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Guardian Interview with Behe

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A Design for Life
John Sutherland meets Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design, the controversial theory that evolution alone cannot explain life’s complexity
Go here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1567967,00.html

Comments
DaveScot Are you familiar with the concept of symbiogenesis. Mitochondria have their own DNA, chloroplasts could have evolved from cyanobacteria (via lichen type organisms). Ribosomes, being so ubiquitous, could have arisen in a similar way.Alan Fox
September 18, 2005
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I suppose I should amend the flagellum portion. I don't find the flagellum very interesting. What I want to see focused upon with origin in question is the ribosome. Flagella aren't shared by every living thing and are exceedingly simple devices compared to ribosomes. The flagellum is probably a more reasonably attainable goalpost to set before an RM+NS disciple all the really interesting stuff at the cellular level and the most universal machinery to investigate is the protein synthesis factory. Which came first, DNA or ribosomes, is the mother of all chicken/ egg paradoxes.DaveScot
September 15, 2005
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Arnhart, Clearly Darwinian evolution can be reconciled with some manner of divine creation in a number of ways that cannot be disproven. That which has the most solid underpinning is the position advanced in "The Privileged Planet". I divide ID hypotheses into two kinds - Cosmic and Biological (CID and BID). The so-called fine-tuning argument is just about indisputable in my opinion. The only argument against it is giggle-inspiring multiverse narratives that posit an infinite number of universes each with slightly different arrangements such that one of them HAD to lead to the universe we're in. The way to defeat almost infinitely small odds is with an infintely large number of tries at overcoming it. In other words, no matter how small the odds of winning a lottery with one ticket, the chance of winning is 100% if you buy ALL the tickets. Then there's the deterministic argument which states that the universe is entirely deterministic and there's no such thing as randomness. In other words everything was writ in granite at the instant the universe was created (the big bang). Einstein held this view. I find this argument as strong as the fine tuning argument as science has not shown whether or not the universe is deterministic or not. My personal belief (I'm still agnostic but I do have my personal preferences) is that the universe is deterministic until the point where rational man entered the scene. Free will is not deterministic and can alter the course of otherwise deterministic outcomes. I believe that the designer of the universe planned it this way for what possible motivation could there be in designing a universe where you knew everything that was going to happen in it ahead of time? That's boring. The biggest challenge to an entity of that nature I should think would be overcoming boredom. Life would really suck if there were no surprises. Lastly, and least appealing to me, but still logically possible, is in-place creation. This is the notion that the universe is not as old as it appears and didn't really evolve much. It was created with the illusion of being old. This just doesn't make much sense so I don't spend much time thinking about it. I really don't see how ID disputes any of these reconciliations with divinity. One must hold onto some core belief that God did not leave mathematical proof of His existence for us to find. I can find no plausible basis for holding such a belief. Signposts of intelligent design litter the scientific evidence from the big bang (something from nothing) to the finely tuned physical constants that emerged shortly after the big bang (allowing life to exist at all) to the exceedingly rare earth (privileged planet) to the exquisitely engineered machinery of life that exists in each and every living cell. I seldom mention cosmological ID because it isn't interesting. There's nothing to tinker with, test, or explore. Cosmological ID is just there, it's not experimental, and the only competing explanation is theoretical physics which also can't be tested. Biological ID on the other hand is extremely interesting and can be tested. Anywhere there is evidence of design we can test our tentative design inference by trying to find undirected pathways that can achieve the same result. Think about how much science would be done in trying to reconstruct, bit by bit, not on paper but in a laboratory, the RM+NS path which could have led to the flagellum. The technologies that must be developed to undertake that task would have benefits far beyond merely getting an answer to the question of whether or not the flagellum can evolve without intelligent input.DaveScot
September 15, 2005
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Good reply taciturnus. I read that paper at PT last night and didn't know what to make of it because I haven't read Dembski's books yet. I was even going to post a question here, but you saved me the trouble. Thanks.Lurker
September 15, 2005
