6/01/2005

God as Mechanic in Evolution

The third form of creationism which Miller criticizes in his book is that of Behe's irreducible complexity. The believers in such, claim Miller, worship God the mechanic, clearly an upgrade from God the charlatan or God the magician. It must be kept in mind that Miller here is addressing three different and not always compatible versions of creationism in his book. In God the charlatan he attacks the idea that the earth is young, which it clearly isn't. Thus he establishes that there has been death on this earth and all those fossils are the remain of animals which must be accounted for. He then moves on the God the magician who created all those animals separately in a not very intelligent way, for no obvious reason. But animals do have common origins. This clearly comes through in the fossils record and our understanding of genetics. Now that he has established that animals do descend from common sources, and that there has been life and death on the earth for a very long time, he goes after the Mechanichists.

I do say these things for a reason. Namely, that the Charlatanists should not use the arguments which the Magicianists and Mechanichists put forth for they are not compatible with what they, the Charlatanists, believe. Neither should the Magicianists be using the arguments of the Mechanichists, because altough they are both attacking Darwinism, the arguments of each are not compatible with the arguments of the other, making such statements attacks on each other as well. The Magicianists use many arguments which require an old earth. The Mechanichists use many arguments which require common descent. But it doesn't seem that any of them care all that much for the simple reason that they aren't interested in science or truth for that matter. They are interested in attacking their attacker and defending their faith claims, Truth with a capital 'T'.

Here's a perfect example.
In a 1995 debate, I presented him [Behe]with molecular evidence indicating that humans and the great apes shared a recent, common ancestor, wondering how he would refute the obvious. Without skipping a beat, he pronounced the evidence to be convincing, and stated categorically that he had absolutely no problem with the common ancestry of humans and the great apes. Creationists around the room - who had viewed him as their new champion - were dismayed. Behe's views stand in oppostion to those of Philip Johnson, who rejects any notion of a common ancestry for humans and other animals; and in bold contradiction to young-earth creationists... who reject common ancestry altogether and maintain that all species were seperately created. (p. 164)


Those who find the problems between evolution and the fall to be unsuprable barriers, cannot in good-conscience use the arguments of Behe, arguments which depend on an old earth. They should also be careful about how they accept Johnson's arguments as well. These men are only trying to establish that God played a role somehow and that natural law isn't enough by itself to generate us. They have given up on the young earth and its time we did as well. Behe has given up on a special creation and we should be no different. Miller, as we will see, with all his Christian faith has given up on irreducible complexity and we should too if only out of intellectual integrity for science, which in Mormon theology is a relgious reason.

We have already seen what Michael Ruse, a respectable and fair philospher of biology, had to say about Behe's book:
No evolutionist ever claimed that all of the parts of a functioning organic feature had to be in place at once, nor did any evolutionist ever claim that a part used now for one end must always have had that function. Ends get changed, and something that was introduced for one purpose might well take on another purpose. It might be only later that the new purpose gets incorporated in such a way that it becomes essential...
Take the example of an arched bridge, with stones meeting in the middle and with no supporting cement. If you tried to build it from scratch, the two sides would keep collapsing as you started to move the higher stones into the middle. What you must do first is build an understructure, placing stones on it. Then, when the stones are pressing against one another in the middle, you can remove the understructure...
We find that Behe's case for the impossibility of a small-step natural origin of biological complexity has been trampled upon contemtuously by the scientists working in the field. It is not just that they disagree, but that they think his grasp of the pertinent science is weak and his knowledge of the literature curiously (although conveniently) outdated...
Behe's knowledge of evolution is suspect. His knowledge of his own area of science is suspect. And the same is true when he moves into philosophy and theology.

Not the kindest words, but not entirely undeserved when Behe tries to put himself in the complany of "Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrodinger, Pasteur and Darwin." (Behe in Darwin's Black Box, p. 232-233) Miller agrees with Ruse when he says, and rightly so, that Behe has literally taken the old 18th century argument from design and spiffed it up with biochemical terminiology. Darwinism can account for most large features in organisms, Behe admits, but when it comes to the really small ones it can't. Why we might ask? Because it's really complex, irreducibly complex in fact. People have been saying this for centuries about the big features, why should the small ones be any different? As long as there is random mutation, self-replication and a struggle for survival, evolution will occur, regardless of size.

Basically Behe's book amounts to being one long series of arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity. "We don't know therefore God did it," and "I don't believe it so it isn't true." Regarding the argument from ignorance, on mulitple occasions in this book Behe really tries to drive home his points by stating that nobody has proposed evolutionary pathways for various systems. This is not just icing on the cake of his argument, it IS his argument.
There is no publication in the scientific literature - in prestigious journals, specialty journals, or books - that describes how molecular evolution of any real, complex biochemical system either did occur or even might have occurred. (Behe, p. 185)

A God-of-the-Gaps theology if there ever was one. The problem with the God of the gaps is that the gaps have a tendency of filling it with time. For Behe, however, it was even worse, for the gaps had already been filled in contrary to his claims otherwise. Soon after Behe's book was published, Miller did a search thorough the literature to see if Behe was right about the utter and complete lack of evolutionary accounts for the systems he mentions. Remember, for Behe's argument to mean anything at all, there must be NO literature on the matter as he himself says. Much to Miller's surprise, however, numerous articles were easily found detailing the very things which Behe said had never, and hopefully would never, be detailed. "Not only is [Behe] wrong, he's wrong in a most spectacular way. The biochemical machines whose origins he finds so mysterious actually provide us with powerful and compelling examples of evolution in action." (Miller, p. 160)

Well how does Behe believe that these 'irreducibly complex' biochemical system got into the cells in the first place? It almost pains me to quote this one:
Suppose that nearly four billion years ago the designer made the first cell, already containing all of the irreducibly complex biochemical systems discussed here and many others... One can postulate that the designs for systems that were to be used later... were present but not 'turned on.' (Behe p. 228)

No, we can't suppose this for a number of reasons. 1) This is a flagrant violation of Ockham's razor. 2) Evolution would have destroyed such genes while they were turned 'off' for so long. 3) Such a scenario requires that the earliest bacteria were about 1000 times the size of today's bacteria. We can say that they shrunk, but this is just what I said in (2).

While Behe's work may be 'faith promoting' it is not good science and therefore makes for bad Mormon theology as well. It is the worst kind of 'faith promoting' material, the kind that only works as long as we remain in ignorance. Once the ignorance vanishes, then what happens? Should our faith suffer from our learning? I think not. Mormon doctrine tends to deemphasize the teleological argument and instead puts more weight on 'divine experience.' Let's not follow Behe in his opposition to this trend.

Summary: The third form of creationism is considered and rejected. Behe's criticisms of evolution rest of the argument from ignorance (which makes for bad theology) and personal incredulity (which makes for bad science). The inconsistencies between the three types of creationists are also pointed out.

2 Comments:

One big problem with linking ID and God is that it gives to God blame for all the evils in the animal kingdom. Someone just mentioned a few on my blog. But consider the way animals are. If it isn't due to free evolution then it is God's fault and the problem of evil appears.

6/01/2005 06:11:00 PM  

This is similar to the criticism put forth by Dawkins: God created gazelles to run fast to avoid the cheetahs. God made the cheetahs fast to catch the gazelle's. What kind of a God is this? One who only likes seeing bloody games of cat and mouse? 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/01/2005 09:49:00 PM  

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