by Plutonium Page
Newsflash from Pennsylvania! I'm talking about
intelligent design fiction masquerading as science, for the edification and edumacation of them youngsters, in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial, where the defense has called in its lead "expert" witness:
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution came under sustained attack in federal court here [Harrisburg, PA] Monday as biochemistry professor Michael J. Behe argued that the theory fails to account for the complex biological machinery that scientists find in the corners of the human cell.
Behe, who teaches at Lehigh University, is one of the intellectual founding fathers of "intelligent design," which holds that aspects of life are so complex as to be best explained as the work of a super-intelligent designer.
"The appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming," Behe told the court. "Intelligent design is based on observed, empirical, physical evidence from nature."
I'm sorry, but what the hell are you talking about, Professor? I thought I signed up for a science course, not story hour. Calling you to testify as an "expert" in the life sciences is like calling a CSI fan to testify in a murder case.
Ahem, pardon me. I apologize for the digression. Shall we return to the subject at hand? The Washington Post article outlines the background of the case:
Behe is the lead defense witness in a trial that has drawn national attention since it began three weeks ago. Last year, the school board in Dover, Pa. -- a small town south of Harrisburg -- voted to require high school biology teachers to read to students four paragraphs that cast doubt on Darwin's theory of evolution and say that intelligent design offers an alternative theory for the origin and development of life.
Eleven parents sued to block the school board's action. The parents' lawyers, along with prominent scientists and philosophers, have argued that intelligent design is biblical creationism draped in new clothing. They note that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled -- most recently in 1987 -- that religion-tinged scientific theories have no place in public schools.
More below the fold.
Behe's publications include "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" and a video sold by the Dobson crowd (cllick the image on the left). Here's the essence of Behe's testimony (again, from the WaPost):
Behe grounds his argument in his study of biochemical processes. In particular, he focuses on the bacterial flagellum, which is driven by a rotary engine composed of protein and located at an anchor point inside the cell membrane. This powerful organic machine comes equipped with a crankshaft and propeller. Behe argues that this machine is irreducibly complex -- meaning it could not have evolved because it needed all of its parts to work.
So, Behe is basically saying that if something is "too complex" (whatever that means), if you take away one of its parts, it won't work anymore. Unfortunately for him, evolution works the other way, and the experts called by the parents are testifying to that fact.
One of the scientists called to testify is Kenneth R. Miller, Ph. D, a biology professor at Brown University. Like my science teachers in my Catholic high school, he believes that God plays a role in our daily lives. However, like my teachers (one of whom was a priest), he believes that creationism does not belong in the science classroom, regardless of the teacher's personal beliefs. His expert statement for the trial (pdf) is the best statement I've read so far on the subject:
"Intelligent design" advocates often cite the complexity of living cells as a reason to invoke the hypothesis of design. While this may seem to account for any unexplained problem in biology, it does so only by abandoning the scientific method and making "design" the solution to every such problem. An explanation of this sort, which can explain any conceivable evidence, in fact explains nothing. Since the "design" explanation is not testable, it falls outside the realm of science, and places it in the real of theology, where non-natural explanations are an accepted part of the explanatory landscape. Theological explanations may be correct, of course, (as when I believe that a loving God hears my prayers and acts in my life to answer them), but they cannot be tested by the methods of science - and therefore they are not science.
To the "intelligent" design crowd: how difficult is it to wrap your brains around that statement?
As Dubya asked, "is our children learning?"
If the Dover school board wins this case, I think the answer to that question is "no".