General discussion on ID, God, and evolution

Forgive me for including so many quotes, but these quotes provide the background for some observations and questions.


It seems to me that @Giltil 's, and I assume ID’s, characterization of evolutionary processes as “unguided” and “blind” is theological or philisophical in nature rather than a characterziation that the practice of science can make.

I see nothing that prevents a theological choice that says "God created everything and he used (and uses) observable natural processes to do so.

It appears that a scientist who makes either of the above theological choices could proceed to observe nature through the scientific method without pressure to prove that these choices are evidenced by observation of the natural world (since there are theological choices rather than a binding theological necessity).


Why the need to tag evolutionary processes as “unguided” and “blind” since it’s a not theological necessity given that there is a viable theological option, namely, that God used/uses evolutionary processes?

Does the removal of “unguded and blind” from in front of “natural processes” end the discussion? If not, why?

Is the theological choice that “God uses the processes we observe” a viable option for an ID proponent? If not, why?

@Giltil, I would love to hear your response to these questions. I’ve asked similar questions before on the forum but can’t remember that an ID proponent has engaged. Can you help a brother out?


The reason this example doesn’t falsify ID is because the molecular pathways leading to this trait are not complex. Why? Because they appear rapidly, ie, they are not rare.

This is a circular argument. “It’s not IC because it evolves readily.” IC is defined by having multiple required components, the removal of any one of which causes the system in question to cease functioning. The criteria say nothing about the rarity of those components, nor whether they can evolve. The hypothesis is that if a system meets the criteria, it cannot evolve. Do I have to break out Black Box and get the actual quote?

Further, the point is that IC is not useful as a design detection criterion precisely because such systems evolve readily. To use that as an exclusion criterion for IC is a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ argument. Can’t see it evolve? Of course not, it’s IC. See it evolve? Can’t be IC then. See the problem? I’m sure most people reading can.

The reality is that one of the main arguments against IC is that functional sequences actually aren’t rare at all, and there are almost always multiple ways, biochemically, to skin a cat. There’s an ongoing thread on this very thing on Peaceful Science right now.

The question always comes down to “well how you quantitatively define “complex” in a way that allows you to sort the things-that-can-evolve to one side and the things-that-cannot-evolve to the other (if such things exist) to the other?” and the answer, every darn time, is shown to be “you can’t.”


My takeaway is that your nose is all powerful

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How could viviparity existing in some squamates possibly say anything about the plausibility of all genes needed for placentation existing in all reptiles?


I’m not sure what the hypothesis even is.

Is it that there are some sequences that, after some further random mutations occur, give rise to a placenta?

If so, then the term for that is “evolution by natural unguided processes.”

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“Did you know that when ye sneeze, it comes out y’nose at 100 miles an hour? It’s a well known fact!”

-Alec, in the greatest coming-of-age film of all time

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There’s another aspect to this argument that reveals that Behe is rhetorically gifted, even though the central logic of the argument fails.

By Behe focusing his arguments on more complex IC systems, as opposed to relatively simple IC systems, he’s put the burden of “IC systems of this X level of complexity can’t evolve, prove me wrong” beyond what can be expected to evolve on timescales that are available to human lab researchers. Now that is I freely confess a brilliant - extremely deceptive - but brilliant move.

He concedes IC 2-3 component systems can evolve(because he knows that’s generally within reach on the decade-scale of time), but not much more than that.

So a molecular complex consisting of 10-20 components don’t evolve in a matter of decades? Well then Behe can of course just pretend they don’t evolve at all and require design, because we simply don’t live long enough to be able to prove him wrong. We might observe individual steps in parts of such a process, having for example a 15 component system that gains another for a total of 16, but Behe can just say that’s a slight modification of an already existing, very complex systems, the totality of which couldn’t evolve because (he argues) that’d be too unlikely.

See how that works? Evolution of more and more complexity is very slow and gradual, and any individual component takes decades or even centuries, so any from-nothing-to-50-of-them history we would only ever be able to capture in snapshots. And we’ll all be dead before anyone is around to say “see, it’s up to 10 components now”.

It’s a brilliant sleight of hand.


The appropriate response to any claim with a structure of ‘X is true, prove me wrong!’ is ‘I don’t need to refute unsupported claims. Where is your evidence X is true?’


You have already said that this wouldn’t falsify ID.

“observing something directly doesn’t mean that this thing was necessarily caused by an unguided, blind evolutionary process”


You are correct. Despite all the claims that there’s a scientific basis, ID is bad theology that diminishes God, turning Him into a mere tinkerer.

Nor do I. It’s a much better theological choice than ID.

Your observation is correct. Note that the ID theological choice necessitates a vastly higher rhetoric-to-work ratio.

Excellent question, Chad. Do you think that @Giltil will answer it?


