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Chris Palko

Professor: Evolution cannot fully explain bio

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Professor: Evolution cannot fully explain biology

Tuesday, October 18, 2005; Posted: 7:02 a.m. EDT (11:02 GMT)

Lehigh Professor Michael Behe shown in a October 7 picture taken in his office.

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Manage Alerts | What Is This? HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A biochemistry professor who is a leading advocate of "intelligent design" testified Monday that evolution alone cannot explain complex biological processes, and he believes God is behind them.

Lehigh University Professor Michael Behe was the first witness called by a school board that is requiring students to hear a statement about the intelligent design concept in biology class.

Lawyers for the Dover Area School Board began presenting their case Monday in the landmark federal trial, which could decide whether intelligent design can be mentioned in public school science classes as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

Behe, whose work includes a 1996 best-seller called "Darwin's Black Box," said students should be taught evolution because it's widely used in science and that "any well-educated student should understand it."

Behe, however, argues that evolution cannot fully explain the biological complexities of life, suggesting the work of an intelligent force.

The intelligent design concept does not name the designer, although Behe, a Roman Catholic, testified he personally believes it to be God. "I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors," he said.

The school board is defending its decision a year ago to require students to hear a statement on intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution.

The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps," and refers students to a textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information. Behe contributed to "Of Pandas and People," writing a section about blood-clotting.

He told a federal judge Monday that in the book, he made a scientific argument that blood-clotting "is poorly explained by Darwinian processes but well explained by design."

Eight families sued to have intelligent design removed from the biology curriculum, contending the policy essentially promotes the Bible's view of creation and therefore violates the constitutional separation of church and state.

Mainstream scientists have rejected intelligent design as scientifically untested and contend that its supporters focus on attacking evolutionary theory rather than providing evidence for design.

Behe testified that intelligent design specifically questions whether life at the molecular level evolved through natural selection. "That's the most poorly supported aspect of Darwin's theory," he said.

Behe, who was expected to resume testifying Tuesday, compared the outcry over intelligent design to the early criticism of the big-bang theory some 70 years ago.

"Many people thought it had philosophical and even theological implications that they did not like," he said.

Lehigh's biology department sought to distance itself from Behe in August, posting a statement on its Web site that says the faculty "are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory."

He earned tenure at Lehigh before becoming a proponent, which means he can express his views without the threat of losing his job.

In a related development Monday, the Discovery Institute -- a Seattle-based think tank that represents intelligent-design scholars -- filed a brief urging U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III to rule in favor of the school board.

The trial began September 26 and is expected to last up to five weeks.

The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

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ID is crap, it has nothing to do with science.

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ID is crap, it has nothing to do with science.

Ya, Science isn't intelligent at all!

/sarcasm

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That may be so Odin, but there are a helluva lot of brilliant scientists with far more intellect than I suspect you (or I) have, that most certainly do believe in it. Perhaps they "know something" that you don't. There are many questions which "science" yet does not have the answers to. If it did, this very website would not exist, nor would the vast majority of the human population believe in a spirtual realm.

Edited by draconic chronicler

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The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact," has inexplicable "gaps,"

inexplicable "gaps".. what has more than the bible? :w00t:

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inexplicable "gaps".. what has more than the bible? :w00t:

Excellent point :devil: Namaste Sheri

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I think that a lot of the time people assume that "evolution" denies any chance of a god, but in reality that is not the case.

Evolution looks at the development of speices over a very long period of time, not what started that process or if it is guided in some fashion.

Evolution has NEVER claimed to have all of the answers, but it does claim to have a great deal of evidence to support it's ideas. Evidence that has been peer reviewed for a very long time by very many people; if evidence last for a long time against a deluge of great minds actively trying to shoot it down, it is something that has to be given serious considerations.

That being said, there are gaps in the evolutionary process that are slowing being filled. It takes time to do so, and if anyone is familiar with how rare a chance we have to find fossils at all, it is amazing we have what we do.

Those gaps are like missing pieces of a puzzle; we may not have a complete picture, but the pieces we do have in place give usw a pretty good picture of what is going on, enough to be very confident in the concepts supporting evolution.

On the other hand there is "intelligent design, which is based on a hunch/fanciful thinking. It isn't fair to combine the two in a science class. Religion class, yes, but not science. There really isn't anything of substance to support the idea, and is just another way for the religious right to try to horn in against the seperation of church and state and to push their ideas on others.

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That may be so Odin, but there are a helluva lot of brilliant scientists with far more intellect than I suspect you (or I) have, that most certainly do believe in it. Perhaps they "know something" that you don't. There are many questions which "science" yet does not have the answers to. If it did, this very website would not exist, nor would the vast majority of the human population believe in a spirtual realm.

If a scientist believes in ID then their not brilliant and IMO their not scientists.

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If a scientist believes in ID then their not brilliant and IMO their not scientists.

And then I think they would refer you to the many degrees hanging on their office walls...

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There is no proof for ID; it can’t be tasted, so it can’t be a theory. And if a scientist says it is, then he’s a hypocrite.

Draconic chronicler,

“The vast majority of scientists do not believe in ID” and that’s coming from a scientist under oath, and this guy works for the ID people.

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And a very long time ago scientists did not think the world to be round....

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Behe (and Dembski) are absolute quacks!

October 11, 2005

EVOLUTION

Intelligent Design 101: Short on science, long on snake oil

The irreducibly complex teeters on the verge of reduction. None of these difficulties were mentioned.

Good morning, class. As you know, the local school board has decided that we must include “Intelligent Design” in high school biology, so let’s start with the work of Dr. Michael Behe, ID’s leading scientist. Dr. Behe, a professor of biochemistry, visited the U last week as a guest of the MacLaurin Institute.

