Q Now, you gave examples of some theories that were discarded?
Q One was the ether theory?
Q And the other was the theory of geocentrism, right?
A That s correct.
Q And what you said yesterday was that there was some pretty compelling evidence for observers of that time that that was good theory, right?
A Yes, sure.
Q Look up in the sky, and it looked like the sun was going around us, correct?
A That s right.
Q And we know now that those appearances were deceiving, right?
A That s correct.
Q So what we thought we knew from just looking at the sky, that s not in fact what was happening, right?
A That s right.
Q So the theory was discarded?
A That s correct.
Q And intelligent design, also based on appearance, isn t it, Professor Behe?
A All sciences is based on appearances. That s -- what else can one go with except on appearances?
Appearances can be interpreted from a number of different frameworks, and you have to worry that the one that you re interpreting it from is going to turn out to be correct.
But in fact since science is based on observation, now that s just another word for appearance. So intelligent design is science, and so intelligent design is based on observation; that is appearance. Big Bang theory is based on observation, based on appearance, so yes, it is.
Q The whole positive argument for intelligent design as you ve described it, Professor Behe, is look at this system, look at these parts, they appear designed, correct?
A Well, I think I filled that out a little bit more. I said that intelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts, yes. So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function, yes, that is how we perceived design.
Check out that last statement by Behe:
"[I]ntelligent design is perceived as the purposeful arrangement of parts ... So when we not only see different parts, but we also see that they are ordered to perform some function ... that is how we perceived design."
In other words, when IDers look at something, and they perceive it to be designed, that is proof that it is designed, which proves that "Intelligent Design" is true.
If it appears that Behe's definition is a bit, um, self-referential, a circular argument, that's only because it is.
And for good measure, Behe believes that "observation" is just another word for "appearance" -- never mind that latter is about easily perceived superficial qualities which can lead to flawed, but apparently correct, theories (like the flat earth and geocentrism, both of which appear to the senses to be correct), while "observation" is about close and rigorous examination and, whenever possible, quantification, to get to underlying essential qualities, which lead (one hopes) to theories which have good predictive value.
Of course, Behe also testified that "Intelligent Design" can only be considered a scientific theory when using his own special definition of what a scientific theory is, one that's not only significantly different from the definition recognized by authorities like the National Academy of Sciences, but one that is broad enough that astrology would qualify as scientific. Behe's definition is, in fact, almost exactly the same as what scientists call a "hypothesis" -- which I don't believe is an accident on Behe's part.
There is a distinct difference between the scientific use of "theory" and its colloquial usage. In everyday language, a "theory" is a guess or a supposition, while in scientific usage a theory is an overarching framework which explains multiple questions, is well-supported by observations and evidence, and which suggests new and fertile lines of inquiry. A theory is the closest that science gets to fact, while a "theory" in everyday life is an hypothesis.
"Intelligent Design" lives in the interstices between those two usages. When IDers pound on Darwinian evolution being "only a theory," they're exploiting the differences in the use of that word, and creating the impression that evolution is only a guess or a supposition, and not what it actually is, the very core around which all our understanding of biology is constructed. Without the framework that evolutionary theory provides, you've got nothing tieing together the biological sciences.
So I don't believe for a moment that Behe conflation of "theory" with "hypothesis" is anything but a deliberate one, designed to continue muddying the waters and keeping alive the possibility that ID might one day win at trial what it can't win for itself in the world of science.
Update: Back in February, PZ Myers offered this Shorter Michael Behe:
The evidence for Intelligent Design.
Evolutionary explanations are no good.
There aren't any good evolutionary explanations.
Update (10/22): I've been reading some more of Behe's testimony under cross-examination, and I've decided that he's a perfect exemplar for this dictum of Francis Crick:
Evolution is cleverer than you are.
What struck me forcefully is how unimaginative and dull Behe's mind appears to be, judging by his testimony. The primary reason there must be an intelligent designer, besides that fact that his religion tells him so, is that Behe is unable to imagine any other way that complexity could come about except by a supernatural version of mundane human invention. Not for Behe is J.B.S. Haldane's statement that:
[T]he universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
No for Behe, the universe cannot contain anything that he cannot conceive of in his apparently quite limited imagination. Never mind that the evidence is quite clear that random mutations under selective pressure can do quite wondrous things -- Behe's mind only receives the wonders he's been told to accept.
