Re: The Mere Creation Discussion

Allan Harvey (
Tue, 03 Dec 1996 13:30:08 -0700

I wrote:
>"*IF* Behe has a meaningful definition of "irreducible
>complexity", then it
>is perfectly legitimate to examine other systems *IF* those other systems
>meet the definition. A scientist shouldn't restrict up front the ways in
>which other scientists are allowed to test his hypotheses. If you only
>allow Behe's handpicked systems, that makes the effective definition of
>irreducible complexity "these particular systems for which no evolutionary
>explanation has been found", at which point the argument becomes

and Russ Maatman replied:

>Here a problem arises: We have (1) an experimental result (an opened black
>box), leading to the conclusion, _using presently-known scientific laws_,
>that the contents of the black box did not evolve from something simpler;
>and (2) a definition that attempts to capture all cases like (1). Allan, I
>hope you see that even if (1) is valid, that (2), the attempted definition
>might not be quite right. And, showing that (2) is flawed is not
>equivalent to showing that (1) is wrong.

I agree with these distinctions up to a point. But the issue of course is
whether (1) has been established for any system. And I think looking at
other similar systems can speak to that. Imagine 100 complex systems.
Suppose that, for 90 of those systems, "naturalistic" evolutionary
explanations are found. IF no criteria exist for saying the remaining 10
are somehow "different", it is a good (though not certain) assumption that
such explanations exist for those other 10, even if nobody has been clever
enough (or had the funding or interest) to find them.

In other words, there are (at least) 2 possibilities for such a system:

1) It is just like the "others" in having an evolutionary explanation, but
nobody has found it yet.
2) Unlike the "others", there is no evolutionary explanation.

In the absence of any meaningful criteria (something better than "no
explanation has been found and I can't imagine one") separating Behe's
"irreducibly complex" examples from the "others", #1 becomes the logical
choice, and supporting #2 starts to sound like the Argument from Personal
Incredulity. Maybe one could start considering possibility #2 if the best
scientific minds had spent years and millions of dollars searching for an
explanation and come up empty, but as far as I know that isn't the case for
any of Behe's examples.

| Dr. Allan H. Harvey | |
| Physical and Chemical Properties Division | Phone: (303)497-3555 |
| National Institute of Standards & Technology | Fax: (303)497-5224 |
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