Monday, October 24, 2005

No Easy Victory Ensues in Legal Battle Over Evolution, etc

Here are news items about the pro-ID defence's third through fifth days (Wednesday 19 - Friday 21 October) of giving its side of the story in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) case, with my comments in square brackets.

No Easy Victory Ensues in Legal Battle Over Evolution: Intelligent Design Theorists Far From 1920s Fundamentalists, Washington Post, Michael Powell ... October 21, 2005 ... HARRISBURG, Pa. -- By any measure, the professor appeared trapped on the legal ropes. Biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe had just conceded in federal court that precious few scientists support the intelligent design theory, which holds that the machinery of life is so complex as to require the hand of an intelligent creator. Now came another question: Isn't it true, professor, that the nation's most esteemed scientific organization denounced the theory as non-science? Behe, who is bespectacled and bearded, sat straight up in the witness chair. "Their statement is a political document without any marshaling of evidence," Behe said with rising voice earlier this week. "Talk about scholarly malfeasance. ... Science has marched on. We have now data to reopen the evidence for design in nature." It has been hailed as another Scopes "Monkey Trial," in which the forces of science would again vanquish those who would inject religion into the science classroom. But as the trial in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg reached a midpoint this week, victory has proven elusive. ... This time the scientific establishment faces a more artful foe, one comfortable with the language of science. Even if the judge rules against intelligent design in November, few predict a cultural turning point. "The evolution debate has exposed a fundamental divide in our society," said Michael Ruse ... "There is no question that America is fractured and that the intelligent design people are bloody serious. A court case isn't changing that." ... Legions of scientists say that Darwin's theory of evolution remains as solid as ever and is the soil in which modern science takes root. They say advances from DNA research to the discovery of new fossils tend overwhelmingly to shore up their case. The Dover plaintiffs have marshaled a string of notable witnesses, beginning with Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller, to fire scientific salvos at intelligent design. ... But bringing a legal case against intelligent design is a tricky business. The small band of scientists who publicly support intelligent design are able debaters, and, as became clear when Behe took the stand, they do not sound remotely like William Jennings Bryan .... Behe began by rattling off the names of prominent scientists, many of whom are not advocates of intelligent design, who questioned key aspects of evolutionary theory and noted that there is scant evidence for large mutational leaps. Then he read aloud from a paper written by an evolutionary biologist, whose theorizing was peppered with "maybe" and "might have" and "probably." The heart of Behe's argument, though, centered on biochemistry, where he claims to have found machinery so complex, such as the bacterial flagellum, as to be irreducibly complex -- meaning it could not have evolved because it needs all of its parts to work. "If leaders in the scientific field do not know how something came about, then one can be confident ... that nobody in the world knows how it came about," Behe said. "There's no natural evidence that Darwinian evolution would have produced it." ... Lawyers also peppered Behe with questions about his assertion that those who believe in God are more likely to accept intelligent design. Behe replied that it was a matter not of theology but common sense: An atheist or agnostic will be predisposed to doubt a theory that relies on the possible hand of God. Critics of intelligent design seem convinced that the past week in court went smashingly. A lawyer for the parents mockingly compared intelligent design to the "theory" of astrology. Still, Behe and the intelligent design crowd display no signs of flagging. They have considerable financial support, often from political conservatives. And Behe's argument that intelligent design represents an insurgent struggle against a scientific bureaucracy resonates deep within the heart of American culture. "Have you listened to him?" asked Dover Area School Board President Sheila Harkins, who is among the board members who favor teaching intelligent design. "He's smart and knowledgeable, and he's not backing down up there. He's terrific." ... [Why should Behe or ID be "backing down", when we think we have truth and therefore science on our side? As for "advances from DNA research to the discovery of new fossils tend overwhelmingly to shore up their case" for "Darwin's theory of evolution", since the latter is the only explanation allowed, any evidence, no matter how flimsy, would support it! That is why it is a mark of "good science" to have "multiple working hypotheses" because otherwise "the correct explanation may not even be included":

