From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Wed Sep 24 2003 - 11:12:13 EDT

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    >From: "Steve Petermann" <>

    > I don't see how ID can be empirically verifiable either. However, it seems
    > to me that RFEP is in the same boat?

    Yes, of course. That's why I always acknowledge that many ?'s must be
    sprinkled on my list of examples of the universe's formational capabilities.
    The RFEP is a working presupposition of the historical sciences -- seldom,
    if ever, explicitly stated, but nonetheless implicit in the entire
    enterprise. I would argue that its remarkable fruitfulness as the working
    assumption for the historical sciences for a century or more should be taken
    as an indication (not a proof, of course) that the universe actually has the
    nature described by the RFEP.

    > Since we cannot directly observe the
    > evolution of a flagellum(or some other complex system), an inference must be
    > made instead. Of course, science is driven by challenges to inference. ID
    > claims that RFEP cannot account for certain types of complex systems.

    What Dembski claims is that science has not yet been able to construct a
    "casually specific" (fully detailed and complete in all respects) account
    for the formation of the first flagellum (evidently complete with genetic
    instructions for future generations as well, but he doesn't bother to deal
    with this). Given his additional argumentation that science will never be
    able to do this because the joint effect of all natural causes (both known
    and unknown) is incapable of actualizing a bacterial flagellum, Dembski
    counts this as evidence that RFEP is false.

    > That
    > presents a difficult challenge for Darwinians. It would mean that they would
    > have to make a detailed compelling case of reverse engineering what ID calls
    > a "specifically complex" or "irreducibly complex" system. I don't know if
    > someone has already done that(I would be interest in that) but Franklin
    > Harold, a professor emeritus of cell biology at Colorado State University.
    > said in _The Way of the Cell_ Oxford University Press(2001 p.205) that
    > "There are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any
    > biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." Is
    > this just an impossible task to do?

    I suspect that biologists will never be able to construct a causally
    specific account that would satisfy advocates of ID. Some critical detail
    would always be declared missing; plausibility arguments, no matter how
    reasonable, could always be declared to be less than convincing. I will,
    however, defer to biologists for more commentary on your question

    > If not, seems to me Darwinian proponents
    > could put a quick end to the debate by producing a few such examples. My
    > guess is that something like that is not forthcoming and to this point its
    > all just a bunch of handwaving on both sides with no real resolution in
    > site.

    I think this rhetoric is a bit unfair. Not all arguments that fall short of
    being airtight proofs deserve the label, "hand-waving." I'm sure that you
    are fully aware of that there is a lot of conceptual territory for the
    convincing value of argumentation between the terms "proof" and

    Howard Van Till

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