Follow the Bi… er, the evidence wherever it leads

| 61 Comments

I just can’t imagine how stressful it is to be an ID advocate. You’ve got all this maze of sound-bites and talking points to navigate, all vetted by professional Public Relations operatives and carefully studied to send the appropriate message, and then you get distracted one moment, open you mouth and - BAM - you mess it all up. Here’s one more example. Do you remember ever hearing ID advocates proclaim that “we should follow the evidence wherever it leads”? If not, you haven’t been paying attention (don’t worry, you can still catch up here or here, for instance). If you believed the ID advocates’ spin, however, you probably should have read the small print, because apparently there’s at least one exception: you are allowed not to follow the evidence after all, if doing so will take you to conclusions that may challenge your religious beliefs. In fact, it’s actually better not to even try to follow it there, just in case.

At least, this is what Michael Behe seems to suggest in the Christian magazine First Things in response to a letter by a born-again geologist who says he/she adopted a young-earth Creationist position following his/her religious conversion. Behe says:

I appreciate Jackie Lee’s and Carmen Catanese’s letters, which together help to illustrate the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature. The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point. (Emphasis mine.)

Behe himself claims to agree with the scientific consensus that the Earth is billions of years old, so presumably he must feel there is nothing exceedingly “osmotically” dangerous in sharing the scientific conclusion about the Earth’s age based on all the available empirical evidence. Still, he declares it is preferable to deceive oneself into believing in a 6,000 years-old Earth if one thinks that following the evidence will result in exposure to “materialistic presumptions”. Astonishing, if you ask me, coming from a scientist. Does Behe apply the same defensive approach when reaching his own conclusions about evolution? One certainly has to wonder, because in the original article that inspired Jackie Lee’s letter, Behe clearly indicates that acceptance of evolutionary theory carries the risk of exposing oneself to materialism.

Sadly, Behe calls this fearful denial of reason and empirical data “the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. Orwell would be proud.

61 Comments

It really seems Behe, Dembski et al have really let their guard slip a LOT since the Dover decision about the whole “we can’t link ID to Christianity in public” thing. Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me? Do you think they’re about to just give up the pretense altogether?

Newspeak good “behespeak” better.

Yes, that would be the smart thing to do. Also honest thing.

Behe returned his lab coat long ago.

He is no longer a scientist, degree notwithstanding.

Therefore, what Behe says about science is not astonishing at all. Clearly, Behe is a supernaturalist.

Perhaps the Delta Pi Gamma could chip in and buy him a pointed hat with stars and crescent moons. That is, if Harold would pay his dues…

Newspeak good “behespeak” better.

That would be “Newspeak good “behespeak” doubleplusgood”

:)

As for Behe, I think he’s realised that his scientific career from backing ID has gone completely down the toilet. The last thing he published in eight years was an immensely flawed computer model that doesn’t even support his basic concept of IC. The only recourse now that he’s basically got no scientific recourse is to join in with the nuts and creationists. At least that way he can continue writing pure garbage, publish the usual talking points (not even updated really) and such forth and get royalties for it.

There is no further reason for the IDistas to continue to pretend that they are not simple creationists of one flavor or another. They have been outed in the most public way posible.

So, I predict a growing willingness to admit their religious agenda, after all, it is the only card they have left to play.

ID and its parent “creation science” are merely attepmts to cover a stunted and incorrect reading of Genesis with the mantel of science. Behe, and Dembski offered to provide “proof” of God that turned in to “poof” of God. Along the way, these creationists have joined with other antiscience forces such as the HIV deniers, the global warming deniers, etc…

I guess the science deniers figure, “If you can’t beat them, and can’t join them- try to deny they even exist.” So, I expect renewed “missing links” , more “all mutations are deadly,” and “evolution violates the Laws of Nature arguments. The Behe IC and Dembski SC/EF/CSI/SCI/BS.BS/BS will disapear. Wells will be rehabilitated. Guillermo will be cheered as the new genius of creationism/ID. A new creationist text opposing natural origins of life will be published (will Shapiro write the forward?).

It really seems Behe, Dembski et al have really let their guard slip a LOT since the Dover decision about the whole “we can’t link ID to Christianity in public” thing. Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me? Do you think they’re about to just give up the pretense altogether?

The pretense itself was just a legal strategy.

Well, once that strategy is beaten to a bloody pulp in open court, there isn’t much reason to maintain the pretense any more, is there. (shrug)

The creation ‘scientists’, oddly enough, did the very same thing after they got crushed in the Edwards v Aguillard case.

Once again, we see that ID has done nothing, nothing at all, that creation “science” didn’t already do twenty years ago.

So, I predict a growing willingness to admit their religious agenda, after all, it is the only card they have left to play.

And, once Howie cuts off the money spigot, it’s the only way the DI-ers can avoid having to get real jobs.

