UPFRONT UPDATE! Complete transcripts of the Kansas State "Science Standards Expert Testimony" have now been posted, as .pdf files (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). Thanks to commenter AR for providing the link.
Chris Hallquist wrote:
On your blog, you have a lot of posts complaining about the dogmatism of evolutionists. There's nothing dogmatic about their behavior however; they act as they do because evolution is by far the best explanation we have for observations of biology and paleontology.
The first part of evolutionary theory is something rejected by some non-scientists in the ID movement, but accepted by every scientist I'm aware of from Behe to Dawkins. It is that all life is descended from a common ancestor. It is supported not only by fossil evidence, but also by the way all life neatly fits into a family tree. Often, when scientists refer to evolution as a fact, they are referring only to this part of the theory.
Then there's the question of how the changes necessary for this took place. No one claims to totally understand them, but the evidence for natural processes like mutation and natural selection is strong. Irreducible complexity at least used to be the main claim to the contrary, but scientists have pointed out that parts of an irreducibly complex system might have formed for another purpose before coming together for the purpose of the larger system. There's excellent evidence this has happened in some cases. Behe seems to have backed off the claim that mere irreducible complexity is enough, and now often brings up systems and asks for a specific explanation, on the premise that if there are even a few such systems that remain a mystery, they must have been designed. You've noted in your blog the problem of filling mysteries with "God did it." Ultimately, what Behe's doing here is no better than UFOlogists who won't accept general explainations of why people see UFOs, but rather insist that every sighting be explained or attributed to extra-terrestrials.
Finally, the behavior of ID proponents is not always a model of scientific discovery. The theory of continental drift is not accepted because Alfred Wegener ran a political campaign to get it taught in schools. It is accepted because later discoveries turned an implausible sounding theory into one with an established mechanism (plate tectonics) that explains many observations. Scientists get justifiably agitated when ID proponents focus more on the political campaign over making discoveries.
Thanks, Chris. Note that I'm not a dogmatic ID'er nor do I defend everything they do and say (mainly, where are the scientific experiments??), but as someone who had naïve questions about the Darwinian theory (and a pretty good grounding in science for a layperson) before I ever heard of ID, I'm glad they are pointing out the gaps in Darwininan theory. It has become an article of faith for many people, defended with the same irrational ferocity as any other belief. A theory can be defended rationally (as you do) without such defensiveness at questions. I think it's an interesting question why some secularists get so emotional and dogmatic about it. I understand the emotional investment in religion, but what's the emotional investment in chance?! After all, there's so much we don't know. The more we discover, the more we realize lies beyond it.
My own main question about Darwin's theory (it's on the blog somewhere, but kinda lost in the sauce) is, "Is mutation completely random?" That, to me, is where an intelligence, of a kind unknown to us, might be found to operate. But I don't know how you'd test it. Take some species that mutates rapidly on a relatively small, known genome -- Drosophila? some bacterium? -- create, if you could, two identical populations, submit them to very different conditions, and . . . is there any way to see whether the mutations that arise (as opposed to those that are selected for) are non-randomly different in the two groups? Here's where my scientific naïveté kicks in -- I don't know if there's any way to do it.