Intelligent Design—‘A War on Science’ says the BBC
The BBC has a long history of anti-Christian bigotry, although it is funded by a ‘TV licence’ fee that the British Government coerces from all TV owners—whether they watch the BBC or not. Its latest attack is their Horizon program titled ‘A War on Science’. It was also aired in Australia on the taxpayer-funded SBS-TV on 11 April 2006, and will undoubtedly be broadcast in other countries. The subject is the rise of the Intelligent Design [ID] movement in America; the program title suggests not only that the concept of ID is wrong, but that it is harmful and opposed to true science. So for readers new to this movement, we suggest first studying:
- CMI’s views on the Intelligent Design Movement to find out what it is, and its strengths and weaknesses
- A brief history of design for its long and venerable history, its power but insufficiency
The ID advocates interviewed are lawyer Prof. Phillip Johnson, biochemist Dr Michael Behe, Dr Stephen Meyer, and mathematician Prof. William Dembski. The defenders of evolution are the vociferous antitheist Prof. Richard Dawkins, TV celebrity and self-described agnostic Sir David Attenborough, and biologist and Roman Catholic theistic evolutionist Prof. Kenneth Miller.
[Update, 30 June 2009: Dembski also comments, in relation to christophobic attacks on the honesty of the interviews in CMI’s film The Voyage that Shook the World:
Lynch is outraged: the documentary makers are guilty of “lies” and “deception”. Would a charge of fraud hold up in court? I suspect the documentary makers simply withheld information. Is that wrong? The BBC, for instance, didn’t inform me that a documentary they were making about ID was to be called “A War on Science”, and that I would be portrayed as one of the “bad people” trying to “destroy science.” I was, to be sure, displeased with this outcome, but I recognize that this is the way the game is played. The other side has been dishing it out for a long time, but has a hard time of it when the tables are turned.]
Evolution: real science?
The film opens with the narrator telling us that one of science’s greatest theories—evolution—is under attack.
‘One of science’s greatest theories’?—hardly. Real scientists actually make no use of evolution in their research, because they are concerned with operational science not origins. The leading chemist Philip Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, blew the whistle on the overrating of evolution in a famous column in The Scientist, Why Do We Invoke Darwin? Evolutionary theory contributes little to experimental biology. In this, he took up a point made in a BioEssays special issue on evolution in 2000, that ‘most [biologists] conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas’ so evolution is a ‘highly superfluous’ idea. How much less relevant is evolution to other major fields of science such as physics or chemistry?
Another admission to support the point is that evolutionists on the one hand claim that evolution is essential for biology, but on the other hand lament the move away from evolution ‘to a more utilitarian science’ which demands ‘more practical benefits from science’ (Evolution and practical science).
Of course, even if evolution in the real sense of molecules-to-man were useful, it would not make it true. But in reality, there is no evidence to support life coming from non-living chemicals or one kind changing into a different, more complex, kind. Dawkins himself admitted:
‘Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.’ [‘Battle over evolution’ Bill Moyers interviews Richard Dawkins, ‘Now’, 3 December 2004, PBS network]
Indeed, the lack of genuine evidence has led to the promotion of fraudulent evidence such as Archaeoraptor (the ‘Piltdown bird’), embryonic recapitulation and similarities; as well as staged pictures of peppered moths. As well as outright fraud, the historical sciences seem riddled with imaginative ‘just-so’ story telling, often based on the flimsiest of fossil evidence and often published in otherwise rigorously refereed journals, such as Nature or Science (see for example, Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba).
Intelligent design ‘attack’
Narrator: The threat is emerging from the only scientific superpower on Earth, provoking some of the biggest names in science to hit back.
Dawkins: It is enormously damaging if the world’s leading economic power were subverted and undermined by this kind of anti-scientific tendency.
Dawkins is well-known, but what has he contributed of substance to science? What has he discovered? What inventions of his do we use today? He is a just a popularizer of evolution and an apostle of atheism.
