> ----- Original Message -----
>To: Stephen E. Jones
>Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 10:10 AM
>Subject: intelligent design [...]
>My name is AN. I am from ... University, ...
>campus – I am a journalism student there doing a end-of-semester
>research assignment on intelligent design and evolution being
>taught in schools. [...]
----- Original Message -----
To: "Stephen E. Jones"
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 9:48 AM
Subject: Re: intelligent design
AN>... The questions are as follows:
Thanks for your questions. Here are my answers, which I will copy to my blog CED minus your personal identifying information, as agreed.
AN>1. Are evolutionists increasingly rethinking their beliefs in evolution?
Evolutionists are increasingly rethinking their beliefs in Darwinian evolution. For example, one of the world's leading paleontologists, Robert L. Carroll, has pointed out that the diagram which Darwin included in Chapter IV of his Origin of Species, and referred to constantly as to what the pattern of life should have been like if his theory was true, is in fact "conspicuously different" from "The patterns established from the fossil record of the major groups of vascular plants, vertebrates, and nonvertebrate[s]":
"Although Darwin's theory sought to deal with evolution over all time scales, almost all of his evidence was drawn from the modern biota. In the absence of adequate evidence from fossils, he simply extrapolated the patterns and processes that he could study in living organisms to the uncounted millions of years of the history of life. This is most clearly shown by the only illustration that appeared in the first edition of The Origin of Species .... Darwin used this figure twice in successive paragraphs, first to illustrate the pattern of evolution over tens to hundreds of thousands of generations within individual populations and species, and later to show the pattern of change over millions and hundreds of millions of generations. He argued that both the patterns and processes of evolution were essentially identical over these vastly different time scales. Although many biologists and popular textbooks since the time of Darwin have perpetuated this concept of the history of life, other scientists have argued that neither the patterns nor the processes of evolution that can be studied in living populations are adequate to explain the conspicuous differences in morphology, physiology, and way of life of the major groups of microorganisms, plants, and animals, or the major patterns and different rates of evolution observed in the fossil record. The most graphic demonstration of the inadequacy of Darwin's hypothesis of the constancy of evolutionary patterns over all time scales can be seen by comparing his hypothetical representation of the patterns of evolution for both very short and very long periods of time with the patterns of evolution that have since been reconstructed on the basis of the fossil record of multicellular plants and animals over the past 500 million years (Figs. 1.2-1.4). The diagram used by Darwin to illustrate evolution both at the level of populations and species and over the vast expanse of geological time is characterized by gradual and continuous change. Most populations within species, or families with in orders, diverge progressively. Some lineages continue with little change, but most eventually become extinct. The entire adaptive space is occupied by the groups diagramed, and the rate of change, indicated by the slope of the lines, remains fairly constant. The patterns established from the fossil record of the major groups of vascular plants, vertebrates, and nonvertebrate metazoans are conspicuously different. There are relatively few major lineages, all of which are very distinct from one an other. Gaps between the lineages indicate that adaptive space is not fully occupied. Instead of showing gradual and continuous change through time, the major lineages appear suddenly in the fossil record, already exhibiting many of the features by which their modern representatives are recognized. It must be assumed that evolution occurs much more rapidly between groups than within groups. For most of their evolutionary history, fundamental aspects of the anatomy and way of life of these lineages do not change significantly. Very few intermediates between groups are known from the fossil record." (Carroll R.L., "Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1997, pp.2,4. My emphasis).Another leading paleontologist, David Raup noted that, "we ... have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection":
"Darwin's general solution to the incompatibility of fossil evidence and his theory was to say that the fossil record is a very incomplete one that it is full of gaps, and that we have much to learn. In effect, he was saying that if the record were complete and if we had better knowledge of it wee would see the finely graduated chain that he predicted. And this was his main argument for downgrading the evidence from the fossil record. Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed information - what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic. So Darwin's problem has not been alleviated in the last 120 years and we still have a record which does show change but one that can hardly be looked upon as the most reasonable consequence of natural selection. Also the major extinctions such as the dinosaurs and trilobites are still very puzzling." (Raup D.M., "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago IL, January 1979, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.22-29, pp.24-25. Emphasis mine)Yet, as Carroll observes above, "many biologists and popular textbooks since the time of Darwin have perpetuated this" false "concept of the history of life"!