"Multiple hypotheses should be proposed whenever possible. Proposing alternative explanations that can answer a question is good science. If we operate with a single hypothesis, especially one we favor, we may direct our investigation toward a hunt for evidence in support of this hypothesis. ... A hypothesis can be falsified by experimental tests, especially if the experiments are repeated with the same results. ... But ... It is impossible to repeat an experiment enough times to be absolutely certain that the results will always be the same. And some false hypotheses make accurate predictions. ... Of the many hypotheses proposed to answer a particular question, the correct explanation may not even be included. Even the most thoroughly tested hypotheses are accepted only conditionally, pending further investigation." (Campbell N.A., Reece J.B. & Mitchell L.G., "Biology," Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, pp.14-15. Emphasis mine)
"Spin more than one hypothesis. If there's something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among 'multiple working hypotheses', has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy." (Sagan C., "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," Headline: London, 1997, p.197. Emphasis original).
It is ironic that the only hypothesis which is exempt from this "Darwinian selection among 'multiple working hypotheses'" rule of "good science" is "Darwinian selection" itself! If after Behe's testimony, the New York Times considers that "victory has proven elusive" then it sounds like it is ID which is going to win this case! But even if ID doesn't win here, the journalist is right that "Behe and the intelligent design crowd display no signs of flagging". As Phil Johnson observed in an analogy with the Vietnam War, the Darwinists, despite their overwhelming might, are facing "a determined adversary who" believes he has right (not might) on his side and so "is not going to surrender" and is going to "keep... on fighting" and will wear their enemy down:
"The first New York Times story on the Kansas decision quoted me as saying that this is the science educators' `Vietnam.' What I meant by this is that in the first place they have a determined adversary who is not going to surrender. They're not gaining ground. That's what the polls show, and that is why there is so much worry. If the enemy keeps on fighting, he wears you down. The second thing is that it is an adversary--that is, the anti- Darwinists--that can appeal to the liberal values of a lot of their opponents, just as the Viet Cong appealed to the anti-imperialist sentiments of the American public. The adversary can say, Let's hear both sides, let's have an open discussion, you don't know the majority position unless you have heard it effectively challenged, and so on. Already the polls show that two-thirds of the public favors something of the `teach both sides, teach the controversy' direction. The Kansas decision is certainly going to encourage other states and localities to do something like this." (Johnson P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum," Ethics and Public Policy Center: Washington DC, September 1999).
I have often cited the following `prophecy' of Johnson's that the "Darwinists may have made a serious strategic error in choosing to pursue a campaign of indoctrination in the public schools" because "What goes on in the public schools is the public's business" and "eventually determined protestors will persuade the public to grant them a fair hearing on the evidence":
"The Darwinists may have made a serious strategic error in choosing to pursue a campaign of indoctrination in the public schools. Previously, the high school textbooks said relatively little about evolution except that most scientists believe in it, which is hard to dispute. Serious examination of the scientific evidence was postponed until college, and was provided mostly to biology majors and graduate students. Most persons outside the profession had little opportunity to learn how much philosophy was being taught in the name of science, and if they knew what was going on they had no opportunity to mount an effective challenge. The Darwinists themselves have changed that comfortable situation by demanding that the public schools teach a great deal more `about evolution.' What they mean is that the public schools should try much harder to persuade students to believe in Darwinism, not that they should present fairly the evidence that is causing Darwinists so much trouble. What goes on in the public schools is the public's business, however, and even creationists are entitled to point out errors and evasions in the textbooks and teaching materials. Invocations of authority may work for a while, but eventually determined protestors will persuade the public to grant them a fair hearing on the evidence. As many more people outside the Biblical fundamentalist camp learn how deeply committed Darwinists are to opposing theism of any sort, and how little support Darwinism finds in the scientific evidence, the Darwinists may wish that they had never left their sanctuary." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second edition, 1993, p.146).
If they are not already, after this case "the Darwinists may wish that they had never left their sanctuary"! BTW, I must confess that I have finally watched my new DVD, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and quite frankly it blew me away! I would not be surprised if that alone converts millions around the world to ID.]