Narrator: The controversy surrounds a new explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
There is nothing new about creation by an intelligent Designer. It was first propounded in the opening book of the Bible, Genesis, written over 4,000 years ago. It does not threaten science, but it is a threat to those scientists who arrogantly claim that nothing could exist that they themselves have not experienced. See also A Brief History of Design.
Narrator: For many, it threatens to replace science with God.
Dawkins explicitly states that Darwinism made it possible to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled atheist’, a position he holds himself.
Attenborough: It is so fundamentally against every scientific principle you can think of that to put it in the same bracket is to seriously confuse thinking. …
One must wonder how all the great scientists such as Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, Faraday, Maxwell, Joule or Kelvin made all their great discoveries then, being so backward as to believe that there was a Designer (and most were young-earth creationists as well!) …
Narrator: This is the story of a battle between faith and knowledge … .
The two are not mutually exclusive; this shows a common misunderstanding of biblical faith, which is trust based on knowledge of certain facts and has much to do with logic. Biblical faith is not wishful thinking, like the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: ‘Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’
Miller: I truly regard America’s scientific soul to be at stake in this struggle, and losing that, I think would be a great tragedy.
How strange. Before evolution became part of the American school curriculum, American schools produced more Nobel prizes than the rest of the world combined. This was especially pronounced in the biological field (Physiology and Medicine), one that supposedly can’t do without evolution—America produced twice as many as all other countries. In fact, America’s greatness in science almost certainly flows out of its Christian roots and a traditional belief in Creation. Even secular historians of science have recognized that modern science flourished because of Christianity, and particularly following the Protestant Reformation (when the authority of the Bible was re-established over everything, including ‘the church’). See Creationist contributions to science and The Christian origin of modern science.
High school controversy
The scene now shifts to a school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where a local high-school dispute over the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution, sparked by a controversial new idea called Intelligent Design, is said to have spiralled into a battle that pitted science against God. Supporters are said to claim to have found scientific evidence for a supernatural Creator of life.
Narrator: For many, it could mark the beginning of a scientific dark age. Anonymous woman: If you can lie to kids about science, if you can lie to the American public about science, you can lie to them about anything, and that’s why this case is so important.
Her body language says she is against ID, but her words apply to the theory of evolution! Also, since Dawkins agrees that evolution entails a ‘moral vacuum, in which their best impulses have no basis in nature,’ she has no basis within her evolutionary philosophy for claiming that lying was morally wrong. See also Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation for further discussion on the problem of arguing for right and wrong from an evolutionary perspective.
The narrator now introduces Darwin’s 1859 book On the Origin of Species and says that for the first time science had directly challenged the biblical story of creation. But science had nothing to do with it. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is probably the least-scientific ‘science’ book ever written. It is loaded with conjecture. Darwin used words like ‘perhaps’, ‘we may well suppose’, etc. over 800 times.
Also, evolutionary naturalism is an ancient idea. It was very much helped by Hutton’s and Lyell’s uniformitarian geology that taught long ages as a result of denying the Flood a priori (that is, it was their starting point, not a conclusion from examining the evidence). Darwin was merely extending their attack on biblical history—he just extended the attack from geology into biology. This should be a lesson to the modern ID movement, who refuse to state a history of the Designer’s acts including the Fall, Flood and subsequent dispersion.
So the proponents of ID are vulnerable to precisely the same attacks that defeated their counterparts in Darwin’s time. For example, compare Darwin’s resentment at a God who would design a pathogen to take his daughter Annie’s life with Attenborough’s resentment at a God who would design a parasite that bores through human eyes, although Attenborough got the story wrong anyway (see Why doesn’t Sir David Attenborough give credit to God?).
Of course, aside from ignoring the Fall, these are actually theological arguments rather than scientific ones—ignoring the scientific pointers to a designer and instead using arguments from outside science about what a God would or would not do (likewise with certain arguments from vestigial organs). It’s ironic that Attenborough earlier attacked ID as ‘fundamentally against every scientific principle’ whereas his main argument is actually a religious one!