AN>2. So far, are there any evolutionary transitional fossils (ie. reptile to bird)?
First, it needs to be reiterated that ID itself has no problem with common ancestry, and therefore with transitional fossils. One of ID's leaders, Professor Michael Behe, has stated that he accepts common ancestry (as I do):
"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. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism-natural selection working on variation-might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)and another ID leader, William Dembski, has stated that, "intelligent design is compatible with ... God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life":
"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110)Now to answer your question. There are transitional fossils, e.g. between reptile and bird - Archaeopteryx. Even the young-Earth creationist paleontologist Kurt Wise admits this, although he renames them "stratomorphic intermediates" (and regards them as the result of Noah's flood):
"Another class of fossil evidence comes in individual stratomorphic intermediates. These are fossils that stand intermediate between the group from which they are descendent and the one to which they are ancestral-both in stratigraphic position and in morphology. They have a structure that stands between the structure of their ancestors and that of their descendants. However, they are also found in the fossil record as younger than the oldest fossils of the ancestral group and older than the oldest fossils of the descendent group. ... And examples of stratomorphic intermediates do exist. Mammal-like reptiles stand between reptiles and mammals, both in the position of their fossils and in the structure of their bones. The same can be said of the anthracosaurs, which stand between amphibians and reptiles, and the phenacodontids, which stand between the horses and their claimed ancestors. In like manner, some fossil genera are stratomorphic intermediates in the group in which they are classified. They are the oldest fossils known in the group and most similar to the group from which they are supposedly descendent. Examples include Pikaia, among the chordates, Archaeopteryx among the birds, Baragwanathia among Lycopods, Ichthyostega among the amphibians, Purgatorius among the primates, Pakicetus among the whales and Proconsul among the hominoids." (Wise K.P., "The Origin of Life's Major Groups," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1994, pp.226-227)However, as Carroll points out above, the pattern of transitional fossils do not support Darwin's theory of "gradual and continuous change through time" because "the major lineages appear suddenly in the fossil record, already exhibiting many of the features by which their modern representatives are recognized." Darwin specifically stated that "natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations" so it "can never take a great and sudden leap":"
Why should not Nature take a sudden leap from structure to structure? On the theory of natural selection, we can clearly understand why she should not; for natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.180)and he predicted that "natural selection [will in future] banish the belief of ... organic beings [having] ... any great and sudden modification in their structure":
"Natural selection acts only by the preservation and accumulation of small inherited modifications, each profitable to the preserved being; and as modern geology has almost banished such views as the excavation of a great valley by a single diluvial wave, so will natural selection banish the belief of the continued creation of new organic beings, or of any great and sudden modification in their structure." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection," , Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928, reprint, p.94. My emphasis)So Darwin's theory of the natural selection of random micromutations has been conclusively falsified for at least a quarter of a century, when the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould in 1980 pronounced it "effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy":
"I well remember how the [Neo-Darwinian] synthetic theory beguiled me with its unifying power when I was a graduate student in the mid-1960's. Since then I have been watching it slowly unravel as a universal description of evolution. The molecular assault came first, followed quickly by renewed attention to unorthodox theories of speciation and by challenges at the level of macroevolution itself. I have been reluctant to admit it-since beguiling is often forever-but if Mayr's characterization of the synthetic theory is accurate, then that theory, as a general proposition, is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy." (Gould S.J., "Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?," Paleobiology, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1980, p.120)And, because Darwin's theory was claimed by Darwin (and is claimed by modern Darwinists) to refute the argument from design in nature:
"Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws." (Darwin C.R., in Barlow N., ed., "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored," , W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 1969, reprint, p.87).
