Michael Behe and Keith Fox debate evolution and intelligent design. (See below for link to video)
Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania and the founder of the modern Intelligent Design movement. His book “Darwin’s Black Box” ignited the controversy 14 years ago when it claimed that certain molecular machines and biological processes are “irreducibly complex” and cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution.
Keith Fox is Professor of biochemistry at the University of Southampton and chairman of Christians in Science. As a theistic evolutionist he believes that Evolution is the best explanation going for the complexity we see and that ID is a blind scientific alley and theologically unappealing to boot.
They debate whether micromachines in the cell such as the “bacterial flagellum” could have evolved by a Darwinian process of evolution. When inference to design is and isn’t acceptable in science. Whether random mutation can mathematically stack up to complex life, and whether God is reduced to a divine “tinkerer” by ID.
Here’s the debate:
Note: the following debate summary is rated “S” for Snarky. Reader discretion is advised.
- ID is not Biblical creationism
- ID is not religion
- ID is a scientific research program
- People refuse to discuss ID because of personal philosophical assumptions
- ID is like the Big Bang – it is based on evidence, but it has broad religious implications
- ID is not Biblical creationism, but it isn’t science
- ID is compatible with common descent
- ID is only opposed to unplanned, unguided evolution (Darwinism)
- ID is not necessarily opposed to long periods of time
Behe’s first book – the bacterial flagellum
- Here are a couple of papers that show how parts of the flagellum evolved
- They are possible pathways
- No, those are studies that show that there are similarities between bacterial flagella in multiple organisms
- Similarities of proteins between different organisms do not necessarily imply a developmental pathway
- The problem of having the instructions to BUILD the flagellum still remains
- Maybe parts of the flagellum had other functions before they were used in the flagellum
- Maybe you can use the parts of the flagellum for other purposes
- Maybe, one can imagine, it’s possible that!
- No, parts have to be modified and re-purposed in order to be used for other functions
- But maybe the proteins can be used in other systems for other things
- I re-purpose parts from of designed things to other purposes in my house when I do maintenance
- Uh, yeah – but aren’t you an intelligent designer? What does your home maintenance have to do with Darwinian evolution?
Is ID another God-of-the-gaps argument?
- Well consider the Big Bang… there was a build-up of scientific evidence for that theory
- Just because a theory has religious implications, doesn’t mean that it isn’t true
- You really have to look at the specific evidence for a theory, and not decide in advance
Keith Fox: (I’m paraphrasing/inventing/mocking from now on)
- But the Big Bang is based on discoveries, and intelligent design is based on gaps in our scientific knowledge
- What if I did have evidence of a step by step pathway (which I don’t right now)? Then I would win the argument – what would you do then?
- Well, if tomorrow you do manage to find expiremental evidence of a pathway, which you don’t have today, then I would be wrong
- ID is falsifiable by experimental evidence
- But what about your your view? Is that falsifiable by experimental evidence?
- What if someone goes into a lab (someone like Scott Minnich?) and performs gene knockout experiments, and publishes the results
- You knock out a gene from the bacterial flagellum, you wait for a large number of generations, and it never develops the missing gene
- You repeat this with every one of the 50 genes in the bacterial flagellum and it never recovers for any of the 50 genes
- There is no pathway to build up even one of the 50 genes – according to actual experiments
- What do Darwinists do with experimental evidence that falsifies Darwinism?
- No, I would not accept that experimental evidence could falsify Darwinism
- Just because known published experimental evidence that we have today falsifies Darwinism, it doesn’t mean Darwinism is false because it’s not falsifiable
- We don’t know how Darwinism even works – it happened so long ago, and it’s not repeatable or testable, so how could lab ,experiments falsify it?
- Darwinism is science and intelligent design is faith, though
Which side has the experimental evidence?
- Consider the largest longest-running lab experiment of evolution, Richard Lenski’s experiments on e. coli
- Lenski has presided over 50,000 generations, (millions of years of evolution)
- The bacterium did evolve and they did get better but not by evolving features, but by disabling features
- But those are just LAB EXPERIMENTS! What do lab experiments prove?
