RE: [asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of

From: John Walley <>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 00:24:23 EDT

JW- See comments below.

-----Original Message-----
From: PvM []
Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2007 11:00 PM
To: John Walley
Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation
Subject: Re: [asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is
the new enemy of

On 8/19/07, John Walley <> wrote:
> This excerpt proves my point. Here Korthof concedes the limitation of
> mutation to produce meaningful complexity in life like Behe says and
> turns the debate to put the onus on Behe to provide a theory of design,
> then launches into a philosophical and theological debate on what God
> or would not do. Korthof is equally lacking a theory of evolution to
> complexity if random mutation doesn't work.

some problems with this argument: First of all, Korthof explains the
difference between finding limits for the sake of limits versus the
process of finding limits to increase our understanding. Behe is doing
little to take his claimed 'limitations' to increase our
understanding. In fact, little of Behe's arguments seem to be
Furthermore, I am somewhat at odds about your comment 'if random
mutation does not work'. Surely you must be familiar that random
mutation is a concept which is often misunderstood and furthermore,
random variation is but one of the Darwinian aspects.
When combined it is trivial to show how complexity can be produced.

JW- This is the "fanciful Darwinian thinking" Behe points out. It may be
trivial to show how complexity can be produced but it is theoretical, just
like Behe's Design argument. In the longest running empirical study of
evolution known to man, that of malaria, zero new complexity was added. I
am aware of the other components of variety like gene replication but that
was not observed either. I think pointing out this limitation does increase
our understanding. It shows that these theories are not born out in reality
just like mainstream science does to irreducible complexity. And it is
relevant that assuming the number of generations of malaria in this
timeframe, it is way more than we would expect from chimps to humans since
they have both been on the earth.

> Behe is "driven by theological notions" but Korthof and the others are
> driven by naturalistic notions. Why does Behe have to produce an
> to dismantle random mutation but Ken Miller and others dismantle
> complexity without offering any alternative? Why is one good science and
> other "scientifically vacuous"?

FIrst of all Miller and others do offer alternatives, Behe basically
argues, based on flakey grounds that some system could not have arisen
by Darwinian processes, and that this does should count as evidence in
favor of intelligent design. There is however no reason for Behe to
take that final step, other than perhaps his theological presumptions.
If Behe wants to make his claims scientifically relevant he has to
show limitations and constraints, which would require him to go do the
road of theology, a road ID is desperately trying to avoid.

JW- Agreed Behe shouldn't take that final step.

> I appreciate that Korthof below is gracious enough to offer that readers
> Behe may find new insights. I think that because his rebuttal is entirely
> non-scientific, he like Coyne are both in this category, since they are
> forced to take on the possibility of something besides naturalism
> life, thus these subjective, pejorative comments like "Great Mutator" and
> "bioterrorist".

The existence of this great mutator is nothing new to Behe's
arguments, it is a logical outcome of Behe's claims. There is no
reason however to take the claim that something besides 'naturalism'
is needed. In fact, ID proponents have done little to nothing to
support such a conclusion.

JW- Agreed again that the great mutator is a logical deduction from Behe
and I think after "Edge", it is the logical deduction from the science as
well. Coyne appears to be open to that with us. I do not see this as a
negative however, in fact I count it as a victory for Behe and for faith.
In my personal faith journey, I do see God as the Great Mutator. That is
consistent with science and consistent with Christianity. The fact that we
can all agree on this is a good sign and what I considered worthwhile as one
of Behe's contributions. In the absence of this contribution, the default
was random mutation which is not easily compatible with Christianity but
which Behe has shown is no longer tenable. If both sides just agreed that
the data (at least from malaria) shows an apparent edge to evolution, and
that on the other side is an unknown and we left it at that, then problem
solved. We wouldn't need anymore ID or naturalistic jihad or court cases
like Dover. If Dawkins would back down from exclusive naturalism like
random mutation etc., then I bet Behe would be willing to back down from
Design. Both sides should in any event. If we agreed that the data stops at
a certain point in explaining the complexity and history of life, then some
will view it through the creation paradigm of faith and some will view it
through the naturalistic paradigm of random mutation or other unknown
natural phenomenon. Both are fine as long as we agree that it is a personal
view based on personal preference and not the science. The problem is when
one side attempts to hijack the science to support their faith. Both are
just as guilty in this.

> It is appropriate that this thread is title "Arrogance" and "dogma". It
> should be obvious to all that there is a shifting double standard applied
> ID and not mainstream science. The truth is that there is dogma on both
> sides, and both sides are just as guilty of appropriating the imprimatur
> science for their dogma.

Other than the fact that one side has science on its side, the other
side, just pure ignorance. It's as much a double standard as the one
for a young earth, or other scientififcally irrelevant concepts.

> To be clear, I am not defending Behe's insistence on Design and I agree he
> crosses the line from science to faith there, but Darwinism has been on
> other side of that line along. It is to Behe's credit that he is redrawing
> the line commensurate with what the science actually shows and doesn't

Is he really redrawing the line? Seems that he is attempting to swing
it across, while ignoring the scientific nature of his claims being
one of irrelevancy. What does science show and does not show? Behe
gives us no guidance as to how he reaches his conclusions here.

