On Nobel Intent, John Timmer discusses recent attempts by Intelligent Design Evangelical Activists (IDEA) to ‘rally its base’. Mostly this involves returning to the good old creationist claims about evolution and mutations but it also involves ad hominem attacks on Judge Jones who ruled in a devastating manner on the topic of Intelligent Design, causing Behe to describe Judge Jones as “the former head of the liquor control board who signed off on a tendentious brief by a product liability trial lawyer.””
Of course, it was Behe’s own testimony which provided much of the ammunition for the lawyers and helped Judge Jones make his ruling. Not surprisingly, Behe claims that his testimony has been misinterpreted or misunderstood. So far, it seems that Behe is unable to accept personal responsibilities for his testimony.
As Timmer explains, the recent talk by Behe was full of the usual creationist ‘arguments’
But the talk went on for well over an hour, and covered some ground beyond Dover. Three things struck me about the rest of the talk: explicit creationism, a flawed understanding of science, and a presentation of evolution that is a caricature of science’s actual understanding.
What is interesting is how ID seems to argue that ignorance should lead us by default to a ‘design conclusion’, an approach which has been shown by various authors to be logically flawed. For instance, in The advantages of theft over toil: the design inference and arguing from ignorance, Wilkins and Elsberry show how ID becomes untenable.
He also, as noted, runs into trouble when asked about testability. He suggests that both good and bad designs are compatible with ID, so that discoveries regarding extinctions and inefficiencies are perfectly okay as far as ID is concerned, raising questions about what aspects of ID are testable. Behe stated that the only testable aspects of ID—the only ways it could be falsified—would come by via examinations of evolutionary processes. In his view, if evolution fails, we can accept ID. Design, in short, should be viewed as a default explanation until proven wrong, despite its lack of experimental support.
There is no reason why we should consider Design to be the default explanation until proven wrong, since ID explains nothing and cannot even compete with ‘we don’t know’. So in other words, either IDers accept that Design is equivalent to Ignorance, or they should provide a scientific explanation for Design. In addition, appeals to Design have been historically shown to be flawed and nothing more than gap arguments where our ignorance was led us to conclude Design. In other words, there is no historical or logical foundation for Design to be the ‘default explanation’ and ‘we don’t know’ seems to be a much better position to take in these instances. And when, as is the case with the bacterial flagella, natural hypotheses are presented, the balance quickly shifts from ‘Design’ or ‘Ignorance’ to science, destroying any hopes for ID to remain scientifically relevant. In other words, at best ID is as ‘good’ as ‘we don’t know’ and in practice it is not better than any other scientifically vacuous concept.
This violates the scientific principle that unexplained or unexamined phenomena are considered just that: unexplained. In this regard, Behe’s talk is perhaps the most blatant admission that ID is a “God of the Gaps” argument.