Last night, I watched as Mike Behe presented a talk at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Carnegie Lecture Theatre. The lecture was titled, Darwin or Design – What Does the Science Really Say?. The event was organized by the Centre for Intelligent Design UK (event website here).
The lecture theatre was filled almost to capacity (about 500 people). Behe was on form, presenting a powerful cumulative, yet accessible, case for design in biological systems. He presented the bare bones of his two core theses, articulated and defended in Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution. Behe talked his audience through some of the criteria which we use — as part of our everyday experience — to come to the conclusion of design, arguing that design is immediately recognisable when one encounters a complex and functionally-specific assemblage of parts. Arguing that the appearance of design is not really in dispute at all, he pointed to Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, in which Dawkins asserts that biology is the study of complicated things which have the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. If life gives the overpowering appearance of having been designed, argued Behe, then one is rationally justified in adhering to one’s intuitions unless and until a compelling reason is given to suggest that it the appearance of design is only apparent — that is, illusory.
Behe then proceeded to critique the attempt of neo-Darwinism to explain away this overwhelming appearance of design, arguing from irreducible complexity with respect to such systems as the bacterial flagellum and the eukaryotic cilia. He also touched on some of the attempts which have been made at refuting these arguments, criticising modern Darwinists for an often-times “undisciplined imagination.” Behe concluded his presentation with a brief discussion of his arguments articulated in The Edge of Evolution regarding mankind’s age-old warfare with the malarial parasite, and the mutational mechanisms which have allowed certain lineage to acquire resistance to this parasite.
The Q&A was particularly interesting, with many good questions being raised, ranging from the common Darwinian counter-arguments to irreducible complexity (such as co-option) to the origin of life to the degradative mechanisms of “beneficial” mutations.
Representatives from the Scottish humanist society made an appearance, and took the opportunity to distribute anti-ID literature outside the venue (see my response here). Their role in the Q&A session was somewhat anticlimatic. I had been expecting some especially thoughtful and informed challenges to Behe’s core thesis. As one friend said to me, when they were standing outside at the beginning, they clearly thought they were going to roar like lions. In the end, they barely squeaked like mice!
All in all, an extremely successful event. ID, as an enterprise, is beginning to properly surface in the UK. This is just the beginning…