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Mr. Fox, Prof. Perakh has responded over on the Panda's Thumb. I would like to know what your analysis of the arguments is because I know I will never change the professor's mind on anything. If that were the point of this, we can stop now because it won't happen. I am more interested in what an open-minded individual like you thinks. I think his response proves my original point, that he seems to be going out of his way to misunderstand ID. There is a short and succinct paper by Dembski that explains the Explanatory Filter online at http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_explfilter.htm. With respect to the first stage, explanation by law, Dembski says: "At the first stage, the filter determines whether a law can explain the thing in question. Law thrives on replicability, yielding the same result whenever the same antecedent conditions are fulfilled. Clearly, if something can be explained by a law, it better not be attributed to design. Things explainable by a law are therefore eliminated at the first stage of the Explanatory Filter." Note the phrase "whenever the same antecedent conditions are fulfilled." When the antecedent conditions of rare weather conditions are fulfilled, triangular snowflakes follow as a matter of physical law. Therefore these snowflakes can be explained by law, not design. I ask you, using your best judgement: Is this a difficult point? With respect to Perakh's comments about conditional probability, all probability measures occur in a context and are therefore in some sense conditional. Most of the time the conditions are a matter of common sense and don't need to be spelled out, except for the pedantic. "The probablility of a coin flip resulting in heads is approximately 0.5" seems an obvious statement, but if we follow Perakh, it's wrong because I did not specify the conditions of the probability measure. Flipping coins is actually a rare occurence (how often do people do it?), so the probability of a coin flip coming up heads is really quite small, since the probability of a coin flip at all is small. Therefore a coin flip resulting in heads must have been designed! Gotcha! Perakh's point seems to be that if we approach the Explanatory Filter without common sense, then we will get obviously false results. I admit that he has ably demonstrated this. But his point, alas, is true of the statistical sciences in general and even thought in general. Garbage in, garbage out. If I plug silly numbers into my probability calculations, then I will get silly results. All this proves is my own silliness, not that of the science in question. Lastly, compare this quote from Perakh's response to the Dembski quote above: "If we were searching for the answer to the first question, taciturnus’s notion would be reasonable: it is indeed obvious that in the case in point there is no reason to infer design; the appearance of the triangular snowflakes is predetermined by the combination of proper weather conditions and laws of physics. This correct inference is, though, done outside Dembski’s EF" Something predetermined by a combination of proper weather conditions and laws of physics seems exactly what Dembski is talking about in his first stage of the EF. But this is common sense, and I'm not supposed to use that.taciturnus
September 15, 2005
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I accept the point that Dembski's explanatory filter is designed to eliminate false positives but not false negatives. But this only reinforces the point that whatever emerges from natural evolutionary laws is divinely designed insofar as God is the designer of nature's laws. That was Darwin's thought when he spoke of evolution as governed by "the laws impressed on matter by the Creator." This supports the position of theistic evolution. As indicated by his epigram from Bacon in ORIGIN, Darwin saw no conflict between Biblical religion and evolutionary science because he thought that studying "the book of God's Word" was compatible with studying "the book of God's works."Arnhart
September 15, 2005
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"Let’s be clear. If we accept “intelligent design theory” as interpreted by Dembski, then we must reject Christian theology." Nonsense. Design detection (ostensibly) reliably detects design. It does not reliably detect chance as an intelligent agent can imitate a chance event. Think of a murderer trying to make the death look like an accident.DaveScot
September 15, 2005
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Crandaddy and MGD, thank you for your last responses to " If we accept “intelligent design theory” as interpreted by Dembski, then we must reject Christian theology." They are so much more intelligent than mine, which is: "so?"Charlie
September 14, 2005