"[NC] One of your books, The Blind Watchmaker, argues the case for the cumulative power of natural selection in the adaptation of organisms. Tell us about the metaphorical title of that book. [RD] The `watchmaker' comes from William Paley, the eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century theologian who was one of the most famous exponents of the argument of design. Paley the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century theologian who was one of the most famous exponents of the argument of design. Paley famously said that if you are wandering along and stumble upon a watch and you pick it up and open it, you realize that the internal mechanism-the way in which it's all meshed together-is detailed perfection. Add this to the fact that the watch mechanism has a purpose-namely, telling the time-then this compels you to conclude that the watch had to have a designer. Paley then went on throughout his book giving example after example of detailed structure of living organisms-eyes, heart, bowels, joints, and everything about animals-showing how beautifully designed they apparently are, how well they work, how intricately the parts mesh together, just like the cog wheels of a watch. And if the watch had to have a watchmaker, then of course these biological structures also had to have a designer. My reason for beginning The Blind Watchmaker was Paley. He really saw the magnitude of the problem of adaptation when most people just didn't see how elegant, how beautiful, apparent design in life is. Paley saw that, and Darwin saw that. And Darwin was introduced to it at least partly by Paley. All undergraduates at Cambridge had to read William Paley. He at least put the question right. So the only thing Paley got wrong, which is quite a big thing, was the answer to the question. And nobody got the right answer until Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century." (Dawkins R., "Interview," in Campbell N.A., Reece J.B. & Mitchell L.G., "Biology," , Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, p.412).So, if the overall pattern of the fossil record does not support Darwin's theory, then the "argument of design in nature" was never refuted by Darwin and therefore is still valid. This point was made by Darwin, Fred Hoyle and more recently by Behe:
"In order to understand the task of natural selection, it is good to remember Darwin's reply to Moritz Wagner. Darwin's main reply to Wagner was: if you have no natural selection, you cannot explain the evolution of the apparently designed organs, like the eye. Or in other words, without natural selection, you cannot solve Paley's problem." (Popper K., "Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind," Dialectica, Vol. 32, Nos. 3-4, 1978, pp.339-355, p.34)
"The speculations of the Origin of Species turned out to be wrong, as we have seen in this chapter. It is ironic that the scientific facts throw Darwin out, but leave William Paley, a figure of fun to the scientific world for more than a century, still in the tournament with a chance of being the ultimate winner." (Hoyle F. & Wickramasinghe C., "The evolutionary record leaks like a sieve," in "Evolution from Space," , Paladin: London, 1983, reprint, pp.100-102)
"But exactly where, we may ask, was Paley refuted? Who has answered his argument? How was the watch produced without an intelligent designer? It is surprising but true that the main argument of the discredited Paley has actually never been refuted. Neither Darwin nor Dawkins, neither science nor philosophy, has explained how an irreducibly complex system such as a watch might be produced without designer. Instead Paley's argument has been sidetracked by attacks or its injudicious examples and off-the-point theological discussions. Paley, of course, is to blame for not framing his argument more tightly. But many of Paley's detractors are also to blame for refusing to engage his main point, playing dumb in order to reach a more palatable conclusion." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, p.213)
AN>3. Could large scale evolution like transitions from reptile to bird have ever occurred (given a loss of genetic information)?
