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Being Smart About Intelligent Design


Behe, Michael J. Darwin's Black Box. Simon & Schuster 1996. Dembski, William. ... Darwin's Black Box : Newly discovered bio-chemical complexity. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Being Smart About Intelligent Design

Being Smart About Intelligent Design
  • David Banach
  • Department of Philosophy
  • St. Anselm College

What is Intelligent Design?
Central Works and Figures
  • Behe, Michael J. Darwin's Black Box. Simon
    Schuster 1996
  • Dembski, William. Intelligent Design The Bridge
    Between Science and Theology. InterVarsity Press,
  • William S. Harris and John H. Calvert.
    Intelligent Design The Scientific Alternative
    to Evolution (National Catholic Bioethics
    Quarterly, Autumn 2003) .

Intelligent Design in the News
  • Kansas
  •    Discovery Institute 1999 and 2005 State
    Science Standards
  • Pennsylvania Thomas More Law Center Discovery
    Institute. Pandas and People. Edited Creationist

The Wedge The 1998 manifesto of the Discovery
Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and
  • Governing Goals
  • To defeat scientific materialism and its
    destructive moral, cultural and political
  • To replace materialistic explanations with the
    theistic understanding that nature and human
    beings are created by God.
  • Five Year Goals
  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted
    alternative in the sciences and scientific
    research being done from the perspective of
    design theory.
  • To see the beginning of the influence of design
    theory in spheres other than natural science.
  • To see major new debates in education, life
    issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed
    to the front of the national agenda.
  • Twenty Year Goals
  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant
    perspective in science.
  • To see design theory application in specific
    fields, including molecular biology,
    biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology
    in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics,
    politics, theology and philosophy in the
    humanities to see its influence in the fine
  • To see design theory permeate our religious,
    cultural, moral and political life.

Lesson 1
  • Stick to the Science and not the Politics.
  • Much of the debate on ID is a reflection of the
    larger Postmodern debate about the roles of
    reason and power in determining the True and the

Is it Science?
  • Is it Scientific Discourse? YES. It makes
    statements of fact and reason that can be
    verified or falsified.
  • Is it a Scientific Theory? NO. It does not
    provide a systematic matrix of theoretical
    statements that allow useful predictions in a
    wide range of cases.
  • Is it Good Science? NO. Its main arguments do
    not establish their claims.

Lesson 2
  • ID should be refuted as Scientific Discourse,
    using the facts and argument.
  • It should not be dismissed as non-science. This
    has the appearance of a institutional power play,
    and invites response in kind.

Key Arguments Life cannot be the result of
random physical forces. Evolution is random.
  • Specified Complexity (Dembski).
  • Irreducible Complexity (Behe)
  • Darwins Black Box Newly discovered bio-chemical
  • The Origin of Life.

Lesson 3
  • Understand how Evolution Works.

Evolution is NOT Random
  • Systems involving 1. Inheritance 2. Variation
  • 3. Differential Survival (Selection)
  • function as algorithms that naturally act in
    very non-random ways, tending inexorably towards
    higher fitness.
  • Evolution agrees that complex objects could not
    have arisen randomly.
  • The source of variation is normally thought to be
    random, or undirected, mutations, but this is not
    the essential feature of Evolution.
  • Not all natural activity that is undirected or
    non-intelligent is random. Undirected?Random.

Adaptive Landscapes and Evolutionary Algorithms
The Argument from Probability
  • Complex objects have 1. Many Parts, with many,
    many possible combinations. 2. One of which,
    specifiable in advance, is the right or
    functional one.
  • It is vastly improbable, then, that complex
    objects arise from a random combination from
    their parts.

Specified Complexity
  • An event exhibits specified complexity if it is
    contingent and therefore not necessary if it is
    complex and therefore not readily repeatable by
    chance and if it is specified in the sense of
    exhibiting an independently given pattern." (p.
  • (Dembski, William A. (2003). Gauging Intelligent
  • Equivalent to Dawkins definition of complex.

Not Complex
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Irreducible Complexity
  • Irreducible Complexity (Behe) By irreducibly
    complex I mean a single system composed of
    several well-matched, interacting parts that
    contribute to the basic function, wherein the
    removal of any one of the parts causes the system
    to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly
    complex system cannot be produced directly (that
    is, by continuously improving the initial
    function, which continues to work by the same
    mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of
    a precursor system, because any precursor to an
    irreducibly complex system that is missing a part
    is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly
    complex biological system, if there is such a
    thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian
    evolution. (p. 39)

E. Coli Flagellum
Darwins Black Box
  • Newly discovered bio-chemical complexity.
    Explanations of the evolution of gross anatomical
    features leave out explanations of the even more
    complex microscopic mechanisms that lie hidden
    within them.

