The flaws in evolutionary theorygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
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"Behe Interview in Pittsburgh
Pamela R. Winnick Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Although scientists have been debating the science of evolution since Charles Darwin's seminal work on the subject, "On the Origin of the Species," was published in 1859, one of the more recent developments in this debate has been the emergence of a new concept called "intelligent design."
According to Darwin, humans developed from lower forms of animals over a period of millions of years. Changes within a species occur through a process known as natural selection, in which, through genetic mutations, those with superior attributes survive and reproduce, eventually altering the species. Evolution remains the majority view of scientists, endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Science Education and the National Association of Biology Teachers.
Evolution presupposes a random process of change that some say conflicts with the existence of a divine intelligence, the biblical account of the origin of life and the notion that God especially created man. In many states, strict creationists have tried -- to date, unsuccessfully -- to persuade public school officials to change the science curriculum to enable creationism to be taught alongside evolution.
What distinguishes intelligent design from creationism is that it has won the backing of a minority of scientists. Among them is Michael J. Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University who in 1996 published "Darwin's Black Box," a controversial book in which he argues that Darwin's theory of natural selection cannot account for the complexity of cellular life and that only a divine intelligence could have produced life in all its many forms.
Behe is no crackpot. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1978 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he did his dissertation work on sickle cell disease. He subsequently worked for four years at the National Institutes of Health on problems of DNA structure and joined the faculty at Lehigh in 1985.
He discussed his ideas in advance of a visit to Grove City College tonight, where he'll be speaking as part of ceremonies there celebrating the 125th anniversary of the school's founding.
Q. You were originally a believer in evolution. What changed your mind?
A. I was taught Darwin's theory from grade school through college and, though I had vague suspicions about its validity, I had no reason to doubt my instructors. I became skeptical of the theory in the late 1980s after reading a book "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" by an Australian geneticist named Michael Denton. Denton pointed out a number of scientific problems of the theory that I had never considered before.
Denton talked about what I went on to explore: the great complexity of cellular life, which could not have come about randomly as Darwin believed.
Q. You're a practicing Catholic and a believer in God. Have your religious beliefs influenced your scientific work?
A. My religious beliefs haven't influenced my scientific work. I first learned Darwin's theory in parochial school. We were taught that it was God's way of making life through natural laws. That seemed fine with me. It was only when I learned of scientific problems with the theory of evolution that I became skeptical of it.
Q. Explain how your own work disproves or brings into question the theory of evolution.
A. Darwin's theory assumes gradual change, with natural selection slowly improving life in small steps. Some things, however, can't be improved gradually. For example, think of a typical mechanical mousetrap you get at a store. It has a number of parts that are needed to catch a mouse. Take one part away and the trap doesn't work. It's very hard to see how something like a mousetrap can be built gradually, in the way Darwin's theory requires.
At the biological level, some cells are like mousetraps in that they only work with all parts interacting. One good example is the bacterial flagellum, which is quite literally an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim. It's got a propeller, a motor, nuts and bolts to hold things. Natural selection could not have created these individual functions, because they have developed more or less simultaneously, rather than having been built step by step as Darwin envisioned.
When we see a mousetrap we realize it is the product of intelligent design, because of the way the parts of the trap work together to accomplish its function. I think we can come to a similar conclusion for cellular machinery.
Q. In your view, does embracing intelligent design require one to believe in God?
A. Although intelligent design fits comfortably with a belief in God, it doesn't require it, because the scientific theory doesn't tell you who the designer is. While most people -- including me -- will think the designer is God, some people might think that the designer was a space alien or something odd like that.
The conclusion that parts of life were intentionally designed can be supported with scientific evidence. The further deduction that the designer is God requires philosophical and theological arguments.
Q. Why do you think established scientists have been so opposed to questioning evolution?
A. Some scientists have disagreed with me for a variety of reasons. It's been my experience, however, that the ones who oppose the theory of design most vociferously do so for religious reasons. Either they don't believe in God, and think intelligent design is a stalking horse for a viewpoint they oppose. Or they do believe in God, but find it distasteful to think God would be quite so active.
