Yesterday I sent the message below to both the ASA and Evolution Reflector
groups. I received several responses. I'm sending this answer to both
groups. I hope there is no problem about quoting someone who is in one
group on both listserves. (I'll answer privately to those who wrote me
Ted Davis said I "expressed the view that one clear case of 'intelligent
design' will topple the evolutionary paradigm. I beg to differ on two
grounds." He then states that it takes a lot to convince scientists that
problems like those Behe raises are genuinely intractable, and that even if
it is so shown, it is difficult to get rid of the old theory; scientists
are traditionally conservative on these matters.
My point was and is this: one clear case of intelligent design will make it
incumbent on scientists not to assume a priori that every biological system
has evolved by a gradualistic process. Yes, proving the one case is not
easy. Yes, even though adequate proof is offered, that proof will be
absorbed very slowly by the scientific community. And, this slowness is not
necessarily linked to ideology: I imagine that theories such as the
phlogiston theory died slowly even though (it seems to me) one's worldview
was not involved.
But the fact remains: once that clear case of intelligent design has been
shown, then all subsequent investigations may not be carried out assuming
that all systems have evolved gradualistically. So the underlying
assumptions for each investigation change from a set that includes "All
biological systems have evolved gradualistically" to a set that replaces
that assumption with "A given biological system may have evolved
gradualistically or it may have been intelligently designed." That's a
Janet Rice asked, "Could you perhaps relate the evidence for intelligent
design that was discussed?...Intelligent design, to me, presupposes a
belief in a Designer--faith if you will....What makes these discussions
relavent or convincing to one who does not [have] that faith?
I'm limiting my comments to Behe's examples, but others were given at the
conference. I'll let Mike Behe speak for himself; I refer you to his recent
book: Michael J. Behe, _Darwin's Black Box_ (New York: The free Press,
1996). In addition, Behe was involved in along series of exchanges on the
evolution reflector; perhaps you can access them on the appropriate web
site or archives.
What about presupposition? Behe's favorite analogy is the mousetrap. If you
find a mousetrap, you would be hard put to show how it evolved
gradualistically. The trap platform alone does not catch mice, and so one
cannot maintain that the platform evolved into the trap because the trap
would catch more mice. It is the same with the other parts of the trap--the
spring alone catches no mice, etc. Behe discusses in his book several
biological systems that fall into this category. They are simple enough to
be analyzable down to the atomic and molecular level, and yet complex
enough so that one can see that they consist of fitted-together parts, just
like the mousetrap. Because each part cannot do _any_ part of the total
function alone, he states that the total system is "irreducibly complex."
He makes quite a point of stating that all he claims is a designer, not a
Designer. If you find a mousetrap, you have not proved the existence of a
supernatural being, much less the Triune God.
Alan Harvey said (re my statement:" _general_ evolutionary theory is wrong
if one exception is found...[or if] _one_ system has been shown to have
been intelligently designed...."), "This statement doesn't make sense
unless one adopts an unusual definition of 'general evolutionary theory.'
If God could be shown to have created matter from nothing in one instance,
that would not invalidate the whole law of conservartion of mass. One case
of 'intelligent design' (even if one grants that proving such a case is
possible) would not mean that evolution was generally invalid, just that it
had been bypassed in that one instance." Alan staed that "evolution" should
not be taken as a naturalistic hypothesis that accounts for the development
of all life. He also says that so far all that has been shown is the
suggestion that some things were designed, not that such design has been
Alan changes my "general" to "generally," a move that is not justified. We
must stick with the usual definitions. "General evolutionary theory" at the
very least says that all biological systems evolved gradualistically; many
people extend this theory and apply it to nonbiological systems. But let's
stay with biology. Ask Gould, Sagan, Futuyama, Eldridge, etc. etc. if their
theory of evolution would still hold if _one_ system could be shown to be
designed. Of course, you couldn't get an answer. But there is no doubt they
hold that all systems evolved gradualistically. (I know about p.e. But even
their gradualism ultimately rules.)
Rchard Knopp implied I have a simplistic idea re falsificacation and
counsels us "to be ... more reserved in our level of excitement [about the
possibility of a new paradigm]." I hope what I have said above shows that I
am indeed reserved, but that it seems something is starting.
Here is a challenge to everyone: Take one of Behe's examples and propose an
evolutionary gradualistic path. Write up your suggestion in the usual
scholarly way, citing this reaction and that, all in the literature, and
show how it is possible--perhaps even probable--that your proposed path is
correct. Submit the article to the _Journal of Evolutionary Biology_. Behe
has shown that neither this journal nor any other relevant journal has ever
published such a pathway. Yet this journal and the others are committed to
general evolutionary theory. So the editors and their referees would
certainly not be biased against publishing such a well-documented proposed
pathway. Anyone who takes up this challenge would gain instant fame. NOTE:
Don't take up an example other than Behe's. After all, he makes the point
that some systems that seem to be very complex may have evolved.
By the way: Suppose some biological systems have indeed been designed. The
shouldn't the seeker after truth allow for this possibility, and not rule
it out a priori?
In the Lord,
So there are three kinds of systems: those that one can reasonably give a
pathway of gradualistic evolution, those that one can reasonably show that
such a pathway does not exist, and a third very large group that at present
can be put into either category after a lot more research is carried out.
> It was good to see some of you at this conference over last week end in
> Angeles. As reflected many times at the meeting, "It's good to put a face
> with an e-mail name!"
> It seems to me that we are moving forward, perhaps to a new paradigm in
> Kuhnian sense. I know that we have been debating evolution for many
> But something new is emerging.
> That is this: _general_ evolutionary theory is wrong if one exception is
> found. More specifically, if _one_ system has been shown to have been
> intelligently designed, the general theory fails. From then on, systems
> must be examined one by one. What has happened is that some systems have
> indeed been shown to be intelligently designed. Quite a few of these were
> discussed at the meeting, but one needs only to cite those discussed by
> Mike Behe, also covered in his recent book, _Darwin's Black Box_. Note
> if only one of all the systems discussed at the meeting is not
> the general theory is dead.
> What interests me is where all this leads. A large number of Christian
> intellectuals who are not knowledgeable in the natural sciences have
> assumed that Darwinism is the way to go. They have found ways that (they
> think) make it possible to harmonize the Bible and natural science. They
> are used to criticisms from Christian theologians. But a new thing is
> _scientists_ are beginning to undercut the general evolutionary theory.
> is one thing for Christian intellectuals not knowledgeable in the natural
> sciences to parry the arguments of Christian theologians; it is quite
> another to answer the Mike Behes of the scientific world.
> So, perhaps slowly, a move to a new paradigm: admission that intelligent
> design must be considered within science. I say "slowly" because, as Kuhn
> has shown us (although we didn't need him on this matter!), the new
> paradigm is generally favored only by the younger workers; older ones are
> too much committed and too set in their ways.
> If this conference marks the beginning of a slow turnaround, it was good
> be "present at the creation."
> In the Lord,
> Russell Maatman
> e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org