JW- I contend he does redraw the line, but I will concede he does then
promptly jump across it and fills the gap with God. He doesn't understand
why he can't prove this and why that is counterproductive to his overall
arguments but I wished he could. As a case in point, compare Behe with
Collins. Behe teaches at a private university and is reviled. But Collins
pretty much says the same thing as Behe as far as ID goes but stops short of
endorsing Design (at least in biology). He has a very prominent government
job and no one is calling for his head. This disparity in the reaction to
the two show that the objection to Behe is mostly due to insisting on his
theological assertions and the strong Design argument, not all the rest of
science, since Collins and Behe are very close in what they believe about
the science otherwise. Keep in mind that Collins accepts the standard ID
staple of Design of the universe. Collins publicly repudiated ID but the
first half of his book is full of it. I think where they differ is in how
they respect where the line is drawn in science. I think Behe goes too far
but I think Collins stops short. In fact I have often wondered if Collins
has said or published anything about Behe's Edge and whether he would agree
with him on this.

Regardless, showing that random mutation or other naturalistic processes is
not observed in nature to do what Darwinism purports it to do is valuable
and relevant, albeit inconvenient for some, even if it is arrived at by
theological motivation.

> This is what ID has contributed including Wells, by showing the
> of the strict Darwinist dogma and the double standard shell game they hide
> behind to defend it.

Wells and ID have done little to show that science is erroneous,
instead they take some irrelevant claims and present them as a
strawman, only to knock them down.

As long as people confuse science with dogma, ID will continue to make
its waves, and continue to remain scientifically without any content.
If the best ID has done is to expose some strawmen then it seems to be
much ado about nothing.

> John
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of PvM
> Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2007 9:57 PM
> To: AmericanScientificAffiliation
> Subject: Re: [asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is
> the new enemy of
> Oops make that "The Edge of Evolution". So much new 'materials' coming
> from the ID movement that it sometimes becomes confusing.
> Gert Korthof's review is quite interesting
> <quote>It is possible that some readers will find new facts or
> insights in The Edge of Evolution. It depends on the reader. However,
> let this not distract us from the fact that the book does not deliver
> a theory of design, but instead discusses the limits of evolution.
> That is remarkable for someone who calls himself a proponent of
> intelligent design. Yet, design dominates Behe's thinking, but it
> easily escapes our notice that a crucial logical step is without
> justification. Behe has given no reason for the main claim of his book
> that the other side of the edge of evolution is the domain of design.
> Indeed, why would a designer act according to design principles
> determined completely by our 21st century knowledge of the world? On
> an even deeper level it is unclear why a god would create anything at
> all. One reason for the absence of a design theory is that one cannot
> know what a designer would do or would not do, effectively closing of
> any knowledge about the designers goals and methods. How can one
> search for proofs under such conditions? The lack of positive
> knowledge of design and designer forces Behe to focus exclusively on
> the limits of Darwinian evolution. Another reason is that you can't
> construct a theory on broken natural laws. That Behe still managed to
> write an ID-book must be explained by the fact that he most certainly
> has a theological theory - in his head. Driven by theological notions,
> but prevented by a self-imposed restriction to talk about it, Behe
> persistently searches for proofs of God in nature at all costs. The
> final result is a clumsy, inefficient DNA-manipulator who needs
> billions of years to create a human being and is a bioterrorist who
> excels in making human life as miserable as possible. There could be
> no greater incompatibility between claims that 99% of life was
> designed and common descent. Common Descent is based on genetic
> continuity in the history of life on earth and ultimately based on
> unbroken natural law. Design, as Behe describes it, is based on the
> discontinuity of the tree of life (broken natural law). Therefore,
> design and common descent are incompatible. It is either design of
> common descent. It is logically impossible to hold both.
> </quote>
> The key part is "Driven by theological notions, but prevented by a
> self-imposed restriction to talk about it," since it is this which
> renders ID scientifically vacuous. After all, if one is unwilling or
> unable to describe the powers and limitations of the designer, it can
> explain anything and thus nothing. In fact, by arguing for limits to
> evolution, Behe is increasing the scientific status of evolutionary
> theory. For Behe, these limits are the end of the research, for
> science they form the beginning.
> I always enjoyed Ruse's writings where he pointed out how history and
> constraints are what guide evolution and give it a teleological
> notion.
> On 8/19/07, PvM <> wrote:
> > Let's for the moment not get carried away from the issue here which is
> > whether or not some ID proponents actually do science.
> >
> > So far, ID's approach remains without content, as it refuses to admit
> > the necessary side assumptions for ID to have scientific relevance,
> > unlike forensic science which is based on many positive assumptions
> > which have been tested, and verified.
> >
> > ID has nothing to offer in this area.
> >
> > On 8/19/07, Alexanian, Moorad <> wrote:
> > > Forensic scientists do not do science; they use the results of the
> experimental sciences to do their detective work. One can say the same for
> evolutionary theory. One can easily show the good science done by
> experimental physicists, chemists, biologists, geneticists, etc. What
> science has evolutionary theory done?
> > >
> >
> > I am not sure why some are taking Wells' Icons of Evolution seriously
> > as somehow positive contributions to science. As to the case of
> > malaria, a simple reading of the many refuttals of Behe's claims
> > should say enough about the level of his claims. It's the nitpicking
> > of details which make ID so irrelevant since it fails to take these
> > cases into consideration.
> >
> > I am not very impressed by Behe's Explore Evolution especially since
> > it fails to deliver the rhetoric of the press releases that
> > accompanied it.
> >
> > Behe's level of math is almost as earth shattering in my opinion as
> > Dembski's calculations of the probability of a protein arising by
> > chance. Sufficient to make people believe that there is some real
> > data, but insufficient to really defend the premise.
> >
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Received on Mon Aug 20 00:24:47 2007

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