The omphalosity of Behe/ID
As is well known, Philip Henry Gosse argued that the world had to be created with the “appearance of age,” which is purportedly why the religiously-asserted “young earth” looks like it is much older than it “really is.” This is now known as the “Omphalos hypothesis.”
Of course it always seemed like so much special pleading, particularly since one can hardly understand why the earth “appears to have” extremely ancient sediments and river beds which do not at all seem necessary for a “young earth” to function. That it is a way of trying to prevent the “young earth hypothesis” from being properly tested by observation is more than a little apparent as well.
The “new” (!) science of ID has managed to come just that far. Paley tried to honestly provide evidence for the kind of design that an artificer or architect would produce. ID–Behe being prominent in it–proclaims that not only must “design” look like it comes through a very long process (which has never been seen with design), it also must appear like “Darwinian” evolution predicts that it will look. To be sure, Behe wouldn’t state matters just like I did in the foregoing, but how does that differ from the following passage from The Edge of Evolution?
Evolution from a common ancestor, via changes in DNA, is very well supported. It may or may not be random. EoE, 12
Of course Behe shows his dullness with the second sentence there, as evolution is hardly random, it occurs according to natural selection. That its raw materials (mutations) are effectively random may be shown by the lack of any “common authorship” after a line has truly diverged from another one (without significant lateral transfer of genes).
And we have this previously used quote from Darwin’s Black Box:
Another problem with the argument from imperfection is that it critically depends on a psychoanalysis of the unidentified designer. Yet the reasons that a designer would or would not do anything are virtually impossible to know unless the designer tells you specifically what those reasons are. One only has to go into a modern art gallery to come across designed objects for which the purposes are completely obscure (to me at least). Features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the designer for a reason–for artistic reasons, for variety, to show off, for some as-yet-undetected practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason–or they might not. DBB, 223
Except, of course, what we see in organisms have the aspects predicted by evolution, and have none of the effects of “artistic reason” or of other design affects–let alone the evident rationality found in the frame of the artist’s picture. No, Behe is content to say that evolution is very well supported while utterly ignoring the fact that it can only be supported by matching up cause and effect, and the only causes of evolution of which we know are the familiar mutation, natural selection, founder effects, etc., of non-teleological evolution. Implicit in his acceptance of the evidence of evolution is the fact that life was not (detectably, at least) designed, and yet he claims that life is just too complex to have evolved without intelligent help.
How can that be anything but a degraded form of the “Omphalos hypothesis,” one that stupidly asserts that life was designed to appear evolved, but for no reason whatsoever?
And of course we’re still waiting to find out how “design” could add anything to knowledge, when “design” is supposed to produce exactly what evolution predicts. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to adopt non-teleological evolution to understand life? The designer doesn’t differ at all from that pattern, hence there is no knowledge added by tacking on a “designer.”
Of course I’ve ignored any number of his claims in this short post, like the idea that “random mutation” and “common descent” are unrelated, when of course we rely on the assumed (and tested so far as is practicable) lack of tampering by unknown forces in order to determine common descent both in paternity cases and in evolutionary relationships. One cannot at once tackle every claim divorced from reality that Behe makes, as nearly all of them are separate from reality to some extent.
The fact is that, like all creationism, Behe and the IDists end up claiming that God just had to make things as predicted by non-teleological forces, namely because they can’t find evidence of teleological forces acting in our world (other than those by animals such as ourselves). It’s Omphalos all over again, just with a rather unimaginative twist.
This is part of a series of posts that I am combining into one long post, which may be found at The Edge of EvolutionThe Edge of Evolution