Q. Dr. Lawrence Lerner, professor emeritus at California State University at Long Beach, recently called you a "screwball." How do you respond to such labels by members of the scientific establishment?
A. In a way it actually makes me feel good when Darwinists call me names. First, it shows that they are having a tough time coming up with actual arguments against design. It also shows that they aren't the coolly logical persons they would have everyone think they are.
Q. Has your questioning of evolution affected your academic career?
A. My questioning of Darwinian evolution has brought me notoriety in some circles, but hasn't brought any negative repercussions. I still teach and publish as before, although my research interests have shifted toward more explicitly evolutionary questions. I'm frequently asked to lecture on college campuses. I'm having a lot of fun!
Q. One criticism of scientists who advocate intelligent design is that their writings are not published in peer-reviewed journals. Is this true?
A. I've tried to publish on this topic in journals, but the editors were not receptive. So I and my colleagues have written books to explain design. Before publication the books were sent out to scientists and philosophers for comments and criticisms. They have been more thoroughly reviewed before publication than the typical journal paper.
Q. In Pennsylvania, standards have been approved by the Department of Education that would allow teachers to expose students to theories that "support and do not support" the theory of evolution. How, in your view, how should evolution be presented to high school students?
A. I certainly think Darwinian evolution should be taught in high school. It's an important theory. But I think it should be taught "warts and all." Teach the evidence that fits into the theory, but also present the evidence that doesn't. Talk about examples that seem to demonstrate how evolution works, but also talk about examples that have been shown to be fraudulent or seriously incomplete. In the past students have been misled by their biology textbooks. In the future, students should be taught the difference between data and interpretation."
-- The shadow (email@example.com), May 11, 2001
Talking about "intelligent design" as a new concept is pure BS. It's of the same old argument. I haven't read "Origin of Species" for many years, but still think of it as one of the most intellectually well thought out books I've ever read. But, the point is, Darwin himself discussed this concept – I believe he used the eye as his subject.
The whole point of the concept of evolution is that is does produce intelligent design. Now, whether God or anything else set this whole process in motion is well beyond my mortal capacity to evaluate.
-- E.H.Porter (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 2001.
Sorry to say, Behe's ideas highlight no flaws in evolutionary theory. Behe is a closet creationist whose ideas have been thoroughly discredited. And Michael Denton's book has even worse shortcomings.
Here are some links to extensive reviews of Behe's efforts.
Essentially, Behe's argument says "I simply cannot imagine how certain things might have evolved. Therefore, they *could not* have evolved. Therefore, God created them." But this "reasoning" says nothing about evolution, it merely demonstrates Behe's inability to imagine much. Today, Behe is fighting a rearguard action, conceding (in the face of experimental proof) that one after another of his "irreducible" forms are demonstrably reducible after all.
Here is an observation about Behe's book, from Peter Atkins, University of Oxford. It gives the flavor of the reception Behe has received outside of creationist circles:
"the book is undeniably a covert creationist tract, with the Intelligent Designer nothing other than a God and Intelligent Design merely active creation. That the creationists have resorted to this subversion should surprise none of us, for the ethical poverty of their actions matches the intellectual poverty of their beliefs.
With hard work and even the possibility of progress dismissed, Dr Behe waves his magic wand, discards the scientific method, and launches into his philosopher’s stone of universal explanation: it was all designed. Presenting this silly, lazy, ignorant, and intellectually abominable view -- essentially discarding reason and invoking that first resort of the intellectually challenged (that is, God) -- he present what he thinks is the most wondrous of theories, that the only way of achieving complexity is by design. There we see Dr. Behe dangling from his petard, proclaiming his "science" of intelligent design, while not troubling to seek the regulation of that awesome monitor of scientific enterprise, peer review."
And so Behe winds up your little interview with the plea that students be exposed to the "flaws" Behe has carefully avoided presenting to his peers for review. He is, I can assure you, INTENSELY aware that should his ideas withstand such review, they WILL be presented to students. Indeed, he's as aware of this as he is aware that his ideas do not make the grade. He says he's submitted them, and they have been rejected. Well, Doh! He wants students to be "exposed" to ideas real scientists have rejected. How very thoughtful!
