Large questions are fine–if it’s the Big Bang

NOTE: This was first published here on 8.26.08, and is simply being re-published as a separate post now.

Behe finds fault with scientists who do not accept the evidence when large questions remain:

It is impossible to deny that the Big Bang has been an enormously fruitful physical model of the universe and, even though large questions remain (as they inevitably do in basic science), that model was justified by the observational data. Scientists such as Einstein, Eddington, and Hoyle fudged and twisted in their efforts to resist a scientific theory that flowed naturally from the data because they thought they would be forced to accept unpleasant philosophical or theological conclusions. DBB, 45.

It’s now well over a decade since that statement was first made, and still no sign of self-awareness from Behe. In it, he mischaracterizes Einstein’s role in the matter as well.

Basic science is not the only type that has many questions left, of course, and it is generally accepted that historical sciences will be increasingly patchy in the details the further back one looks. Not for Behe, though, who blithely demands all of the details. Or rather, he demands all of the details for evolution, but not for geology, for ancient plate tectonics, for the crash of Theia into earth creating the moon, or for the Big Bang. And he certainly does not demand any details regarding his so-called “design,” nor even any identifiable causes–instead he resists everything that would be expected from the concept “design,” from purpose, to meaning, to rationality, and on to any specific role of intelligence in his supposed “design.”

He does thereby implicitly admit, however, that science should be able to come up with answers although ID has absolutely none. There is no way that he can do science with ID to supply any answers, but he can do what every pseudoscientist does to divert attention from the fact that their favorite crank idea has hordes of large questions and no answers, which is to demand that real science supply answers to every question, while completely disregarding the ravages of time on the available evidence:

…Kenneth Miller argued in response [to Behe’s “challenge” in DBB] that the two-hundred component cilium is not really irreducibly complex, he offered no Darwinian explanation for the step-by-step origin of the cilium. Edge of Evolution 95

The rank hypocrisy of this is evident by comparing the first and second Behe quotes, above. Behe faults scientists for not accepting the evidence that the Big Bang happened, despite the fact that rather fundamental questions remain about the Big Bang, especially with respect to inflation (without inflation the Big Bang has many unexplained gaps). While the cilium has known precursors homologous with other cellular machinery, is made of the physical precursors that Behe himself states is demanded by evolutionary theory (and is missing the conceptual precursors so common in known design), and is made by genes which have basically the expected relationships and homologies coming from early in eukaryotic evolution.

I will soon deal some with what is known about the evolution of the fundamental biochemistry of biology, not because it is at all fair to judge evolution by its ability to answer the details of long-past evolution for which so little evidence remains as Behe wishes people to believe is a “fair test,” but because these are interesting questions which do have rather more answers than Behe admits or addresses. They are interesting in their own right, is what I am saying, and Behe’s treatment of them is abysmal. The sound tests of evolution involve the tests of relatedness, not only of organisms, but of the parts (“physical presursors,” as Behe notes).

But I thought that, once again, the ground rules have to be in place prior to any such discussions. One of the ground rules is that unanswered questions in science are no show-stopper, and Behe knows this to be the case. He only fully admits it in the latter part of his book when he is criticizing others, though, and not when he is leveling his own illegitimate and almost completely unargued criticisms (he points to complexity, ignores the evidence problems, and points out that questions remain–hardly argumentation in any intellectual sense of the word). I do not doubt that the opening quote appears in the latter part of the book because many people would remember this admission as he tried to make as much as he can of the fact that considerable questions remain from the distant past.

I mean to address some of his questions, not as he demands, but as the available evidence (particularly evolutionary evidence involving various sequencings) actually indicates evolution. Questions remain, but they are not at all as difficult questions as those that continue to vex the Big Bang, or even the collision that is believed to have produced earth’s moon. Behe only demands that the hardest evolutionary questions be answered because he has nothing else to throw at it–certainly no evidence in favor of design–and not at all because of any principle of his that science actually requires that the hard questions have to be answered before good explanations are accepted.

This is part of a series of posts that I am combining into one long post, which may be found at Darwin’s Black Box.

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