Intelligent Design: The Final Word, Part 2

This is a continuation of my discussion of ID (see part 1). Here in part 2 I have exerpted from Behe’s book in order to summarize his argument. I am using the 2003 trade paperback edition published by Free Press, lent to me by a work colleague.

The ID argument in a nutshell:

1) “For discrete physical systems — if there is not a gradual route to their production — design is evident when a number of separate, interacting components are ordered in such a way as to accomplish a function beyond the individual components.” (p. 194)

2) “Because the functions depend critically on the intricate interactions of the parts we must conclude that they, like a mousetrap, were designed.” (p. 205)

In particular for the cilium, a system used by cells for movement:

3) “The function of the cilium is to be a motorized paddle. In order to achieve this function microtubules, nexin linkers, and motor proteins all have to be ordered in a precise fashion. They have to recognize each other intimately, and interact exactly. The function is not present if any of the components is missing.” (p. 204)

On the identity of the designer:

4) “Inferences to design do not require that we have a candidate for the role of designer.” (p. 196)

On the falsifiability of ID:

5) “Might there be an as-yet-undiscovered natural process that would explain biochemical complexity? No one would be foolish enough to categorically deny the possibility. Nonetheless, we can say that if there is such a process, no one has a clue how it would work. Further, it would go against all human experience, like postulating that a natural process might explain computers. Concluding that no such process exists is as scientifically sound as concluding that mental telepathy is not possible, or that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t exist. In the face of the massive evidence we do have for biochemical design, ignoring that evidence in the name of a phantom process would be to play the role of the detectives who ignore an elephant.” (p. 203-204)

On the testability of ID:

6) “Hypothesis, careful testing, replicability – all these have served science well. But how can an intelligent designer be tested? Can a designer be put in a test tube? No, of course not. But neither can extinct common ancestors be put in test tubes. The problem is that whenever science tries to explain a unique historical event, careful testing and replicability are by definition impossible. Science may be able to study the motion of modern comets, and test Newton’s laws of motion that describe how the comets move. But science will never be able to study the comet that putatively struck the earth many millions of years ago. Science can, however, observe the comet’s lingering effects on the modern earth. Similarly, science can see the effects that a designer has had on life.” (emphasis in the original) (p. 242-243)

Greg Langmead
Machine Learning Engineer

I am a software engineer and mathematician. I work on NLP algorithms for Apple News, and research homotopy type theory in CMU’s philosophy department.