Evolution vs. Intelligent Design in Expelled

First, for those who argue that Charles Darwin somehow caused the hard-hearted competitiveness later labelled “Social Darwinism,” its chief exponent, Herbert Spencer, published his views at least as early as 1857, two years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

Second, the argument from negative consequences in Expelled is a fallacy. You can state that some fact leads to unfortunate results but that does not invalidate the fact. If evolution caused people to become cruel, it would still be true. But it doesn’t, any more than gravity causes ex-husbands to throw their children off bridges. Love, loyalty, and altruism within one’s community evolved as adaptive behaviours.

Third, there are more than two explanations for evolution. Some of them have been discarded along the way, e.g. Lamarkianism. If evolution were disproved, that would not make I.D. true. For one thing, I.D. makes no predictions. Whatever we find is shoe-horned into the “designed” category. Dembski’s doctored flagellum images don’t make the flagellum into a machine.

Finally, the physical analogue of irreducible complexity is an arch built of bricks or stones. Once you remove the scaffolding that supports it in construction, nothing can be removed without destroying the arch. Similar changes occur in biochemical systems. In 1918 a geneticist named Muller published the mathematical explanation for the way that evolution creates systems that become irreducibly complex over time, based on his experimental work with fruit flies. You can look it up in the peer-reviewed journal Genetics (Volume 3). Dr. Muller later won the Nobel Prize. Michael Behe denies the existence of the vast academic world of molecular evolution (conferences, university departments, and journals) which has developed over the last forty years, so he probably hasn’t read this paper either. An invincible ignorance of science seems to be the real pre-requisite for Intelligent Design believers. And a willingness to throw up their hands and say, “Beats me! Musta been a miracle!”

Needs more detail

The current explanation of evolution, the Modern Synthesis, rests much more on the 150 years of work done since Darwin by hundreds of thousands of people pursuing thousands of lines of research in a dozen different fields. Selectively quoting that humble man won’t make evolution go away.

Science can not prove the supernatural, because the supernatural can not be counted on to show up for every experiment. If you could force God to show up and perform on command, you’d be controlling him. Since you can’t, you can’t include him in a scientific experiment. Science neither proves nor disproves religion. But a scientific mind is more likely to notice the lack of current evidence for God. Most scientists care no more for disproving God than they do for disproving Santa Claus: it’s not their department and they have other things to do.

12 Responses to “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design in Expelled

  1. Josh Caleb Says:

    Some clarification on your 3rd point: What is the third option besides 1) “Biology and life is the product of merely naturalistic, unguided processes” and 2) “Biology and life is the product of intelligent causation” ?

    If you can provide a third option then your 3rd point is fine, otherwise it is just another weak attempt at bashing ID because you dislike its implications.

  2. Pauli Ojala Says:

    Stein is under heavy attack for exaggerating the influence of evolutionism behind Nazism and Stalinism (super evolution of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Russia). But Haeckelian type of vulgar evolutionism drove not only the ‘Politics-is-applied-biology’ Nazi takeover, but also the nationalistic collision at the World War I. It was Charles Darwin himself, who praised and raised the monstrous Haeckel in the spotlight as the greatest authority in the field of human evolution, even in the preface to his Descent of man in 1871. I defended this A0 poster on the topic in two conferences on bioethics:

    Biochemist, drop-out (Master of Sciing)

  3. monado Says:

    Josh, you misunderstand or misread what I wrote. Evolution as explained by Darwin (selection of various sorts on natural variation) is one theory. Lamark’s idea that exercising a part made it stronger and that was a heritable change is another “theory,” although I think it’s pseudoscience because the mechanism was never clear. The idea that minute particles rushed from the exercised parts to the germ cells, as proposed by Darwin as one possible mechanism, is a theory. Images or experiences of the mother being imprinted on a developing fetus and becoming a heritable trait (as suggested in the Bible) is another. The Darwinian theory of variation & selection is not the only natural mechanism. Any other natural explanation would have to account for the sources of variation and the mechanism of differential reproductive success. Any Intelligent Design theory would have to explain WHO was doing the designing and HOW, before it became a theory. If the Intelligent Designer is aliens influencing our inheritance with X-ray radiation, you would have to explain how we know it and how we can test whether it’s true. If the Intelligent Designer is God working a miracle, you can’t test it: unless you can command God to perform miracles. It’s like saying, “if you can’t walk to the store then you must take a jet plane.” What about driving your car, riding a bikes, driving a motorcycle, hitch-hiking, taking a city bus, etc.? ID proponents talk as if, “If you can’t get there by walking then you must have taken our jet plane.” Then they say, “You can’t walk because walking is too slow and it’s farther than 10m.” Therefore, you used a jet. Q.E.D.!” Don’t simply repeat the mistake and think that’s an argument.

  4. Lloyd Barrester Says:

    Have you heard about this case?

    In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation of Easter and Passover holidays. He decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while atheists had no holiday to celebrate.

    The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the long passionate presentation by the lawyer, the Judge banged his gavel and declared, ‘Case dismissed!’

    The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, ‘Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and many other observances. Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah…yet my client and all other atheists have no such holiday!’

    The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, ‘Obviously your client is too confused to even know about, much less celebrate his own atheists’ holiday!’

    The lawyer pompously said, ‘Your Honor, we are unaware of any such holiday for atheists. Just when might that holiday be, your Honor?’

    The judge said, ‘Well it comes every year on exactly the same date—April 1st! Since our calendar sets April 1st as ‘April Fools Day,’ consider that Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Thus, in my opinion, if your client says there is no God, then by scripture, he is a fool, and April 1st is his holiday! Now have a good day and get out of my courtroom!

  5. monado Says:

    Yes, I’ve heard it – a fairy story, old and fake and unlikely. I don’t think atheists give a single hoot about religious holidays – they’re just not interested. I do know Jews who find the pervasive Christ-shoving, especially around Christmas, oppressive and depressing. Of course, it’s understandable: the history of the Jews is written in blood, and most of it was spilled by Christians.

  6. Josh Caleb Says:

    I don’t think I’m the one who is confused. Darwin’s main thesis was that his theory provided a “non-God” explanation for the origin of species, for the origin of life. Your point was, proving evolution wrong, in this sense, would not prove ID correct, this is just false because there are only 2 ultimate explanations: either an intelligent mind is necessary or it is not, there is no third or intermediate thesis that has ever been presented. In terms of Aristotelian causation, we are talking about formal cause, not efficient cause. Meaning, we can explain the mechanisms quite well, but explaining the origins of information and design in biology is not currently explainable by Darwin’s theory.
    Secondly, determining the identity of the designer is not necessary for the conclusion that something is designed. This is a common jump in logic, a red herring in fact, that is always brought up. Just look at the SETI project or archeological sciences, they must have a priori determinations about what features of their data are the product of natural or random processes vs. intelligent causes. They do not have to know the identity of those causes, but only that they are produced by intelligence, not random processes.
    ID does not have to prove “God” of the Bible. Creationism sets out to say something about the designer via a certain epistemological means; ID sets out to say something about the biology through a different epistemological means. Scientists sadly and mistakenly conflate the two all the time.

  7. Vos Virtual Network » Questions that aren’t properly answered won’t go away Says:

    […] from Toronto asserts in her Science Notes that: “An invincible ignorance of science seems to be the real pre-requisite for Intelligent […]

  8. monado Says:

    Nope, you’re confused. You’re setting up a false dichotomy and you don’t know much about Darwin’s life. The young Darwin who set out on the voyage of the Beagle as its naturalist was, I think we can say, a creationist in the sense that he thought animal and plant distribution was part of God’s divine plan. But observation of changes over time, through geology, and geography were rubbing people’s faces in the fact that new forms of life at any time and place were related to the previous inhabitants. Read “Darwin’s Century” by Loren Eiseley.

    The underlying scientific assumption of the time was Lamarkian: that use of disuse of limbs or organs was inherited by offspring. Darwin had no need to come up with an explanation for change that didn’t involve God. The challenge was to break out of thinkin change would occur only within “kinds.”

    If there’s an Intelligent Designer, then you have to explain how he/she/it/they evolved or who designed him/her/it/them.

    Once again, religious beliefs have no place in scientific experiments.

  9. Josh Caleb Says:

    Possibly it wasn’t Darwin’s intention to produce a non-God explanation for OoS, but this is tacitly what it has come to be known as in current understanding of the theory. Anyone who is active in the sciences knows this. This attitude that orgin of life and evolution is an unguided process is what ID addresses head on using some very clear molecular evidence and simple logical inferences.

