Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Defense Readies Case on Intelligent Design, etc

Here are news items about the Dover case (just prior to the defence giving its side of the story), with my comments in square brackets.

Defense Readies Case on Intelligent Design, Washington Post/AP, Martha Raffaele, October 17, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa. -- So far, a landmark federal trial over whether intelligent design should be introduced in public school science classes has featured teachers and parents against the move. Now the defense has it's chance. Lawyers for the Dover Area School Board were to begin presenting their case Monday, defending the decision a year ago to require students to hear a statement on intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. ... The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to a textbook called "Of Pandas and People" for more information. Eight families suing to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum contend that the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Mainstream scientists have rejected intelligent design as scientifically untested and contend that its supporters focus on attacking evolutionary theory rather than providing evidence for design. The defense is expected to lead off with Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe, whose work includes a 1996 best seller called "Darwin's Black Box." Behe argues that Darwinian evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force. Lehigh's biology department sought to distance itself from Behe in August, posting a statement on its Web site that says the faculty "are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory." The non-jury trial, before U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, began Sept. 26 and is expected to last up to five weeks. The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians. ... [Also at Livescience. Behe is a living refutation of the Darwinist claim that ID "is essentially ... the Bible's view of creation." Behe (like me) accepts common ancestry:
"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)
and he is happy to describe his position as "evolution occurred, but was guided by God":
"[Eugenie] Scott refers to me as an intelligent design `creationist,' even though I clearly write in my book `Darwin's Black Box' (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think `evolution occurred, but was guided by God.' Where I and others run afoul of Scott and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) is simply in arguing that intelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal `Cell': `More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human' [DeRosier D.J., Cell, Vol. 93, 1998, p.17]. Exactly why is it a thought- crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?" (Behe M.J., "Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism," Science, dEbate, 7 July 2000 )
Behe's problem with evolution is not Biblical, but scientific:
"For his doctoral studies, Behe moved across town to the University of Pennsylvania. There he plugged away for four years and, after completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1978, attained an appointment to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. One of his colleagues in the genetics laboratory at the National Institutes of Health was a fellow Catholic biochemist, Jo Ann Nichols. Rarely did their work touch on evolution, but Behe recalls one day when the issue did arise, as a matter of joint speculation between them during a break. The question was this: `If the first life did arise by random naturalistic processes from a chemical soup, as all textbooks are saying, what exactly are the minimum systems that are required for life?' Together they ticked off a mental list of the minimum requirements: a functioning membrane, a system to build the DNA units, a system to control the copying of DNA, a system for energy processing. Suddenly, they broke off their speculation, looked at each other, and smiled, jointly muttering, `Naaah--too many systems; it couldn't have happened by chance.'" (Woodward T., "Meeting Darwin's Wager," Part 2 of 3, Christianity Today, April 28, 1997).
I expect that the entire case will be won (or lost) on Behe's testimony.]