- What if? What if? What if? You don’t know, it happened so long ago, and you weren’t there! You weren’t there!
- (clutches Flying Spaghetti Monster idol tighter and sobs pitifully)
- See, the thing is that I have actual experiements, and here’s some more evidence that just got published last week
- So I’ve got evidence and then some more evidence and them some other evidence – experimental evidence
- And all the evidence shows that adaptation is done losing traits not by gaining traits
- And the published observations are what we see in nature as well
- But doesn’t Darwinism explain some things that we observe?
- Well, I am not saying that micro-evolution doesn’t explain some things – it explains bacterial resistance, and other micro-evolution
- it just doesn’t explain macro-evolution, and that’s what the experiments show
- But ID is a science stopper! It stops science! You can’t produce experimental evidence to falsify Darwinism – that would stop science!
- Well, you have to understand that the Big Bang postulated a non-material cause to the entire physical universe and yet the experimental evidence was allowed to stand because it was testable and verifiable evidence, even if the theory does have religious implications
- All explanations in science are design to settle a question and it stops rival explanations that are not as good at explaining the observations
- Finding the best explanation stops further study because it is better than rival explanations
- Well you have to come up with a materialist explanation because that’s the only kind that a functional atheist like me will allow
- Well, what if the best explanation for an observed effect in nature is non-material, as with the Big Bang?
- But I have to have a material explanation because I am a functional atheist! (i.e. – a theistic evolutionist = functional atheist)
- Well what about the cosmic fine-tuning argument? Do you accept that?
- That’s an inference to design based on the latest scientific discoveries
- Well I do accept that argument, but I don’t accept design in biology
- When you apply it to biology, somehow it’s bad and you can’t do that or you losing research money and get fired
- Anyway, your argument is based on a gap in our current knowledge
- No, back in Darwin’s time we had a gap in our knowledge – we didn’t know what the cell was – we thought it was jello
- Now, we know what the cell is really like, it’s irreducibly complex, and you can’t build up those molecular machines in a step-wise manner
- The inference to design is based on the progress of science revealing the increasing levels of complexity
- In experiments, Darwinian mechanisms cannot build anything useful, instead genes are disabled or dropped
- You guys don’t have the evidence to prove your view that naturalistic mechanisms can do the creating
- You keep issuing promissory notes
- Well, you’re just seeing design subjectively, because you are a non-scientist
- I’m being objective when I tell you that we will discover a materialist explanation later on – really really soon now, maybe even tomorrow, yeah
- You won’t accept my speculations and you insist on these published experiments
- You’re subjective and I’m objective
- Just give me more research money so I can hide the decline better
- Uh, you’re the one who is subjective – I cited evidence, and you are the one who is speculating
- You have arguments from credulity, and I’ve got the lab experiments
- You refuse to be skeptical, I am the one who is being skeptical
- Maybe, maybe, maybe! Maybe tomorrow! Maybe in a parallel universe! Maybe aliens from Planet 9 from Outer Space!
- Who knows! I certainly don’t know! And that somehow means you don’t know either! See?
- Well, to prove me wrong, go into the lab, and run experiments and evolve some new genes (using Darwinian mechanisms) that have new useful functionality
Are there limits to what evolution can do?
- You need multiple changes in the genome to get a new helpful feature (let’s say two specific mutations)
- One specific change is possible
- the odds are against getting multiple beneficial changes are really really small – you need two SPECIFIC changes to occur in order
- Well, lots of things are really unlikely – any permutation of dice rolls is as unlikely as any other
- Well, we are talking about TWO SPECIFIC mutations that are needed to get a beneficial function – lots of other mutations are possible, but we are looking for a specific outcome that requires two SPECIFIC mutations out of the whole genome
- You aren’t going to get useful outcomes unless you direct the mutations
- But then why does God allow evil!!!!1!1!!one!!!