argues, when something seems well designed. In his writings, Behe argues that the theory can be falsified and suggests an experiment: Place a bacterial species without a flagellum under selective pressure, grow it for 10,000 generations (about two years), and see whether a system as complex as a flagellum is produced. It's a circular experiment, as William Saletan has explained. To that I add: Why wouldn't Mr. Designer, whoever he is, just go to work on that Petri dish? I need look no further than myself for counter-evidence: weak ankles, diabetes, high probability of future death. If there is a designer, she doesn't seem so intelligent.


See the original for links.

I especially liked this part:


I've met biologists who are strict Biblical literalists. Usually they exhibit a certain humility and reconcile their twin beliefs by admitting that there are many mysteries of creation the tools of science can never explain. Behe utterly lacks that deference. In his book, he writes that ID should be ranked as “one of the greatest achievements in the history of science,” rivaling “Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrodinger, Pasteur and Darwin.” The evidence of design is all around us, and any honest scientist would embrace that as the obvious Ur-Explanation.

My 4-year-old daughter feels this way, too. She marvels at how a katydid looks exactly like a leaf, or how stars really do twinkle in the sky. But I'm hoping by ninth grade her thinking will have evolved.

8 Comments:

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Kevin said...

The Times reported that he presented examples of where the explaination of evolution failed.

Then they listed the tail, blood clotting and some other stupid thing.

 
At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Steven H. said...

Behe proposes an experiment to see if bacteria can produce novel functions... Hasn't this been done already? I seem to recall a bacteria being created that could break down a previously unusable source of nitrogen. I'll try to look for the journal article and reply again. Also, in a petri dish where all the nutrients are provided, what selective pressure cause a flagellum to arise? Also, if this occured, wouldn't creationists just call this another case of microevolution ??

 
At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Jim Ramsey said...

Steven H.

What about Nylonase. I believe a biologist in Japan in 1976 (75?) found a bacterium that digests nylon.

The only problem is that nylon is synthetic and didn't exist before 1935.

I'd be interested to hear arguments on why this doesn't falsify ID.

 
At 3:14 PM, Anonymous tgibbs said...

The theory of natural selection does not predict that flagella evolved in two years, so Behe's supposed "test" is a bit like proposing the following test of intelligent falling: Drop a bunch of rocks and see if any of them fall up.

The fact that this is the best experimental test that a guy like Behe could come up with is perhaps the strongest demonstration of the poverty of ID when it comes to generating testable predictions. I doubt if Behe would accept the following as a "test" of natural selection as compared to evolution:

Put some bacteria lacking flagella in a petri dish overnight (you can pray over them if you like). Check them the following morning for the sudden appearance of novel intelligently designed features like flagella. Absence of such features supports evolution.

 
At 9:33 PM, Blogger Sparrow said...

Behe proposes an experiment that could falsify ID. Begin with a population of flagella-less bacteria, apply selective pressure for two years and if the bacteria have developed flagella, ID is falsified. Actually, ID can’t possibly lose in such an experiment.

If the flagella fail to appear, ID has an obvious win. (though evolution is not necessarily falsified)
If the flagella appear, ID can claim they were nudged into existence by the designer.
If some different means of locomotion appear, ID can claim a new design plus the good news that the designer is still in existence.

Does Behe suppose we can conduct the experiment inside a god-proof box?

 
At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow,
Petty arguing over such ridiculous items. We humans are such simple beings are we not? Yet we feel that after a degree or two that we have enough knowledge to explain the universe. And with such certainty! I can see that we truly have educated ourselves into stupidity. If we are honest with ourselves, it is clear to see that any kind of debate regarding the origins of life/universe cannot/will not be won by either side. Although we equate it to deep intellectual debate, in actuality it is quite shallow talk. Don't get me wrong, I love a good debate, but I think some people are taking it too seriously here. The real question lies in 'why' rather than 'what' are we. To truly engage in deeper debate we must go beyond our Logic 101 classes and word games. Faith, or not, are the choices we have.

 
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