Sunday, August 26, 2007

Person 1: I'm Not Arguing For A, Because What Really Matters Is B. Person 2: His Argument For A Fails. So Probably His Argument For B Is Bad, Too.

It is beyond me why Richard Dawkins is so adored by our intellectual betters. Exiled From Groggs:

The argument that Dawkins offers from p.148-151 is pretty much the same as it that offered in “The Blind Watchmaker” - 51% of an eye is more useful than 50% of an eye; a rudimentary wing feature may in some circumstances be better than nothing. In actual fact, Michael Behe addresses this whole approach in ten pages of chapter 2 of “Darwin's Black Box”. The whole debate between creationists and darwinists misses the point, Behe points out. At the biochemical level, we are not interested in a percentage of an eye. We can't think of biological systems evolving as a coherent whole. They typically represent the carefully regulated expression of dozens of proteins. Irreducible complexity is about the relationship between these proteins, and the suggestion that there is no selective advantage for the appearance of individual components of such a biochemical system, which would serve no function until the system was largely present.

Dawkins, in TGD [The God Delusion], argues that proponents of ID are suggesting that eyes and wings are examples of irreducibly complex systems. But this is simply not the case. Creationists, incorrectly understanding what IC is about, might do that. But Behe wasn't interested in macroscropic biological structures, and whether they could come about in small steps, but the biochemical systems that provide the basis for them. Dawkins directs much of his attention in this section, then, to addressing a misinterpretation of the whole Irreducible Complexity argument. In fact, with only one page of the section of the chapter headed “Irreducible Complexity” to go, Dawkins adds:

The fact that so many people have been dead wrong over these obvious cases should serve to warn us of other examples that are less obvious, such as the cellular and biochemical cases now being toutet by those creationists who shelter under the politically expedient euphemism of “intelligent design theorists”(p.150).

So under the heading of Irreducible Complexity, no attempt has been made at all to respond to Behe's argument about Irreducible Complexity – simply the assertion that since there are flaws in the arguments that Behe has already rejected, it is likely that there are flaws in his as well.

See also this related entry.


Michael said...

The funny thing about Behe is that he keeps using the same examples of allegedly irreducibly complex systems. For every example I have seen him cite, I have seen convincing (and well-documented) explanations of the system it is either reducibly complex or a reduction from a larger system that was reducibly complex.

The mammalian eye is reducibly complex. The bolo spider's hunting snare is irreducibly complex but was reduced from a more traditional (and reducibly complex) web.

Behe's IC arguments have been countered before, but he keeps proffering them without change. That is one large reason that recent debunkings of Behe's tripe do not go into great detail on why IC (much less Behe's claimed examples of it) is a lousy argument.

In a lot of ways, Behe reminds me of a variant on the old saying: winners never quit and quitters never win, but only losers never quit and never win.

Matteo said...

Michael, it seems to me that you have just illustrated the entire point of the post I linked to. Behe is not arguing on the level of entire eyes or spider webs, but on the level of biomolecules. I am quite aware that Behe's arguments have been countered. In my estimation, the counterarguments have been successfully answered by Behe, rendering those counterarguments unsuccessful. And that is why Behe stays at it, why ID continues to gain adherents, and why it continues to grow in the public consciousness (witness Ben Stein's movie, "Expelled").

Michael, we have an honest difference of opinion. Notice I have not referred to your arguments as tripe, nor yourself as a loser. This results from a little thing generally known as peaceful confidence. I'm always open to hearing arguments against ID, but so far I have been unswayed, despite the strenuous and vociferous objections of Dawkins, Coyne, et al. High dudgeon and towering moral indignation are unimpressive to me, and that seems to be the essence of what's on offer.

I suggest a close reading of "The Design Revolution" by Dembski, in which he answers the most common criticisms point by point. I think he does a fine job. If you're going to sway me, you'd have to specifically address the contents of that book. If you take a look on Amazon, you'll find all kinds of negative reviews. If you read the book, you'll find that those reviews are woefully inaccurate (if you read the book, you're a big step ahead of those reviewers). That fact is itself a strong argument against the general credibility of ID critics.

If my opinion makes me an "IDiot" or a "creationist moron", then so be it. I take no deep offense (nor do I modify my opinions) due to the epithets hurled by tantruming toddlers, and I hold the usual Darwinist vitriol and taunts in the same regard.

If my opinion does not make me these things in your eyes, then I thank you for your tolerance.

In either case, thanks for commenting!

Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Thanks for the link. It's encouraging when people manage to a) understand the point I'm making and b) recognise it to have some correspondence to the real world. I'm not sure that I can say the same for some of my commenters, either!