There is plenty of online info about possible routes of evolution for the bacterial flagellum. For example, HERE and HERE. But in general, appeal to cases like the flagellum are perfect instances of the God-of-the-gaps fallacy, or what Neil Tyson would call “the perimeter of our ignorance”. No matter where we are in the great advance of science, there will always be some features and facts that remain unexplained.
I’d add to those flagellum references this one (large PDF). Note that it has the virtue of being testable, and in fact since it was first published on the web at least one of its predictions has been tested and corroborated.
It is good to have representatives of the other side on the show, as it only reveals the astonishing weakness of their positions. Francis Collins did a great job of illustrating this point a few weeks ago, and now Michael Behe offers his own contribution.
To my mind, it really boils down to a very simple question: what lines of inquiry, what new methods, what productive hypotheses does ID offer? The answer is: nothing. It offers nothing productive. If it were adopted as the mainstream approach, it would shut down evolutionary science overnight.
This feature it has in common with all pseudoscience, along with all the rest: the “common-sense” arguments appealing to the uninformed mind; the claim of a clubbish exclusivity among real scientists to explain why ID work doesn’t appear in Nature or Science any of the other peer-reviewed journals; the related claim to persecution and vcitimhood; the vaguely self-righteous attitude of its proponents; and so on. It’s all there. ID is pseudoscience, plain and simple, and we can only thank Judge Jones in Dover, PA for seeing this so very clearly.
Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.” All people die. If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary. And something bad is needed to stop a body from living. If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer. if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck. In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria. There has to be *some* agent of death in this world. Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.
According to most religions, it is possible to have a place without any death, and therefore no agents of death. A place big enough for all people who have ever lived as well. And apparently, such a place will be a reality in the age to come. Pretty poor designing in my opinion that makes a world too small, and therefore must create agents of death and torture to clear out room for the next generation…especially when the designers’ apparent original intention was to create immortal beings, who only became mortal after they picked the fruit.
J.D. this was a really interesting and insightful comment.
Greetings, thanks for the response. To begin with I said nothing to imply that natural selection does not work or is “random”. I apologize if I gave that impression. I was specifically discussing the flagellum motor and the completely unsatisfying answer or lack thereof that Darwinian Evolution gives for this structure.
“It is guided by differential reproductive success (via natural selection), the necessity of building new things out of existing things rather than creating them intact from scratch, and other such factors.”
None of which are satisfying explanations for the flagellum.
Others have been responding directly to this point. I would mention that this flagellum stuff is discussed in detail in Behe’s earlier book Darwin’s Black Box, and if one is not a biologist and just reads this book it is fairly convincing. However, as others have noted here he doesn’t have his facts correct. In fact the flagellum had been discussed in the journal literature and Behe should have been aware of it (unlike us non-biologists).
This is why Behe needs to publish his arguments in peer-reviewed journals and convince other experts. And he needs to listen to other experts.
I found D.J. Groethe’s cat-and-mouse-style interview with Michael Behe to be delightful. Prof. Behe’s arguments were appropriately decorated with the tell-tale chuckle at the end, and frankly it was merciful that D.J. spared the professor further foot-in-mouth opportunities.
I am strongly opposed to teaching ID in h.s. science classes simply because there’s not one iota of reproducible evidence to support ID. I don’t see irreducible complexity as a particular hurdle; the basic concept can easily be explained to school children. Show them a car and ask how it runs if you remove the wheels ? Or show them Haley’s watch, Lennox’s factory or Behe’s Mt. Rushmore as you will. The common fallacy behind all of those arguments is that cars, watches, factories and mountains are not alive, do not reproduce with variation and thus do not evolve. The real challenge we have is to give children full exposure to the overwhelming volume of archaeological, anthropological, cellular, genetic, biochemical and other empirical evidence, all of which clearly demonstrates Darwinian evolution. If we want to teach them they’re descended from an ancestor who was pulled ready-made out of a hat like the proverbial rabbit, we should find another venue. Sunday school perhaps.
Of course, we do need to teach “ID” with respect to GMO’s, cloning, gene therapy and other man-made biotechnologies.
As for the plagiarism issue, I was impressed listening to the interview with Judge Jones that’s available on the Nova “Judgment Day” web site. I’m convinced the judge has a clear, deep, insightful understanding of the issues and that he made and enunciated his own decision. He is to be highly commended for not letting any preconceived notions or outside pressures stop him from rendering the correct decision.
Keep up the good work POI ! D. Thomas (My first post here; any feed back appreciated)
There is something that I’ve never been able to understand with creationists/ID-proponents. They have such a hard time accepting the theory of evolution and must attribute, in whole or in part, the existence of life and moreover the universe as we know it to some creator or designer, yet they have no qualms accepting that this designer was not created or designed him/her/itself. Granted, it ends up being an infinite regression issue of “who created the creator” and then “who created that creator” and so on, but they are the ones postulating it, so it is only fair to ask where the designer came from as well. After all, they are the ones claiming there are gaps that cannot be explained. So where did the designer come from? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m fine accepting that the universe, in one form or another, always has and always will exist without having to invoke god.
