Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Michael Behe is an intelligent design proponent who is also known as accepting common descent - the idea that most, if not all, of life shares one single common ancestor. For example, in a Q&A regarding his new book "The Edge of Evolution" he wrote:

So, if one looks at the data in the way that I do, then one can say simultaneously that: 1) CD (common descent) is very well supported;...
A question that arises from this is: how can Michael Behe justify holding this position? The easy answer would seem to be that he accepts the scientific evidence (fossil record, DNA sequences etc) for it. But this does not really answer the question as much as it evades it; the new question that arises is: how does Behe justify holding the position that scientific explanations are vaild? Or, more properly: Given that one accepts ID, how can one justify the acceptance of anything science has to say?

The question might seem moronic, but remember that a central tenet of ID is that it says absolutely nothing about the designer; it does say that certain features of the universe can't be explained by law and chance and should be properly attributed to intelligence (a la Dembski's Explanatory Filter) but this does NOT mean that things than can be explained by law and chance were not designed - these could be false negatives according to the Explanatory Filter. According to ID proponents, it seems that one is free to pursue investigation into these potential false negatives in any way one wishes. Attribute seemingly random mutations to intelligence if you want or attribute the apparent relatedness of extant organisms to either common descent or common design depending on your preferences. But in order for you to do this, you have to do something that ID does not - you have to make some assumptions about the designer. Behe seems to be assuming that the designer has been making lots of small modifications to creatures through the ages rather than, for example, creating everything from scratch a few thousand years ago. But how can he justify this assumption? The simple answer is that he can't. It's quite simply a personal preference and in this sense, when it comes to making inferences about the potential false negatives (should they be attributed to intelligence, scientific explanation or anything else for that matter?), ID is hard to distinguish from postmodernism (no one world view is more correct than the other). According to ID, just about anything goes.

Because of this, when someone makes assumptions about the designer, as Behe has done, that someone has gone beyond simply advocating ID. Given that there is no justifiable reason to make one assumption rather than any other about the designer, Behe's view should not be called ID as much as "Beheism" just like those that interpret the biblical genesis literally should be called creationists.

IDists sometimes like to distance themselves from creationsists - they should also distance themselves from Beheists. If they were consistent, that is.


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