However did this pathetic, dull, uninsightful, umimaginative man ever become a major spokesperson for "Intelligent Design?" It does not speak highly for their movement to have a man of such obviously limited capabilities out in front.
I'd also like to note in passing that while the plantiff's experts have all been Christians, but could as well have been Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or atheists, it's telling that the expert witnesses for ID are always, without fail, Christians. Obviously, there's a reason for that, because it's not a theory or science it's a corollary to a religious belief masquerading as science.
Finally, I'll complain that during the cross-examination of Dr. Barbara Forrester (the plantiff's expert on creationism and the intelligent design movement), the defense counsel (a former prosecutor who lost his job because the voters in Michigan got fed up with his persecution of Jack Kevorkian) tried repeatedly to counter expressions of religious beliefs by advocates of ID by quoting atheistic or anti-religious remarks made by evolutionary scientists (Dawkins, for example). In countering this, the plantiff's counsel failed, I think, to make clear the obvious point, which is that while those remarks by Dawkins et al. are personal philosophical corollaries to their understanding of evolution, which they believe to be true, they aren't part of evolutionary theory, and need not be accepted by anybody else.
On the other hand, the beliefs expressed by the IDers are central to their claims about ID. The IDers have tried, gamely, to remove the religious center of their "theory", but when they do we find that there's nothing there -- literally so!! Behe said it himself, in cross: there's no mechanism in ID, which means there's merely the observation that complexity must imply design.
As Ed Brayton points out, ID has clearly become entirely dependent on the gaps in scientific knowledge: where we don't quite know how something came about, there (they say) is the evidence for the Designer. And when science moves forward (as it inevitably does) and explains that bit of complexity sufficiently to understand how it got that way, the IDers will move to some other bit of complexity and hitch their wagon to that.
You would think that someone among them would have an understanding that such retrenchment has been going on for centuries now, as science explains more and more, and the need for religious explanation declines. It's a struggle they cannot win -- something that mainstream religionists understand quite well, and have adjusted fairly well to.
Update (10/27): In Slate William Saletan summarizes Behe's theory, a la Monty Python: "All intelligently designed things are brought about by an intelligent designer through a process of intelligently conducted design."
Behe throws up a blizzard of babble: process, intelligent activity, important facts. What process? What activity? What facts? He never explains. He says the designer "took steps" to create complex biological systems, but ID can't specify the steps. Does ID tell us who designed life? No, he answers. Does it tell us how? No. Does it tell us when? No. How would the designer create a bacterial flagellum? It would "somehow cause the plan to, you know, go into effect," he proposes.
Can ID make testable predictions? Not really. If we posit that a given biological system was designed, Rothschild asks, what can we infer about the designer's abilities? Just "that the designer had the ability to make the design that is under consideration," says Behe. "Beyond that, we would be extrapolating beyond the evidence." Does Behe not understand that extrapolating beyond initial evidence is exactly the job of a hypothesis? Does he not grasp the meaninglessness of saying a designer designed things that were designed?
(Incidentally, I've excised all the humor from Saletan's piece -- be sure to read it.)
Addenda: From Steve S., in a comment on Panda's Thumb, comes this list of academic organizations which have examined Intelligent Design and found it wanting as science:
National Academy of Sciences American Association of University Professors American Association for the Advancement of Science American Anthropological Association American Astronomical Society National Association of Biology Teachers Geological Society of America The American Chemical Society American Institute of Biological Sciences The Paleontological Society Botanical Society of America New Orleans Geological Society New York Academy of Sciences Ohio Academy of Science Ohio Math and Science Coalition Oklahoma Academy of Sciences Society for Amateur Scientists Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Society for Neuroscience Society for Organic Petrology Society for the Study of Evolution Society of Physics Students Society of Systematic Biologists Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Southern Anthropological Society Virginia Academy of Science West Virginia Academy of Science American Association of Physical Anthropologists American Geophysical Union American Society of Biological Chemists American Psychological Association American Physical Society American Society of Parasitologists Association for Women Geoscientists Australian Academy of Science California Academy of Sciences Ecological Society of America Genetics Society of America Geological Society of America Georgia Academy of Science History of Science Society Iowa Academy of Science Kentucky Paleontological Society Louisiana Academy of Sciences National Academy of Sciences North American Benthological Society North Carolina Academy of Science
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.