Yes (see above), but not by Darwin's mechanism of the natural selection of random (unguided) micromutations. Ironically Dawkins explains how an intelligent designer (but not a blind watchmaker) who "knew which genes to tinker with, which bits of chromosome to duplicate, invert or delete" could engineer large scale transitions by making a jump across genetic hyperspace:
"There is another mathematical space filled, not with nine-gened biomorphs but with flesh and blood animals made of billions of cells, each containing tens of thousands of genes. This is not biomorph space but real genetic space. The actual animals that have ever lived on Earth are a tiny subset of the theoretical animals that could exist. These real animals are the products of a very small number of evolutionary trajectories through genetic space. The vast majority of theoretical trajectories through animal space give rise to impossible monsters. Real animals are dotted around here and there among the hypothetical monsters, each perched in its own unique place in genetic hyperspace. Each real animal is surrounded by a little cluster of neighbours, most of whom have never existed, but a few of whom are its ancestors, its descendants and its cousins. Sitting somewhere in this huge mathematical space are humans and hyenas, amoebas and aardvarks, flatworms and squids, dodos and dinosaurs. In theory, if we were skilled enough at genetic engineering, we could move from any point in animal space to any other point. From any starting point we could move through the maze in such a way as to recreate the dodo, the tyrannosaur and trilobites. If only we knew which genes to tinker with, which bits of chromosome to duplicate, invert or delete. I doubt if we shall ever know enough to do it, but these dear dead creatures are lurking there forever in their private corners of that huge genetic hypervolume, waiting to be found if we but had the knowledge to navigate the right course through the maze." (Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker," , Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.73)And in fact it is such "chromosomal rearrangements"which have "played the primary role in the majority of speciation events" (my emphasis), and each one is "a unique event whose consequences [are] ... almost impossible to predict":
"The role of chromosomal rearrangements in speciation has been considered ... More and more, it appears as if such rearrangements, of many different types, have played the primary role in the majority of speciation events. It by no means follows, however, that their significance in speciation is always of the same type. In fact, each chromosomal rearrangement-whether fusion or dissociation, translocation, inversion, gain or loss of heterochromatin-must be regarded as a unique event whose consequences will be almost impossible to predict in the present stage of our knowledge. It is thus extremely difficult to incorporate chromosomal rearrangements into mathematical models of speciation and phyletic evolution, which may be one reason why they have been relatively neglected by many evolutionary geneticists." (White M.J.D., "Modes of Speciation," W.H. Freeman & Co: San Francisco CA, 1978, p.336. My emphasis)So Darwin's theory of the natural selection of random micromutations is largely irrelevant to "the majority of speciation events".
AN>4. Many evolutionists claim that intelligent design is not actually scientific (because they say the hypothesis that there is a Designer cannot be tested). Is intelligent design scientific? Is the methodology of science perhaps in need of changing?
First, the employment of demarcation criteria to determine what is, and is not, "scientific" has been abandoned by most philosophers of science:
"The function of auxiliary hypotheses in scientific testing suggests that many scientific theories, including those in so-called hard sciences, may be very difficult, if not impossible, to falsify conclusively. Yet many theories that have been falsified in practice via the consensus judgment of the scientific community must qualify as scientific according to the falsifiability criterion. Since they have been falsified, they are obviously falsifiable, and since they are falsifiable, they would seem to be scientific. And so it has gone generally with demarcation criteria. Many theories that have been repudiated on evidential grounds express the very epistemic and methodological virtues (testability, falsifiability, observability, etc.) that have been alleged to characterize true science. Many theories that are held in high esteem lack some of the allegedly necessary and sufficient features of proper science. As a result, with few exceptions most contemporary philosophers of science regard the question `What methods distinguish science from non-science?' as both intractable and uninteresting. What, after all, is in a name? Certainly not automatic epistemic warrant or authority. Thus philosophers of science have increasingly realized that the real issue is not whether a theory is scientific but whether it is true or warranted by the evidence. Thus, as Martin Eger has summarized, `demarcation arguments have collapsed. Philosophers of science don't hold them anymore. They may still enjoy acceptance in the popular world, but that's a different world.' [Eger M., quoted by J. Buell in `Broaden Science Curriculum,' Dallas Morning News, March 10, 1989]. The `demise of the demarcation problem,' as Laudan calls it, implies that the use of positivistic demarcationist arguments by evolutionists is, at least prima facie, on very slippery ground. Laudan's analysis suggests that such arguments are not likely to succeed in distinguishing the scientific status of descent vis-a-vis design or anything else for that matter. As Laudan puts it `If we could stand up on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like 'pseudo-science.'... They do only emotive work for us.' [Laudan L., "The Demise of the Demarcation problem," in "But Is It Science?," Ruse M., ed., Prometheus Books: Buffalo N.Y, 1988, pp.337-350] If philosophers of science such as Laudan are correct, a stalemate exists in our analysis of design and descent. Neither can automatically qualify as science; neither can be necessarily disqualified either. The a priori methodological merit of design and descent are indistinguishable if no agreed criteria exist by which to judge their merits." (Meyer S.C., "The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., 1994, p.75)The problem is that by employing demarcation criteria such as testabilty and falsifiability, what was thought to be unscientific (e.g. astrology) would be science (since it could be and was tested and falsified); and what was thought to be scientific (e.g. Darwinian evolution) would not, since it is very difficult, if not impossible, to test and falsify Darwin's theory of the natural selection of random mutations):