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Arnhart: "Let’s be clear. If we accept 'intelligent design theory' as interpreted by Dembski, then we must reject Christian theology." Why? As a Christian, myself, it makes perfect sense to me that God would leave empirical evidence of His design. Moreover, what is design, anyway, if it is indistinguishable from chaos? If intelligence and design are emergent properties of random chaos, then do we really have any reason to believe in God, anyway? It's just like Richard Dawkins said, "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist". Well, Intelligent Design Theory is now giving Dawkins nightmares. You also said this: "Dembski’s 'explanatory filter' means that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities, then we cannot attribute this to design. But Christian theology would say that everything is intelligently designed by God–either through His Design of natural laws (including evolution) or through His designing things outside His natural laws." Have you read chapter eleven of his book, "The Design Revolution"? In it he makes clear that his explanatory filter is capable of eliminating false positives but not false negatives. It is capable of determining that a supercomputer is designed, but it is not capable of determining that the big rock you saw on your last hiking trip was not designed. The reason is that intelligent agents are capable of imitating random natural processes. Just because intelligent design is not detectable in something does not mean that it was not made by an intelligent agent. Davidcrandaddy
September 14, 2005
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"Dembski’s “explanatory filter” means that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities, then we cannot attribute this to design" This is not true. Using the EF, we dont attribute regularities to design but we dont relegate them to "nondesign" either. The question is left open. An intelligent agent can leave traces that may seem like chance or law (regularity) as well as specified complexity, which the EF is used to discern. The EF is used to detect design, not define it. "From the point of view of Christian theology, Darwinian evolution IS intelligent design." From the point of view of Christian Theology, Darwinism is athiesm, plain and simple. Why do you want to muddy the water? What's your agenda?MGD
September 14, 2005
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Let's be clear. If we accept "intelligent design theory" as interpreted by Dembski, then we must reject Christian theology. Dembski's "explanatory filter" means that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities, then we cannot attribute this to design. But Christian theology would say that everything is intelligently designed by God--either through His Design of natural laws (including evolution) or through His designing things outside His natural laws. For that reason, many Christian scientists believe that if all living things could be explained as products of Darwinian natural evolution, this would be a wondrous manifestation of God's power for intelligently designing natural laws to execute His purposes. Whether God works through the ordinary laws of nature or through extraordinary miracles, it's all an expression of His intelligent design. From the point of view of Christian theology, Darwinian evolution IS intelligent design. Therefore, anyone who accepts Dembski's "explanatory filter" view of intelligent design is anti-Chrisian.Arnhart
September 14, 2005
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This is how I sort out the mess: We observe extremely complex phenomena in nature. We are able to determine that these phenomena are ordered in such a way that they are specified to objective ends. We are currently unable to detect a physical law that renders these phenomena necessary (e.g. snowflakes exhibit complex designs because the physical properties of water render such designs necessary). Either the phenomena in question are the product of intelligent causation, or they are the product of purely natural mechanisms. Scientists are, so far, unable to account for a purely unguided, naturalistic process by which these phenomena could have occurred that is detailed, testible, and plausible. As far as anybody knows, all phenomena that exhibit such "specified complexity" are the product of intelligent causation. Proponents of ID are often accused of committing the fallacy of arguing from ignorance by supposedly saying, "Nobody knows how it occurred, so it MUST have been designed." On the contrary, all we are saying is that intelligent causation is a PLAUSIBLE explanation, and we would simply like to see it receive credit as such. We fully encourage scientists to continue to look for unguided naturalistic explanations for these phenomena. If they exist, let them be found! I think Arnhart and Alan Fox misunderstand the distinction between the designer and that which is designed. A knowledge of the designer and/or his/her/its methods of design is not necessary for one to come to a valid design inference. For example, let's say a group of astronomers are gazing into the heavens and discover that a tenth planet is orbiting our sun. But this is no ordinary planet; it's an exact replica of the Statue of Liberty with a mass equal to that of Jupiter. Now, let me ask you, is it reasonable to entertain the possibility that this object is the product of intelligent design? Surely, it is! But why would the designer have made it, and how could it have been done? The question of motive is not scientific in nature, and the question of means poses major problems because mankind is currently nowhere close to having the technology or resources to accomplish such a feat. Now if I interperet Arnhart correctly, since we are unable to come up with a detailed, testable model for how a designer could have made this Statue of Liberty replica, then it is unreasonable to theorize that it was intelligently designed at all. Is this what you're saying? Davidcrandaddy
September 14, 2005
