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The “Best” Arguments Against Intelligent Design (ID) Theory

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Presentation on theme: "The “Best” Arguments Against Intelligent Design (ID) Theory"— Presentation transcript:

1 The “Best” Arguments Against Intelligent Design (ID) Theory
Sean D. Pitman, M.D. May 2007

2 ID answers everything; therefore nothing
ID is “utterly boring” How did this happen? “Goddidit!” ID is thinly disguised creationism (religion) ID uses “God of the Gaps” arguments ID proposes no testable falsifiable predictions that have not already been falsified Irreducible complexity (Behe) Specified complexity (Dembski) No intelligent God would have done it that way

3 Everything and Nothing
Does the ToE explain everything; Therefore nothing? Wasn’t everything evolved by a mindless Nature? How can scientists, like forensic scientists and SETI scientists propose intelligence behind certain phenomena when mindless nature could have done the same thing?

4 ID is Utterly Boring “The most basic problem [with ID] is that it’s utterly boring. Everything that’s complicated or interesting about biology has a very simple explanation: ID did it”. William Provine, science historian at Cornell University SETI scientists are looking for particular types of radio signals coming from space as evidence of alien intelligence If such a signal were ever found, would any scientist be bored by such a hypothesis? Computers also have a very simple explanation: “Humans did it!” Does that make investigation into how they work “simplistic” or “boring”? 2+2=4 is boring; 2+2=5 is much more interesting!

5 ID is Religion, Not Science
Religion talks about non-physical non-testable non-falsifiable “truths” Any examples? – of non-falsifiable truths? Love? Joy? Beauty? Taste? Desire? Mathematics? God?

6 ID uses “God of the Gaps” Arguments
So do all scientific hypotheses No hypothesis is 100% provable Absolute certainty removes the usefulness of the scientific method There is always the potential for falsification with additional information that reduces the “gap” in knowledge Given current knowledge, which potential hypothesis most likely explains how the gap was, is, or will be crossed?

7 “ID Has Been Falsified” (i.e., it was a valid scientific theory)
Irreducibly complex systems do not exist Random mutations combined with natural selection easily produce Dembski’s complex specified information (CSI)

8 No IC systems? The logic of their argument [IDists] is you have these multipart systems, and that the parts within them are useless on their own. The instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts that has a function, that argument is destroyed.”- Kenneth Miller, biologist, Brown University Like a car without a motor (lights and radio still work) Like a fish without eyes (everything else still works)

9 “All of the systems that Behe claims to be irreducibly complex really aren’t. A subset of bacterial flagellum proteins, for example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins into other cells . . .” Ker Than, staff science writer, LiveScience

10 The Flagellum

11 Michael Behe and the Flagellum

12 Lecture at Case Western University
The Counter Argument? Kenneth Miller, Biologist, Brown University Lecture at Case Western University

13 Dover Trial (Pennsylvania): Judged ruled that ID is a religion, not science (pres by: Kenneth Miller)

14 Which Came First? TTSS Flagellum

15 TTSS Sub-System Uses about 10 of the 50 or so structural proteins used to form the flagellum Supposedly evolved hundreds of millions of years after the flagellar motility system Flagellum found in many kinds of bacteria TTSS system restricted to a few pathogenic gram-negative bacteria that attack plants and animals – which are thought to have came along billions of years after flagellar motility

16 Little similarity (homology) to anything within less complex motility systems – only homologous to a flagellum subset Several scientists have recently promoted the idea that TTSS evolved from the fully formed flagellar motility system; not the other way round. Nguyen, L., Paulsen, I. T., Tchieu, J., Hueck, C. J. and Saier, M. H., Jr., Phylogenetic analyses of the constituents of Type III protein secretion systems. J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 2 (2),

17 The Real “Gap” Problem cat to hat to bat to bid to did to dig to dog
19,683 possible combinations Defined vs. non-defined: about 1 in 18 For two-character sequences: about 1 in 7 What about 7-character sequences? Ratio of about 1 in 250,000 A linear increase in minimum distance develops between what is and what might be beneficial with each increase in minimum structural threshold requirements – i.e., the “Gap Problem”

18 Sequence Space




22 Random Walk

23 Specified Complexity “The second major argument for intelligent design comes from William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher [who] argues that nature is rife with examples of non-random patterns of information that he calls “complex specified information” or CSI for short. To qualify as CSI, the information must be both complex and specified. The letter “A”, for example, is specific, but not complex. A string of random letters, such as “slfkiwer”, on the other hand, is complex but not necessarily specific. A Shakespearean sonnet, however, is both complex and specific.” – Ker Than

24 Dembski’s Hypothesis Falsified?
“If Dembski were right, then a new gene with new information conferring a brand new function on an organism could never come into existence without a designer because a new function requires complex specified information.” - Kenneth Miller

25 Specific Examples? Nylonase – Kinoshita et al., 1975
Nylon not invented until 1935 Lactase – Barry Hall, 1983 Lactase deletion experiments with E. coli Aha! Dembski’s hypothesis falsified! If truly falsified, it would mean that it was a valid scientific hypothesis – by the way . . .

26 Limited Evolutionary Potential
Antibiotics Resistance evolves very rapidly via blocks or disruptions to a previously established system Functions based on small single proteins Lactase, nylonase, etc (no more than 3-4 hundred amino acid residues at minimum) Occasionally evolve (Barry Hall’s lactase deficient E. coli and Kinoshita’s nylonase eating bacteria) Demonstrate interesting limitations (rest of the story) No novel functions with threshold specificity requirements greater than 1,000 specifically arranged amino acid residues have ever been shown to evolve – not one example in literature

27 Erich Bornberg-Bauer, How Are Model Protein
Structures Distributed in Sequence Space? Biophysical Journal, Volume 73, November 1997,

28 God Just Wouldn’t Have Done It That Way
In his 1986 book, “The Blind Watchmaker,” the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins posses a interesting design flaw argument for the human eye:

29 “Any engineer would naturally assume that the photocells would point towards the light, with their wires leading backwards towards the brain.  He would laugh at any suggestion that the photocells might point away, from the light, with their wires departing on the side nearest the light.  Yet this is exactly what happens in all vertebrate retinas. Each photocell is, in effect, wired in backwards, with its wire sticking out on the side nearest the light.  The wire has to travel over the surface of the retina to a point where it dives through a hole in the retina (the so-called ‘blind spot’) to join the optic nerve.  This means that the light, instead of being granted an unrestricted passage to the photocells, has to pass through a forest of connecting wires, presumably suffering at least some attenuation and distortion (actually, probably not much but, still, it is the principle of the thing that would offend any tidy-minded engineer). 


31 Just a Few Miracles:

32 The Inner Life of the Cell

33 DNA Replication

34 DNA Transcription

35 DNA Translation

36 Any Questions?

37 Questions? Flagellar Motor: Scanning Electron Micrograph

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