But as those URL's above show, lack of formal peer review does NOT mean lack of informed or intelligent review. And THAT kind of review shows that only creationists care about Behe, and they do so only for his propaganda value. No one on earth values his molecular biology.
If anyone wants the facts as science discovers them rather than as religion invents them, I recommend www.talkorigins.org. Happy education!
-- Flint (email@example.com), May 11, 2001.
Yeah, happey edicashin
-- pappy (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 2001.
(Without reading the above too carefully)
I think I heard this guy on the radio. The idea was that there are statistical methods for determining whether, say, a rash of fires is more likely to be random bad luck or the work of an arsonist. This type of statistics was the guy's specialty. He wanted to apply similar analysis to the question of whether the world occurred at random or appeared to be the work of some intelligent actor. However no details of such an analysis were forthcoming on the show since the discussion turned to whether the guy was too biased to begin with to even take him seriously. I don't see myself how analysis of accidents like fires that tend to follow a Poisson distribution can be generalized to creation of worlds where no underlying probability distribution is known.
-- dandelion (email@example.com), May 11, 2001.
"Curiously enough, biologists are sometimes prepared to endorse these harsh conclusions, as long as the gross deficiencies in Darwinian theory may respectfully be represented as work in progress. In a recent issue of Science, a quartet of theoretical biologists survey what is currently absent from evolutionary theory. Interesting mathematical models. An explanation for the evolutionary increase in information and complexity. Any plausible account of biological organization. An explanation of the major macro-evolutionary changes: the emergence of life, the appearance of eukaryotic cells, the human capacity for language. Theories of variation and theories of development.
In the largest sense, we do not know whether life is determined by the laws of physics and chemistry, or whether it is consistent with but independent of those laws, or whether it is the expression of a profound but inscrutable design. Dogmatic assertions in the face of ignorance express nothing more than a lack of interest in rational inquiry. It is for this reason that otherwise sympathetic observers have come to the conclusion that Richard Dawkins is motivated as much by a theological agenda as scientific curiosity."
You lack one requisite for education, Flint, an open mind. For all your clever rhetoric, you leap like a Pavlovian dog to the ring of any religious bell. Serious thinkers, Flint, do not accept Darwinism as a complete theory as your thoughtful links demonstrate. What it demonstrates, however, is that some so-called scientists can be just as dogmatic as any Jesuit priest. Read carefully:
"A sounder perspective on the history of science would be very helpful to all concerned. For example, a parallel has been drawn by Allen Orr and others between criticisms of Darwinian orthodoxy and assaults on the Law of Gravity, presenting them as equally deplorable examples of anti-science obscurantism. Yet, if truth be told, gravity is far from a settled matter. The relativistic Law of Gravity at the end of the 20th century is not the same as the classical Law of Gravity at the end of the 19th century, and discovering how the continuous descriptions of general relativity can be integrated into a single theory with the discrete accounts of quantum physics is still an active field of research. From a scientific point of view, then, the Law of Gravity has quite properly been under continuous challenge. Dogmas and taboos may be suitable for religion, but they have no place in science. No theory or viewpoint should ever become sacrosanct because experience tells us that even the most elegant Laws of Nature ultimately succumb to the inexorable progress of scientific thinking and technological innovation. The present debate over Darwinism will be more productive if it takes place in recognition of the fact that scientific advances are made not by canonizing our predecessors but by creating intellectual and technical opportunities for our successors."
Link Behe and others correctly note that evolutionary theory is full of holes. The neo-Darwinists (and anti-religios bigots) are quick to ignore these holes while the genuine scientists are curious. (You might want to actually read Behe's book before you incorrectly summarize his argument in two sentences, but then again, how important is intellectual integrity when you're just here to amuse yourself?)
Does someone hear a bell ringing?
-- The shadow (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2001.
While there may be holes in Darwin's theory, Behe has not found one. I'm willing to agree that he sincerely thought he found one, and presented it to the best of his ability. Those who are fully qualified to evaluate his claims have found two categories of problems, factual (his forms are demonstrably reducible), and logical (he begins with his conclusions and sets out to prove them).