I spoke with him at lunch, attended his public lecture and took notes for today’s class.

Dr. Behe opened his public lecture by showing two images: a mountain range and Mount Rushmore.

One had a designer; the other didn’t. In case anyone was uncertain which was which, Dr. Behe also showed a duck, and emphasized that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.

Ergo if something in biology looks designed, it is designed.

He reviewed “irreducible complexity,” the important notion that certain structures with intricately interacting parts cannot function if any part is removed. According to Dr. Behe, such structures could not evolve gradually, as standard Darwinian Theory supposes; they must be the handiwork of a designer.

Well-known examples include mousetraps, the blood-clotting cascade, the vertebrate immune system and the bacterial flagellum. All of this was covered in his 1996 book, “Darwin’s Black Box.” Dr. Behe spent quite a bit of time talking about reviews of his book, and his responses to reviews.

Surprisingly, he had nothing to say about new developments in ID. Surely this revolutionary approach to biology has produced important scientific insights in the last nine years. Let’s use the Web to discover what they are.

Use Google to find “Entrez PubMed,” which will take you to a database of 15 million peer-reviewed publications in the primary scientific literature. The site, maintained by the National Library of Medicine, allows users to enter a search term and retrieve references to relevant publications.

For instance, enter “natural selection” in the search box and click “go”; about 14,000 references will be found. “Mutation” gets 40,000. “Speciation” gets 5,000. “Human origins” gets 22,000. “Behe intelligent design” gets … zero.

Not one publication in PubMed contains the terms “Behe,” “intelligent,” and “design.” The same holds for “Behe irreducible complexity.” A less restrictive search for “intelligent design” finds 400 papers, but many are not relevant because the words are common in other contexts.

To get more useful information, enter “intelligent design” in quotation marks, which searches for the two words together. When I searched last week, this produced 25 references, of which 13 were irrelevant to this discussion, five were news articles, six were critical of ID, and one was a historical review. “Irreducible complexity” in quotes gets five hits, one irrelevant and the others critical of ID.

Exact numbers change daily as new publications are added to the database, but the pattern is clear. Where are the scientific papers supporting ID?

Perhaps Dr. Behe publishes research papers that support intelligent design without using those terms. Searching PubMed for “Behe MJ” and sorting the results by date, you will find 11 publications since 1992, when the good professor converted to his new Ideology. Several are just letters to the editor.

The most recent (Behe and Snoke, 2004 and 2005) suggest that certain events in molecular evolution have low probability of occurrence.

This falls far short of the claim that a designer must have intervened, but what the heck, let’s put all 11 in the ID column.

Under these rather generous assumptions, ID’s leading light has produced fewer than a dozen peer-reviewed papers for the cause, none of which explicitly mentions ID. That number is substantially less than PubMed finds for “voodoo” (78), and pales in comparison with “diaper rash” (475).

Perhaps when the number of supporting publications rises to the level of “horse feces” (929) the professional community will grant ID some respect.

Cynics will suggest that ID is intentionally excluded from the peer-reviewed literature. It’s possible; the system strives for objectivity, but any human endeavor is potentially subject to bias.

This argument fails, however, when we consider that other revolutionary ideas have successfully crashed the party. Plate tectonics, major meteoritic impacts, and the bacterial origin of mitochondria are important ideas that were initially regarded with skepticism but are now accepted by the professional community.

Non-Darwinian molecular evolution, so-called “neutral theory,” was despised when it was first proposed in the late 1960s, but within a decade it became a standard part of the literature.

The historical evidence suggests that scientists can be persuaded to new views, given appropriate evidence. The primary literature is particular, but not rigid.

While you’re at PubMed, try searching for “bacterial flagella secretion.” One of the resulting papers, by SI Aizawa (2001), reports that some nasty bacteria possess a molecular pump, called a type III secretion system, or TTSS, that injects toxins across cell membranes.

Much to Dr. Behe’s distress, the TTSS is a subset of the bacterial flagellum. That’s right, a part of the supposedly irreducible bacterial “outboard motor” has a biological function!

When I asked Dr. Behe about this at lunch he got a bit testy, but acknowledged that the claim is correct (I have witnesses). He added that the bacterial flagellum is still irreducibly complex in the sense that the subset does not function as a flagellum.

His response might seem like a minor concession, but is very significant. The old meaning of irreducible complexity was, “It doesn’t have any function when a part is removed.” Evidently, the new meaning of irreducible complexity is “It doesn’t have the same function when a part is removed.”

The new definition renders irreducible complexity irrelevant to evolution, because complex adaptations are widely thought to have evolved through natural selection co-opting existing structures for new functions, in opportunistic fashion.

The story is incomplete, but it is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis that the bacterial flagellum evolved first as a secretory system, and later was adapted by natural selection for locomotion.

This scenario for gradual evolution of a complex molecular machine is bolstered by recent reports that some bacterial flagella do, in fact, have a secretory function (and now you know how to find those papers).

The irreducibly complex teeters on the verge of reduction. None of these difficulties were mentioned in the public lecture.

It seems that a new image should be added to Dr. Behe’s public presentation, one that represents the scientific status of intelligent design: a duck on its back, feet in the air, wings splayed.

If it looks like a dead duck, and it smells like a dead duck, it is a dead duck.

James Curtsinger is a University professor in the department of ecology, evolution and behavior. Please send comments to letters@mndaily.com.

© Copyright 2005 The Minnesota Daily

Great resources on Evolution!

From PBS' award-wining "Evolution" Series...

Evolution

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/index.html

Evolution multimedia library

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/index.html

Frequently Asked Questions About Evolution

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/index.html

Kindly,

Sean

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Behe (and Dembski) are absolute quacks!

just repeating this since it needs to be stressed.

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