"Our theory of evolution has become, as Popper described, one which cannot be refuted by any possible observations. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus `outside of empirical science' but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified systems, have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training." (Birch L.C. & Ehrlich P.R., "Evolutionary History and Population Biology," Nature, Vol. 214, 22 April 1967, p.352. My emphasis)
"I have come to the conclusion that Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research programme-a possible framework for testable scientific theories. ... I now wish to give some reasons why I regard Darwinism as metaphysical, and as a research programme. It is metaphysical because it is not testable. One might think that it is. It seems to assert that, if ever on some planet we find life which satisfies conditions (a) and (b), then (c) will come into play and bring about in time a rich variety of distinct forms. Darwinism, however, does not assert as much as this. For assume that we find life on Mars consisting of exactly three species of bacteria with a genetic outfit similar to that of three terrestrial species. Is Darwinism refuted? By no means. We shall say that these three species were the only forms among the many mutants which were sufficiently well adjusted to survive. And we shall say the same if there is only one species (or none). Thus Darwinism does not really predict the evolution of variety. It therefore cannot really explain it. At best, it can predict the evolution of variety under `favourable conditions'. But it is hardly possible to describe in general terms what favourable conditions are except that, in their presence, a variety of forms will emerge." (Popper K.R., "Unended Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography," Open Court: La Salle IL, Revised Edition, 1982, pp.168,171)
"Darwinian evolution, by natural selection, predicts that organisms are as they are because all their genes have been and are being subjected to selection, those that reduce the organism's success being eliminated, and those that enhance it being favoured. This is a scientific theory, for these predictions can be tested. 'Non-Darwinian' or random evolution predicts that some features of organisms are non-adaptive, having neutral or slightly negative survival value, and that the genes controlling such features are fluctuating randomly in the population, or have been fixed because at some time in the past the population went through a bottleneck, when it was greatly reduced. When these two theories are combined, as a general explanation of evolutionary change, that general theory is no longer testable. Take natural selection: no matter how many cases fail to yield to a natural selection analysis, the theory is not threatened, for it can always be said that these failures of selection theory are explained by genetic drift. And no matter how many supposed examples of genetic drift are shown to be due, after all, to natural selection, the neutral theory is not threatened, for it never pretended to explain all evolution." (Patterson C., "Evolution," British Museum (Natural History): London, 1978, p.70. My emphasis).Second, the Darwinists claim that they have tested and falsified ID:
"Coyne's conclusion that design is unfalsifiable, however, seems to be at odds with the arguments of other reviewers of my book. Clearly, Russell Doolittle (Doolittle 1997), Kenneth Miller (Miller 1999), and others have advanced scientific arguments aimed at falsifying ID. (See my articles on blood clotting and the `acid test' on this web site.) If the results with knock-out mice (Bugge et al. 1996) had been as Doolittle first thought, or if Barry Hall's work (Hall 1999) had indeed shown what Miller implied, then they correctly believed my claims about irreducible complexity would have suffered quite a blow. And since my claim for intelligent design requires that no unintelligent process be sufficient to produce such irreducibly complex systems, then the plausibility of ID would suffer enormously. Other scientists, including those on the National Academy of Science's Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, in commenting on my book have also pointed to physical evidence (such as the similar structures of hemoglobin and myoglobin) which they think shows that irreducibly complex biochemical systems can be produced by natural selection: `However, structures and processes that are claimed to be ‘irreducibly' complex typically are not on closer inspection.' (National Academy of Sciences 1999, p.22) Now, one can't have it both ways. One can't say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable." (Behe M.J., "Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics," Discovery Institute, July 31, 2000. My emphasis).Third, compared to ID, it is Darwinism which is untestable:
"In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin's Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can't be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum-or any equally complex system--was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven. How about Professor Coyne's concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design." (Behe M.J., "Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics," Discovery Institute, July 31, 2000. Emphasis original.)