Evolution v Christianity
Attenborough: There are people who think that Genesis should be taken literally …
Rather, creationists take Genesis according to the original meaning of the author, as we should with any other document. Attenborough should be more honest and just say that he doesn’t believe Genesis, rather than make an issue of supposed ‘literalism’.
Indeed, Dawkins is more consistent, agreeing that creationists understand what the biblical authors intended to teach, although of course the program won’t reveal that he disagrees with his fellow evolutionist. In his TV diatribe against theistic religion called The root of all evil? (broadcast on Channel 4, 16 January 2006), he said:
‘Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual. Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad!’
Elsewhere in The root of all evil?, he said the following after a discussion about homosexual behaviour with the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, who has joined the antitheist Dawkins in opposing creation teaching in British schools. Harries, a liberal who also told Dawkins that he rejects the virginal conception of Christ, admitted that the OT and NT teaching was clearly that homosexual behaviour is wrong, but then went on to argue that we needed to reinterpret these texts based on modern scientific findings of ‘a significant percentage of people are predominantly attracted to members of their own sex.’ etc. (probably, like his fellow liberal (retired) bishop John Shelby Spong, relying on the discredited gall wasp specialist Alfred Kinsey). Again, he should just say that he doesn’t believe the texts, rather than dishonestly claim he is reinterpreting them to mean the opposite of what they say!
Dawkins responded to the camera, showing that Harries’ appeasement results only in contempt:
‘The moderates’ [liberals’] position seems to me to be fence-sitting. They half-believe in the Bible but how do they decide which parts to believe literally and which parts are just allegorical?’
Presumably here he means, ‘which parts of the Bible’s historical narrative are to be taken as historical narrative and which parts are to be explained away as allegorical.’ Then he gets it right :
‘It seems to me an odd proposition that we should adhere to some parts of the Bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry-pick the Bible? Why bother with the Bible at all if we have the ability to pick and choose from it, what is right and what is wrong?’ [but see also answer to philosophy/religion professor on biblical exegesis and the problem of evil for some clarification on this topic]
On the BBC program, Attenborough continued:
And if they do so, the basis for their thinking so is a manuscript, a human document. It’s nothing to do with the world out here.
This is the crux of the whole matter—a manuscript, yes, but merely a human document, no. In fact, a divine document, written by Moses, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit—see Bible Q&A for evidence.
Narrator: The logical consequences of Darwin’s findings were even more unsettling. If the story of creation could be doubted, so too could the existence of the Creator. Darwin had given rise to a disturbing vision—a world without God.
Yes, again this is the crux of the whole matter.
Miller: To many people, if we are just material beings, any notion of a grand purpose, of a meaning to their lives, is merely an illusion—an illusion that Charles Darwin smashed in 1859.
While Miller, a theistic evolutionist, is trying to dismiss a major objection to evolution to weaken Christian opposition, Dawkins himself believes exactly that. Naturally the pro-evolution producers won’t point out that two of their heroes contradict each other.
Attenborough: The notion that we are masters of our destiny is one which they found abhorrent, and that was why Darwin’s views were so heretical and upsetting. He found them upsetting himself …
Hardly ‘masters of our destiny’, since Dawkins claimed in his first book The Selfish Gene:
‘They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes,and we are their survival machines. … robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.’
Narrator: Darwin likened his theory to confessing to a murder, but it was the scientific evidence, not his religious belief, that Darwin was compelled to accept.
This is blatant historical revisionism, as shown above. It is also shown by the fact that he had many supporters in the clergy, such as the racist Charles Kingsley who thought that Australian Aborigines had not evolved enough to receive the Gospel and that Irishmen were ‘ white chimpanzees’. Conversely, Darwin’s main opposition came from scientists (see Holy War).
Schools and courts
The Narrator here introduces the 1925 Scopes Trial, which is described as ‘science vs religion’ and ‘reason vs faith’. Then he tells us that biblical creationism dominated the classroom, until 1987, when the highest court in America ruled that teaching creationism was unconstitutional; and creationism was banned from the science curriculum.
