Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Wed May 27 2009 - 06:51:22 EDT

Unfortunately it seems that you and I are having difficulty communicating.
You don't seem to respect either me or any of my perspectives, or at least
you don't understand them and I don't understand what you are saying. It
doesn't make sense to me. Let me try to make just a few closing remarks and
then I need to spend my time on other issues.

You said "I think you are saying that design inferences are banned in
principle from science..." I thought I had clarified that design is clearly
a part of science--the intent and design of any human/animal/insect/(maybe
plants) is well within the scope of science. Design from non-physical
entities, or in the abstract without knowledge of any agent or mechanism, is
not.ruled out "in principle" or arbitrarily banned but simply can't be
determined through normal scientific methodology.

I didn't think I needed to defend the honor of science as you stated "
are defending the
> honour of "science" by defending the claims made by evolutionary
> biologists for the efficacy of Darwinian mechanisms."

I don't think they need any defense. Evolutionary biologists are doing just
fine making progress without any help from me. Some of their critics could
learn a little more about science and scientific methodology, however.

We could certainly have an interesting discussion about who the crybabies
are but that wouldn't be productive. I simply don't understand your
perspective on evolution and since you don't feel I have the training to
comment on it, I'll leave it to others.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 12:09 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)

> Randy:
> I make three points:
> 1. I have no objection to your point about natural intelligence four
> billion years ago (though aliens are always a possibility), but let me
> restate. Can "science" claim to *know* that the first cell could have
> arisen via random chemical evolution? And if it does claim to *know* that
> this is possible, does it not have to provide the world with the basis of
> its claim to know, i.e., with some plausible stages, and potential tests
> for them? And if it cannot be *sure* that such a chemical evolution is
> possible, because it is not even close to being able to give plausible
> stages, how can it rule out the logical alternative, i.e., that the
> assembly of the first cell required design?
> What I am driving at, Randy, is that I suspect that you are ruling out
> design inferences from science *a priori*. I think you are saying that
> design inferences are banned in principle from science, and therefore that
> ID theorists could discover ever more complex layers of integration in
> biological systems, jacking up the improbability of chance formations to
> ever more astronomical numbers, to the point where no sane human being
> could believe that such systems could have formed by chance, and it would
> *never* make any difference to you: no set of empirical facts could ever
> justify a design inference. If that is what you are saying, I wish you
> would say it directly. And if that is *not* what you are saying, then
> tell me why the design explanation for the first cell should not be raised
> in science class in the same breath as the accidental chemical evolution
> explanation.
> 2. Randy, I am glad to hear that you are a world-class physicist, and I
> salute you for achievement in your field. But you are not a biologist or
> biochemist or even a geologist, and we are talking about a theory in the
> life sciences here. I asked you for the basis of your confidence in
> evolutionary theory, whether it came from first-hand study of evolutionary
> theory that you have done yourself, or whether you took the solidity of
> evolutionary theory on the strength of recommendations from colleagues in
> the life sciences. I also asked you why there was such a dearth of books
> on macroevolution of the type specified.
> By way of answer, you launched into what appears to be a long sermon on
> what makes for a good scientific theory, informing me of things I have
> known for years (I could have written your post myself quite easily). You
> did not answer my main question, i.e., about the reason for the absence of
> books on macroevolution, books of the technical sort that I specified.
> Note that I did *not* argue that because there are a few pieces of the
> evolutionary puzzle missing, the whole theory should be scrapped. And
> note that I did *not* argue (as the ID proponent in your little dialogue
> argued) that a theoretically consistent, empirically sound hypothetical
> path was of no value, and that the actual historical path must be
> provided. I argued that scientists must provide *positive evidence for*
> their theories, not simply sit back and demand that the world must
> disprove them. And I argued that if macroevolution is a sound theory,
> there should be lots of books containing lots of evidence for it. (And of
> course I assume that you have been listening to my posts and know that I
> am not talking about the *fact* of macroevolution but about the
> *mechanism*. Tiktaalik is more evidence for the *fact*; it explains
> nothing about the *mechanism*.)
> So the question is why there are no books explaining how fish became
> amphibians, in a detailed way -- *how* did fins become feet (identify the
> genetic and developmental mechanisms, please), and what good would feet be
> if the fish hadn't yet developed lungs to breathe in the air, and so how
> then did lungs develop (identify the genetic and physiological details),
> and what natural tendency is there in the genome for gills/lungs and
> fins/feet to evolve at the just the same time that they need each other,
> etc. I would expect that any scientist who asks the world to believe that
> Darwinian mechanisms can explain all this would provide at least some of
> the details. Not all of the details. Not even the majority of the
> details. Just some of the details. In the case of fish to amphibian,
> even *some* of the genetic, developmental, environmental, physiological,