"Let's turn the tables and ask, how could one falsify the claim that, say, the bacterial flagellum was produced by Darwinian processes? (Professor Coyne's remarks about a Precambrian fossil hominid are irrelevant since I dispute the mechanism of natural selection, not common descent. I would no more expect to find a fossil hominid out of sequence than he would.) If a scientist went into the laboratory and grew a flagellum-less bacterial species under selective pressure for many generations and nothing much happened, would Darwinists be convinced that natural selection is incapable of producing a flagellum? I doubt it. It could always be claimed that the selective pressure wasn't the right one, or that we started with the wrong bacterial species, and so on. Even if the experiment were repeated many times under different conditions and always gave a negative result, I suspect many Darwinists would not conclude that the claim of its Darwinian evolution was falsified. Of complex biochemical systems Coyne himself writes `we may forever be unable to envisage the first proto-pathways. It is not valid, however, to assume that, because one man cannot imagine such pathways, they could not have existed.' (Coyne 1996) If a person accepts Darwinian paths which are not only unseen, but which we may be forever unable to envisage, then it is effectively impossible to make him think he is wrong." (Behe M.J., "Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics," Discovery Institute, July 31, 2000. My emphasis)
"Kenneth Miller announced an `acid test' for the ability of natural selection to produce irreducible complexity. He then decided that the test was passed, and unhesitatingly proclaimed intelligent design falsified ('Behe is wrong'; Miller 1999, 147). But if, as it certainly seems to me, E. coli actually fails the lactose-system `acid test,' would Miller consider Darwinism to be falsified? Almost certainly not. He would surely say that the experiment started with the wrong bacterial species, used the wrong selective pressure, and so on. So it turns out that his `acid test' was not a test of Darwinism; it tested only intelligent design. The same one-way testing was employed by Russell Doolittle. He pointed to the results of Bugge et al. (1996) to argue against intelligent design. But when the results turned out to be the opposite of what he had originally thought, Professor Doolittle did not abandon Darwinism. It seems then, perhaps counterintuitively to some, that intelligent design is quite susceptible to falsification, at least on the points under discussion. Darwinism, on the other hand, seems quite impervious to falsification. The reason for that can be seen when we examine the basic claims of the two ideas with regard to a particular biochemical system like, say, the bacterial flagellum. The claim of intelligent design is that `No unintelligent process could produce this system.' The claim of Darwinism is that `Some unintelligent process (involving natural selection and random mutation) could produce this system.' To falsify the first claim, one need only show that at least one unintelligent process could produce the system. To falsify the second claim, one would have to show the system could not have been formed by any of a potentially infinite number of possible unintelligent processes, which is effectively impossible to do. I think Professor Coyne and the National Academy of Sciences have it exactly backwards. A strong point of intelligent design is its vulnerability to falsification. (Indeed, some of my religious critics dislike intelligent design theory precisely because they worry that it will be falsified, and thus theology will appear to suffer another blow from science. See, for example, (Flietstra 1998).) A weak point of Darwinian theory is its resistance to falsification. What experimental evidence could possibly be found that would falsify the contention that complex molecular machines evolved by a Darwinian mechanism?" (Behe M.J., "Philosophical Objections to Intelligent Design: Response to Critics," Discovery Institute, July 31, 2000. Emphasis original)
AN>5. Should intelligent design be taught in schools, in your opinion? If so, in what capacity (for example, alongside evolution, as part of religious studies)?