The scene now moves to Dover Area High School in Pennsylvania, where, we are told, in 2004, one of the ‘overwhelming number of fundamentalist Christians’ on the Board had objected to the teaching of Darwinism in the school’s new biology textbook. One of the science teachers, Brian Rehm, claims that the Board Chairman had said to him that the teachers who had taught evolution biology class had lied to his children. Rehm says, ‘I can’t believe that somebody thinks that the teachers teaching science are actually intentionally lying to the children.’
Interesting! A little earlier in the program, the BBC showed a woman saying that if you can lie to kids about science and lie to the American public about science you can lie to them about anything. In fact, Creation Ministries International does not say that those teaching evolution are deliberately lying (see this discussion), although it is very serious when textbooks still carry fraudulent pictures.
Rehm opines that the Dover School Board is anti-teacher, anti-public education, and anti-science, without any evidence that physics and chemistry are at all affected.
Phillip Johnson, founder of the IDM
Prof. Phillip Johnson, a celebrated law professor, is introduced as the man behind the latest challenge to Darwin. The program mentions that he is a ‘born-again Christian’, without of course mentioning Dawkins as a vociferous born-again atheist, as it were. Thus it perpetuates the myth that creationists are the only ones with a religious bias while evolutionists are the epitome of objectivity.
Narrator: To defeat Darwin, Johnson would have to unravel the driving force behind his theory—natural selection. Natural selection explained how life evolved from the first simple organisms; how in nature the fittest win out, leaving more offspring with more of their desirable characteristics. This survival of the fittest would, over time, allow a species to change and develop until eventually new species could arise. Given billions of years, natural selection could create, unguided, the diversity of life on Earth.
This is a reasonable summary of what the theory of evolution claims, but is it not proof that this actually happened or that natural selection is capable of achieving this.
Then the narrator informs us that, like many before him, Johnson was unconvinced by the evidence. This is not surprising, as so far, not one item of evidence has been given to viewers. In fact, the program offers not one word of proof in support of evolution! It is assumed.
Johnson: The problem with the Darwinian story is not that it’s altogether false; it’s that perhaps it’s true within a much more limited scale than is usually claimed.
Narrator: Johnson believed Darwin’s theory was just part of a much greater problem with science. By attempting to explain the world solely through natural causes, science was excluding the supernatural. Science was inherently anti-religious.
This is one of the grand ‘cons’ of evolutionism. Atheists have defined ‘science’ as being limited to their own atheism. Thus it is not science which is inherently anti-religious, but the atheistic interpretation and limitation of science by people such as Dawkins and Attenborough, and even Miller whose view is no different from atheism for all practical purposes.
Johnson: The Darwinists claim we must keep God and any form of supernatural creation out of science, and nature had to be capable of doing all of its own creating.
Narrator: Johnson thought science unfairly ruled out God as a Creator. It couldn’t even entertain the possibility.
Again, not science, but atheistic scientists.
Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity
Biochemist Professor Michael Behe of Lehigh University is now introduced as the chief scientific proponent of ID.
Behe: Darwin wrote at one point that if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not be put together by numerous successive slight modifications he said, ‘My theory would absolutely break down.’
See On the Origin of Species, 6th edition, p. 154, New York University press, 1988.
Behe: [One such organ], the bacterial flagellum is literally an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim.
Narrator: When Behe looked inside, he saw a mechanism made of fifty different interacting parts. … If just one part was missing, the flagellum appeared to be useless. Anything less than the whole simply wouldn’t work. It pointed to one thing: that this machine had not evolved from a simpler organism.
Narrator: If the flagellum could not have come about through gradual stages, it must have been created in its complete form; and for that to happen, Behe concluded there must have been some form of creator—an Intelligence.
Behe: Eventually … I called it Irreducible Complexity.
