Dispatches from the Creation Wars

In his testimony, Behe repeated over and over again that the evidence for ID is the “purposeful arrangement of parts.” Early in his direct testimony, he made it clear that this was going to be the recurring theme in his testimony. He said that he disagree with the definition of intelligent design given in Of Pandas and People (“Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.” – the same definition that the earlier drafts used for “creation”) because he didn’t think that ID requires abrupt appearance. He offered his own definition:

Q Now, you say you would have written it differently. 11 Is there another reference or another section in Pandas that you could direct us to to emphasize that point?

A Yes. I wrote the section at the end of Pandas which is discussing blood clotting. And on page 144 of the
15 text there s a section entitled “A Characteristic of Intelligent Design.” And it begins, “Why is the blood clotting system an example of intelligent design? The ordering of independent pieces into a coherent whole to accomplish a purpose which is beyond any single component of the system is characteristic of intelligence.”

Q And why did you direct us to that particular section?

A Because I think it more clearly conveys the central idea of intelligent design, which is the purposeful arrangement of parts.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, he doesn’t define “purposeful” and this is very important. If by “purposeful” he means “willfully intended”, that is not something you can tell from the makeup of a biological system. If he only means “functional”, then he’s not applying this criteria consistently because there are many biochemical systems with multiple components working together for a specific function that he accepts as having evolved without intelligent intervention.

But notice in the first part of his argument that the reason why he doesn’t like the Pandas definition of ID is because he thinks that ID does not require the abrupt appearance of species. This is of course a matter of some disagreement among ID advocates, some of whom accept a good deal more evolution than others. Michael Behe is on record as accepting common descent, with God jumping in from time to time or programming in advance to insure the development of certain key systems that can’t evolve on their own. Other IDers, particularly young earthers like Paul Nelson, Nancy Pearsey and John Mark Reynolds, can’t accept common descent at all or virtually any evolution.

Why is this important? Two reasons. First, because it affirms that there is no ID model or theory about the natural history of life on earth. Secondly because, as I’ll show here, it shows that ID is neither testable nor falsifiable and thus cannot be considered genuinely scientific.