    “If there’s an Intelligent Designer, then you have to explain how he/she/it/they evolved or who designed him/her/it/them.”
    Your mistaken here on two counts. First, it is not necessary to know the identity of the designer in order to make a proper inference that something is indeed designed (SETI and archaeology prove this). Otherwise you would necessitate an infinite regress of causality for science to proceed which is absurd and thus untennable. Secondly, the intelligence that most ID theorists would posit would be a necessary being by definition and thus it would be a category mistake to ascribe contingent properties (such as “designed” or “evolved”) to it. Cheers.

  10. monado Says:

    Au contraire, Josh, in looking for signals in SETI se hypothesize that intelligent, material beings in another civilization (natural agent) are sending electromagnetic radio waves (material cause) and that’s what we look for. In
    archaeology we start with the hypothesis that other people dug, scraped, painted, or whatever. If we find a carved antler, we develop a theory that a human being (natural agent) took the antler and applied force to it with stone or bone tools (material cause) and altered its surface. If we find a village with houses delineated by post-holes and corrals surrounding soil soaked in horse urine we don’t know the identity of the villagers but we do know that there were villagers.

    The Intelligent Design proponents, on the other hand, use some mathematical sleight-of-hand and then throw up their hands in helpless mystification. I’ve mentioned before that the mathematical “analysis” used by William Dembski is little more than a trick. Real mathematicians are underwhelmed by his arguments. It was mathematically proven in 1918 (that is not a typo, 90 years ago) by Muller that evolution will produce the appearance of irreucible complexity through development and later alteration of complex systems. By contrast, Behe just adds up the odds for each step and assumes they all happen at once. My brother used to prove to pretty girls that, given this and that little fact about them, they were vanishingly unlikely. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. What are the odds that a presidential hopeful would pick racehorse Eight Belles as her favorite and compare herself to the horse, which would then break down on the race track and have to be destroyed? But it happened.

    And Behe even gets his science wrong. He claims that an intraflagellar transport is always necessary for building flagella when his poster child for the irreduciblly complex flagellum, the malaria parasite, doesn’t have one!

    His examples, one by one, are being refuted. Horseshop crabs have one blood-clotting step. Lizards have, I believe, two. Our four-step system is obviously not irreducible.

    But what’s their mechanism? Mathematically it’s unlikely, especially if we assume it all happens it once, which no one (but creationists) ever said it did. An unnatural agent performing an unspecified supernatural act? That’s not science.

  11. Josh Caleb Says:

    You said:
    “electromagnetic radio waves (material cause) and that’s what we look for”
    Actually, no, what we look for is not the waves, but patterns or information contained in the waves (formal cause, not material) which would suggest intelligent causation. This is precisely ID’s argument: examining the material for indications of formal cause or “information” which we know only results from intelligent sources.

    “we don’t know the identity of the villagers but we do know that there were villagers”
    Exactly, I’m glad to see you affirm this principle of design inference and agree with ID theorists. See, there is no trick, you understand the argument correctly. Whether you like the implications of the argument is another matter, but that has no bearing on the rigor of the argument itself.

    “It was mathematically proven…”
    Excuse me, are you just blowing smoke here? I checked the paper you referenced, there are no mathmatical proofs in the paper at all. Here’s an exerpt you were likely refering to:

    “…at least thousands of mutations must have taken place. Each new mutant in turn must have derived its survival value from the effect which it produced upon the “reaction system” that had been brought into being by the many previously formed factors in cooperation; thus a complicated machine was gradually built up whose effective working was dependent upon the interlocking action of very numerous elementary parts or factors”

    I quote in length because it beautifully illustrates how Darwinists flow so easily from the Darwinian imperitive (“thousands of mutations *must* have taken place…” “…each new mutant *must* have derived its survival value…”) to the evidential indicative (“…thus a complicated machine *was* gradually built up…”). Gosh, if we’re allowed to just assert “it *must* have happened this way (assuming evolution) therefore it did happen this way”. Please tell me you see the circular reasoning in this!?
    Next time read and understand before regurgitating TalkOrigins material…

    So back to my initial and only point: there are only two scenarios for the origins of life and its biologically encoded information: it is either 1) intelligently caused or 2) a product of unguided, unintelligent processes. Do you agree with these options or is it a false dichotomy, and if a false dichotomy, please share other options. Cheers.

  12. MrTitanium Says:

    I tire of that Judge joke. It holds as proper the attitude that government offices are right to cite the Christian Bible as a reference in civic decisions, in spite of the establishment clause.

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