Narrator: Irreducible Complexity … was based on the observation of natural machines whose parts were so interdependent that they could not have evolved. And Irreducible Complexity appeared to be everywhere, right down to the smallest building blocks of life.
Note that this deduction was based on observation. No true evolution has ever been observed taking place. Evolution is nothing more than a theoretical dogma.
William Dembski and mathematical improbability
Mathematician Prof. William Dembski of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is now introduced as someone who had challenged a concept at the centre of evolutionary theory: the mathematical probability of life evolving by chance. The narrator discusses DNA, saying that, as DNA is passed from one generation to the next, tiny random changes take place. According to evolutionary theory, it is these chance genetic mutations that generate variation within a species and allow evolution to work, over time, creating the diversity of life on Earth. But Dembski doubted the probability of that really happening. According to his calculations, the complexity of nature was beyond the limits of chance. Even relatively simple organisms such as a moth have DNA sequences hundreds of millions of units long, and they have to be in such precise order that chance alone could not explain [them]. … The theory of evolution was not just improbable, it appeared to be mathematically impossible. For Dembski, there had to be something else shaping life.
Dembski: The only causal power that we know that could produce something like this is intelligence. Human engineers have produced systems like this.
Narrator: Together [Dembski and Behe] claimed it was evidence for a supernatural power. They had forged the seemingly impossible: evidence of a Creator based on science, not religion. Intelligent Design had arrived!
Johnson: We saw an opportunity to change the world, by moving the bait away from this Bible vs science stereotype and into the question of whether the scientific evidence, when examined impartially, really justified and supported the grand claims of Darwinism.
Monopoly on ideas
The defenders of evolution now reply:
Dawkins: What this does to science is it wastes a lot of time of scientists who could be getting on with their work. As far as I am aware, in no other field of science does this happen. Physicists don’t have to fight a kind of rearguard action against the yapping terriers of ignorance, the way biologists do.
Physics is actually testable science, unlike evolution; that’s why the difference. One never talks about believing in gravity or electrons, because these are observable. But ‘belief’ is an appropriate term for evolution, since it is a philosophical (religious) belief system based on a grand conjecture.
And what happened to the scientific method of theory, counter theory, analysis, and conclusion? This is applied to physics—why is the theory of evolution exempt from normal scientific procedure?
Indeed, the evolutionist Prof. Gerald Kerkut asked students to give him evidence against evolution, because to ‘really understand an argument you will be able to indicate to me not only the points in favour of the argument but also the most telling points against it.’ (Implications of Evolution)’
Another evolutionist, Scott Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University, stated:
‘Additionally, one must question the interpretations of the observed phenomena and discuss the weaknesses of the model. Honest scientists are far more inspiring than defensive ones who scoff arrogantly at the masses and fear that discussing the problems of macro-evolutionary theory will weaken general acceptance of it. On the other hand, free debate is more likely to encourage the curious to seek solutions.’ [Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999]
Narrator: For Dawkins, there was only one way to treat the assault on his science and his beliefs. He simply snubbed them.
Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute
Here the program brings in Dr Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute’s Centre for Science and Culture in Seattle.
Meyer: There is a growing group of dissenting scientists around the world who are dissenting from Darwinian evolution. Now, over 450 scientists have signed a list saying they doubt that natural selection can produce the complexity of life. It may be a minority position in science, but it is a growing minority and one which we think has the support of an enormous amount of evidence about the complexity and inner workings of cellular life.
Dawkins: In America, ID is not getting a hold in the scientific community. It is getting a hold only among those parts of the population who don’t know anything.
Notice the abusive ad hominem—anyone who disagrees with me is an idiot. It is a common ploy by evolutionists when they have no scientific rebuttal. It’s also amusing to see Dawkins so self-righteous against anti-evolutionists, when he scoffs at the idea of righteous indignation and retribution against child murderers and other vile criminals, claiming that it is as irrational as Basil Fawlty beating his car:
‘Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing? Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution.’
