Behe vs "Pandas" on Common Descent (was Re: [asa] Rejoinder 1 from Timaeus: to David Opderbeck and Ted Davis)

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Tue Sep 23 2008 - 16:28:29 EDT

In reference to the acceptance of common descent amongst ID proponents, Timaeus wrote;
 As for the rest, I think Behe has been
>
> clear throughout, and doubly clear since the time of his last book.

My response;

Hi Timaeus,

This issue raised its head in the Dover trial, and I am frankly stumped why Behe was so tame on his criticisms of how ID theory is defined in "Of Pandas and People".

In the Dover trial, a question on precisely this issue was put to Behe, and I think his response so weak that I can hardly be surprised that those with little knowledge of Behe's broader work take it as endorsing a rejection of Common Descent.
The relevant portion of the transcript is copied below. It took place when, during cross-examination by lawyers for the plantiff (i.e. those opposed to teaching of ID at Dover), Behe was asked for his response to a description of the concept of ID as put forward in Pandas;

120 12 Q. Matt, could you pull up pages 99 to 100 and
    13 highlight our favorite passage? That was the
    14 passage we spent some time on yesterday, "
    15 intelligent design means that various forms of
    16 life began abruptly through an intelligent
    17 agency, with their distinctive features already
    18 intact, fish with fins and scales, birds with
    19 feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." You said a
    20 few things about this passage. One is you don't
    21 like it so much.
    22 A. I certainly would have written it
    23 differently.
121 24 Q. You don't think it's an accurate
    25 representation of intelligent design?
    37
    1 A. I think intelligent design is described
    2 better elsewhere in the book.

Reference: Dover Trial Transcript, Day 12, PM session, pp. 36-37, Lines as denoted in text. Note that the ACLU has the full transcripts available <http://tinyurl.com/95c3h>

[REQUEST TO DAVID OPDERBECK:
I'd love to know how the citation for the above is supposed to be formated - I believe it should approach something like the two below, but am far from certain.

Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005) OR...
Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Dist. 400 F.Supp.2d 707, 748-762 (M.D.Pa. 2005)

Could you please advise? Thanks!]

Frankly, I think "I certainly would have written it differently" is a glaring understatement on Behe's part and cannot, for the life of me, think why he didn't simply state what must surely be his view: that at this point the definition of ID in Pandas is just plain wrong.
Why did he not simply state that ID theory does NOT base its claims upon the data of morphology ("fins and scales...feathers, beaks and wings, etc"), but upon that of molecular biochemistry (bacterial flagellum and irreducible complexity)?

What Behe was thinking -- and why neither counsel at the trial enquired further -- I just don't know. I can formulate a few theories based on the possible underlying perceptions and motives of all involved, but at the end of the day it strikes me that Behe missed a great opportunity to clear up a major misconception about his formulation of ID theory. And the muted nature of his response - in a forum which is rightly or wrongly taken as definitive in explicating the ideas and intents of ID advocates - may well explain why ID is so badly handled in debate.

PS - the above excerpt from the trial transcript refers to Behe's testimony the previous day. Here he did make reasonably clear why he demurs from Pandas' description cited above, but it was still hardly a robust rejection of Pandas' position. I still think he should have been stronger in his criticisms of the sort of ID being put forward throughout the trial - as it is he has been damned by association.

Blessings,
Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

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Received on Tue Sep 23 16:29:08 2008

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