> etc. details would fill dozens of 500-page books. I'm asking you to
> direct me to one (preferably several) of those books. If you don't know
> of any, because biology is not your field, I will not press you on it.
> But I will ask you: in the absence of having seen those books, why do you
> believe the mechanism is so sound? Why aren't you more skeptical?
> You are a physicist; if there were no books with any detailed mathematical
> treatment of celestial mechanics available in any library in the world,
> but scientists asserted that it was the most unshakeable of facts that
> mathematical laws govern the orbits of the planets, wouldn't you be
> suspicious of the claim? Wouldn't you wonder why the scientists couldn't
> put some flesh on the bones of their theory, and explain something
> specific, e.g., the orbit of Mars, in terms of it?
> 3. Finally, you wrote:
> CW >> Where is the celebrated scientific skepticism about grand
>>> speculative claims? Where is the demand for details, for
>>> quantification,
>>> for precise mechanisms, all of which are hallmarks of good science? Why
>>> does Darwinism get away with so little questioning, when its detailed
>>> explanatory power is so very limited?
> RI >> Very simple. Because the scientists are doing science the way it
> should be
>> done.
> I would ask you to re-read this exchange. Scientists are doing science
> "the way it should be done" when they do not demand "details...
> quantification... precise mechanisms" to accompany "grand speculative
> claims"? Scientists are doing science "the way it should be done" when
> they accept "with so little questioning" a theory whose "detailed
> explanatory power" is "very limited"? That's how science "should be done"?
> Randy, you are making the big mistake of thinking that you are defending
> the honour of "science" by defending the claims made by evolutionary
> biologists for the efficacy of Darwinian mechanisms. I agree with you
> that "science" is a noble human project with great accomplishments to its
> credit. But "science" is not at stake if one particular scientific theory
> is criticized. It is not even at stake if a particular scientific theory
> falls. If macroevolutionary theory were disproved tomorrow, 99% of
> scientific research in all fields would go on as if nothing had happened.
> The only science that would utterly cease functioning is the narrow field
> of evolutionary biology, and of course paleontology would have to
> reinterpret all its data. But gene-splicing and genome sequencing and
> medical research and freshwater toxicology and hundreds of other
> life-science fields would go on much as before, as would physics,
> chemistry, astronomy, etc. The outraged defense of "science" by
> neo-Darwinists and their allies simply makes no sense. No one screams
> that "science" itself is at stake when someone criticizes the views of
> Stephen Hawking, or Linus Pauling. It is only when Darwinism is
> questioned that this abnormal, unnatural degree of defensive rage is
> generated. Why on earth is this? Why are Darwinists so touchy? My view
> is that if you can't take criticism of your theory, you have no business
> being in science. (Or being in philosophy or theology or history for that
> matter.) I think that the Darwinists are the biggest crybabies in the
> contemporary academic world.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Randy Isaac" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 10:30 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] ID/Miracles/Design (Behe vs. Behe)
>> Cameron wrote:
>>> b. On what grounds can one say, regarding the formation of the first
>>> cell, that
>>> "from a scientific perspective, it's pretty clear that no natural
>>> intelligence was involved"? Do you mean: "Science has *proved* that no
>>> natural intelligence was involved?" Or "Science *assumes* that no
>>> natural
>>> intelligence is involved"? If the former, please give me the titles of
>>> books or articles where this proof can be found. If the latter, what
>>> justifies science in making that assumption?
>> Neither. The term "proved" is too strong and "assumes" is too weak. It's
>> just simple
>> logic. If there were a natural intelligence directing the origin and
>> development of life, then such a natural being must have existed at least
>> 4
>> billion years ago and continued to exist until rather recently if not
>> today.
>> They must have had the ability to do nanotechnology manipulation at the
>> biochemical level. Yet, not a trace of such natural beings with such
>> intelligence has ever been found. I would suggest that it is a rather
>> reasonable conclusion that if such beings ever existed, they would have
>> left
>> a trace of their existence. I will be the first to recant if you can
>> provide
>> any indication that such intelligent beings existed at any time in the
>> past
>> 4 billion years.
>>>You won't find books in the library like this, Randy. And the question
>>>why not?
>> I do find books on geocentrism and young earth and astrology and all
>> sorts
>> of things. Anyone can publish. The fields that people think have
>> metaphysical implications are the ones with the largest number of
>> "alternative" books. There is no conclusion to be drawn about the
>> validity
>> or lack thereof from the scientific perspective.
>>> Speaking as a scholar who has read a more than an average amount of the
>>> history of science, including original sources by people such as
>>> Galileo,
>>> Gilbert, and Darwin, I have some idea of what scientific methodology
>>> requires, and I know that
>>> people who advocate a theory are expected to provide evidence for it.
>>> They can't simply make grand speculative claims and then sit back and
>>> defy
>>> the world to disprove them. It is not enough for Darwinians to say that
>>> no one can *disprove* the possibility of the unguided evolution of the
>>> flagellum, and that a Darwinian explanation for it may be found "some
>>> day".
>> Perhaps a scholar of reading history of science and a physicist with
>> decades
>> of experience doing and managing world-class research can cooperate in
>> coming to a better understanding of what scientific methodology entails.
