I am currently reading Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,one of the main books advocating “intelligent design” (ID). It’s quite different to most other science books. Whereas I normally enjoy science books and find them very uplifting, even inspirational, I am finding this one depressing.
It’s not because I disagree with Behe’s conclusions – after all one doesn’t have to accept concepts or speculations to find their discussion stimulating. Consider some of the current scientific speculation around string theory, multiple universes, etc. No, it’s really that the whole style of this book is not normal for science. Rather than being inspirational or enthusiastic it comes across as defeatist and depressing. Rather than encouraging the search for knowledge and understanding it repeatedly encourages the reader to see nature as too complicated to understand. It discounts the idea that we could ever find out how living systems work, how they arose or how life itself could have originated. This book really doesn’t offer anything positive to be enthusiastic about.
The fear of complexity
Behe’s enthusiasm for the subject really stops at his claim that things like the blood coagulation process or bacteria flagella are just too “staggeringly complex” too understand. He claims they have a “choking complexity’. It’s one thing to claim complexity and to acknowledge a lack of explanation but Behe goes one step further by claiming the problems are too hard, or even impossible, for science to solve. He argues instead for incorporation of “supernatural” explanations into science.
This approach is really condensed into Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity.” He sees bacterial flagella, for example, as “staggeringly complex” and because he cannot see how they could evolve naturally he then declares that they are too complex to have evolved. He declares them to be “irreducibly complex.” In another example he states: “Vesicular transport is mind bogglingly complex …… an analysis shows that vesicular transport is irreducibly complex.” What a defeatist attitude!
In effect he is saying “this problem is too hard to solve – lets adopt a supernatural explanation.” That’s depressing. I am more used to the scientific attitude which says: “This is a difficult problem – let’s get to work!”
This book is depressing because it doesn’t offer any positive hope of understanding. It is devoted to attacking current knowledge, describing areas where he considers knowledge to be inadequate, but not suggesting any hypotheses for work to clear up the gaps.
Mind you, this is the declared strategy of the Wedge activists who promote ID. Phillip Johnson himself admits that ID does not yet have a viable theory, or any credible research. He claims that will come later. But first the ID movement must destroy “Darwinism” (their code term for modern evolutionary theory). Once evolutionary science has been destroyed the ID movement will have space to to do the work required to produce their own theories! Consequently all the efforts of the ID movement are devoted to this task of destruction. All their writings and media productions are aimed at discrediting evolutionary science.
Current ID “research” amounts to this criticism and carping from the outside. There is no work in laboratories or scientific institutes. They even have a name for this strange style of endeavor – reinterpretation research. This is aimed purely at interpreting past and current published science according to the “design paradigm” – to provide alternative supernatural explanations.
No effort goes into developing alternative scientific hypotheses, carrying out genuine scientific research, and developing a genuine scientific ID theory.
Scientific dissent from . . . science?
Who are the “dissenters from Darwinism”?
Dissenters from Darwinism in context
Religious opposition to “intelligent design”
Intelligent design and the threat to Christianity
Intelligent design and scientific method
Intelligent design – a war on science
New Zealand supports evolution
Intelligent design at the shopping mall
Isaac Newton and intelligent design
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript