Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Evolution isn't enough, professor [Behe] says, etc

Here are news items about the defence's first day of giving its side of the story in the Dover case, with my comments in square brackets. I have tried to eliminate duplications and information already provided in my previous post.

Evolution isn't enough, professor says, MSNBC/AP, Oct. 17, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa. - A biochemistry professor who is a leading advocate of "intelligent design" testified Monday that evolution alone can't explain complex biological processes, and he believes God is behind them. Lehigh University Professor Michael Behe was the first witness called by a school board that is requiring students to hear a statement about the intelligent design concept in biology class. Lawyers for the Dover Area School Board began presenting their case Monday in the landmark federal trial, which could decide whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public school science classes as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Behe ... said that students should be taught evolution because it's widely used in science and that "any well-educated student should understand it." Behe, however, argued that evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force. The intelligent design concept does not name the designer, although Behe, a Roman Catholic, testified he personally believes it to be God. "I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors," he said. .. The school board is defending its decision a year ago to require students to hear a statement on intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution ... [which] refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," ... Behe contributed to "Of Pandas and People," writing a section about blood-clotting. He told a federal judge Monday that in the book, he made a scientific argument that blood-clotting "is poorly explained by Darwinian processes but well explained by design." ... Behe testified that intelligent design specifically questions whether life at the molecular level evolved through natural selection. "That's the most poorly supported aspect of Darwin's theory," he said. Behe, who was expected to resume testifying Tuesday, compared the outcry over intelligent design to the early criticism of the Big Bang theory 70 years ago. "Many people thought it had philosophical and even theological implications that they did not like," he said. ... In a related development Monday, the Discovery Institute ... filed a brief urging U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to rule in favor of the school board. ... [Same story under various headlines: 'Intelligent Design' Advocate Testifies (ABC News); 'Intelligent Design' Defense Opens (CBS); Professor: Evolution cannot fully explain biology (CNN), Prof Speaks at 'Intelligent Design' Trial (Guardian) & Professor backs "intelligent design" in testimony (Seattle Times). Very important points are made here: 1) ID is not against evolution being taught; 2) But evolution is not enough and intelligent design is needed to explain some of the data, particularly at the molecular level; 3) ID does not (and cannot) identify the designer from the evidence of nature alone, although IDists who are Christian assume it is the Christian God of the Bible; 4) That ID may have theological implications is no reason to deny it is science-so has the Big Bang:
"To many the notion of the Big Bang was loaded with overtones of a supernatural event-the creation, the beginning of the universe. The prominent physicist A.S. Eddington probably spoke for many in voicing his utter disgust with such an idea: `Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind.' [Eddington A.S., "The End of the World from the Standpoint of Mathematical Physics," Nature, Vol. 127, 1931, p.450] Nonetheless, despite its religious implications) the Big Bang was a scientific theory that flowed naturally from observational data, not Prom holy writings or transcendental visions. Most physicists adopted the Big Bang theory and set their research programs accordingly. ... Scientists such as Einstein, Eddington, and Hoyle fudged and twisted in their efforts to resist a scientific theory that flowed naturally from the data because they thought they would be forced to accept unpleasant philosophical or theological conclusions. They weren't; they had other options. ... The success of the Big Bang model had nothing to do with its religious implications. It seemed to agree with the Judaeo-Christian dogma of a beginning to the universe; it seemed to disagree with other religions that believed the universe to be eternal. But the theory justified itself by reference to observational data the expansion of the universe and not by invoking sacred texts or the mystical experiences of holy men. The model came straight from the observational evidence; it was not fit to a Procrustean bed of religious dogma. But it should also be noticed that the Big Bang, although friendly to a religious point of view, does not forcibly compel that belief. No person is required by dint of logic to reach any particular supernatural conclusion solely on the basis of scientific observations and theories. This is seen initially in Einstein's and Hoyle's attempt to come up with alternative models that would fit the observational data and avoid the unpleasant thought of a start to the universe. ... The point of the above discussion is that even though the Big Bang hypothesis may appear at first blush to support a particular religious idea, no scientific theory can compel belief in a positive religious tenet by sheer force of logic. Thus, to explain the universe a person can postulate unobservables, like the theory that there are infinitely many universes and the theory that ours is just a bubble in a larger universe. Or one can hold out the hope that theories that look implausible today, such as the steady-state theory or the theory of the oscillating universe, might look more plausible tomorrow when calculations are redone or new measurements are taken. Or one can simply abandon the principle of causation, as seen in theories that propose that the universe came into being uncaused. Most other people may regard the ideas as pretty giddy; nonetheless, they don't violate the observational evidence." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: NY, 1996, pp.244-248)
Here is part of Behe's section on blood-clotting in Pandas:
"Creeping toward Clotting. Why is the blood clotting system incompatible with a nonintelligent evolutionary view of nature? Macroevolution means a change from a simpler to a more complex state. Let us try to envision such a change for blood clotting. Assume that we initially start with an organism that contains just a primitive version of thrombin and fibrinogen. The thrombin would immediately cut all the fibrin, causing a massive clot and the speedy death of the organism. Suppose instead we started with fibrinogen and prothrombin. In this case there is nothing to initiate clotting when a cut occurs and the organism would bleed to death. We may try many smaller sets of components to get started-fibrinogen, prothrombin, activated Stuart factor and proaccelerin, or inactive Stuart factor and proaccelerin, or inactive Stuart factor or proaccelerin, or fibrinogen plus an imaginary protein that cleaves fibrinogen to fibrin-death is nearly always the certain result. In fact, having a primitive, poorly controlled clotting system would probably be more dangerous to an animal, and therefore less advantageous, than having no such system at all! Thus the blood clotting system cannot have emerged piecemeal. Like a car or a sentence, it requires the cooperative interaction of pre-existing components to work. How do Darwinists explain the origin of the blood clotting system? They don't, at least not in any detailed, step-by-step fashion. It is important to realize that no one has ever offered a credible hypothesis to explain how the blood clotting system could have started and subsequently evolved. Nor have they explained how a single protein molecule could be formed by gradual chance events. Instead, Darwinists are content to point to resemblances in protein sequences, as discussed earlier and simply assume that such resemblances mean that gradual evolution somehow occurred. This is the same defense that Darwinists offer at the whole- organism level: similarities among different types of animals are assumed to support the occurrence of Darwinian evolution, but no detailed, testable explanation is offered for how the many integrated biological systems may have arisen. No answer has been forthcoming to the person who asks for details. We have closely examined the blood clotting system in this chapter and shown that it exhibits characteristics strongly suggestive of intelligent design. It is not unique in this respect: virtually all biochemical systems, large and small, exhibit coherent integration of distinct parts to give a whole entity with a separate purpose. This includes photosynthesis, cell replication, carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism, vision, the immune system, and numerous others. Like a car engine, biological systems can only work after they have been assembled by someone who knows what the final result will be. There is both elegance and astonishing complexity in even one such biochemical system. Each of these specialized functions traces back to the molecule's amino acid sequence. The amino acids in the suite of blood clotting proteins vary from roughly 300 to 3,000 residues. Some of them share discrete regions of their sequences with some others. Does this mean that they derived from one another? It may, but consider that even if this were the case, all of the proteins had to be present simultaneously for the blood clotting system to function. (Davis P. & Kenyon D.H., "Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins," [1989], Foundation for Thought and Ethics: Richardson TX, Second Edition, 1993, pp.145-146. Emphasis original).
See below for more about the Discovery Institute's "brief".]

Expert Witness Sees Evidence in Nature for Intelligent Design, New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, October 18, 2005. HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 17 - Michael J. Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has spent the last eight years traveling to colleges promoting intelligent design as a challenge to the theory of evolution. On Monday Mr. Behe brought his lecture and slides to a closely watched trial in federal district court, where a judge will decide whether the town of Dover, Pa., violated the boundary between church and state when it required students to hear a statement about intelligent design in a high school biology class. .... With the trial in its fourth week, Mr. Behe was the first expert witness for the defense. Asked whether intelligent design is religion, or "based on any religious beliefs," Mr. Behe said, "No, it isn't." "It is based entirely on observable, physical evidence from nature," he said. Mr. Behe said the "best and most striking example of design" is the bacterial flagellum, "the outboard motor bacteria use to swim." He projected a drawing of a flagellum depicting what he called a "rotary motor" attached to a "drive shaft" that pushes a propeller, and said it was impossible avoid concluding that the mechanism was "a purposeful arrangement of parts."
... Mr. Behe testified that intelligent design was science and that it made testable claims. Mr. Behe said he had been able to publish only one article on intelligent design in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, a piece he co-wrote in Protein Science in 2004. Robert Muise, a defense lawyer, asked Mr. Behe, "Do you perceive a bias against publishing articles on intelligent design in peer-reviewed journals?" Mr. Behe said he did. "My ideas on intelligent design have been subjected to a thousand times more scrutiny than anything I've written before." Mr. Behe testified that intelligent design did not claim to identify the intelligent designer, or even to "require knowledge of the designer." However, Mr. Behe, a Roman Catholic, was asked whether he had concluded that "the designer is God." He said yes, but added that his conclusion was not based on science. "I concluded that based on theological, philosophical and historical facts," he said. Mr. Behe said he believed schools should teach evolution because it was "widely used in science" and "many aspects are well substantiated." And he said intelligent design was "quite limited" because it challenged only one part of evolutionary theory, natural selection. Mr. Muise then asked whether natural selection could "explain the existence" of DNA, the immune system or blood clotting. Mr. Behe said no. As Mr. Behe's responses grew increasingly long and arcane, Judge John E. Jones III slumped in his chair. When Mr. Muise asked the judge whether he should stop for the day, Judge Jones sat up and agreed, saying, "We've certainly absorbed a lot, haven't we?" Randy Tomasacci, a woodworker who serves on his school board in Shickshinny, Pa., said his district was considering teaching intelligent design. He said Mr. Behe's testimony "reinforces my point of view." ... [Apparently Behe used Miller's own drawing (see above) to make his point that "it was impossible avoid concluding that the mechanism was `a purposeful arrangement of parts'"! More very important points are made here: 5) ID itself is not "religion", nor "based on any religious beliefs"; 6) ID is "based entirely on ... evidence from nature"; 7) ID is "science and ... made testable claims"; 8) the Darwinian mechanism of the "natural selection" of random (i.e. unguided) mutations cannot "explain the existence" of complex molecular systems such as "DNA, the immune system or blood clotting". Since Behe's "increasingly long and arcane" responses were his rebuttal of Miller's arguments (see Casey Luskin's report), hopefully the judge's indication that he had heard enough; is a good sign that he had made up his mind on the crucial point that ID has a secular, scientific case to make, and there is no constitutional reason why it should be prevented from making it.]

Pa. Professor Testifies Of Doubts About Darwin, Washington Post, Michael Powell, October 18, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 17 -- Charles Darwin's theory of evolution came under sustained attack in federal court here Monday as biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe argued that the theory fails to account for the complex biological machinery that scientists find in the corners of the human cell. Behe, who teaches at Lehigh University, is one of the intellectual founding fathers of "intelligent design," which holds that aspects of life are so complex as to be best explained as the work of a super-intelligent designer. "The appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming," Behe told the court. "Intelligent design is based on observed, empirical, physical evidence from nature." Behe is the lead defense witness in a trial that has drawn national attention since it began three weeks ago. ... Behe took pains Monday to note that a number of prominent scientists, many of whom are not advocates of intelligent design, have questioned aspects of Darwinian theory. Most criticism concentrates on Darwin's theory of natural selection and variation: Some scientists say that although there is ample evidence of small, evolutionary changes, there is less proof of the grand leaps needed to progress from one-celled life to modern man. Some scientists argue that life appears to adhere to grand mathematical principles and perhaps inevitably evolves toward complexity and intelligence. "If Darwinian theory is so fruitless at explaining the very foundation of life can reasonably wonder if there is some other explanation," Behe said. Behe grounds his argument in his study of biochemical processes. In particular, he focuses on the bacterial flagellum, which is driven by a rotary engine composed of protein and located at an anchor point inside the cell membrane. This powerful organic machine comes equipped with a crankshaft and propeller. Behe argues that this machine is irreducibly complex -- meaning it could not have evolved because it needed all of its parts to work. ... The question of religion came up several times Monday. Behe freely acknowledged that he is Roman Catholic and believes the hand of the intelligent designer belongs to God. But he emphasized that this was a personal, philosophical belief. Intelligent design, he argued, must succeed or fail as a scientific theory. More school boards are considering mandating mention of intelligent design. Randy Tomasacci, a school board member from Shickshinny, north of Harrisburg, said his board is debating whether to require teachers to spend a few days on intelligent design. "We're thinking about it," he said. "But we don't want to get sued out of existence." ... [Further very important points: 9) ID is based on empirical observation: "The appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming"; 10) many "scientists [have] ... questioned aspects of Darwinian theory"; 11) that "Darwin's theory of natural selection and variation" may explain "small, evolutionary changes" (microevolution) does not mean it explains "the grand leaps needed to progress from one-celled life to modern man" (macroevolution). But the ID movement does not support "mandating mention of intelligent design" as this "Randy Tomasacci, a school board member from Shickshinny" Pennsylvania wants to do. However, he may have been reported incorrectly (see below).]

