Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Michael Behe's Response to Kitzmiller

Here is Michael Behe's Response to the Kitzmiller decision in the wake of the NOVA special. He writes:

The Court finds that intelligent design (ID) is not science. In its legal analysis, the Court takes what I would call a restricted sociological view of science: “science” is what the consensus of the community of practicing scientists declares it to be. The word “science” belongs to that community and to no one else. Thus, in the Court’s reasoning, since prominent science organizations have declared intelligent design to not be science, it is not science. Although at first blush that may seem reasonable, the restricted sociological view of science risks conflating the presumptions and prejudices of the current group of practitioners with the way physical reality must be understood.

This suggests that there may be a non-Kuhnian way of viewing physical reality, an as-yet undescribed alternative to hypothesis testing. The problem is that, as Dr. Nelson stated, there is no underlying theory that can drive this alternative.

On the other hand, like myself most of the public takes a broader view: “science” is an unrestricted search for the truth about nature based on reasoning from physical evidence. By those lights, intelligent design is indeed science. Thus there is a disconnect between the two views of what “science” is. Although the two views rarely conflict at all, the dissonance grows acute when the topic turns to the most fundamental matters, such as the origins of the universe, life, and mind.

The suggestion here is that there is a point at which scientific explanations fail and one is left with a "we have no idea" explanation. The problem is that in every instance in which ID has reached this point (e.g. irreducible complexity), modern, Kuhn-based science has offered explanations through further hypothesis testing and observation.

Behe, on whether ID invokes a supernatural entity:

It does no such thing. The Court’s opinion ignores, both here and elsewhere, the distinction between an implication of a theory and the theory itself. As I testified, when it was first proposed the Big Bang theory struck many scientists as pointing to a supernatural cause. Yet it clearly is a scientific theory, because it is based entirely on physical data and logical inferences. The same is true of intelligent design.

Wellllllll, in a sense, he is right here. Big Bang models extend as far back as 10x-34 seconds and are based on mathematical models. There is a point before this point where the math breaks down and we have to say "we don't exactly know what happened then." In a sense, he is not, because there is observational evidence (galactic red shifts, cosmic background radiation) that at least one of the Big Bang models (there are 11) is supported. This is straight hypothesis testing: "if the model is correct, we should see x." "If it is not, we will see y."

The problem here for ID is that, when ID proponents posit "if ID is true, we should see x," they are failing to account for alternative evolutionary explanations that have, as noted above, explained things quite well. Additionally, unlike Big Bang theory, there is no 0 time element. There is no mechanism for explaining phenomena back that far in time. This is not true for evolutionary explanations which can take phenomena back as far as there is life on earth. This is a critical point missed by the writers of Of Pandas and People. Evolution has nothing to say about the origins of life. As long as there is life, evolutionary hypotheses can be tested.

In response to the statement: The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980's, Behe states:

The dualism is “contrived” and “illogical” only if one confuses ID with creationism, as the Court does.

The court was not the only one to confuse creationism with ID. The Discovery Institute did a great job of that with both the Wedge Strategy and the lack of attention to detail between early and later drafts of Of Pandas and People, resulting in "cdesign proponentsists," not to mention the book, itself, which reeks of recycled creationism arguments.

More in the next post.

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