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A. Fox: Are you not presuming that the designer is God? Your supposition that there is still an interface, leads one to believe that you speak of miracles, and miracles, at least by my estimation, would be the provenance of God. Maybe I'm off on a tangent here, but an original designer need not be a supernatural entity that interacts today. Yes? My belief, or anyone elses for that matter, or disbelief in a supernatural entity (God) that interacts with the world today, has nothing to do with my belief or disbelief that cosmological and biological design is detectable. Yes?nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Arnhart said: "You say that “an intelligent designer could create the flagella in a number of ways.” Can you give me some examples of what you have in mind?" I could but it would be speculative. Your car went through a specific manufacturing and assembly process. Can you tell me the exact process? You can't, but it doesn't really matter. Putting the engine in first or last has no bearing on the fact that intelligence played a role in its creation.Lurker
September 14, 2005
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I didn't say they had. I am saying a supernatural intervention in the real world has to impinge on the real world. If one claims that a supernatural designer can intervene then that action will be detectable. If ID is claiming to be scientific, then postulating and looking for such a mechanism may be a way forward. Unless, as you said, the designer's work has finished.Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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And no IDist that I know of has ever suggested that a location can be identified for the interface. My strawman meets yours.nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Oh bother, excuse typo. Please read last line as: No darwnist has ever suggested evolution proceeds other than in single steps via viable antecedents.Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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As to whether the designer is active today in a way that the designer may have been active before, I find equally unanswerable. In fact, I'd love to see someone try. My guess, (and my guess here is worth a cold cup of coffee), is that the designer would not require tinkering after the fact. It's hard to wrap my mind around the need for quality control.nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Toledo may very well be the specific location where the evolutionary process turned bats into bobwhites. I believe you have just made a strawman. No darwinist has ever suggested evoltion proceeds in single steps via viable antecedentsAlan Fox
September 14, 2005
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Well, I think the consequence is detectable design. The specific act that caused it or the location at which that act occured is, at this point, unanswerable. Which is why I think Toledo as good an answer as any. But ID isn't the only alternative with unanswerable questions at this point, is it? Toledo may very well be the specific location where the evolutionary process turned bats into bobwhites.nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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or more accurately: any other I'd seriously like to know.nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Forgive me for being obtuse, nostrowski. As I am not from the US I did not immediately think of Ohio. Unfortunately, a witticism explained loses some force. I am posing a serious question. At some point, if the Designer is active today, then presumably an act of design must register somehow in the natural world. That act or its consequence will be detectable. Where could one start to look for that act or its consequence?Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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A. Fox: How is Toledo any less plausible than any another answer you might receive?nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Does anyone else have a suggestion as to where the interface between the natural world and the designer lies.Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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Consider the axiom: Ask a stupid question. Get a stupid answer. C'mon. Does anyone have any suggestion where this interface lies? And you want to be taken seriously?nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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PS to Taciturnus I have dropped a gentle reminder to Professor Perakh.Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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Nostrowski Sorry, I have to ask. What does your comment "A" Fox: I do. Toledo." mean?Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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A. Fox: I do. Toledo.nostrowski
September 14, 2005
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Dr Arnhart My advice is if you wish to remain sane, avoid interacting with DaveScot. :)Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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The interface wherein the intelligent designer interacts with the real world has to be a bit of a puzzle if you stop to think. At some point this action on the natural world has to be detectable (if it indeed is occurring). Does anyone have any suggestion where this interface lies?Alan Fox
September 14, 2005
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