Schoolteachers and indoctrination
There follows a diatribe from Prof. Barbara Forrest of Southeastern University, Louisiana, about the religious nature of ID, with its slogan of ‘teach the controversy’, and a reference to President Bush saying in August 2005 that both sides ought to be taught. The scene then changes to Dover High School in Pennsylvania, where the School Board voted 6–3 to change the curriculum to introduce a textbook that contained the theory of Intelligent Design. Teacher Rehm (who resigned of his own accord) tells us, ‘We couldn’t stop these clowns.’
Notice the personal abuse again.
We are told that the Rehms and other parents opposed to the policy decided to sue the Board for promoting religion in the science class.
Rehm: I am going to try and stop it because I know it’s wrong.
But since Dawkins agrees that evolution entails a ‘moral vacuum’, on what basis under his own philosophy can Rehm proclaim anything ‘wrong’? The best he can logically come up with is ‘I don’t like it’—and under his philosophy, this is no more meaningful as a moral assessment than ‘I don’t like tomato sauce.’
Somebody (presumably the Board members’ lawyer) : Should the 9th Grade biology students be made aware of the fact that there is a controversy in the science community about Darwin’s theory of evolution?
Narrator: If ID was found to be based on religion it would not only be barred from the classroom, but its scientific validity would be ruined.
The rotary motor of the bacterial flagellum
The first witness called by the dissenting parents was Prof. Kenneth Miller, who finally offered some scientific arguments.
Narrator: Within the flagellum there was a simpler functioning mechanism—a bacterial syringe.
Miller: This system is missing 40 of its 50 parts, 80%, and it is perfectly functioning … so the kindest thing one can say about this claim, which is the essential claim of Irreducible Complexity and ID is that it’s wrong, it is simply wrong on the basis of the science.
Narrator: For Miller, the prediction of Irreducible Complexity was disproved—the flagellum could be broken down into other simpler biological mechanisms.
Miller again manages to misconstrue irreducible complexity, that is, that the flagellar motor could not function unless all the parts were coordinated. This still fails to account for 80% of its parts, most of which ‘are unique to the motor and are not found in any other living system’, according to Dr Scott Minnich, of Idaho University, the world’s expert on this motor. Also, ‘the parts would need to be assembled in the correct temporal sequence similar to the way an automobile is assembled in factory,’ which requires ‘many other protein machines to time the expression of those assembly instructions.’ So Miller is actually begging the question, because his theory of co-option, ‘tacitly presupposes the need for the very thing it seeks to explain—a functionally interdependent system of proteins.’
Minnich also points out that this flagellum assembly mechanism is designed to punch out the proteins required for the flagellum in the precise order required. The bubonic plague germ Yersinia pestis has ‘lost the ability to assemble flagella’, but can still use a degenerate version of this pump to inject toxins into other cells. That is, the germ’s secretory apparatus degenerated from the flagellar assembly machinery, not the other way round. So the disease-causing effects are consistent with loss of information after the Fall, just like the loss of chemotaxis causing virulence in Vibrio cholerae or genome decay making Mycoplasma obligate parasites.
Probability arguments v cheating with chance
Miller: One of the mathematical tricks employed by ID involves taking the present-day situation and calculating probabilities that the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past. And the best example I can give is to sit down with four friends, shuffle a deck of 52 cards and deal them out, and keep an exact record of the order in which the cards were dealt. We could then look back and say, my goodness, how improbable this is … . Nonetheless, you dealt them out and you got the hand which you did.
Narrator: The chances of life evolving, just like the chance of getting a particular hand of cards, could not be calculated backwards. By doing so, the odds were unfairly stacked. Played that way, cards and life would always appear impossible.
This is a prime example of ‘ cheating with chance’—there is a 100% probability of getting SOME hand. Conversely, there are vastly more ways of being dead than alive, so there is by no means 100% probability of ANY old arrangement of amino acids forming the proteins required for life.
