Re: Fw: Mere Creation conference

Terry M. Gray (
Fri, 29 Nov 1996 11:14:02 -0500


Thanks for the thoughtful comments on my paper. It's the first time anyone
has seriously responded to it. I don't know if you intended to send it to
the group(s) but as of now you only sent it to me. (If you post it to the
group, I will post this response as well.)

You comments are well taken and valid. But here's the rub. Mike Behe and
company are ready to conclude that evolution could not have produced
irreducible complexity. My claim is merely that we know much to little to
make that conclusion, and that there are promising explanations to be
explored further.

Concerning the hemoglobin example: Mike HAS to say that the hemoglobin
case does not quailify because it is a counter-example with a known
evolutionary explanation. But hemoglobin's COOPERATIVE oxygen binding is
an irreducible function. We discuss it that way in biochemistry without
even before Mike Behe came along. Cooperativity is a function that emerges
from dimerization/tetramerization. It doesn't happen without the tetramer
and it did evolve (perhaps suddenly) from a simpler oxygen binding function
such as in myoglobin.

I will grant that it is a much simpler example than a cilia or the other
complex structures that Mike talks about. But this just underscores what I
said in my paper. To tell the evolutionary story with hemoglobin we had to
know an incredible amount of comparative biochemistry (protein sequences,
structures, gene sequences, etc.). Can I tell the same story with Mike's
examples? No. And ss I said, I don't honestly expect to find the answer to
the evolution of these complex eukaryotic systems by looking a yeast,
drosophila and mice/humans. The comparative studies must be done on
protists and proto-eukaryotes. And as Alan Harvey said, hardly anybody is
funding this research. Mike says we've opened the black box and find it
too complicated for an evolutionary explanation--I say that we've barely
scratched the surface. Let's do the comparable comparative work on cilia
that has been done on hemoglobin, and my prediction is that we'll have be
able to imagine the evolution of this system much more readily.

Concerning Kauffman: Mike puts his arguments in terms of a gradualistic
Darwinian explanation, but rules out just as dramatically the
self-organization theories. In fact, I would suggest that he mocks the
efforts. Well, I am among many who think that there is great promise to
these theories in explaining the very sorts of the things that Mike says
CANNOT be explained. Time will tell. I think that Mike would disagree
with your assessment that he is only arguing against gradualist Darwinian
explanations, even though that is his main focus. In the book he makes the
point that Darwinian evolution is the only kind that is widely accepted

Concerning my theology: I'm unapologetically in the Reformed,
presuppositional, C. Van Til camp. Nothing is neutral in creation. All
that is demands a religious response and we either worship God or we commit
idolatry. No doubt you will find some theologians to deny my claims, but I
did not invent these ideas--they are central in Kuyperian, Dooyeweerdian,
and Van Tillian approaches to faith and knowledge.

Concerning working together against our common enemy: You can't say that I
haven't tried. Yet it is the Johnson crowd and the design crowd that are
so vigorously opposed to "theistic evolution" and "evolutionary creation"
and insist on wedding the critique of the biology with the critique of the

I am working on expanding this article in a review planned for some
journal. I hope to deal more specifically with some of Mike's examples.


>Terry Gray wrote on Nov. 23 regarding Mike Behe's book, _Darwin's Black Box_
>and the inference of intelligent design from irreducible complexity:
>"I don't think Mike Behe's arguments hold a biochemist I am not
>the least bit pursuaded by them...My own initial ideas have been expressed at
>my debate with Mike at the ASA meeting in 1994 (see the manuscript from the
>debate at"
>In this paper Terry summarizes Mike's arguments and then responds to them.
> First, he takes up the case of the evolution of the hemoglobin molecule and
>spends about one quarter of his paper describing the biochemistry of the
>molecule using Darwinian mechsnisms, such as, gene duplication followed by
>mutations, pre-adaptation, and selection in tracing its evolutionary
>pathway. Good and well. The point is, however, that Behe does not consider
>the hemoglobin molecule to be a case of irreducible design and does not use
>it as such. Mike wrote, "I would say that hemoglobin shows the same
>evidence for design as does the man in the moon: intriguing but far from
>convincing." So Terry's use of it as an argument against him is irrelevant.
>Second, Terry employs the concepts of self-assembly proposed by Stuart
>Kauffman as an argument against irreducible design. As Terry himself says,
>Kauffman is not a Darwinian, yet he claims that Kauffman's mechanisms are
>evolutionary mechanisms, evolution presumably meaning any _change_ over time
>in organic life. While Behe accepts this meaning of evolution his real
>argument is with gradualistic natural selection, Darwin's operational
>mechanism of how such change comes about. For this reason using Kauffman's
>self-assembly mechanism does not touch on Behe's thesis. His argument is
>with Darwin, not Kauffman.
>Terry also deals with the cilium as a swimming structure and with the process
>of vision, leaning heavily on pre-adapation and selection as his Darwinian
>mechanisms. He has some question, however, that pre-adaptation can carry the
>whole load of explaining complexity. His argument for Darwinian mechanisms
>is given in broad outline, but he claims that given the present data the
>evolutionary explanation is not only plausible but likely. This critique of
>intelligent design needs much further development before it can be considered
>plausible to say nothing of likely.
>TErry's paper contain his initial ideas. I believe his paper needs to be
>further developed and focused on Behe's real examples.
>Terry also introduces some theological considerations. Theologians might
>wish to critique them. For myself, I was intrigued with a couple of his
>assertions, such as, "Every fact of creation drips with evidence of God as
>the creator" and "Every time we think or speak about a fact of creation it is
>either acknowledging God as the creator or denying him." As I read his
>description of the biochemistry of the hemoglobin molecule, I did not find
>explicit evidence of God as the creator. Just how is God involved with his
>creation at the moleulcar level? Much more work needs to be done on relating
>God to his creation in detail before these assertions can be taken seriously.
>The most important statement in Terry's paper, in my opinion, comes at the
>end where he states that "real gains in the fight against an atheistic
>naturalistic world view only when we see the battle is not concerning the
>details of some theory in biology, but is conerning the deeply rooted
>anti-Christian religious convictions that take the glorious truths of God's
>creation and twist them into an anti-Christian apologetic." Right on! Is it
>not possible for those who hold to Terry's view, and the intelligent design
>people to forge a common strategy to engage in this battle? Rather than
>attacking each other over perceived differences, how about joining each other
>in taking the battle to those who "take the glorious truths of God's creation
>and twist them into an anti-Christian apologetic"?
>In Christ,
>Bob DeHaan

Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin College 3201 Burton SE Grand Rapids, MI 40546
Office: (616) 957-7187 FAX: (616) 957-6501

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