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The best evolutionary biologists think about intelligent design

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It is evident by the fact that Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Ken Miller, Sean Carroll, and Michael Ruse have written book reviews of Michael Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution, that the best evolutionary biologists think about intelligent design. That only makes sense because Darwin himself wrote much about intelligent design and devoted an entire book, The Origin of Species, in a failed attempt to refute intelligent design.

We see peer reviewed literature by Zuckerkandl, Ayala, Koonin, and others referencing intelligent design. Here is a peer-reviewed article by 3 scientists from MIT in the journal of Molecular Systems Biology: The intelligent design of evolution where the authors assert:

The debate between intelligent design and evolution in education may still rage in school boards and classrooms, but intelligent design is making headway in the laboratory…
….
Intelligent design, however, may be here to stay.

In preparing another thread, I came across the photograph of one of the most famous evolutionary biologists, John Maynard Smith. The photograph above was of Maynard-Smith when he was a bit younger. The photograph below is one of the last photographs of Maynard-Smith published, and it appeared in a memorial article written by Richard Lewontin in the prestigious Journal Science in 2004 [see: Retrospective: In Memory of John Maynard Smith (1920-2004)]

Look at the close up of the book on his shelf:

It’s none other than Michael Behe’s, Darwin’s Black Box, right beside Charles Darwin’s autobiography.

PS
I’d like to thank everyone, especially the evolutionary biologists, for purchasing Behe’s books, reading them, and advertising them.

[update: johnnyb pointed out that Maynard-Smith co-authored an aritcle with a creationist published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, See: here for details.

HT: TelicThoughts A Mystery for the Ages

]

37 Replies to “The best evolutionary biologists think about intelligent design

  1. 1

    [To digress:] When Hannah Gray, then president of the University of Chicago, handed me my doctorate in mathematics in June of 1988, two figures who have been significant in my intellectual development also received doctorates — honorary ones — from her hand: Amos Tversky and John Maynard Smith.

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    The picture of Maynard-Smith with Behe’s book on his shelf is real (visit the link to Lewontin’s essay in Science).

    The picture at the top had a thought cloud added to the photograph. Many thanks to the friend who put the thought cloud picture together.

  3. 3
    scordova says:

    For the record, John Maynard Smith is a wonderful individual. No disrespect intended toward him.

  4. 4
    Atom says:

    So, scientists everywhere may soon begin their own intelligent designs… and so far, it looks like the best designs are the simplest. At the protein level, at least, it looks like irreducible complexity is out and a rather reducible simplicity is in. Intelligent design, however, may be here to stay.

    Like I always said, this is positive experimental evidence for ID. Let me explain.

    We have an effect, functionally complex molecular machines, and we propose two possible causal classes: intelligence and unguided (unintelligent) mechanisms. We observe the unintelligent mechanisms (as Behe’s EOE recounts) and see that unintelligent mechanisms are incapable of producing the effect. This is a negative argument against the second causal class, and since the two classes are exhaustive and mutually exclusive, we could stop there by disjunctive syllogism.

    But, we can further strengthen our argument, and make a positive case for the first causal class (Design) by testing to see if this class can produce the observed effect. That is what the sceintists in the article are doing; they are providing direct evidence for Intelligent Design. Since they are capable of building such structures, (and as time passes they’ll be able to produce increasingly complex ones), we can see that our first causal class (intelligence) can indeed produce the observed effect.

    So not only can intelligence demonstrably produce the observed effect, it is the only causal class thus far demonstrated to do so. Therefore, ID is the only resonable explanation at this point.

    As you can see, we have built a positive, two-pronged case for ID. This is why I love science (actual experiment).

  5. 5
    nullasalus says:

    I will say that I see “intelligent design” referenced more commonly – in fact I’d say that it’s a pretty powerful meme (Thank you, Dawkins!) at this point. It’s even shown up in previews of video games (Spore, by Maxis. Which may as well be an ID game, frankly.)