Professor defends intelligent design as "scientific theory", Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 19, 2005, Amy Worden ... HARRISBURG - Taking the stand in a federal trial for the third day, Michael Behe, one of the leading proponents of intelligent design, defended the concept as a "scientific theory" that should be introduced in high school biology classes. Under cross examination in a lawsuit over the teaching of intelligent design in a Dover, Pa., school district, Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University, reiterated his argument for design, saying that some biological systems are so complex his research indicates there must be a designer behind them. ... Eric Rothschild, an attorney for the plaintiffs, challenged Behe's assertions that intelligent design qualified as a science because it can be tested. He asked Behe, how he would falsify a claim that a biological system is intelligent design. Behe, author of the best-selling book Darwin's Black Box, which argues in favor of intelligent design, replied: "In order to falsify it, we would have to find an exception to an inductive argument." Rothschild went on to ask him whether he or anyone else in the intelligent design movement had tested the Darwinian principle of random mutation and natural selection. Behe answered no. "I'm persuaded by the evidence cited in my book that [intelligent design] is a good explanation and that testing random mutation and natural selection would "not likely to be fruitful." ... The trial, which is in its fourth week, is expected to end Nov. 4. ... [This sounds garbled. What "would falsify a claim that a biological system is intelligent design" is one plausible naturalistic explanation of its origin. And what does "tested the Darwinian principle of random mutation and natural selection" mean? Tested it for what? Colour changes in peppered moths? Length changes in finch beaks? Or to build the bacterial flagellar motor? If the Darwinists really had a plausible naturalistic explanation for the latter, they would have stated it well before now. And it isn't the "type III secretory system":

"In line with the previous concern, Van Till offers the type III secretory system as a possible precursor to the bacterial flagellum. This ignores that the current evidence points to the type III system as evolving from the flagellum and not vice versa (cf. Milt Saier's recent work at UCSD). But beyond that, finding a component of a functional system that performs some other function is hardly an argument for the original system evolving from that other system. One might just as well say that because the motor in a motorcycle can be used as a blender, therefore the motor evolved into the motorcycle. Perhaps, but not without intelligent design. Even if it could be shown that the type III system predated the flagellum (contrary to Milt Saier's work), it could at best represent one possible step in the indirect Darwinian evolution of the bacterial flagellum. But that still wouldn't constitute a solution to the evolution of the bacterial flagellum. What's needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis along the way. To claim otherwise is like saying we can travel by foot from Los Angeles to Tokyo because we've discovered the Hawaiian Islands. Evolutionary biology needs to do better than that." (Dembski W.A., "Naturalism's Argument from Invincible Ignorance: A Response to Howard Van Till," Design Inference Website, September 2002)
"Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University who argues in favor of Darwinian evolution, made a splash when he announced ... that `the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex.' Miller cited a cellular structure known as the type III secretory system (TTSS) that allows certain bacteria to inject toxins through the cell walls of their hosts. This `nasty little device,' in Miller's words, is a feature of several bacteria, including Y. pestis, the bacterium that is responsible for bubonic plague. According to research cited by Miller, the TTSS is made up of several proteins that are `homologous' to a set of proteins from the base of the flagellum. Miller argued that the injector pump is probably an `evolutionary precursor' to the flagellum, and it is fully functional although it has fewer parts. Therefore, `the claim of irreducible complexity has collapsed, and with it any 'evidence' that the flagellum was designed.' The `flagellum has been unspun,' Miller concluded. But there was a little problem with Miller's declaration of victory. As it turns out, the bubonic plague bacterium already has the full set of genes necessary to make a flagellum. Rather than making a flagellum, Y. pestis uses only part of the genes that are present to manufacture that nasty little injector instead. As pointed out in a recent article by design theorist Stephen Meyer and microbiologist Scott Minnich (an expert on the flagellar system), the gene sequences suggest that `flagellar proteins arose first and those of the pump came later.' If evolution was involved, the pump came from the motor, not the motor from the pump. Also, `the other thirty proteins in the flagellar motor (that are not present in the [pump]), are unique to the motor and are not found in any other living system.' Undirected evolutionary processes do not produce 30 novel proteins, of just the needed kind, to laze around idly in the cell for millennia so that a pump could some day transform itself into a motor. In short, the proteins in the TTSS do not provide a `gradualist' Darwinian pathway to explain the step-by-step evolution of the irreducibly complex flagellar motor. Miller's spin has been unspun." (Peterson D., "The Little Engine That Could...Undo Darwinism," The American Spectator, June 2005) ]