Behe also “clarified” his position on common ancestry in that December 2005 First Things article:

Even now, I am sometimes singled out by Darwinists as the most “reasonable” Intelligent Design proponent, because I’ve written that I think common descent is true. I’m embarrassed to admit that I derive some odd, involuntary pleasure from being thought the “best” of the lot. My reaction is especially irrational because some of my Intelligent Design colleagues who disagree with me on common descent have greater familiarity with the relevant science than I do.

I suppose Paul Nelson and Jonathan Wells must be the ID colleagues that have “greater familiarity with the relevant science” that Behe is referring to – they are the big “experts” on common ancestry, especially Paul Nelson.

In other words, Behe accepts common ancestry, but defers to creationist “experts” who know more about it. This is getting pretty darn close to Phillip Johnson’s bold stand on the age of the earth.

Reference: p. 19 of Michael Behe (2005). “Scientific Orthodoxies.” First Things 158, pp. 15-20. December 2005. Bold added.

The full reference for that Behe quote on the age of the earth:

p. 3 of Michael Behe (2006). “Godly Science (Correspondance).First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. 161, pp. 2-3. March 2006.

HTML: http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues[…]ondence.html

PDF: http://find.galegroup.com/ips/infom[…];version=1.0

Very objective Mr Behe. One has to wonder why those godless atheistic scientists are ignoring your evidence for intelligent design. Oh yeah we know. They obviously fear the existence of God and are suppressing the “evidence” against themselves. Sure.

Michael Behe at Calvary Chapel, March 6th, 2002: “But a Darwinist cannot invoke angels adding staples to traps, because the angels are on OUR side”

Uh, why do you keep claiming that you are following the evidence wherever it leads?

Balderdash.

As you well know, there a certain things that are not allowed to even be considered before the investigation even starts.

Accurate or not, that is a methaphysical positon as much as any.

Quit lying.

Mr. Goldstein:

they do so because Creationists think that their “truth” trumps all evidence, that nothing can contradict their scriptures, and that the reward for “witnessing” to their “truth” will be so eternal life.

Clearly, they CANNOT AFFORD to follow the evidence; the stakes are too high.

Maybe it’s a “what have we got to lose” reaction to setbacks in Dover, Ohio, etc., but from recent Behe and Dembski comments I am detecting a hint of the Gosse Assertion. Not necessarily in what they personally believe, but what they think their audience should believe.

…the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature.

As Heckyl said to Jeckyl, “We’re cartoon characters–we can do anything.”

WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

As you well know, there a certain things that are not allowed to even be considered before the investigation even starts.

Once again, for all the lurkers, my standard response to this standard fundie BS that “science unfairly rules out our religious opinions boo hoo hoo”:

The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe

2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed

3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis

4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions

5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God — uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer — created both but used common features in a common design.

Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

1. Observe some aspect of the universe.

OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see … ?

IDers, please fill in the blank.

And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions — things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then — if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.

Take note here — contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God — er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer — didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.

Let’s assume for a moment that the IDers are right and that science is unfairly biased against supernaturalist explanations. Let’s therefore hypothetically throw methodological materialism right out the window. Gone. Bye-bye. Everything’s fair game now. Ghosts, spirits, demons, devils, cosmic enlightenment, elves, pixies, magic star goats, whatever god-thing you like. Feel free to include and invoke ALL of them. As many as you need. All the IDers have to do now is simply show us all how to apply the scientific method to whatever non-naturalistic science they choose to invoke in order to subject the hypothesis “genetic similarities between chimps and humans are the product of a common design”, or indeed ANY other non-material or super-natural ID hypothesis, to the scientific method.

And that is where ID “theory” falls flat on its face. It is NOT any presupposition of “philosophical naturalism” on the part of science that stops ID dead in its tracks —- it is the simple inability of ID “theory” to make any testible predictions. Even if we let them invoke all the non-naturalistic designers they want, intelligent design “theory” STILL can’t follow the scientific method.

Deep down inside, what the IDers are really moaning and complaining about is NOT that science unfairly rejects their supernaturalistic explanations, but that science demands ID’s proposed “supernaturalistic explanations” be tested according to the scientific method, just like every OTHER hypothesis has to be. Not only can ID not test any of its “explanations”, but it wants to modify science so it doesn’t HAVE to. In effect, the IDers want their supernaturalistic “hypothesis” to have a privileged position —- they want their hypothesis to be accepted by science WITHOUT being tested; they want to follow steps one and two of the scientific method, but prefer that we just skip steps 3,4 and 5, and just simply take their religious word for it, on the authority of their own say-so, that their “science” is correct. And that is what their entire argument over “materialism” (or “naturalism” or “atheism” or “sciencism” or “darwinism” or whatever the heck else they want to call it) boils down to.

