Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Famous Concession by Behe

Sorry folks, I've got this stuff in my system. In addition to foisting my online anti-government rants on you, I'll also be commenting on the ID/evolution debate for the next week or so. Anyway, I think here is a good illustration of the misrepresentation (deliberate or unintentional) of the ID proponents, and how--far from showing their dishonesty--their honesty has been used against them.

I refer to the apparent admission by Behe on the stand that (and I quote from an exchange I'm having on this very blog): "Now we have ID people who want to teach something they themselves admit is on the same scientific level as astrology."

This isn't just what one guy says on a blog, either. On the NPR account of the trial as it was unfolding, the reporter said something like, "Though on the stand during cross-x, Behe admitted that the scientific status of ID was that of astrology."

In this context, the innocent listener would conclude that Behe admitted that ID was just as plausible (at least if we rely on non-religious evidence) as astrology. But if you look at the relevant transcripts (just use your Find to search for "astrology" and you'll hit it, though you may want to back up to get the full context of the exchange), you'll see that Behe was just being honest with his definition of the word theory. He certainly wasn't admitting that ID was just as valid as astrology.

Now especially since he was on the stand and he knew how much publicity this trial had, that was a very courageous thing to do, in my opinion. He could've refused to answer the question and try to weasel out of it, but he didn't. He admitted that astrology would be a scientific theory under his definition, though of course a discarded scientific theory.


  1. Rather than start a new post, let me add here that I found another good piece of evidence that Behe is not a devious liar, but (at worst) genuinely wrong. Here he is, responding to some critics at Talk Origins. Now I ask you, does this sound like the ranting of an either incredibly ignorant or willfully deceptive academic? Maybe he's just that good at tricking me, but the more I read of this guy, the more I think he means well...


    In this group of posts I am repeatedly said to be "ignorant." That may be true, but I think there is reason to give me the benefit of the doubt. I have a Ph. D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania (received an award from Sigma Xi for "Best Thesis), postdoc'd for four years at the National Institutes of Health (as a Jane Coffin Childs Fund postdoctoral fellow), have been an academic biochemist for 14 years, have gained tenure at a reasonably rigorous university, have published a fair amount in the biochemical literature, and have continuously had my research funded by national agencies (including a five-year Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health) and currently have research funds.

    Well, perhaps I am a real biochemist, but am simply "ignorant" of work on the evolution of irreducibly complex biochemical systems? Perhaps. But I am not unaware that evolution is a controversial subject, and certainly tried to cover all bases when researching and writing my book. I have no death wish. I do, after all, have to live with my departmental colleagues, a number of whom are Darwinists. So I searched the literature as thoroughly as I could for relevant information and tried to be as rigorous as possible. Perhaps there are step-by-step, Darwinian explanations in the literature for the complex systems I describe in my book, but if there are I haven't seen them, nor has anyone brought them to my attention.

    My book has now been reviewed quite widely, including reviews by academic biochemists. Several of them were quite hostile to my idea of design, but all agreed that the systems I described are enormously complex and currently unexplained. The hostile reviewers were confident that the systems would eventually be explained by Darwinism in the future. I do not share their confidence. Neither did James Shapiro, a biochemist at the University of Chicago who reviewed Darwin's Black Box for National Review a few weeks ago. He, too, thinks Darwinism has failed for these systems, but hopes that they will be explained by some other non-intelligent mechanism.

  2. Anonymous5:07 AM

    There are quite a few people out there who just parrot a line against ID that's been spoonfed to them by some prominent Darwinian.

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