Intelligent design proponent an outcast at own university, PhillyBurbs.com/AP, October 15, 2005 ... Michael Rubinkam ... BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Marginalized by his university colleagues, ridiculed as a quack by the scientific establishment, Michael Behe is thankful for the one thing that allows him to continue his work in relative peace: tenure. As one of the nation's leading proponents of intelligent design, the mild-mannered Lehigh University biochemistry professor has sought to provide academic heft to a movement that seeks to change the way Darwin's theory of evolution is taught in public schools. In papers, speeches and a 1996 best seller called "Darwin's Black Box," Behe argues that Darwinian evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force. Mainstream scientists, including those in his own department, reject Behe's assertions as profoundly unscientific. The debate has moved into a federal courtroom in Harrisburg, where Behe is scheduled to testify this week in a landmark case that will determine whether a public school district can include a statement about intelligent design in its biology curriculum. "The fact that most biology texts act more as cheerleaders for Darwin's theory rather than trying to develop the critical faculties of their students shows the need I think for such statements," Behe [said in] ... his first public comments since the trial got under way last month. ... Critics say intelligent design is merely "creationism in a cheap tuxedo" - a thinly disguised repackaging of the biblical account of creation, whose teaching in public schools was barred in 1987 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates say the principles of ID were in development years before that ruling. Behe, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, said his religious views do not color his work. "I don't have a theological dog in this fight. I'm just trying to do my job as a biochemist," he said. But Behe's own biology department recently distanced itself from him. In August, the department posted a statement on its Web site that says intelligent design "has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific." The faculty, the statement adds, "are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory." Neal Simon, the department's chairman, said the intelligent design issue had become sufficiently public that the faculty felt the need to "actively and forcefully" condemn Behe's work. "For us, Dr. Behe's position is simply not science. It is not grounded in science and should not be treated as science," Simon said. While life on the academic fringes can be lonely, Behe finds community in an e-mail discussion group that he said has 500 members and includes like-minded faculty from universities around the nation. Most keep their views to themselves, Behe said, because "it's dangerous to your career to be identified as an ID proponent." Indeed, campuses around the nation are rebelling against intelligent design. Earlier this month, the University of Idaho banned the concept from being taught in hard science classes such as biology, a move widely seen as a rebuke of university biologist Scott Minnich, a prominent supporter of ID. At Iowa State University, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez's support of ID prompted a fierce backlash among faculty. ... Mainstream scientists "ascribe either diminished intelligence or evil motives or financial incentives or some less-than-respectable motivation to people who do not share their framework," said Behe, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that advocates intelligent design. The University of Pennsylvania-trained biochemist said he was a believer in Darwin when he joined Lehigh in 1985, but became a skeptic a few years later after reading Michael Denton's book "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis." He said he searched the scientific literature in vain for an explanation of how Darwin's theory accounted for the rise of highly complex cellular structures. Behe's big idea, published in "Darwin's Black Box" and the one that catapulted him to academic fame, is irreducible complexity. It is the notion that certain biochemical systems are incapable of having evolved in gradual Darwinian fashion because they require all of their parts simultaneously in order to work. Behe uses a mousetrap to illustrate the concept. Take away any of its parts - platform, spring, hammer, catch - and the mousetrap can't catch mice. "Intelligent design becomes apparent when you see a system that has a number of parts and you see the parts are interacting to perform a function," he said. Steven Meyer [sic], director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, said Behe "was the first person to develop an argument for design that challenged biological evolution." His book, said Meyer, "put the positive case for design on the map in a way that some of the (previous ID) work had not done." Critics say Behe's views are unscientific because they can't be tested in a laboratory. They have attacked his arguments on logical grounds, too, arguing that systems that seem to be irreducibly complex could well have evolved through random mutation and natural selection. "I think Behe truly believes that he has discovered something quite astonishing," said Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, which supports the teaching of evolution in public schools. "But no one is using irreducible complexity as a research strategy, and with very good reason ... because it's completely fruitless." While it succeeded commercially with 235,000 copies in print, "Darwin's Black Box" was largely panned by academia, and Behe has long since stopped applying for grants or trying to get his ID-related work published in mainstream scientific journals. But tenure has given him the academic freedom to express his views without fear of losing his job. Behe, whose wife has home-schooled their nine children, was given tenure before he began advocating ID. "Because of the immense publicity that's mushroomed around this issue in the past six months, more people are getting emotional about the topic," Behe said. "And it's generally not on my side." ... [This shows how the Darwinists seek (as they have always sought) to protect their theory, not by evidence and arguments, but by a form of the fallacy of argumentum ad baculum (appeal to force) or "appeal to fear":
"The argumentum ad baculum is the fallacy committed when one appeals to force or the threat of force to cause acceptance of a conclusion. It is usually resorted to only when evidence or rational arguments fail. The ad baculum is epitomized in the saying `might makes right.' The use or threat of `strong-arm' methods to coerce political opponents provides contemporary examples of this fallacy. Other appeals to nonrational methods of intimidation may of course be more subtle than the open use or threat of concentration camps or `goon squads.' The lobbyist uses the ad baculum when he reminds a representative that he (the lobbyist) can influence so many thousands of voters in the representative's constituency, or so many potential contributors to campaign funds. Logically these considerations have nothing to do with the merit of the legislation the lobbyist is attempting to influence. But they may be, unfortunately, very persuasive. On the international scale, the arguments ad baculum means war or the threat of war." (Copi I.M., Introduction to Logic," [1953], Macmillan: New York, Seventh Edition, 1986, pp.91-92. Emphasis original) ]
These examples of the argumentum ad baculum are relevant: "You don't want to be a social outcast, do you?"; "university... faculty members who think [intelligent design is true]... will discover their error at the next tenure review"; "Appeals to fear tend to multiply during periods of stress or conflict":
"The fallacy of appeal to fear [As the Latin word for stick or staff is baculum, this argument is known in Latin as argumentum ad baculum] is an argument that uses the threat of harm to advance one's conclusion. It is an argument that people and nations fall back on when they are not interested in advancing relevant reasons for their positions. Also known as swinging the big stick, this argument seldom resolves a dispute. This argument should be distinguished from an all-out threat. If someone should hold a gun to your back and say, `Your money or your life,' it would not do to reply, `Ah ha! That's a fallacy!' It is not a fallacy because it is not an argument. Although the gunman is appealing to your sense of fear, and even offering a reason why you should do what he tells you, he is not offering evidence in support of the truth of some statement. He is not arguing with you; he is simply ordering you. ... An appeal to fear therefore offers fallacious evidence. In some cases the evidence will be brief and implicit ... in other cases it may run to pages or even volumes. ... We may encounter the appeal to fear in language like the following: ... Don't argue with me. Remember who pays your salary. ... You don't want to be a social outcast, do you? Then you'd better join us tomorrow. ... This university does not need a teacher's union, and faculty members who think it does will discover their error at the next tenure review. These arguments are crude forms of the fallacy. They are explicit about the threats being issued. The fallacy also lends itself to veiled threats. ... Appeals to fear tend to multiply during periods of stress or conflict, both among nations and among individuals. ... As in all fallacies of irrelevance, the object of the argument is an appeal to emotion rather than to reason." (Engel S.M., "With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies," St. Martin's Press: New York NY, Fourth edition, 1990, pp.216-220. Emphasis original)
"This type of argument ... seeks to persuade by force. It is ... argument by intimidation":
"Argument ad Baculum (appeal to force). This type of argument does not even attempt to be relevant. It simply says, `Accept this argument, or I'll beat you up!' It seeks to persuade by force. It is a threat, reasoning through blackmail, argument by intimidation. It assumes that might makes right. What does that have to do with logic? "... they had nothing to say in reply.... And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them).... and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus...." [Acts 4:14, 21; 5:40]" (Geisler N.L. & Brooks R.M., "Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking," Baker Book House: Grand Rapids MI, 1990, p.93. Emphasis original)
I have added the above quotes to a new section of my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 2.4.14 "Fallacies used to support evolution ... Ad baculum (appeal to force)."

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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