Author: Intelligent design is science, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 18, 2005, Amy Worden .... HARRISBURG - Intelligent design is a scientific alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution and is not the same as Bible-based creationism, one of intelligent design's leading proponents testified yesterday in federal court. Michael Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University, said ... Behe, a soft-spoken man with a professorial mien ... spent six hours on the stand in large part defending as evidence of intelligent design his concept of "irreducible complexity" - the notion that parts of living systems are interdependent and cannot function if one part is removed. Behe testified that bacterial flagellum, the wiggling "outboard motor" that bacteria use to swim, is an example of a system that fails without all of its parts. "The parts are ordered for a purpose and therefore speak to design," he said. Meanwhile, a school board member in Shickshinny, Pa., near Wilkes-Barre, told reporters outside the courtroom that he wants to introduce intelligent design in the science curriculum in the Northwest Area School District. "I support teaching intelligent design in some form," said Randy Tomasacci, who attended the trial yesterday specifically to hear Behe. "We want to see what happens in this case so we can make our decision for the next school year." Nicholas Matzke, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution and is advising the plaintiffs in the Dover case, said such a decision would be unconstitutional. ... [Another important point: 12) ID's scientific "concept of `irreducible complexity' - the notion that parts of living systems are interdependent and cannot function if one part is removed". Also important is 13) Behe's "professorial mien"-he is a scientist making a scientific point. Note that Tomasacci may not have said "mandating mention of intelligent design". After this case "teaching intelligent design in some form" may not be "unconstitutional"!]

Discovery Institute Tells Dover Judge: Teaching About Intelligent Design Is Constitutional, PR Newswire., Oct. 17, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa ... Today, the Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching intelligent design, filed an Amicus Curiae (i.e. "Friend of the Court") brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case urging the judge to rule that it is not unconstitutional to teach about the scientific theory of intelligent design. The filing of the brief coincides with the beginning of the defense offered by the Dover School Board, which has required students to be notified about the existence of the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinian theory. "The ACLU is claiming that no matter how carefully intelligent design is presented, and no matter what good educational reasons there might be for teaching it, doing so is just plain illegal and we think that's nonsense," said David DeWolf, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a law professor at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Discovery Institute opposes efforts to mandate intelligent design as misguided, but it supports the right of teachers and students to voluntarily discuss intelligent design. "The ACLU's heavy-handed effort to ban all teaching about intelligent design is a blatant attempt at censorship," said Casey Luskin, a program officer in public policy and legal affairs at the Institute." Discovery Institute's Brief reviews the constitutional law regarding the establishment clause, which is broken up into questions about whether the school board's actions have a secular purpose and whether they have a neutral effect on religion. According to the Brief, there are many secular purposes for teaching students about intelligent design including informing students about competing scientific theories of biological origins, helping students to better understand the contrasting theory of neo-Darwinism, and enhancing critical thinking skills. The Brief also answers the ACLU's claim that intelligent design is not a scientific theory, and as a result its primary effect is to advance religion. As the Brief explains, "there is every good reason to regard the theory of intelligent design as a scientific theory, and thus, the primary effect of informing students about it is to improve science education." DeWolf further noted that: "The inclusion of alternative scientific theories was clearly authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard." The Brief is available on line at the Discovery Institute website ... Regular reporting of developments in the trial and commentary by Discovery Institute Fellows is available at SOURCE Discovery Institute ... [This brief should also turn out to be very important in informing the judge's decision. See also the Discovery Institute's new Dover Intelligent Design Trial Information webpage. Contrary to my usual pessimism, it seems to me that the case is going very well for the ID side. ]

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

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