There is no legitimate reason for the ID hypothesis to be privileged and have the special right to be exempted from testing, that other hypotheses do not. I see no reason why their hypotheses, whatever they are, should not be subjected to the very same testing process that everyone ELSE’s hypotheses, whatever they are, have to go through. If they cannot put their “hypothesis” through the same scientific method that everyone ELSE has to, then they have no claim to be “science”. Period.

Apologies to all the PT regulars who have already seen this a bazillion times before.

Since it refers to Behe too, it’s somewhat relevant to this thread, but, following Lenny’s “Why ID is not science” my recent Talk Origins post uses William Dembski’s own words (with my added comments) to show why ID is not science:

WD: You’re asking me to play a game.

No, you’re already playing a game. We’re asking you to stop.

WD: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.”

We’ll settle for less detail, since we’ve had a few years’ head start. Unless you count Paley, in which case you had the head start. But we don’t just need “causal mechanisms,” we also need you to tell us what those mechanisms explain. You know, the “what happened and when” of biological history. Even YECs can do that part, so we’re confident that you can too.

WD: ID is not a mechanistic theory,…

It isn’t a theory, period.

WD: …and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.

ID can’t match any level of detail, which is why you no longer demand that it be taught in schools. So you just promote the phony “critical analysis” of evolution, which insulates all the other attempts at “theories”, e.g. YEC, OEC, saltation, front loading, etc., from a real critical analysis. Nice trick, I must admit.

WD: If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots.

Yes it does. You conveniently overlook the fact that when a designer is detected in forensics and archaeology - using the “side information” that those fields have that yours lacks - investigators continue to “connect the dots” by determining what the designer did, when and how. In contrast, the object of your game is to get your critics to dwell on whether or not there is a designer. That saves you from having to say what the designer did, when and how. And you don’t want to do that because you know that the answer is “it’s still evolution.” Maybe not your “Darwinism” caricature, but still evolution.

WD: True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

Then what exactly are the “fundamental discontinuities?” They must not be biological because Michael Behe made it clear that there is “biological continuity” (his phrase for common descent at the Kansas Kangaroo Court), and you have not challenged him on it. So for all your gyrations about “the” flagellum, barring any extraordinary evidence to the contrary, the most reasonable explanation is still that modern flagella originated “in vivo” not “in vitro.” Likewise humans are “modified monkeys,” not “modified dirt.” And the process is still evolution.

But we understand. You can’t say too much because you need YEC political support. We know the game. Like astrology, which Behe likened it to at Dover, ID continues to fool millions of people, but it fools no biologists except the handful who already sold out to pseudoscience. And since the sell-outs seem to know that it’s a scam, we can’t necessarily say that it fools them either.

Behe in December 2005 First Things Wrote:

When I lecture in favor of the idea that intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology, the response is not typically, “Gee, that’s interesting, but I disagree.” Instead, people become angry, denouncing the mildest of challenges to materialism as unspeakable heresy.

Well, Duh, Mike. You go off and tell a bunch of people looking for testable explanations for observable results that their life’s work is doomed to failure (this is the recurring theme of DBB), and they get testy. Surprise, Surprise.

On the other hand, you advocate a definition of “science” that must allow for teaching ideas that, when tested, consistently fail the test, like astrology. No, that shouldn’t upset anyone at all.

You reveal yourself as an anti-scientist by your own words. Time to retire, buddy.

When I lecture in favor of the idea that intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology, the response is not typically, “Gee, that’s interesting, but I disagree.” Instead, people become angry, denouncing the mildest of challenges to materialism as unspeakable heresy.

Behe, rivaling Dembski for the title of “king of chutzpah,” is specifically baiting those in the audience who “become angry, denouncing the mildest of challenges to materialism as unspeakable heresy” to drown out the others. He knows darn well that the most devastating criticisms of the ID strategy come from those (e.g. Kenneth Miller) who believe that God is ultimately responsible for life, and who politely, and meticulously disagree that “intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology.”

Say whatever it takes, seems to be the idea. I assume that Behe really is comfortable with the old earth, but just as one pretends to be scientific in order to promote the ID agenda, one supports any rejection of evidence when that becomes the most obvious route left.

ID was fine with most (not all) creationists as long as it looked like a winning strategy. But it seems more like a sell-out the moment it quits selling to anybody other than the anti-scientists. What’s Behe supposed to do, attempt to appeal to the science and legal sides, which have both resoundingly rejected him and his ideas?

Johnson said it from the first, that the strategy was to destroy science (through his mislabeling the scientific method as “materialism”, then clearly opposing “materialism”). Behe is only following that logic, by noting that any fact about the world is deniable so long as it is religiously “sound”. He has operated according that that notion all along, so it should not be surprising if he is willing to also say it post-Dover.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Was’nt Behe then one who declared that astrology is science? *snicker*

Well, let’s be fair to Astrology. It does produce a few testable hypotheses. It’s just that they get disproven pretty easily.