    I think the very idea that there can be design present in any and every level of material existence – from the formation of the universe to the mechanics of quanta, and everything in between – is itself a very powerful idea, regardless of what one thinks of the specific scientific claims of Professors Dembski and Behe. For advancing that manner of thinking – and providing an alternative to what is essentially a fierce philosophical orthodoxy in the sciences – I’m grateful to the ID movement at large.

  6. 6
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Wow, Scordova, you had real sharp eyes to pick out the name of the book. And the book came within an inch of being obscured by Smith’s head.

    Anyway, I don’t think that the photo was necessarily intended to be an endorsement of the book.

  7. 7
    idnet.com.au says:

    Keep the original photo file as I think they will erase it from the Science site some time soon.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    Mats says:

    idnet is right.
    Save it, Sal. Better save it, or Darwinists will make it disapper. Remember what Darwinists did on Wikipedia, when Dr Egnor quoted an entry there, speaking about “reversed engeneering” in Biology. A few days later (or even in the same day) that article was modified, and the reversed engeneering bit was “gone”.

  10. 10
    Larry Fafarman says:

    idnet.com.au said,

    Keep the original photo file as I think they will erase it from the Science site some time soon.

    No need to erase the photo — all they need to do is airbrush out the book’s title.

    That gives me an idea — maybe the photo could be doctored by adding book titles like Darwin on Trial, Of Pandas and People, Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter (a quote mine collection), That Their Words May be Used Against Them (another quote mine collection), etc..

  11. 11
    Larry Fafarman says:

    BTW, another book in the photo — a black book at the right of the photo — is titled “Darwin & His Critics.” Does that mean that there really is a controversy?

  12. 12
    DrDan says:

    Most scientists see design in the universe. The question is, is it “Dawkin’s” design or is it intelligent design. Most would say the former. Everyone at this post knows this. Its not suprising that Maynard Smith has a copy of Behe’s book on his shelf, just as its not suprising that I have an evolutionary biology books on my shelf, and I’m not an evolutionists (according to how materialists define the term). Scientists equip themselves with enough knowledge to know that God is real, yet their world view won’t let them go there. Romans 1:20 comes to mind.

  13. 13
    searcher says:

    To be fair, though, the Nature article doesn’t really mention ID in the way in which you suggest … it make it clear that in this article, the intelligent designer is Man.

    And the full quote at the end of the article is “So, scientists everywhere may soon begin their own intelligent designs… and so far, it looks like the best designs are the simplest. At the protein level, at least, it looks like irreducible complexity is out and a rather reducible simplicity is in. Intelligent design, however, may be here to stay.”

  14. 14
    johnnyb says:

    Sal —

    What most people don’t know is that John Maynard Smith actually co-authored at least one paper with at least one closet ID’er. It has come out in recent years that George Price, the inventor of the equations governing group selection, was a closet ID’er (perhaps a Creationist, but I don’t know all the details), and Maynard Smith was aware of it at the time. Specifically, “The Logic of Animal Conflict” was co-authored by Maynard Smith and Price, and in a cover letter Price wrote to Maynard Smith that “I think I found wordings that you won’t object to, and that won’t shock Nature’s readers by making them suspect what I believe”.

    I wonder if Maynard Smith had more sympathy to the controversy that some might think, or that he expressed publicly.

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:

    searcher

    I’ve noted several times before that if intelligent agency wasn’t tinkering with the course of evolution in the past it is definitely tinkering with it now. The question has become not whether or not intelligent agency gets involved with evolution but rather is humanity the first intelligent agency in the history of the universe with the means, motive, and opportunity.

  16. 16
    dougcampo says:

    Is this article a case of genetic engineering?

    http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-06-29-voa1.cfm

  17. 17
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Is this article a case of genetic engineering?

    Well, maybe sort of. But the scientists said that they did not create any new genes. To me it is more like cloning — they created reproductions of an original.

