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Intelligent Design – Pseudoscience or A Credible Challenge To Evolution?


As I previously noted, Michael Behe has been touring the UK this week, speaking in such cities as Belfast, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Glasgow, Leamington/Warwick, London, and Oxford. On Monday, Michael Behe debated the former director of the Royal Society, Michael Reiss, before an audience of invited guests – including scientists, religious leaders and secularists. The event was hosted at the Charles Darwin house in London.

Today, the audio recording of this exchange was made available via Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable website, who hosted the event. The audio of the debate may be downloaded and listened to, at your leisure, here. A report on the event by the New Humanist blog may be read here.

The web site’s descriptor reports as follows:

This last week saw US Intelligent Deisgn proponent Michael Behe on the “Darwin or Design?” speaking tour of the UK. As well as hosting an evening event, “Unbelievable?” invited him to discuss ID with theistic evolutionist Prof Michael Reiss in front of an invited audience.

Michael Behe is professor of Biochemistry at LeHigh University, Pennsylvania. His book “Darwin’s Black Box” launched the modern Intelligent Design movement which claims that aspects of biology are too compelx to have arisen by blind Darwinian processes but entail the guidance of an intelligent mind.

Michael Reiss is Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education. Ordained in the Church of England, he was formerly director of education at the Royal Society before stepping down amid controversy over statements he made about engaging with ID and creationism in the classroom.

They engage the topic of ID and evolution in front of an audience of scientists, church and secular leaders at Charles Darwin house in London.

They discuss the limits of science, whether ID is a religious movement, the place of ID in the classroom and take questions from the audience.

For Michael Behe’s visual presentation http://www.premier.org.uk/~/media/87809B06C34444DDB31D8B016F711D4A.ashx

For Michael Behe see http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/faculty/behe.html

