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Monday, February 07, 2005

Behe on scientists:

In today's New York Times, Intelligent Design supporter Michael Behe writes in support of that notion. We find the Intelligent Design concept to be poorly reasoned. There may be a case for declaring some things, like the proverbial pocket watch, as being designed. But that's only because of our observations of what humans have designed. We are familiar with watchmakers and other craftsmen who work with small bits of brass and steel. So when we see a collection of gears and springs its natural to conclude a human made it. But "design" is contingent on what we know can be designed. If somehow a computer chip could be transported back in time, would Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, or anybody else for that matter, have been able to see the silicon for anything other than a pretty sliver of shiny metal with interesting patterns? No.

The purpose of this post isn't to wrestle with Intelligent Design, but to relate a fact. Way back in late 1999 on a Los Angeles talk radio program (host: Stephanie Edwards) the subject was Intelligent Design and the person being interviewed was Michael Behe. We were driving around and don't have a recording, so this is from memory. During the discussion the subject turned to the opposition of scientists to ID which Behe claimed was due to their rejection of religion. Then Behe went on to assert that,
If scientists had evidence of religion they would suppress it.

[Evidence of a laboratory experiment -type.]
Scientist wouldn't suppress it. If, for example, it could be repeatedly and reliably demonstrated that prayer could freeze a glass of water, scientists would be out there reporting the fact and trying to integrate it into some kind of model. Behe shows his disregard for the scientific approach, and scientist's devotion to it. Behe is making an ad hominem attack on his opponents.


8 comments

You are of course correct, the attack was competely ad hominem. It also demonstrates that despite protestation to the contrary, I.D. is just Creationism warmed-over which was nothing but biblical literalism.

Did Behe really say, "if scientists had proof of religion..." or did he say, "if scientists had proof of god..."?

Proof of god is in a way oximoronic since god, by his nature, must be accepted on faith. Proof nullifies that. Also god exists in the spiritual realm. If proof existed in our material realm, it would be contrary to his spirituality.

Science doesn't deal with god because at one time philosophy was divided into three mutually exclusive groups: ethics, natural philosophy, and metaphysics.
Science is our modern name for natural philosophy. Metaphysics would deal with god.

I don't think scientists deny the existance of religion. It is evident all around us. When "true believers" hijack planes and fly them into skyscrappers for the glory of Alla. There is proof positive of the existance of religion. When the "faithful" show up at Matthew Shepards funeral to inform everyone that he was "burning in hell." What more proof does one need for the existance of religion. When Saudi police won't allow young girls to escape from their burning dormitory because their heads are not covered, I'm sold, no doubt in my mind, religion is alive and well as still the scorge of humanity.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/07/2005 5:32 PM  

As a biology professor who teaches courses on how to ask scientific questions and do research and a course on evolution, what struck me about Behe's op-ed was that he didn't even try to make ID scientific-- absolutely no claims about predictions it makes, or experiments (including observational) that might test ID 'theory' or its testable corollaries or predicitons. His basis for ID is: "The strong appearance of design allows a disarmingly simple argument: if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it's a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it's so obvious." That may be fine ideology (although as you state, it isn't particularly strong reasoning), but it has nothing to do with science.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/07/2005 8:16 PM  

ID also makes the classic logical fallacy of the argument from ignorance: I cannot understand it, so no one else understands it either. A good example of this is the many books from the 1970's which argued that humans without our modern technology could not have possibly built the pyramids in Egypt and Central America or other ancient wonders, therefore they must have been built by extraterrestrial aliens. Of, course even as these books came out, archaeolgists were beginning to figure out how ancient peoples were able to do with clever application of what is really sophisticated technlogy with simple materials. The fundamental premise was proven false beyond any doubt.

The other big problem with the piece is the claim that ID has nothing to do with religion. The financial backers of the Discover Institute and the right wing "religious" groups that support it would be very suprised to learn this if they did not already know that this is a lie used to fool the media and public.
Evidently, the NYT has less ethics than the bloggers that are railed against for not having journalistic ethics, but then we knew this from Judith Miller already.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/07/2005 8:55 PM  

Michael Behe wrote what sounded to be an appeal to "common sense" regarding Intelligent Design (ID). Cells act like machines, "common sense" tells us machines are built by a higher intelligence, therefore lfe must have been created by a higher being (i.e. God or some reasonable facsimile thereof.)

The short form of Mr. Behe's argument is "I don't have any evidence supporting my theory, so you'll just have to take me on faith and your own prejudices." This is a religious argument.

Besides, anyone thinking something must be true because "it makes sense" hasn't taken physics. How can light behave as a wave sometimes and a particle at other times? Common sense tells us light can't be both a particle and a wave - but the evidence shows that common sense is wrong.

Bottom line, if evolution is "only a theory" - then "intelligent design" is "only an unproven hypothesis" unless and until someone comes up with supporting data. Until that data appears, ID has no place in science textbooks.

By Blogger RepubAnon, at 2/07/2005 9:32 PM  

until the ID proponents come up with testable consequences of ID, where failing the test means disproving ID, then it isn't even an "unproven hypothesis". To be a _scientific_ hypothesis, it has to be testable and by that testing subject ot disproof.

ID isn't scientific. It's "god of the gaps" pinheaded theology, and Behe's patently dishonest attempts to grab some scientific credibility for his theology diminishes both science and faith.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/08/2005 6:39 AM  

At the Lehigh website, Behe's area of specialization is listed as "Evolution of protein structure"? Shouldn't that be "Intelligent design of protein structure"? For $30,000 a year in tuition, we expect intellectual honesty.

By Blogger infoshaman, at 2/08/2005 7:19 AM  

'Also god exists in the spiritual realm. If proof existed in our material realm, it would be contrary to his spirituality. '

But of course you need proof such a realm exists, which of course their is no evidence for at all.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/08/2005 7:43 AM  

There is another way to get proof of God which can end religion, and it exists.

A couple things you'll need to understand first.

First are the names of God in Tanakh(the Old Testament), in order of number of appearances, most first:
Yahweh, Elohim, El, Eloah, Elah

Second is the "im" suffix, which is both plural and something more. For example, a Kibbutz is an Israeli commune, Kibbutzim are people of the Kibbutz, Moab was a place, Moabim are what we'd call the Moabites.

"God" existed, he was a man called "El." He had seventy sons they called "Elohim." Maybe his real name was Yahweh, and that's why you weren't supposed to say that (We don't call the President "George" when we refer to him respecfully).

The El and Elohim parts are a rumor from the Dead Sea Scrolls community. I was privy to this knowledge based on my experience working on an archaeological dig in Israel this last summer.

God exists the way every dead person exists. Perhaps it would be better to say "God existed."

By Blogger josh narins, at 2/11/2005 4:54 PM  

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