“The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point.”

Well said Dr. Behe! Well said! Now we must distance ourselves from all the dangerous materialist science. The materialistic germ theory should be replaced by Augustine’s: “All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to these demons; chiefly do they torment fresh-baptized Christians, yea, even the guiltless, newborn infants.” Afterall, this materialistic, godless germ theory robs God as being the force behind life and death. And this materialistic theory of gravity takes us dangerously close to the idea that naturalistic, atheistic forces are at work in our world - rather than God. Dangerous, dangerous ideas are these! Better to rid ourselves of these “scientific” falsehoods - even given the possibility that they are right - than endanger our immortal soul.

Ah.. Frank J you said: …He [Behe] knows darn well that the most devastating criticisms of the ID strategy come from those (e.g. Kenneth Miller) who believe that God is ultimately responsible for life, and who politely, and meticulously disagree that “intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology.”

I read “intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology” and immediately thought about the usual suspects (Behe Dembski Nelson Berlinski etc) and wondered if their religious beliefs had a deleterious effect on their intelligence i.e. made them stupid.

The whole popular idea that something known by the word ‘god’ is intelligence or can be intelligent (first person singular) is just simple Freudian projection by, strangely, people who have spent a great deal of their life grinding out a Ph.D.[or two] and so may stake a claim to ‘intelligence’ in a conventional sense, but at the cost of self awareness at that critical stage in life when one actually BECOMES an adult. An intuitive understanding of art, culture in context outside of their own very limited field is simply unlearned. In fact their over education is confused to be ‘intelligence’.

The fact that a few sycophants latch onto their pseudo science mumbo jumbo and then inflate their already inflated delusions of their own capability leads to an ego inflation feedback loop.

At what age do these people finally deflate ? 60 yrs at least in the notorious Larry case although he could be called a child in some aspects of his makeup. For those who plainly are not that intelligent, by academic success measure i.e.very well educated, the stakes for having a superior ‘intelligence’ as the great old delusion are far less. I look forward to a long period of DI/ID deflation. But just in case I’m putting a medieval church Sheela-na-gig above my front door to ward off any proto Behes.

Behe, rivaling Dembski for the title of “king of chutzpah,” is specifically baiting those in the audience who “become angry, denouncing the mildest of challenges to materialism as unspeakable heresy” to drown out the others. He knows darn well that the most devastating criticisms of the ID strategy come from those (e.g. Kenneth Miller) who believe that God is ultimately responsible for life, and who politely, and meticulously disagree that “intelligence is explicitly needed to explain some aspects of biology.”

Right. In the political sense, ID’s deadliest enemy are the theistic evolutionists, who have the potential to insert a wedge of their own between IDers and their religious Christian supporters. IDers try at every opportunity to equate “Christianity” with “ID”, with the logical conclusion therefore being that all good Christiasn ought to support ID. Alas, Christians like Miller easily thrash that conclusion to the ground, potentially cutting off ID from its only base of support and its only source of political power.

To prevent that, IDers have no choice but to do everything in their power to reframe the fight as “science vs religion” and “atheism v theism”. It’s not. It’s a fight between “a tiny lunatic fringe of fundamentalists” and “everyone else – including most mainstream Christians”.

It’s a fight between “a tiny lunatic fringe of fundamentalists” and “everyone else — including most mainstream Christians”.

Where, sadly, according to most polls, the definitions of “tiny” and “most” might be open to debate.

Where, sadly, according to most polls, the definitions of “tiny” and “most” might be open to debate.

I think most of people who vote for fundie candidates are nose-holders, not disciples.

After all, the Republicrats don’t exactly offer any other choice for them.

Andrew wrote:

It really seems Behe, Dembski et al have really let their guard slip a LOT since the Dover decision about the whole “we can’t link ID to Christianity in public” thing. Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me? Do you think they’re about to just give up the pretense altogether?

My take on the reason that the Discovery Institute ID scam artists openly started claiming that Christians should be upset about the Dover ruling was to try and cover their dishonest behinds. Their only recourse after demonstrating how bogus and dishonest that they had been during the past decade was to wrap themselves in religious indignation and hope that the rubes that they had scammed would look the other way. Hopefully they wouldn’t expect the rubes to accept their dishonesty and scamming as acceptable behavior to further the cause, but you never know what kind of guys want to support the ID scam artists.

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OK I’m listening, won what ?

I… uh… think he was talking about the American Civil War, not the Iraq situation. It’s a good analogy, I may steal it.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Andrea Bottaro published on April 28, 2006 8:48 PM.

My encounter with creationist/White House Spokesman Tony Snow was the previous entry in this blog.

Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design is the next entry in this blog.

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