Blood Coagulation Cascade (Behe)
The Evolution of the Eye
Our Intuitions are Bad Judges
  • Given the lengths of time and the probabilities
    involved, our intuitions mislead us about what is
    or is not possible.
  • We would not say it was impossible to fit all of
    the information in the bible into a square
    centimeter, even though we cannot imagine it.

100 to 99 80 in 1000 generations 100 to 95
80 in 200, 98 in 1000 generations (Mark
Ridley, Evolution, p. 95)
Self-Organization .5 .48
Self-Organization .6 1.2
Self-Organization Various Ratios near .6
Self-Organization Benard Convection Patterns
The Eye Without Intelligence
Lesson 3
  • Genes evolve, not gross anatomical structures. We
    should ask how the genes that give rise to
    complex structures can evolve, not the parts of
    the structures themselves.
  • Mechanical processes with no intelligence give
    rise to complex structures in development.

The Problem of the Origin of Life
  • Since the conditions that allow natural selection
    require Self-Replicating molecules, Natural
    Selection cannot explain the origin of these
  • Fred Hoyle compared the probability of a protein
    forming randomly from amino acids to the chances
    of a tornado assembling the parts of a 747
    passing through a junkyard.

Time Scale of Lifes Evolution
Time Scale of Lifes Evolution
  • If the age of the earth (4.6 billion years) were
    condensed into one year ...
  • Jan. 1 -- Earth was born Early Feb. -- Oldest
    known rocks formed Late Mar. -- First primitive
    life formed Mid Nov.-- First complex life with
    shells or skeletons formed Late Nov. -- First
    land animals Dec. 25 -- Extinction of the
    dinosaurs Dec. 31 -- Humans evolved in the
    evening Dec. 31 -- one second before midnight,
    humans first set foot on the Moon
  • From Davidson et al., 2002

The Vicious Circle
  • DNA requires a number of complex enzymes to
    replicate and to maintain its integrity. But
    these enzymes, being complex, could not have
    evolved without natural selection and some system
    of replication.

DNA Replication (The Way Life Works, M. Hoagland,
Bert Dodson)
Lesson 4
  • Be careful what you ask for.
  • The type of design envisioned by ID is not

What is Design?
  • Design directly manipulates and uses the natural
    properties of objects to serve a novel purpose.
  • No manipulation, no design. Throwing a log on the
    fire or bringing into existence a pre-existing
    form is not design.
  • No direct manipulation, no design. The manager
    who puts the engineers together on a project is
    not the designer.

Problems with Design Envisioned by ID
  • Must have occurred at many different times during
    the history of life.
  • Requires the direct intervention into naturally
    evolving system.
  • Requires design of genes not structures.
  • Can be altered by subsequent evolution.
  • Frequent intervention in natural processes is
    incompatible with omniscient, omnipotent

2 Designs
  • One works without intelligent intervention based
    only on the natural properties of the mechanism.
  • The other cannot perform its function through its
    natural properties alone, and requires the
    intervention of intelligence.
  • Which is the better design?

Lessons for the Scientist Being Smart about
Intelligent Design
  • ID should be refuted as Scientific Discourse,
    using the facts and argument.
  • It should not be dismissed as non-science. This
    has the appearance of a institutional power play,
    and invites response in kind.
  • Scientists should be state clearly the scientific
    consensus about what we know and dont know about
    the history of life. They should be clear both
    about what ID concedes and about what problems
    evolutionary theory faces and their best probable
  • Scientists should be smart (and not glib) about
    the problems posed for human value and meaning by
    a world devoid of purpose and plan. The problems
    of the meaning of Life are no more trivial than
    those of the meaning of (biological) life.

Lessons for the Religious Person Being Smart
about Intelligent Design
  • Be clear about how natural selection works as
    well as the different meanings of random and
  • Dont trust your intuitions about what natural
    selection can and cant do.
  • Dont put too much hope in a set of speculations
    that may be empirically disproved.
  • In attempting to gain the authority that comes
    with scientific method, do not forget the
    underlying differences between what the methods
    of science and religion reveal about the world.
    If you want to attack mechanism, you cant do it
    through science.
  • Be Clear about what kind of design you are
    envisioning and whether it is appropriate to the
    God you believe in.