What are the odds that designed entities would be composed only of “physical precursors”?
NOTE: This was first published here on 8.19.08, and is simply being re-published as a separate post now.
Behe does a great job of changing the subject to problems of evolution, and exaggerating them. What he never does at all well is to explain why things look as they do, why even his precious little “irreducibly complex” biochemical pathways are largely composed of demonstrable “physical precursors”, and are never demonstrably composed of any merely “conceptual precursors”. He produces good PR when he tries to suggest that evolution has questionable odds, but he never touches the odds against life being composed exclusively of physical precursors when it is supposedly designed–and for a very good reason, since that is far less likely than the odds against any evolutionary pathway whose details remain obscure.
Casey Luskin even gave us an ID “prediction” that is testable and falsifiable, and of course, it has been both tested and falsified:
(3) Intelligent agents ‘re-use’ functional components that work over and over in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and airplanes):
“An intelligent cause may reuse or redeploy the same module in different systems, without there necessarily being any material or physical connection between those systems. Even more simply, intelligent causes can generate identical patterns independently.”
Why yes, C. Luskin and M. Behe, intelligent agents can re-use parts independently of heredity and lateral transfers. So if ID is responsible for life, why don’t we see bat wings on pterosaurs, bird wings on bats, or octopus eyes in vertebrates?
Luskin made a very big mistake there, just as Behe did in noting that designed motorcycles are not dependent upon inherited (or laterally transferred) genetic materials. There is absolutely no evidence of independent agents producing similar systems in organisms without there “being any material or physical connection between those systems,” unless you consider what humans genetically engineering organisms (although Luskin obviously doesn’t recognize that intelligent agents are a part of the “material or physical connection” between such systems).
So come on, Behe, tell us what the odds are that life would have all of the patterns expected of undirected evolution, including a continual reliance upon and limitation to “physical precursors,” if in fact life was designed? Astronomically against, is it not? And one can’t simply resort to the typical expedient that “we don’t know what the designer wants.” Clearly the only explanatory or scientific reason to ever bring in a “designer” would be to explain why life has evidence of design, such as organs or systems having some merely conceptual precursors. Both Luskin and Behe fail to come up with a single clear instance of such evidence, hence they owe us an explanation for why design does not immediately fail the test for “conceptual precursors,” which ought to exist in designed objects.
I will state more definitely now what is at stake here: Luskin and Behe need to supply the evidence that conceptual precursors (even if these are first principles) exist in organisms, as both of them have indicated that this would be expected from intelligent agents. This is a strong test for their ID claims. And, they need to tell us what the odds are of designed entities having purely physical precursors, as well as these existing in the patterns expected from undirected evolution. This is a strong test (actually, several tests summed up as one) of evolutionary theory.
Unless they can demonstrate that conceptual precursors (or re-used modules without “material or physical connections,” using Luskin’s botched phrase) exist in organisms, ID fails. And unless they can produce a “designer” that oddly “designs” only by using physical precursors, evolution wins–at least until something else comes along that can explain what evolution does, plus being able to explain even more. That is how science works. ID ends up being falsified using its own predictions, and nevertheless it continues claiming to be a “legitimate science” that is “persecuted” by being treated like every other hypothesis that the evidence has failed to support.
Too many replies to Behe are focused on responding to the framing (that’s about all that we get from Behe) that Behe builds in order to avoid the colossal lack of explanatory value, along with avoiding the glaring falsification of genuine prediction, of his own “ID program”. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with responding to his questions, for many of these do in fact touch on important remaining questions in evolutionary biology.
However, both Luskin and Behe should have their feet held to the fire over the enormous lacuna that ID is. ID is not something that has gaps, it simply is a gap, one that would like to replace what we do know with the bleat “God did it,” or in another version, “the Designer did it.”
One can make predictions with an “intelligent design” hypothesis. Both Behe and Luskin have done so (though Behe did so more implicitly than Luskin’s explicit prediction), and their predictions have been falsified. Were they actually interested in doing science, they would acknowledge this fact, and drop ID altogether.
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.