Michael Battalio

Friday, July 11, 2008

This I Believe (part 2)

This is part two of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I intend on defining what is faith, considering non-overlapping magisteria, and many other topics.

Next, I’m going to present a summary of evidence for and against God concerning evolution and irreducible complexity from Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” and from Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion”.

Strobel interviewed several scientists, most notably biologist Michael Behe. He argues that evolution cannot explain certain systems because they are too complex to evolve naturally, and thusly must have been designed.
Having done a bit of research into Behe I have discovered his claims while though intriguing are disputed my the majority of biologists. In fact there is a considerable amount of work debunking all of Behe claims. There is even a case decided where Behe was a witness in which the court dismisses Behe’s claims. (See Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) Still though, I believe an explanation of this is in order.
Behe provides several examples of irreducible complexity; the eye, blood clotting, and flagellum. To begin his discussion he provides the example of a mousetrap. The mousetrap is irreducibly complex. Remove even just one component-the spring, wooden base, the closing bar-and it no longer works. Behe argues the same for each of his examples. I’ll describe just one. Consider a blood clot, if the clot doesn’t form over a cut, no matter how small, you’ll die. If a clot forms in the wrong place, your brain for instance, you’ll die. If a clot doesn’t completely cover a cut, you’ll die. The system is highly choreographed. According to Behe, blood clots have to follow a sequence of ten steps using 20 different components (C. for a C. pg.209). Remove just one of the components and the system falls apart. The system is useless if step six of ten fails. How did these 20 components come together to create this system?
Behe also argues against gene duplication (the accidental creation of an extra copy of a piece of DNA where the original copy performs its intended function and the extra copy can perform a new function). To revisit the mouse trap: say you have the spring but not the base. Now via duplication you have two springs, so you have two springs and no base. That’s still useless. How does the extra spring become a base?
Again, however, there is scientific evidence disproving this claim. (see http://www.pnas.org/content/100/13/7527.full) The puffer fish cited in the article has three less of the genes Behe contends are need for blood clotting. And the question follows what is the fewest amount of genes needed for the supposedly irreducibly complex system to continue to work. That’s unknown, but even if one of the ten steps is removed then the system still finds a way to work debunks this example. Behe has many other examples which you may want to research on your own.
Conversely, Dawkins contends that irreducible complexity is a myth thanks to natural selection, gene duplication and genetic redundancy. Dawkins claims that components of irreducibly complex systems can have served other functions before becoming a link in an irreducibly complex system. For example, a gene in blood clotting might have been used to code information for the storage of oxygen in red blood cells before it was used to trigger solidification in the presence of open air.
Dawkins has a separate title, “Climbing Mount Improbable” (which I hope to read in the future), that goes at length into explaining seemingly insurmountable leaps in evolution by a sequence of small steps. Each step is slightly advantageous to life so these steps are added one on top of the other until you have a creature that, for example, doesn’t die if it receives a cut. Dawkins likens it to getting to the top of a shear cliff by walking to the other side of the mountain and ascending the gentle slope on the opposite side.
One last topic of interest Strobel includes is the mind-bogglingly large amount of information stored in DNA, which is likened to the cliché of monkeys on a typewriter producing not just Shakespeare but the entire volume of knowledge of mankind. All that information, except the origin of the very first piece of data, can be explained by natural selection. The problem is where did that very first piece of data come from that directed replication. Strobel refuses chance based on the improbability of proteins randomly forming a chain of replicating DNA. However, I would argue that our friend the anthropic principle might have something to say about that. The logic being that we wouldn’t be here to consider the first piece of data if that first piece of data didn’t replicate. Still though, that’s a bit of stretch. Where did that first piece of information come from? I don’t know.

Confused by my logic? Leave me a comment. Next, a dissection of some of the dubious points made by each of the authors, beginning with Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator”.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if theory claims that you are a complete moron?
Faith is not something you can see or feel or touch...
If you can see or touch it, you don't have faith.
Doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure that one out, sir,...

Michael B. said...

Finally someone commented. I was wondering how long it'd take to make someone mad. I am not claiming that faith is tangible. I'm merely exploring logic and arguments made by people of faith and atheists. I'm not really at any conclusion as of yet either way.

Oh, and calling someone a moron or something similiar doesn't help any intelligent argument one way or the other really; it just creates anger, and that helps no cause. I'm already constructing a post about the viciousness of some atheists and religious people. They are almost brutish to one another at times. Talk and action such as that hinders intelligent discourse.

Anonymous said...

Wow...you sound so incredibly intelligent. Too bad I am as well! Seems as if I spurred some cognitive explosions in the frontal cortex. Actually, if you desire to be such an authority on life subjects, the word "mad" does not mean "angry". The word "mad" means "mentally insane"...just so we're on similar levels. Exploring logic and arguments of faith is unsubstantiated. Why? If you possess faith, what exists to question? Why question the Creator of the universe? What He says Is!...If you are a believer, I would possibly think you would maybe believe this. Think about that one as you progress through your amusing day questioning questioning questioning...what a dreary existence that must be.

Michael B. said...

I apologize for not being clear: I'm having difficulty in my faith. Perhaps for someone who has faith, this discussion seems pointless, but for those who do not posses that strong a faith, looking at the logic or illogic of the divine could be helpful.

And I find the contemplative life very rewarding and happy, not dreary.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe it...now you're sounding logical and making more sense. If you're having trouble with your faith, pray and stand firm. Also, if you're questioning God's existence, go help someone who's dying from cancer, or go assist a child who's struggling with a disease. Then your perspectives will alter, and God will show up, as He always does. Stop questioning. Believe God is real. Claim it. Pray for strength. Claim that God is the source of being--and no one else. That's what Christ did when He was being tempted by Satan. The contemplative life is much different from one who questions everything just for the sake of arguing. It leads to excessive narcissism, which can explode in a negative way in certain people. True contemplation means allowing God to show you things and reflecting on what God shows you. Rather than having to be right all the time, consequently reverting to narcissism, try a small dose of optimism sometime. It will turn your life upside down, for the better! I believe you can.

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