Michael Behe is the bad boy of the scientific community, maybe worse -- perhaps he's the dracula, or even the antiDar! For he has taken on the darwinian community and challenged the consensus science. And, despite withering criticism, he isn't backing down.
This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. Square brackets indicate my comments.
Speaker introduction: Most refutations of Dr. Behe's argument amount to refutation of straw men arguments coupled with hand-waving. His premise is that intelligent design is at the foundation of life [surely something all Christians would agree with?].
Go here for Dr. Behe's NYT one-page op-ed piece "Design For Living".
Five points we will cover:
1. Design is not mystical. It is deduced from the physical structure of a system.
2. Everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed.
3. There are structural obstacles to darwinian evolution.
4. Grand darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination.
5. Bottom line: 2010 strong physical evidence for design, little for darwinian evolution.
One: We infer design wherever we see parts arranged to perform a function. Recognizing design is not a religious conclusion. The strength of the design inference is quantitative -- two rocks in a row vs. 200 - Old Man of the mountain (a natural phenomenon) vs. Mt. Rushmore.
Two: Dawkins - admits the "appearance of having been designed for a purpose" -- the appearance of design is overwhelming. But this is dismissed as maya - the illusion of design.
Three: Darwin's challenge - "if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly be formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down".
Behe: "Let's take Darwin at his word". [Note: I think this is the Achilles' heel of Behe's approach (not his science). All darwinists need to do to counter Behe is present speculative "could haves", while utterly failing to show that the "could haves" were either a) actual, or b), even remotely likely. As long as it is not "impossible", darwinism stands]
Behe coined the phrase "irreducible complexity", and uses the mouse-trap as an illustration in everyday life, and the bacterial flagellum in biology. "This is a real molecular machine -- not [merely] 'like a machine'."
Cell - cells are viewed by molecular biologists as complex macromolecular machines.
All machines are designed.
Four: Oxford University Press, The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life. Franklin M. Harold. p. 205
Franklin Harold wrote: "We should reject as a matter of principle the substitution of Intelligent Design for the dialog of chance and necessity," and he cites my book, "but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations."
Science follows the evidence wherever it leads -- unless it leads to God.
Five: Inductive (In-duck-tive) argument. (If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...). This is the kind of logic normally used in the sciences.
A conclusion of intelligent design is rationally justified.
* * *
Darwinism is a multi-part theory -- parts may be right, others wrong:
* Common descent -- "interesting, but trivial"
* Natural selection -- "interesting, but trivial -- who can doubt that stronger overcome weaker?
* Random mutation - critical claim -- accidents caused by nobody
Malaria parasite -- single-celled parasite -- infects red blood cells, multiplies - 20 becomes 400 becomes 8000 etc. Little draculas -- human genome shaped by battle with malaria -- much darwinian evolution proceeds by breaking old genes.
The much-maligned, thoroughly likeable Dr. Behe is author of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.
Next up: Stephen Meyer.