Monday, July 20, 2015

We'll see that IC remains as potent a weapon in ID's arsenal as it was in 1996.

While waiting patiently for the posts that will lay to rest any idea that Intelligent Design vs Evolution isn't a viable scientific controversy (as promised by the Discovery Institute here ) I read a couple of new posts over on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog.

"Biophysicist Matt Baker Is an Intelligent Design Critic Who Doesn't Understand Irreducible Complexity" was one, and since apparently little casey luskin felt so strongly about it, he had to post a second one three days later: 

Typically what drove little casey to such lengths is an article by Matt Baker: "The bacterial flagellar motor: brilliant evolution or intelligent design?"  Good article and is a pretty typical example of something that happened during the Dover Trial.  Remember when Michael Behe, the father of Irreducible Complexity, was cross-examined?  You can read how he addressed one specific issue here.  He was presented with over 50 peer-reviewed publications, 9 books, and a number of textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.”

Just so you know the players:
  • Dr Matt Baker was awarded a John Monash Scholarship to complete a PhD in biological physics at Oxford University studying the effects of low temperature on the mechanism of the bacterial flagella motor. He returned to Australia in 2013 and is currently based at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute where he uses DNA nano-structures to modify bacterial flagella motors to understand how they have arisen. Matt was one of RN's top 5 under 40 scientists in 2015.
  • Mr. Casey Luskin is an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law.
I know, doesn't seem like a fair fight, on the one hand you have someone who specifically studies bacterial flagellum and on the other you have one of the Discovery Institute's lawyers.  Little casey was mentioned in Lauri Lebo's book about the Dover Trial (The Devil in Dover), he was handing out pro-Id pamphlets during the trial.  But don't worry, casey quotes one of the big guns of the Discovery Institute, Wild Bill Dembski.  Maybe that will help his case.

Now I am not going to try and dissect any of the articles.  First of all, I am not a biologist and have never pretended to be one.  Yes, I know that might someday have the DI comment on one of my posts claiming that I am wholly unqualified to have an opinion.  It's one of my bucket list items that I will annoy someone at the DI enough to respond.  But as for being wholly unqualified, I have to disagree.  I am one of the people who the DI aim their marketing campaign toward.  They don't aim at  scientists, they aim at people who vote for various politicians, are school board members and parents of students who can influence the directions school curriculum can take, they aim people who don't have advanced science degrees because they have never offered any evidence that their 'work' is in any way scientific.  They also prefer to aim at people who already believe in their particular brand of kool-aid.  Well by that list I am mostly qualified then, but since they like aiming at people like me, I feel perfectly justified in shooting back. 

What I am mostly interested in tactics.  For example, what tactic did Michael Behe use in his original books 'Darwin's Black Box'?  He took a short list of very complex things, made some completely unsupported claims about they being irreducibly complex and called it a night.  Do you disagree?   Don't forget that during the Dover Trial, he admitted that no one, including himself, was doing any work to support his claims of irreducible complexity.  Has anything changed since he published in 1996?  Remember that he also said similar things in 1993 (his part of the infamous 'Of Pandas and People'), but hadn't coined the phrase 'Irreducible Complexity' yet.  So in the past 22 years, who has done the research and offered the real scientific proof supporting Intelligent Design or Irreducible Complexity?  No one, particularly not casey!

No support places Behe's claims strictly in the realm of supposition and wishful thinking.  Intelligent Design adherents wants there to be a designer they can later claim to be God (remember the Wedge Strategy made that very clear), so they see design where there is, at best, the appearance of design.  When faced with actual scientific evidence that is contrary to their claims, they simple say 'it's not enough'.  That's what I think it took Casey two posts to say.

Here is where little casey quotes Wild Bill.  He [casey] seems to agree that if the biologist cannot provide a complete evolutionary path, that it's not good enough.  My question is why is that?  Behe offered claims with no support at all.  Baker offers support for his example, as did the 50+ documents presented to Behe at the Dover Trial.  But there seems to be a dichotomy here.  On the one hand if you fail to offer an absolute 100% perfect explanation, along with some level of scientific support, your claim just 'isn't good enough', yet when you offer no support at all, it gets accepted as gospel by people like little casey.

Baker never intended for his claim to be a complete answer, but it does contradict several of the points specified by Behe.  Points that were also presented during the Dover Trial which pretty well ruined Behe's day.  In fact, rarely is real scientific work ever complete.  People work on a part and parcel and other scientists come along and add to the knowledge pool.  This tactic of demanding 100% absolute perfection in evolutionary examples and yet offer no corresponding level of support when pushing forth Intelligent Design is, unfortunately all to common.  These two articles are perfect examples.

I do have one last question for little casey.  Why did he quote Wild Bill Dembski's "Rebuttal to Reports by Opposing Expert Witnesses"?  This was written in 2005 in response to reports of the 6 expert witnesses that were going to be testifying for the plaintiffs in the Dover Trial.  In case you forgot, Dembski was not on the side of the plaintiffs.  Wouldn't Dembski's responses gone over better during the court case itself?  I mean if his rebuttal is such a wonder piece of scholarship, why is it hidden away on a website to be used  a decade later in a very defensive way.  Let us all not forget that Dembski had his chance to testify and backed out.  So I take  his rebuttal with a large bag of salt.  He didn't present it where it might have done his side some good.  but here we are a decade later and little casey trots it out like it is a viable rebuttal.

So when little casey said "We'll see that IC remains as potent a weapon in ID's arsenal as it was in 1996."  I can only agree with him, although I might word it a little differently.  I think the word 'potent' is not used correctly here.  Usually when something has the 'potency' that IC has had over the past couple of decades, the better turn of phrase is 'impotent', unless the object is to sell books to believers, then I guess it did its job.  Hasn't impacted science very much, but it did help Behe's book sales.

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