Intelligent design vs. stack of science books: Concept's advocate says he is `quite skeptical' about evolution texts, MSNBC, Oct. 19, 2005 HARRISBURG, Pa. - A leading advocate of "intelligent design" on Wednesday questioned whether his critics have enough scientific evidence to discredit his ideas as he testified in a federal trial over whether the concept can be discussed in a public school biology class. Lehigh University biochemistry professor Michael Behe testified for a third day on behalf of a school board that is defending its decision a year ago, to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. Behe contends that evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life - such as the immune system and blood clotting - suggesting the work of an intelligent force. He specifically questions whether complex systems could have evolved gradually through natural selection and random mutation. Eric Rothschild, a lawyer for eight families suing to have intelligent design removed from the Dover Area School District's biology curriculum, presented Behe with a stack of more than a half-dozen books written about the evolution of the immune system. "A lot of writing, huh?" Rothschild said. But Behe was unmoved, noting that "evolution" has multiple meanings. "I am quite skeptical that they present detailed, rigorous models of the evolution of the immune system through random mutation and natural selection," he said. Behe also defended his 1996 best seller, "Darwin's Black Box," which outlines his ideas, and said discussing intelligent design is educationally useful because it exposes students to differing views of evolution. ... [So what was Rothschild's answer? That his "half-dozen books written about the evolution of the immune system" do "present detailed, rigorous models of the evolution of the immune system through random mutation and natural selection"? If not, then what relevance was his "stack of science books" with their "lot of writing"? He might as well have "presented Behe with a stack of more than a half-dozen" telephone "books"!]

Superintendent testifies in evolution trial: 'Intelligent design' not same as creationism, Dover schools chief says, MSNBC, Oct. 21, 2005 HARRISBURG, Pa. - The superintendent of a school district that is defending its decision to mention "intelligent design" in biology classes testified Friday that he did not equate the concept with creationism. "I did not see intelligent design as creationism. I saw them totally separate," Dover Area Superintendent Richard Nilsen said. "Creationism references Genesis. ... Intelligent design does not reference a biblical context at all." ....Eight families are suing to have intelligent design removed from the curriculum, because they believe the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation, and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state. ... Nilsen said Friday he didn't think the district's approach to intelligent design would get as involved as it did. He originally envisioned teachers making only passing references to the concept in biology class. "No one had ever said we would ignore or modify the state standards on evolution," he said. But when teachers started asking how to implement it, the district developed the statement to be read in class. Under cross-examination, plaintiffs' attorney Eric Rothschild asked Nilsen about a reference "Of Pandas and People" made to a "master intellect" as the origin of life on Earth. He said that, in a pretrial deposition, Nilsen had said he thought that "could only mean God or aliens." "Is that your idea of good pedagogy?" Rothschild asked. Nilsen replied, "Good pedagogy is to give them (students) the understanding that people believe that is true and to give them other options." Assistant superintendent Michael Baksa, who oversees the district's curriculum, testified Friday that creationism was never discussed when school board member Bill Buckingham met with Baksa in June 2004 to air his concerns about the biology textbook's treatment of evolution. "I understood his concerns would be that the theory is treated like a fact, a reality," Baksa said. "It's mentioned so many times in the book that it biases students to accept it as a fact."... [This is very important in rebutting the charge that the DASD was trying to "promote... the Bible's view of creation". As for "master intellect", that is no more religious than the atheist Fred Hoyle's suggestion from "the delicate positioning of the nuclear resonances" in "carbon-oxygen synthesis" that "a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology" (my emphasis):

"From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 Mev energy level in the nucleus of 12C to the 7.12 Mev level in 16O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? Following the above argument, I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature." (Hoyle F., "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 20, 1982, pp.1-35, p.16. My emphasis).
As Antony Flew showed, one could infer there was a designer, "based on scientific evidence" and call the designer a "super-intelligence" (my emphasis) or even "God", and yet still mean only a deistic God and not the "God of the Christian" or of any religion:
"A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England. Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives. `I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins,' he said. `It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose.'" ("Famous Atheist Now Believes in God," ABC News/AP, December 9, 2004. My emphasis).]

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

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