>> An overarching theory gains acceptance when it provides an explanation
>> for a
>> vast array of observations that were not understood from alternative
>> perspectives. (The pertinent set of authorities is the group of
>> researchers
>> actively publishing in the relevant peer-reviewed journals. Some
>> contributors to this list do not like that system but that's the way
>> science
>> works today). In essence, the theory needs to:
>> --explain a wide spectrum of observations better than any other theory
>> --make successful predictions of new observations
>> --be falsifiable but not be falsified
>> --be useful in providing a framework for fruitful further research
>> Once a theory is predominantly accepted and is a fruitful paradigm for
>> further research, it becomes more and more difficult to mount a challenge
>> to
>> the theory as a whole. Any specific area in which the theory has not been
>> worked out in detail is a great thesis project for an aspiring grad
>> student,
>> and not a failure of the theory itself. In other words, the theory needs
>> to
>> be applied and worked out in detail but the primary concepts are
>> essentially
>> settled. Seemingly intractable problems are typically held in abeyance
>> for
>> further research.
>> Well known examples are the theory of gravity, electro-magnetic theory,
>> theories of special and general relativity, theory of superconductivity,
>> and
>> on and on. Each of these has areas that are still unresolved. For
>> example,
>> the theory of gravity has lots of unexplained areas, including the
>> "action
>> at a distance" and the quantization issues. The formation of galaxies is
>> an
>> interesting unresolved case. Instead of throwing out the theory of
>> gravity,
>> one postulates non-baryonic dark matter instead.
>> The theory of evolution meets the above criteria in a most incredible
>> way.
>> The range of observations explained, the remarkable predictions that have
>> come true, the lack of falsification despite the most stringent efforts,
>> and
>> the robust productivity of research, all over 150 years of close
>> attention
>> are truly amazing. It's no wonder that the theory is considered by
>> practicing scientists to be a "fact" for all practical purposes. No
>> alternative theory has come even close.
>> But, you say, it hasn't explained the path from Point A to Point B. That
>> path might be going from a pre-flagellum molecule to the flagellum
>> molecule,
>> or pre-malaria resistance to that resistance, or whatever. These are
>> possible areas of future research, at most. Furthermore, you state,
>> following Dembski's lead, that the burden of proof lies with the
>> advocates
>> of the theory and not with the challengers. And the publicity mavens of
>> DI
>> proclaim the imminent demise of the theory of evolution if such a
>> detailed
>> path is not provided. No, that's not consistent with scientific
>> methodology.
>> So many observations have been explained by evolution that any example
>> not
>> yet explained will most likely be explained in the future. It is not
>> rational to hold a gun to the head of the evolutionist and demand that
>> all
>> of these areas have a detailed explanation or else the theory must come
>> crashing down.
>> No, despite Dembski's insistence, the burden of proof is rightly on those
>> who would claim that the theory itself is flawed if there is a lack of
>> explanation from point A to point B. Unfortunately, many publicists at DI
>> confuse the status of "...have not explained..." with "...cannot
>> explain..."
>> The first is controversial enough but the second is what an ID advocate
>> needs to show. Over the last 15 years or so, a typical exchange on
>> irreducibly complexity could be summarized as follows:
>> ID: Molecule A is irreducibly complex and could not have evolved by known
>> incremental evolutionary processes
>> Critic: Here is a possible path for an evolutionary process with known
>> mechanisms (e.g. scaffolding approaches) which could explain the
>> evolution
>> of molecule A.
>> ID: No, you have only shown a possible path, a "just-so" story, but have
>> not
>> demonstrated that this is what actually happened.
>> Note that this exchange has moved from a claim to "cannot explain" to
>> "have
>> not explained." But even a possible "just-so" story is enough to dispel
>> the
>> claim of "cannot explain" even if the actual path turns out to be
>> different.
>> The point is that a robust, successful theory like evolution, gravity,
>> superconductivity, and the like, is relatively impervious to charges that
>> details have not yet been explained. The track record of success is such
>> that there is confidence that future research will be successful. The
>> onus
>> properly lies with the critic to show that no such explanation is
>> possible.
>> Futhermore, the theory would and should be relatively immune (i.e.
>> continue
>> to be used) until the time that an alternative theory comes along to
>> explain
>> both the new data and all the old data. In other words, you don't throw
>> out
>> all the successes of a theory because some details can't be figured out.
>> Odds are that new information will tweak the theory a bit or help us
>> understand the flaw in the analysis.
>>> Why do none of the scientists on this list raise any of these critical
>>> questions about Darwinism? Why does it have to be a religion
>>> scholar/historian of ideas such as myself, or a sociologist like Gregory
>>> Arago? Where are the vaunted critical faculties of scientists in
>>> evidence
>>> here? Where is the celebrated scientific skepticism about grand
>>> speculative claims? Where is the demand for details, for
>>> quantification,
>>> for precise mechanisms, all of which are hallmarks of good science? Why
>>> does Darwinism get away with so little questioning, when its detailed
>>> explanatory power is so very limited?
>> Very simple. Because the scientists are doing science the way it should
>> be
>> done.
>> Randy
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Received on Wed May 27 06:51:54 2009

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