I don't think it's a criticism of spirituality to identify and demonstrate error, however comforting you may have found that error. And surely it even bothers you for someone to say real scientists have rejected his claims, and immediately follow that by saying students should be taught these rejected claims *anyway*!
In debates, Behe labels himself as a creationist (he really does), and debates on the creationist side, against mainstream scientists. That should tell you something too.
I'm not rejecting Behe through any knee-jerk reaction against religion. I'm rejecting him because his peers have found his claims incorrect and unsupportable. That's how science works.
Finally, evolution is like gravity in several ways. Both undeniably exist, and neither is perfectly understood. But everyone understands that gravity exists nonetheless. Consider those who choose to reject the existence of evolution. The correlation with a particular splinter religious cult is about 100%! THAT should tell you something very clear about whose mind is not open. HOW evolution works is a fascinating field of study. WHETHER it works is a question only for those in religious denial,and *nobody else*!
-- Flint (email@example.com), May 12, 2001.
When you hear such positions, I recommend paying very close attention. Statistical methods have great value, but as you imply, they are also easy to misapply, either inadvertently or deliberately. Specifically, when used by those who are faced with actual, hands-on cases of what they believe doesn't exist, and rather than face these cases directly, they do a statistical probability calculation using data of their own choosing.
When all the mumbo jumbo is stripped away, we see an argument much like "proof" that the earth has no moon, by sampling locations in the sky, graphing our samples, and finding no moon in them anywhere. After all, the moon subtends only about 1 degree of arc as seen from earth's surface, so the probability of a random sample containing any moon is very small.
Most people, of course, would laugh at this study. We SEE the moon! We've flown to it and walked on it! WHY would anyone create such a clearly mendacious argument that it's not there?
But good old shadow here provides the answer. He has some 4000 year old fables that do not mention any moon, from which he concludes no moon exists, and based on which he designed his "investigation." When we notice that ALL the "there is no moon" people swear by the same book of fables, we have a trend. The explanation for the "no moon" position leaves the world of science behind at this point, and enters the world of abnormal psychology. As it should.
-- Flint (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2001.
No Moon at All
-- (email@example.com), May 12, 2001.
You guys are so sophisticated. I make no attempt to join the debate. All I will do is explain why I am sympathetic to the notion of a Creator, a Designer, a God, whatever.
It is obvious to me that everyone is involved in creation every day. Even the dullest among us are not automatons. Everyone of us goes thru each day creating his/her life, creating his/her speech, creating his/her ideas.
Ideas are constantly emerging from absolutely nothing or by a discontinuous synthesis of previously existing but disconnected ideas. I think of ideas as bubbles in a carbonated beverage; emerging at an unpredictable rate from an unexplainable source.
That is why I don't rule out that the notion that the universe and the life and the processes within it are themselves an idea. I don't presume to know Who is creating them or why.
I hope they are a good idea.
-- Lars (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2001.
There is a good reason that this guy doesn't publish in the real literature. I will leave it up to you to figure out why.
The shadow is usually CPR. Charlie is that you.
Flint; I am ashamed that you logically assault the result of fire-side, scare stories, made up by primative nomads [I will give them credit for stealing the best parts from their pagen neighbors].
Why hasn't anyone contacted Iona? I know who you are; come on and respond.
-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), May 12, 2001.
I thought CPR was Tarzan. Now I am confused.
-- confused (Is@Buchanan.Gore?), May 13, 2001.
Here's a good picture of some of those random organic molecules, arranged in the "Flint" configuration:
-- (@ .), May 13, 2001.
TALKORIGINS as *SCIENCE*?!?!?!? BWAHAHAHahahahahaha!!!
Yeah, right, as if. *IF* you think "hey go look over here at all the wrong creationists" is 'science'. Talk about closed minds!
"there foolish hearts are darkened, the thinking has become totally futile" - one might think the author of that portion of scripture had read the body of Flint's works on this and other fora!
Oh well, *somebody* has to go to hell....
-- (email@example.com), May 15, 2001.