During the entire interview, I kept wondering why this university professor was making an argument from ignorance as to “the gaps” in evolutionary theory. His argument about something having the appearance of design sounds awfully subjective. Since something hasn’t yet been explained, it does not follow that “the intelligent designer” made it happen. Does he truly believe that if we as humans cannot explain something, or haven’t yet the proper tools or mental capacity to understand something, then it can never be explained? That viewpoint would only lead to a lack of research instead of more research. Imagine if a crime scene was investigated this way. In fact, some probably are in order to fit what the investigator wished to find. I’m sure people would be outraged, and rightfully so.
Thanks for pointing that out, Majestyx. You put your finger on something that has long made me lose the respect for theologians and narrow ideologists:
They keep regurgitating the same tired old arguments ad infinitum. If some pimply teenager would state them he’d be rebuffed in an instant. But once you got academic ‘credentials’ (or a clerical collar!) people are awed by them.
The truth is that a huge pile of philosophical arguments are dead and decomposed, and here’s a prime example. It should also be noted that ID proponents know this full well. In some cases their leaders have encouraged people to acquire degrees in biology (typically at low ranking religious institutions) in order to wave a PhD in front of an audience and purport to speak from a position of legitimate insider knowledge. Shame on them.
I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant. As I commented to a co-worker, it actually contained more evidence for the theory of evolution than I had seen in my collective reading of Sagan, Darwin, Pennock, my high-school biology books and dozens of issues of Scientific American. Behe gave a more thorough explanation of the mechanisms by which natural selection works than I had ever read before and did a good deal to convince me of its ability to bring about biological change. Very educational. (Let the denouncements of my ignorance roll forth. Just make the insults creative so they aren’t boring to read.)
Obviously I’m not going to convince anyone here that ID is valid, and I’m not going to try. But I will ask one question and make one point, both inspired by themes that seemed consistent throughout this thread.
Question: What is this “rope” so many people have mentioned with which Behe hanged himself? I thought he did a fine job defending himself. Which of his words were the pulling of this gallows lever? I didn’t hear the click.
Point: Behe’s argument is not “god of the gaps,” and I think that anyone who claims it is has failed to understand it. Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for. He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing. He is denouncing it. He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish. His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them. Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”
Behe gave a more thorough explanation of the mechanisms by which natural selection works than I had ever read before and did a good deal to convince me of its ability to bring about biological change.
consistent with this:
Mr. Tweedy - 01 February 2008 02:30 PM
Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for. He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing. He is denouncing it. He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish. His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them. Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”
I’m sorry to say that you’ve left me thoroughly confused. Perhaps a short synopsis of what you see as Behe’s argument would be in order.
Behe’s claim is that random mutation filtered through natural selection is not able to build systems of any complexity. In “Edge” he claims that everything from complexes of two cellular proteins on up is too complex for Darwin to account for and gives pretty detailed reasons why he thinks so. Claiming that all biological systems require design is not “god of the gaps.”
He also spends a lot of time on what Darwinian processes have been proven to do. For instance, he explains in brief detail how malaria acquires resistance to human drugs and how humans acquire resistance to malaria, through the preservation of advantageous mutations in both cases. Educational. (Behe contends that these examples show the upper threshold of what Darwin can do.)
I hope that answers your question, although I’m not really sure what it was.
EDIT: Oh, wait, I think I see it. You perceive a conflict between his convincing me that Darwinian processes cause change and his saying they don’t build systems? Well, “change” and “build” are not synonyms. They are two distinct ideas. Behe helped to convince me that natural selection causes organisms to change over generations, but he also helped convinced me that these changes are unable to construct new systems.
[ Edited: 01 February 2008 03:40 PM by Mr. Tweedy ]
You perceive a conflict between his convincing me that Darwinian processes cause change and his saying they don’t build systems? Well, “change” and “build” are not synonyms. They are two distinct ideas. Behe helped to convince me that natural selection causes organisms to change over generations, but he also helped convinced me that these changes are unable to construct new systems.
What’s the difference between “change” and “build”?
What do you mean that these changes are unable to construct new systems? How does Behe define a “new system”?
Change: Hurl Molotov at building. Building burns. Loose pigeons on building. Building collects poo. Subject building to cold. Pipes in building contract with an eerie creaking sound. In each case, the building is somehow different, but these differences are not inherently related to the structure of the building nor do they contribute to its overall functionality.
Build: Cute down tree. Melt sand for glass. Bring wood and glass to building site. Measure and cut wood. Nail cut pieces into frame. Score and snap glass to fit frame. Assemble glass and frame. Nail assembly into hole in the side of the building. Apply caulk. Apply trim. Apply external shingles. Paint. Apply internal curtains. The building now has a new window, a part that is inherently related to and ads to the functioning of the building as a whole.