If IC systems can emerge through pathways that are not complex then IC systems are not evidence for design, according to your own logic.


Exactly, and Gil still hasn’t engaged with the empirical falsification (much of which by my own hand) of his claim about catalysis and active sites.

More amazingly, we did this in the process of doing basic neurophysiology and cell biology, not really related to evolutionary biology.


To what extent do you think the evidence supports this? Certainly evolutionary processes explain some of life’s diversity. The question is how much? My belief is that ID along with evolutionary mechanisms can be tools that get precision around this question. If you cast ID aside because of fear it is a science stopper you then lose a tool.

Hi Dan
You are using language that is not Behe’s. When you do this you are invoking both a straw-man and burden shift fallacy. The straw-man is when you change “powerful challenge” to “cannot evolve”. The burden shift is forcing Mike to prove a negative where the burden in on the one who claims the structure can evolve.

Where I agree is that IC is a vague term. The evolvability discussion should be around a specific topic such as the placental lizard.

It’s not a matter of evidence.

I don’t see any precision from ID’s alleged tools.

Yet neither you nor anyone else has used this alleged tool to test an ID hypothesis. You’ve demonstrated that it is a science stopper–Chad clearly isn’t suffering from any fear on this matter.

Indeed. Dan’s language is clear and direct, Behe’s is anything but.

That’s a great example of Behe’s sneakiness. How does one quantify the power of a challenge, Bill? Is there some sort of ID power meter?

It’s Behe’s hypothesis, so it’s his job to test it, not prove it. He hasn’t lifted a finger.

Keep in mind that we never view anything as formally proven in science. Stan Prusiner won the Nobel Prize for the prion hypothesis, which is essentially negative in that it can be reduced to, “prions contain no nucleic acids.” He seemed to do fine with testing that negative. What’s Behe’s excuse?


To the best of my knowledge, every presentation of IC can be reduced to one of two conceptions:

  1. A system is IC when the probability of it evolving is sufficiently implausible.
  2. A system is IC when the removal of a component prevents a function of the complete system.

The second conception has been positively refuted as an argument against naturalistic evolution, so if Behe means this his argument is completely useless. If not, and he means the first option, then it is his burden to demonstrate that such a system exists. And as yet this has not been done. Until one is identified, his argument is completely irrelevant.

So which is it? Is IC completely useless, or completely irrelevant?


This is silly. Nowhere in Black Box does Behe talk about “well maybe some IC systems can’t evolve” or “clearly the rate at which IC systems could conceivably evolve is prohibitively slow”. It’s “IC systems can’t evolve via Darwinian evolution” along with a whole lot of equivocating (read: misrepresenting) what “Darwinian” means. He said to me, directly, on air, that he lumps all evolutionary processes, including post-modern-synthesis developments like neutral theory, into the “Darwinism” umbrella. So spare me.


We’ve arrived at where all “irreducible complexity” conversations should start and end: There are three and only three ways to interpret the IC hypothesis that if a system meets the criteria for IC, then that presents a challenge to that system being able to evolve (which is to say, appear through naturalistic mechanisms, as opposed to design and creation):

  1. It does not consider post-Darwin (or post-modern-synthesis) developments in the field, in which case it is irrelevant to the question.

  2. It considers all evolutionary mechanisms, and permits ZERO systems that meet the criteria for IC to evolve, in which case it has been falsified.

  3. It considers all evolutionary mechanisms, and permits SOME systems that meet the criteria for IC to evolve, in which case it is not testable nor falsifiable.

In about three hours of conversation with Behe and hundreds of comments on this forum, for the life of me I can’t figure out which version people are using when, and any time I think I have it pinned down, wouldn’t you know it, it up and changes on me.

Who’s problem is that? I’m pretty sure it isn’t mine. Behe came up with the hypothesis. It’s on him and other IC proponents to clearly explain what the hypothesis is, determine quantifiable standards for what IC is and is not, and testing the hypothesis based on those standards. So far, I’m just playing whack-a-mole here, and it tells me that, 25 years after the publication of Black Box, this still isn’t a serious idea. Disagree? Think I shouldn’t mentally lump IC in with other creationist nonsense like “genetic entropy” and “created heterozygosity”? Prove it. Explain how the hypothesis is supposed to work.

I’ve only been asking for…checks watch…15 years or so. Any day now, I’m sure.


Where I agree is that IC is a vague term. The evolvability discussion should be around a specific topic such as the placental lizard.

This is from my last post.

IC in not a specific hypothesis. Its an argument positioned around the Darwinian mechanism. It’s a very interesting argument but with all that said its a innovation for people of apposing arguments to talk over each other.

With the next debate being around Darwin Devolves I suggest the discussion is around the specific research such as Polar Bear genes.

ID is a science stopper because there’s no way to find evidence either for or against it. Another science stopper is your refusal to consider phylogenetic evidence.