For Michael Reiss see http://www.ioe.ac.uk/staff/GEMS/GEMS_71.html

Would it be correct to summarize the discussion about Intelligent Design vs Natural Evolution as the following question? "Is biological life natural or artificial?" Where ID is a hypotheses that biological life is actually artificial and NE the hypotheses that all biological life is fundamentally natural. To me, ID seems to make the better argument? More so when one considers David Abel proposed law of physicodynamic insufficiency: “No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone.” NotInTheBox
Zeroseven, No DNA is not liken to a secondary form of design- or unintentional design as simply the by rpoduct of physical laws etc. DNA is ULTRA complex and ULTRA specified and functions brilliantly-like a software program more complex than any yet devised. To analogise it to a trampled down path into or around a wooded area formed by bikers or hikers would be a fallacy of false analogy. One of the main reasons this fails is that DNA is not something that "happened" has a result of some other intelligent purpose. For example do you think it is likely the designer was trying to do something different and DNA just happened to arise as an accidental result of the primary purpose? Was God not intending to make DNA? Were space aliens seeding somthing differnet and DNA unexpectedly arose? Not likely. Bottom line is that scientists would love to reduce the emergence of DNA to a secondary cause necessitated by the law of physics and perhaps some chance. But DNA's very nature stands as a testament against this form of explanation. Frost122585
Thanks Frost. But perhaps DNA is a "secondary" design also. The forces of nature acting on RNA or some other precursor molecule cause DNA to emerge. It seems to me that a very functional path, very similar to one designed for the purpose, emerges unconsciously from natural forces of nature. I could see this as an analogy for life. zeroseven
Zeroseven, Your bike path example is the result of both intelligent causation (it is no coincidence that it is in a location used by people) and natural laws of erosion as a by product of intelligent causation. What is interesting about your example is that the path is being designed without the "direct" intention by the intelligent agents involved. This clearly is an example of where intelligent agency plays a purposive role, however there is further design which happens as a by product of the original intention which was just simply to pass through that area. One must keep in mind that ID is a limited scientifc theory, like all theories, and that it is not able to detect design with equal certainty in all cases- just like an anthropologist cannot determine the nature of every bone they find with equal certainty. In your example you have what might be considered secondary design. That is, design as a by product of a different purpose. So if we were to see paths on Mars we might infer that some agency could have been involved with their origin- but it would be far less certain- given this kind of ambiguous nature. It is important to note however that phenomena like DNA are not ambiguous though- and its unique complex nature screams of design. But, ID like all sciences does not claim to be able to explain everything- but just simply to be able to remain consistently accurate given the quality of the evidence being supplied. I hope this helps. Frost122585
Perhaps not quite on topic but I have a question about design and how to detect it. This scenario occurred to me as I was biking to work this morning. I noticed in the park that I bike through a path has formed between one entrance to the park and the exit. The path formed when the grass had not been mowed for quite a while. Because most people biking choose the same route (around the bottom of a hill then direct line to the gate) a hard path eventually formed with no grass on it. No one had a purpose of making that path but once formed everyone used it. Same thing happens on a farm. You notice that in hilly country the sheep make paths around the hills. Again, they do not intend to, but because the sheep choose a similar route based on things like avoiding rough ground, steep ground, finding the most direct way from one place to another a path eventually forms. Over time it becomes cut into the hill and you could not distinguish it from a path deliberately made by people using tools (accept it is narrower than normal). My question is - is there a mechanism that could detect the difference between a path deliberately designed and one that occurs naturally as I describe above? I imagine a purposeful man-made path, and the sheep-path could be reduced to a digital string describing length, width, direction, altitude etc, and the string would look very similar in each case. But you could not describe the sheep as "designing" the path. zeroseven
They discussed about ID in the classroom? Why is there any discussion other then what is true and so the classroom must submit to truth and processes to discovering it or deny the essential ingredient to truth which is freedom to discover, enquire, learn and so on. If ID or YEC is denied in classrooms on origin subjects then it means there is a official state position that cannot be questioned in state institutions. Orthodoxy in human knowledge is just historically and surely absurd. We don't know that much to insist on excluding ideas dealing with unseen processes and actions. Robert Byers
One of the main misunderstood aspects of Intelligent Design is that it is a synthetic theory. While it is very true that design is very evident at first appearance for many- design is not something that one immediately thinks of until they consider the origin and reality of the object at hand. Religion recognizes that man must be taught about the reality of God- that revelation is necessary for man to know and understand true reality. Though the existence of a God may very well be imminetly obvious- details of his realty like his wrok though design may not be. Thus, design requires some internal thought and insight to be perceived. This is very much akin to what all synthetic theories of science require. The elucidation of DNA for example was not evident simply by looking at the living things and inferring it. In fact DNA's structure was elucidated via synthetic reasoning long before it was well understood and well investigated. The inference of DNA's reality came from synthetic scientific reasoning- using mathematical models to construct what DNA must really be like without yet being able to actually see it. Just so a designer is inferred by the workings and events we see in nature that display an organized structure that correlates with function and purpose- such as the functions of eyes, and or DNA error correction systems. Descartes uses this very similar synthetic/sensus reasoning argument in his meditations for the existence of God. First he uses the argument of causation- that every event requires a cause greater than itself- and thus that his idea of God must come from some cosmically greater idea producer. But then he goes on to show that ideas while not derived from sensus experience directly or purely- are nevertheless just as pure and truth telling as the empirical and sensus data were rely on all the time to ascertain and validate our perceptions of truth and reality. Yet the modern scientific establishment always demands of ID that it produces some empirical evidence of the designer itself before it can be taken seriously. But Descartes shows that empirical and sensus verification can actually be no better than what is derived synthetically. Descartes uses the prime example of the true nature of the sun. He says that the sun via our senses appears to be a small flat circle of light sitting in the sky. Yet via the use of mathematics and synthetic reasoning we realize our senses here have mislead or even lied to us. For, before empirical verification it was demonstrated that the sun we see in the sky is actually not in the sky but in outer space an that it is not small an enormous object that is not flat but spherical and a very long distance away from the earth. Descartes shows that our synthetic reasoning can in fact deliver us much closer to truth and understanding that sensus experience alone. Thus he proposes that perhaps synthetic reasoning is actually more reliable than reasoning relying on sensus verification alone. ID is therefore equally as plausible a scientific theory as any other pertaining to physical phenomena- like thermodynamics, geology, astrophysics etc. So in closing it is the current scientific establishment that is making the exception against the theory of ID- and not ID that is specially pleading for the way the theory is formed. That is why I say ID s a sceintific theory that should be taught along side evolutionary theory. Frost122585
Centre for Intelligent Design UK commented on Behe's recent tour,,, "A very successful tour has been completed. Other events are in the planning stage. Good crowds in all centres - London, Leamington, Glasgow, Belfast, Cambridge, Bournemouth as well as an excellent fully subscribed day conference in Oxford. Total attendance well over 3000. Not bad for an initial event...." http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Centre-for-Intelligent-Design-UK/148712878481062 bornagain77
ba77, That is some response! RkBall
JM: In your lead off question you ask: Intelligent Design – Pseudoscience or A Credible Challenge To Evolution? Ironically, It seems that atheism/materialism, despite strong protestations by atheists to the contrary, is actually the 'scientific' position that leads to greater levels of irrationality instead of the intelligent design position as atheists maintain. Just as Dr. Behe stated in the debate that 'denying design leads to irrationality'. In fact this 'leading to irrationality' of atheism can be bore out: I think that Dr. Gordon does an excellent job of highlighting the levels of irrationality that atheism/materialism invokes when pushed to extremes: Dr. Bruce Gordon - The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/ BRUCE GORDON: Hawking irrational arguments - October 2010 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/1/hawking-irrational-arguments/ As well Discovery Institute recently pointed out the fallacious 'Darwin of the gaps' argument that Francis Collins has made in defense of his irrational 'Junk DNA' position (As opposed to the 'God of the gaps' argument that Theists are accused of) Francis Collins and Evolution - Wells. Meyer, and Sternberg - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34p3kKwKIEQ Even more ironic for atheists, it also turns out that science itself, atheists supposedly private domain of inquiry, is impossible unless Theism is true: This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed 'Presuppositional apologetics'. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place. Proof That God Exists - easy to use interactive website http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php Even more ironically, it seems that atheists are much more superstitious than Theists: Look Who's Irrational Now - WSJ Excerpt: Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122178219865054585.html In fact when Darwinian evolution itself is scrutinized for pseudo-scientific properties, It 'reeks' of them: Is evolution pseudoscience? Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other?pseudosciences — astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many. http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience Thus as Dr. Behe maintained in the debate, and as is bore out by the evidence, to continue deny design in biology will only lead to greater levels of irrationality. further notes: Predictive power of Materialism compared to Theism within science http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=dc8z67wz_5fwz42dg9 Whereas Intelligent Design, contrary to what many evolutionists will say publicly, does in fact make solid predictions for science that we can test: A Response to Questions from a Biology Teacher: How Do We Test Intelligent Design? - March 2010 Excerpt: Regarding testability, ID (Intelligent Design) makes the following testable predictions: (1) Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information). (2) Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors. (3) Convergence will occur routinely. That is, genes and other functional parts will be re-used in different and unrelated organisms. (4) Much so-called “junk DNA” will turn out to perform valuable functions. Science Owes Nothing To Darwinian Evolution - Jonathan Wells - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4028096 "Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No. Philip S. Skell - Professor at Pennsylvania State University. http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2816 bornagain77
It seems that the link to the new humanist report isn't working. Though, this may just be my internet. Manable

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