  18. 18
    IDist says:

    Well, it is certain that the best evolutionary biologists think about ID!

    Here’s Coyne’s response to Behe’s response.

    He must’ve been reading Dawkins too much lately 😀

  19. 19
    duncan says:

    DaveScot

    Yes, you have raised this in the past, but I’m not sure what it proves. Human intelligent design, of the type referred to in this article, subscribes entirely to the materialistic worldview – testable, measurable, falsifiable, observable, etc, etc. Plus the designers even provide blow by blow accounts of their interventions. The non-human designer isn’t as considerate.

  20. 20
    jimbo says:

    Did anyone read Dawkins’s Times review of EoE? I couldn’t believe what a pathetic effort he put up. I mean, really: dog breeds? That’s his great refutation? Does this man really know anything about biology at all?

  21. 21
    scordova says:

    searcher wrote:

    To be fair, though, the Nature [actually Molecular Systems Biology] article doesn’t really mention ID in the way in which you suggest … it make it clear that in this article, the intelligent designer is Man

    To be fair, this thread was filed under the humor category. The authors of the article were also attempting to being a bit colorful and provocative.

    I think it well may be that we’re living in a time when evolution is suddenly starting to become intelligently designed.

    Richard Dawkins
    Who are the (multiple) designers?

  22. 22
    DaveScot says:

    duncan

    re; not sure what it proves

    It’s a proof of concept for intelligent design. Imagine that someone in a lab somewhere were able to apply selective pressure to bacteria that caused them evolve a nucleus and become a prokaryote. What would that prove? It wouldn’t prove it happened that way but it would be a proof of concept – i.e. it proves it *could* have happened that way. In fact it would be the first proof of concept ever for macroevolution.

    Intelligent design has been proven in concept by accomplishments in genetic engineering. NDE in its larger claims has no such proof – the only direct observations are all microevolutionary in nature.

    This is why it’s so anti-science to exclude ID from hypothetical mechanisms underlying organic evolution – ID is a proven concept which is more than any competing hypothesis can claim. It’s not just a peer to NDE but a superior hypothesis based on experimental evidence.

  23. 23
    scordova says:

    johnnyb,

    Great find!

    Sal

  24. 24
    Atom says:

    It’s not just a peer to NDE but a superior hypothesis based on experimental evidence.

    In case you guys missed it (since it was trapped in moderation over the weekend), see post #4, where I argue basically the same point.

    Thanks whoever fished it out for me!

    Atom

  25. 25
    scordova says:

    [off topic, but slightly related]

    From the article johnnyb linked to (this was just to juicy to pass up):

    EARLY IN THE summer of 1970, at the age of forty-seven, Price underwent a sudden religious conversion. “On June 7th I gave in and admitted that God existed,” he explained to friends….

    One week later, he attended his first service at All Souls at Langham, a particularly evangelical branch of the Church of England, located around the corner from his apartment.

    Over the course of the next year, Price’s scientific work was accompanied by a new passion — biblical exegesis. Adopting a highly literal approach to the Bible,

    Price made his final revisions to “The Logic of Animal Conflict” the following February. In a cover letter, he explained to Maynard Smith that he had made a few changes to accommodate his newfound belief in creationism. “I think I found wordings that you won’t object to, and that won’t shock Nature’s readers by making them suspect what I believe,” he wrote.
    ….
    In the fall of 1972, “The Logic of Animal Conflict,” co-written by John Maynard Smith and George Price
    ..

    Sadly, the life of George Price came to a tragic end. I think upon the words of Seneca, “there is no great genius without a tinge of insanity.”

  26. 26
    SeekAndFind says:

    As I read the article all I can say is all it showed was that an intelligent PERSON can, in a lab setting and having prior specific intelligence on the protein structure and biochemical pathway of a specific enzyme, alter the protein structure of that enzyme to suit their needs in a more efficient manner.

