Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Darwin vs. Design: Questions and Answers

After Michael Behe's talk, Lee Strobel came back out along with Jay Richards and Stephen Meyer, and all four men took their place on the stage one more time to answer questions from the audience. I had grabbed about a dozen question forms from one of the volunteers on my way back from lunch, because I really wanted one of my questions answered, and I suspected that there wouldn't be very much time near the end. I had come up with the following questions, one for each of the four:

Question for Stephen Meyer:

In an article you wrote for the Discovery Institute website in February 2004, you claimed that the “thirty or so proteins in the flagellar motor are unique to it and are not found in any other living system.” However, in an article published in Nature Reviews Microbiology in October 2006, protein sequence homologies are demonstrated for more than half of the flagellar proteins, and only 5% of the proteins essential for flagellar function are actually unique. Would you now agree that the “uniqueness” of bacterial flagellar proteins should no longer be considered evidence in favor of irreducible complexity?

Question for Michael Behe:

In your book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” in reference to the blood-clotting cascade pathway, you state that “none of the cascade proteins are used for anything other than the formation of a blood clot.” However, in a paper published in Nature Medicine in June 2006, the clotting protein thrombin was also shown to activate the complement protein C5, establishing a role for it in the immune system. Would you now agree that the functional exclusivity of blood clotting cascade proteins should no longer be considered as evidence in favor of irreducible complexity?

Question for Lee Strobel:

In an interview by Deborah Caldwell for Beliefnet, you said that “if evolutionary theory is true… there is no evidence for God… there is no absolute foundation for right and wrong… there is no ultimate meaning to life.” However, the consequences of evolutionary theory do not determine its validity. Furthermore, there are many people who find meaning and have a sense of morality despite accepting the evolutionary theory as true, including a number of Christians, such as Ken Miller, the author of “Finding Darwin’s God,” and Francis Collins, author of “The Language of God.” Do you believe that it is possible for people to make moral choices and/or maintain a belief in God if they accept evolutionary theory as science?

Question for Jay Richards:

In your book, “The Priveleged Planet,” you estimate the number of stars in the Universe to be ten thousand billion billion, and the odds of a planet being habitable at about one in one million billion. If the chance that any given star had a planet was one in one million, there would be ten million billion planets in the Universe, and thus ten habitable planets by your own estimate. However, as of December 2002, an article published in The Astrophysical Journal has documented the 100th discovery of an extrasolar planet, within the context of a search which has found, on average, planetary systems for every one in ten stars. This would significantly increase the number of habitable planets from the initial estimate of ten, to one billion. In the light of this evidence, would you agree that the habitability of the Earth is not so remarkable, given chance alone?

I figured that these would be fairly long to handle, so I came up with some shorter ones:
If the DNA in our genomes is information, than does a person with Down’s Syndrome (trisomy 21) contain more information in their genome than a normal person?

Does the theory of Irreducible Complexity necessarily imply that humans and chimpanzees do not share a common ancestor?

Why were the compelling evidences provided by Intelligent Design so unpersuasive at the 2005 Dover trial?

What evidence is there to suggest that a fine-tuned Universe is more likely the result of an Intelligent Designer than the existence of multiple Universes?
I also wrote several more on the spot that I didn't have time to record. Fortunately, two of my questions were posed to the panel, but unfortunately, both were questions that I had written for Jay Richards, whose arguments were based partially on the field of astronomy, which is not my area of expertise. The questions (and my paraphrase of their answers) were as follows:

Q1) How is Intelligent Design falisfiable?

A1) Intelligent Design is a historical science, so it doesn't need to be falsifiable. However, there are some possible ways to show it to be false. The evidence of the flagellar protein complex being related to the Type III secretory system might have been a falsification of Intelligent Design, but Stephen Meyer and Scott Minnich have a paper coming out soon that will show that the Type III secretory system is a degraded form of the flagellar protein complex. Other ways to disprove Intelligent Design are to find non-carbon-based life, or to find life on some non-Earth-like planet.

Q2) My first question to Jay.

A2) Jay didn't understand the arithmetic that was in the question, but volunteered that most of the planets discovered so far are gas giants, which do not support life. Also, the percentage of stars which have planets are only 3% or 4%, not 10%.

Q3) How is Intelligent Design different from a God of the Gaps argument?

A3) The Intelligent Design argument doesn't use this structure, it uses the Multiple Competing Hypothesis structure.

Q4) Why did Behe say that there was no evidence for Intelligent Design in the Dover trial?

A4) Behe didn't say it, what he said was that there were no articles in the scientific literature. However, his book was peer-reviewed, even though Darwin's Origin of the Species wasn't. Anyone claiming that Behe said there was no evidence is misrepresenting him. He also didn't mean to say that astrology was equivalent to Intelligent Design scientifically. He meant that astrology prior to about 1200, when people didn't know what they knew now from the study of astronomy. Prior to modern times, astrology could be considered scientific.

Q5) What about the RNA-world hypothesis of abiogenesis?

A5) The RNA-world hypothesis can't explain the origin of information.

Q6) Another question I had intended for Jay: Why is it not the case that the Universe itself was an uncaused cause, rather than a Designer?

A6) Because we know that all matter had a beginning, and thus it must have had a cause.

Q7) How old is the Earth?

A7) Intelligent Design is not a theory which can explain this.

Q8) How does Intelligent Design explain mutations that cause detrimental effects to organisms?

A8) These mutations follow Darwinian mechanisms, but they are all accomplished by breaking genes, not creating new genes.

Post a Comment


At 4/23/2007 1:05 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Those are some excellent questions, Zach! I especially liked the astronomy related question.

At 4/23/2007 2:05 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Admittedly, it was a math-heavy question, and maybe not the best one to hear rather than read (but Lee Strobel picked it out anyway).

At 4/23/2007 4:55 PM, Blogger Maxine declaimed...

The Origin may not have been peer-reviewed in the technical sense, but peer review as we know it had not been invented then. As the work took 20 years to publish, Darwin had much opportunity to discuss and refine the ideas. He also revised the work numerous times after publishing it. I think web 2.0/wisdom of the crowds is using a similar approach -- Darwin was there first. ;-)

Your blog only allows comments from people with Google/Blogger accounts, so here is my blog URL:

At 4/23/2007 7:42 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...


That's very true, and would have been my respose as well.



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