Furthermore, if Miller and his hero-worshipping narrator were right, one would never be able to tell that someone is stacking the deck. That is, if a dealer always gets an ace at the right time, it doesn’t mean that he had one up his sleeve, because all hands are equally improbable … Poker players in the Wild West might not swallow this as easily as Miller does. In reality, it is not just the low probability, but the low probability of duplicating a specific hand that would give cheats away. It is not any old order, but certain specific arrangements, which have a very low probability of just happening, that indicate intelligent input rather than chance. See also Dembski’s instructive example of a case of an accusation of cheating supported by probability arguments.
Also, Dawkins himself would not generally use Miller’s facile anti-probabilty arguments. Rather, the whole point of his books was that the probability of forming complex structures really is far too low to have formed by chance. Instead, he claims that ‘mount improbable’ was climbed in very small steps that are not that low in probability, and that natural selection enabled these steps to be climbed, hence the title of his book Climbing Mount Improbable. This has its own problems (see critique of the book, and an analysis of his computer ‘simulation’), but it shows that Miller’s fallacious arguments do not answer the creationist probability arguments.
Dawkins deviates from this only when discussing the origin of the first self-reproducing entity, since natural selection cannot explain it. Here Dawkins dithers in his books between a hypothetical replicating molecule and Cairn’s-Smith’s outlandish theory of clay minerals as first life formed out of desperation with other materialistic models.
Behe: Contrary to Prof. Miller, I think Darwinism, to a large degree, acts to stifle science in some respects. The scientific evidence from the bacterial flagellum, from the molecular machinery in the cell, just points to design. It doesn’t address the question of how that design was put in place.
Miller: From the advocates of ID themselves, the Designer creates outside of nature, supernaturally, by means that are undetectable. And if those means are undetectable, they are not susceptible to scientific observation or analysis, and therefore the whole idea is not science.
This shows ignorance of science. One can detect the effects of a phenomenon even if we can’t detect the phenomenon itself. E.g. Newton proposed the law of gravity to explain the observed attraction between any two masses, but had no clue what causes gravitational attraction (and we still have little idea). And with design, archaeologists can see that arrowheads and firepits have been designed, even if they haven’t seen the humans designing them or even if no human remains have been found. See also Is the design explanation legitimate?
In fact, by Miller’s own reasoning, evolution fails the scientific test itself. For example, no one has observed life evolving from non-living chemicals by chemical evolution, or even provided a plausible mechanism (see the articles under Origin of Life Q&A); or one kind changing into another …
Miller: A theory that explains everything, in fact explains nothing, and that’s the central flaw of ID.
This sounds very much like evolution—cosmic evolution supposedly explains the origin of everything. Sir Julian Huxley, former head of UNESCO, asserted:
‘In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural. The earth was not created: it evolved. So did all the animals and plants that inhabit it, including our human selves, mind and soul as well as brain and body. So did religion’ (Essays of a Humanist, pp. 82–83, Penguin Books, UK, 1964 (1969 reprint)).
Dawkins: Design needs to postulate an entity at least as complicated, at least as high in information content, at least as irreducibly complex, as that which it is supposed to explain. It therefore is a total lack of explanation. It doesn’t explain anything, because it can’t explain itself.
This is an ipse dixit (Latin for ‘he himself said it’, meaning an unsupported assertion by someone expecting others to accept it without question). It is an argument one would expect from a 5-year-old. The God of the Bible is not composed of any parts, so is not ‘complex’ but simple. Also, God did not have a beginning, so didn’t need a cause, while living things most definitely did begin at some time—see If God created the universe, then who created God?
Attenborough: Science is an observation-based way of thinking. If you then move from that and say we can’t find any evidence, and therefore it was made by God or something or other, that simply moves into a totally different kind of intellectual discourse and is utterly different. It becomes not objective, which is what science is, but subjective.
It is the evidence that speaks of design, not the lack of evidence. In fact, even Dawkins wrote in his famous book The Blind Watchmaker, ‘biology is the study of complicated things that appear to have been designed.’ Of course, he denies that they are designed in reality, but the onus is on him to prove that the appearance of design is misleading. And as shown, the design inference is not limited to appearances but extends to deep analogy with things we know have been designed.