    And here’s the statement that struck me :

    “At the protein level, at least, it looks like irreducible complexity is out and a rather reducible simplicity is in.”

    The question is this — how does this article imply that evolution is guided by an external super-intelligence (read “God”) ?

  27. 27
    DaveScot says:

    seekandfind

    A “PERSON” is an intelligent agent. ID makes the claim that intelligent agency is required to produce some of the complex patterns found in organic life. ID does not make the claim that such agency must possess godlike powers. Sufficient skill in biochemistry and genetic engineering is required. Nowhere in the architecture of organic life on earth can I find anything that requires a deity. If you know of something that requires a deity instead of somewhat advanced but still completely material science & technology to design and build the living things we find on our planet feel free to say what you think those things are.

  28. 28
    dougcampo says:

    “Is this article a case of genetic engineering?”

    Apparently, this story is 99% hype. The scientists simply transferred DNA between two very similar species. This been going on for decades.

  29. 29
    scordova says:

    Here is The Price Equation which was inspired by the joint paper of evolutionist Maynard-Smith and ID proponent George Price.

  30. 30
    duncan says:

    DaveScot

    OK, so you’re saying we know external human designers can alter biology, so why not non-human, yes? How would you tell which was responsible?

    Does this hold outside of biology? EG: human designers can produce watches, so why not non-human?

  31. 31
    duncan says:

    DaveScot

    Your post in reply to seekandfind is fascinating (I am just coming to ID). Would you therefore put yourself in opposition to the Discovery Institute, for example, (and most other ID supporters, as far as I can see) who have a stated aim to “reverse the materialist worldview”?

    If material science is the method, isn’t there a problem with scale? The level of the designer or designers’ intervention would have to be massive, surely, if it involves actually physically tampering with individual organisms?

  32. 32
    IDist says:

    Could JMS’s thinking and “sympathy” to ID be the result of the debate he participated in (along with Richard Dawkins) versus A.E. Wilder-Smith (and another creationist)?
    Just a thought

  33. 33
    dougcampo says:

    Bit off topic here.

    I was reading just know about the phenomenon of ‘gingerism’ in Great Britain. In the article it stated that red hair is the result of the mutated MC1R gene. Interesting that it is a mutation and not a result of design.

  34. 34
    dougcampo says:

    I wonder what else is a result of mutation.

  35. 35
    scordova says:

    IDist,

    Amazing you mention that 1986 debate.

    I have a post half-way done on that topic. It was inspired by Dawkins lackluster performance in debate of late. It was from that thread (about the Dawkins, Maynard-Smith, Wilder-Smith, Andrews debate)that I had pictures of JMS.

    I decided the topic had a separate thread. Soooo, in a way, this thread was about that very debate.

    More later.

    Sal

  36. 36
    Larry Fafarman says:

    dougcampo said (comment #28)

    http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-06-29-voa1.cfm

    “Is this article a case of genetic engineering?”

    Apparently, this story is 99% hype. The scientists simply transferred DNA between two very similar species. This been going on for decades.

    I agree — I can’t see any difference between the process described in the above article and “somatic cell nuclear transfer” (SCNT), a cloning technique described as follows in Wikipedia —

    In SCNT the nucleus, which contains the organism’s DNA, of a somatic cell (a body cell other than a sperm or egg cell) is removed and the rest of the cell discarded. At the same time, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed. The nucleus of the somatic cell is then inserted into the enucleated egg cell. After being inserted into the egg, the somatic cell nucleus is reprogrammed by the host cell. The egg, now containing the nucleus of a somatic cell, is stimulated with a shock and will begin to divide. After many mitotic divisions in culture, this single cell forms a blastocyst (an early stage embryo with about 100 cells) with almost identical DNA to the original organism.

  37. 37
    Paulie says:

    Paulie…

    ) Some individuals or companies have abused the TrackBack feature to insert spam links on some blogs (see sping). The TrackBack specification…

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