Friday, November 11, 2005

Behe Cross Examination

I have read some of the Dover "ID v. Evolution" Trial Transcripts, including the direct and cross-examination of M. Behe, an ID proponent.

In the cross-examination the plaintiff's lawyer is trying to pin Behe down to show that his ID hypothesis has been discredited by scientific studies, but Behe is a good snake-oil salesman. He slides away from giving straightforward answers.

I think this exchange reveals the ID approach to science:

07 Q. And I'm correct when I asked you, you would
08 need to see a step-by-step description of how
09 the immune system, vertebrate immune system
10 developed?
11 A. Not only would I need a step-by-step,
12 mutation by mutation analysis, I would also
13 want to see relevant information such as what
14 is the population size of the organism in which
15 these mutations are occurring, what is the
16 selective value for the mutation, are there any
17 detrimental effects of the mutation, and many
18 other such questions.
19 Q. And you haven't undertaken to try and
20 figure out those?
21 A. I am not confident that the immune system
22 arose through Darwinian processes, and so I do
23 not think that such a study would be fruitful.
24 Q. It would be a waste of time?
25 A. It would not be fruitful.

Can't show how every molecule moved in creating the immune system? No proof!
Don't know how something happened? Well, don't bother: it can't be discovered!

I think there was a good opportunity to trap Behe that was not pursued:

Behe claims that his hypothesis -- that irreducibly complex systems cannot be formed by random mutation and natural selection -- can be falsified. He said that if scientists placed selective pressures on a single-celled organism and that organism developed a new irreducibly complex system (such as a flagellum, an "outboard motor" for a cell), his theory could be rejected.

Falsifiability is important because if Behe's hypothesis is not falsifiable, then it is not a scientific theory (as he claims it is).

Behe is wrong that his hypothesis is falsifiable. Earlier in testimony he said that he could not explain who the intelligent designer was, how the intelligent designer acted, when the intelligent designer acted, or why the intelligent designer acted. He couldn't say whether the design happened at once, e.g. creating man out of clay, or gradually over many generations.

Lets imagine a (real) scientist did Behe's experiment and a new irreducibly complex biological system evolved. What could Behe's response be? The intelligent designer designed during the experiment. Since we know the designer acts in the world, and the laboratory is part of the world, the designer could have acted during the experiment. Because Behe does not propose the designer acts suddenly, a gradual evolution would not disprove Behe's hypothesis. Imagine the designer worked by influencing which mutations occurred by ever so slightly bending bending the course of radioactive particles. That process could never be detected. The experiment could just as easily be proof of the existence of God as it would be proof of the validity of evolution.

My Questions:
1.You agree that a scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable? (yes)
2.You agree that the design process could occur gradually? (yes)
3.You agree that your design hypothesis could be falsified by an experiment where a single-celled creature develops a new irreducibly complex biological system? Such as the formation of a flagellum where previously none existed? (yes, blah blah blah)
4.You agree that you do not know by what process intelligent designer would create a "purposeful arrangement of parts"? (yes, blah blah blah)
5.You even agree that "intelligent design does not rule out natural processes." (Tr. Day 12, PM pg. 32, ln. 5-6)?
6.You agree that an scientists lab is part of the natural world? (what do you mean? Blah blah blah, yes)
7.And, you agree that an intelligent designer could operate in a scientists lab? (yes, blah blah blah)
8.There is nothing in your hypothesis of intelligent design that says that the designer could not cause a process in a scientists lab to create a new design? (no, blah blah blah)
9.If a flagellum developed in a lab, isn't that development consistent with your idea of an intelligent designer creating that flagellum in the lab, rather than mutation and natural selection alone? (uh...)
10.How could the scientist who studied the evolution of the new flagellum prove that an intelligent designer did not interfere with the experiment? (uh...)

Alternatively,
11.You agree that the development of an irreducibly complex biological system is evidence of intelligent design?
12.If an irreducibly complex biological system developed in a lab, would that be evidence that an intelligent force acted in the lab?

Trapped!

Of course, I'm sure the plaintiff's lawyer had written out what he considered perfect traps as well.

2 comments:

angry little owl said...

got him!
you're going to be the best lawyer ever!
and i'm not just saying that because i love you!

irina said...

So, let me get this straight. His argument was that a display of adventageous mutation under laboratory conditions shows the veracity of evolutionary theory?
This is sidestepping your main point, but doesn't evolutionary change happen on significantly longer time lines than anything that a laboratory study would show? That's a little bit like asking scientists to recreated the Big Bang in under controlled conditions rather than rely on experiential and mathematical evidence gathered through observation and analysis of what already exists.