It is not because we do not understand how a bacterial flagellum works, but because we do (to a large extent now) that we infer that it must have come from the mind of an intelligent designer. This is not about a ‘god of the gaps’
Also, as shown, Attenborough’s gripe against ID is mainly theological, not scientific. Also, design theory is not subjective. It works by objective analogy with features we know have been designed, and much science has worked by analogy—and Darwin used analogy repeatedly in Origin.
After a short diversion about Roman Catholic belief for and against ID, the narrator says that the proponents of ID have never stated who the Designer is. Meyer is quoted as saying that the God of theism is one possible candidate.
Behe: I find it convenient to say that God is the Designer, and certainly He has to be considered a major candidate, if you are a theist. But other people might have other ideas.
At this stage we are told that in December 2005 the judgment in the Dover High School court case was finally handed down in a 139-page opinion. Nothing is read from this, but an anonymous reporter says that the judge had identified a clear religious purpose behind the scientific claims of ID. We are told that it was an unequivocal defeat, that ID was no more scientific than creationism, but that this war is far from over. And it is irrelevant for countries (such as the BBC’s own) where judges mainly apply the law rather than make it, as American activist judges (judicial supremacists) do.
But if the BBC wants to cite American court cases, then why not the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, ‘Atheism is [a Wisconsin prison inmate’s] religion …’ Thus people like Dawkins really do hold to evolution for religious reasons. Indeed, he is Vice President of the British Humanist Association, and the U.S. Supreme Court in Torcaso v. Watkins, 81 S.Ct. 1681 (1961) makes the following statement:
‘Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God, are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism (emphasis added), and others.’
Also, the first two tenets of Humanist Manifesto II, signed by many prominent evolutionists, are:
- Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
- Humanism believes that Man is a part of nature and has emerged as a result of a continuous process.
The discrepancy can be summarized: when atheists want to expunge Christianity from public life (e.g. A Story of Two Professors), then Christianity is ‘religious’ while atheism is not. But when atheists want privileges (e.g. tax exemption or prison study groups), then atheism is a religion as well!
Miller: The battle in this country is not going to be won or lost in the courtroom. It is going to be won or lost in the hearts and minds of the American people and how they regard science. We could lose our scientific soul and cease being a country that is hospitable, warm, welcoming and nurturing to science, and losing that I think would be a great tragedy.
Dawkins: Evolution has a massive amount of evidence in its favour, and it explains, let’s say, 99% of what we know about life. The remaining 1% remains to be discovered. ID explains precisely zero.
How odd that with so much alleged evidence for evolution, not one item of it all is offered to viewers in this program. Presumably the remaining 1% covers such things as the vast gulfs between non-living matter and the first living cell, single-celled and multicelled creatures, invertebrates and vertebrates, pterosaurs and non-flying reptiles; the origin of many complex inter-related structures, consciousness …
Attenborough: We would be wrong to suppose that evolution is the ultimate answer to everything, but nonetheless nobody has yet demonstrated the failing. If you find something you don’t understand, of course you can say, well, it was created by a divine spirit. But that, of course, answers nothing really. That simply says we don’t know.
Once again, this asserts that the design argument is an appeal to ignorance rather than an argument from analogy with what we do know. If we do not know, why are they so dogmatic that they do know that evolution is responsible for the origin and development of life? In any case, Attenborough seems to contradict Dawkins who claimed that evolution explains ‘99% of what we know about life’—that’s pretty close to ‘the ultimate answer to everything’.
Once more, the secular media are the loudspeakers of the prophets of atheism, while its ‘heretical’ opponents are given short shrift. But as shown, the evidence for design is extremely cogent, but the evidence for the atheistic worldview would clothe only vain emperors. This website helps to present the information and bypass the secular censors, as does our peer-reviewed journal.