I do believe that ID should be taught in schools, but only where there is majority agreement to do so among the school, teachers, parents and students. Along with the leadership of ID movement, I do not agree that ID should mandated, over the wishes of the majority:
"SEATTLE, DEC. 14 – The policy on teaching evolution recently adopted by the Dover, PA School Board was called `misguided' today by Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, which advised that the policy should be withdrawn and rewritten. `While the Dover board is to be commended for trying to teach Darwinian theory in a more open-minded manner, this is the wrong way to go about it,' said Dr. John G. West, associate director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC). `Dover's current policy has a number of problems, not the least of which is its lack of clarity. At one point, it appears to prohibit Dover schools from teaching anything about 'the origins of life.' At another point, it appears to both mandate as well as prohibit the teaching of the scientific theory of intelligent design. The policy's incoherence raises serious problems from the standpoint of constitutional law. Thus, the policy should be withdrawn and rewritten.' Apart from questions about its constitutionality, West expressed reservations about the Dover School Board's directive on public policy grounds. `When we first read about the Dover policy, we publicly criticized it because according to published reports the intent was to mandate the teaching of intelligent design,' explained West. `Although we think discussion of intelligent design should not be prohibited, we don't think intelligent design should be required in public schools. `What should be required is full disclosure of the scientific evidence for and against Darwin's theory,' added West, `which is the approach supported by the overwhelming majority of the public." ("Discovery Calls Dover Evolution Policy Misguided, Calls For its Withdrawal," Discovery Institute, December 14, 2004.)
"Seemingly, they're would-be allies. But a disagreement last week over legal representation means three experts with connections to the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute will not be testifying in a federal court case on behalf of the Dover Area School Board. The three experts - William Dembski, Stephen Meyer and John Campbell - were slated for testimony on the debate over intelligent design. But last week, their names were removed from the list before they could give depositions in the case. Eric Rothschild, plaintiffs' attorney with Pepper Hamilton, said he was baffled by the decision. Meyer is the director of Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which funds research projects related to intelligent design. Dembski and Campbell are senior fellows there. ... Even though Discovery is probably the country's leading proponent of intelligent design, it opposes the Dover Area School Board's decision to make the concept regarding life's origins part of its science curriculum. Its members say they don't oppose intelligent design being taught in the schools, they merely oppose it being mandated. ... While Dembski said he disagrees with many aspects of Darwinism, `there is still a long way at hammering out ID as a full-fledged research program. That said, there is nobody I know that says intelligent design should be mandated. I think this is the problem with Dover. It's not a way you build consensus and help education along." (Lebo L., "Experts won't back Dover School district," York Daily Record, June 19, 2005.)
"The Dover Area School District and its board will likely walk into a First Amendment court battle next week without the backing of the nation's largest supporter of intelligent design.The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based nonprofit that describes itself as a `nonpartisan policy and research organization,' recently issued a policy position against Dover in its upcoming court case. John West, associate director of Discovery's Center for Science & Culture, calls the Dover policy `misguided' and `likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design.' ... Though the Discovery Institute promotes the teaching of intelligent design, it has been critical of school boards that have implemented intelligent design policies ... Dover is the only school district that Discovery has publicly spoken out against. West said that's because they mandated the policy. Discovery Institute supports teaching intelligent design, but not requiring it through a school board policy. .... `They really did it on their own and that's unfortunate,' West said..... Discovery also spoke out against Pennsylvania legislators who wanted to give school boards the option of mandating the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution." (Kauffman C., "Intelligent designers down on Dover: Theory's largest national supporter won't back district," The York Dispatch, September 23, 2005).However, where evolution is taught, along with the leadership of the ID movement, I agree that it should be taught `warts and all'. That is: 1) the unproven and unprovable philosophical assumptions of evolution (e.g. materialism = matter is all there is; and naturalism = nature is all there is) should not be hidden but be fully disclosed; 2) the problems of evolution (in particular of Darwin's theory), should be frankly admitted to students; and 3) the main alternatives to evolution (including ID) should be presented. In other words, students should be taught the controversy:
"When two groups of experts disagree about a controversial subject that intersects the public school curriculum students should learn about both perspectives. In such cases teachers should not teach as true only one competing view .... Instead, teachers should describe competing views to students and explain the arguments for and against these views as made by their chief proponents. Educators call this `teaching the controversy.' Recently, while speaking to the Ohio State Board of Education, I suggested this approach as a way forward for Ohio in its increasingly contentious dispute about how to teach theories of biological origin, and about whether or not to introduce the theory of intelligent design alongside Darwinism in the Ohio biology curriculum. I also proposed a compromise involving three main provisions: (1) First, I suggested-speaking as an advocate of the theory of intelligent design-that Ohio not require students to know the scientific evidence and arguments for the theory of intelligent design, at least not yet. (2) Instead, I proposed that Ohio teachers teach the scientific controversy about Darwinian evolution. Teachers should teach students about the main scientific arguments for and against Darwinian theory. And Ohio should test students for their understanding of those arguments, not for their assent to a point of view. (3) Finally, I argued that the state board should permit, but not require, teachers to tell students about the arguments of scientists, like Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, who advocate the competing theory of intelligent design. There are many reasons for Ohio to adopt this approach. First, honest science education requires it. While testifying before the state board, biologist Dr. Jonathan Wells and I, submitted an annotated bibliography of over 40 peer-reviewed scientific articles that raise significant challenges to key tenets of Darwinian evolution. If students are to be required to master the case for Darwinian evolution (as we think they should), shouldn't they also know some of the difficulties described in such scientific literature? Shouldn’t students know that many scientists doubt that the overall pattern of fossil evidence conforms to the Darwinian picture of the history of life? Shouldn't they know that some scientists now question previously stock Darwinian arguments from embryology and homology? And shouldn't they also know that many scientists now question the ability of natural selection to create fundamentally new structures, organisms and body plans? ... Second, constitutional law permits `teaching the controversy' about scientific theories of origins. In the controlling Edwards v. Aguillard case, the Supreme Court made clear that state legislatures (and by extension state boards) already have the right to mandate teaching scientific critiques of prevailing theories. Interestingly, the court also made clear that teachers have the right to teach students about `a variety of scientific theories about origins ... with the clear secular intent of enhancing science education.' Our compromise proposal requires teaching existing scientific critique of Darwinism, and permits discussion of competing theories, just as the Court allows. Third, federal education policy calls for precisely this kind of approach. The report language accompanying the federal education act (`No Child Left Behind') states that `where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of views that exist [and] why such topics may generate controversy.' ... Fourth, voters overwhelmingly favor this approach. In a recent national Zogby poll, 71% of those polled stated their support for teaching evidence both for and against Darwin's theory of evolution. Only 15% opposed this approach. An even greater majority favored exposing students to `evidence that points to an intelligent design of life.' Finally, good pedagogy commends this approach. Teaching the controversy about Darwinism as it exists in the scientific community will engage student interest. It will motivate students to learn more about the biological evidence as they see why it matters to a big question. This is not only good teaching; it is good science. As Darwin wrote in the Origin of Species, `A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.' Yet, the modern Darwinist lobby continues to distract attention from their advocacy of censorship by reciting a litany of complaints about the emerging theory of intelligent design. But that theory is not the issue in Ohio. The issue is whether students will learn both sides of the real and growing scientific controversy about Darwinism,and whether a 19th century theory will be taught dogmatically to 21st century students." (Meyer S.C., "Teach the Controversy," Cincinnati Enquirer, March 30, 2002. Discovery Institute: Seattle WA.)As for the part of your question where the above should be taught, i.e. in science classes "alongside evolution" or "as part of religious studies," I personally think that is up to the school. If they want to teach the evidence for evolution is science classes and the evidence against evolution and for ID in social studies or "religious studies" classes, then while that would seem to be a clumsy and inefficient use of school resources, with the potential for intra-faculty conflict, then they should be free to do so. However, if the evidence against evolution and for ID is taught in (say) "religious studies"classes then I expect they would be very popular and then the Darwinists would soon be demanding that the evidence against evolution and for ID be taught also in science classes!
AN>6. In your experience, would parents of school children like intelligent design to be taught?
I don't have any personal experience of this (my two children completed high school in the late 1980s/early 1990s when ID barely existed and I had yet to become involved in the evolution controversy). But all the USA polls (e.g. Zogby, CBS, Harris & Pew) that have asked the question, indicate that the majority of the public want both evolution and its alternatives taught in schools. Although I am not aware of any such polls in Australia, I expect that Australian parents would also want their children to learn evolution, and its alternatives (including intelligent design), in schools. I also expect that intelligent design will increasingly be taught in private religious schools and that will generate competitive pressure on public schools to also include ID in their curriculum. [...]
AN>thanks once again, AN.
You are welcome. Thanks again for your questions.