Kerby Anderson on ID

I've just received an email with another batch of those delightful Worldview Weekend essays. Sadly, there are none by Kirk Cameron this time, but the other authors put together a strong effort to be as ridiculous as he is. This essay by Kerby Anderson, president of Probe Ministries, on the "myths about intelligent design" was good for 10 minutes of chuckles over toast and tea this morning. Let's have a little fun with this one.

First, proponents of intelligent design are not trying to smuggle religion into the classroom. While that may have been the intent of some of the Dover school board members, it is clear that is not the desire of scientists working on intelligent design. The Discovery Institute is one of the leading think tanks in the area of intelligent design and it actually opposes the idea of requiring it be taught in the classroom. They are pursuing it as a scientific theory not as a public school curriculum.

Oh, of course. Only the Dover school board had any religious motivations. The major ID advocates are motivated purely by science. I mean, where would anyone get the crazy idea that ID advocates wanted to get religion into schools? I mean, other than perhaps by listening to Phillip Johnson:

"Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."

(American Family Radio, January 10, 2003)

Or maybe we got that idea from the DI itself, which said in the now-infamous Wedge Document:

Once our research and writing have had time to mature, and the public prepared for the reception of design theory, we will move toward direct confrontation with the advocates of materialist science through challenge conferences in significant academic settings. We will also pursue possible legal assistance in response to resistance to the integration of design theory into public school science curricula.

The reality, of course, is that they skipped right over the research phase and went directly to popular writing. Not a single piece of research has been done that advances a positve case for intelligent design. And the DI was pushing for getting ID into schools until 2002, when they ran into a wall in Ohio and changed their tactics purely out of strategic concerns from wanting to teach ID to only wanting to teach "the controversy" over ID.

Second, intelligent design is not just the latest modified attempt to introduce creationism into the classroom. Judge Jones and the media make it seem like the same people who promoted scientific creationism in the 1970s and 1980s are the same people pushing intelligent design now. That is not the case. None of the leaders of the intelligent design movement have been involved with creationist groups like the Institute for Creation Research or Answers in Genesis or Reasons to Believe.

Talk about lying for Jesus! This one is a major whopper. Let's look at just a brief list of major ID advocates being involved with old-fashioned creationism. The book Of Pandas and People was a standard creationist book until 1987, as was established in the Dover trial, and contributors to that book included Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer. The lead author of Pandas, Dean Kenyon, was in fact an advocate of creationism and he filed an affidavit defending the teaching of "creation science" in publics schools in the Edwards case. He also wrote the foreword to What Is Creation Science? by ICR founder Henry Morris and Gary Parker. He is now a fellow at the Discovery Institute.

The second author of Pandas, Percival Davis, coauthored A Case for Creation with fellow young earth creationist (YEC) Wayne Frair. Paul Nelson, a DI fellow, is a young earth creationist who was a consultant in the 1987 Edwards case that struck creation science out of public school science classrooms. Nancy Pearsey, also a DI fellow, is a young earth creationist and former editor of the creationist Bible Science Newsletter. And that's just a sample, one could go on with many more examples. So if by "none of the leaders" he means "several of the leaders", perhaps his point is accurate.

Scientists pursuing intelligent design are doing much for than just criticizing evolution. They are proposing new ideas that can be tested. For example, Michael Behe (author of the book Darwin's Black Box) suggests that molecular motors within the cell exhibit what he calls irreducible complexity. He shows that the bacterial flagellum requires numerous parts to all be present simultaneously for it to function. It is a testable model that other scientists can verify or refute using scientific data.

As I have explained before, there is a difference between ID and arguments made for ID. But even if there wasn't, his argument would be wrong because Behe's argument rests entirely upon the the inadequacy of evolution as an explanation. The major problem with Behe's argument is that the premise is simply false - the existence of multiple interacting parts that are all required for the system to function does not mean the system is irreducibly complex. In fact, Behe admits that many biochemical systems that fit that definition in fact did evolve, such as the hemoglobin system and the antifreeze proteins in fish.

Secondly, nature itself disproves Behe's thesis. There is not a single bacterial flagellum but numerous different types of flagella in nature and they don't all have the same components in the system. Some have fewer component proteins, but still function effectively. And in the case of the blood clotting cascade, his other big example of irreducible complexity, there are animals whose blood clotting systems lack some of those components yet still function just fine (dolphins are a great example, lacking factor XII or Hagemann factor). That alone disproves the notion that the system is irreducibly complex.

The ruling by Judge Jones won't end the debate about intelligent design. But at least when we debate its merits or flaws, we should get our facts straight.

Indeed we should, Mr. Anderson. Indeed we should.

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Ed said:

The major problem with Behe's argument is that the premise is simply false - the existence of multiple interacting parts that are all required for the system to function does not mean the system is irreducibly complex.

[tedious pedant]
Actually, I believe the major problem with Behe's argument is the thesis that IC systems can't evolve, not that there aren't IC systems. Recognizing IC systems is an added difficulty, but the thesis of unevovlability of IC systems is simply flat wrong.

Consider, for example, the human urinary system (basically, 2 kidneys, 2 ureters, a bladder, and a urethra). It's clearly NOT IC -- knock out a kidney, and it still works. One potential birth defect for a human is to be born with only one kidney. In such a person, the urinary system may very well be "IC" by any reasonable definition. But it's clearly evolvable: if the single kidney birth defect is heritable, the the single kidney variant could become 'fixed' (it seems unlikely, but it's plausible), leading to a species with an IC urinary system.

Of course, there's been so much equivocation and shiftiness in Behe's (and Dembski's) definitions over the years, that it's hard to pin know what specific formulation for IC is being used in a discussion. I'm certain that Behe has all but stated that IC is synonymous with "unevolvably complex". Anything that's unevolvably complex can't evolve, of course, but then there's no evidence to suggest that any biological structure is "UC". So either "UC" does not equal "IC", or, as you say, the existence of multiple interacting parts that are all required for the system to function does not mean the system is "IC".

[/tedious pedant]

I just can't get enough of this stream of ministers insisting that ID isn't religious. Now of course you could in theory have a parallel universe case, in which a minister (Lemaitre, even) defends a young big bang theory against judicial accusations of being religious in nature. But when you've got far more ministers than scientists lining up to attack the judge and to insist that Big Bang theory is not religious, it looks a bit silly.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 05 Jan 2006 #permalink

Ed? or anyone else? Is there a link or reference source that would have a flow chart of all the incestuous relations between those who advocate for ID? It would be interesting to have that information in a visual graphic form.

spyder wrote:

Is there a link or reference source that would have a flow chart of all the incestuous relations between those who advocate for ID? It would be interesting to have that information in a visual graphic form.

You mean the relationship between ID and creationism? Or between ID advocates in some other manner?