The defense has begun to present its case in the ongoing Dover, Pa. trial that will decide whether intelligent design theory can be taught as an alternative to evolution in a ninth-grade biology class. On Oct. 18 and 19, leading intelligent design proponent Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, testified in great depth as to the scientific merits of intelligent design, merits that he believes should qualify the theory for inclusion in public school curricula. Although he is a practicing Roman Catholic who believes that the "designer" of life was God, Behe stressed the scientific aspect of intelligent design over the religious.

As the case progresses, Beliefnet will continue to post intriguing excerpts from testimony on both sides of the isssue. Previously, Dover parent Bryan Rhem testified as to why, as a person of faith, he objects to intelligent design being taught to his children.

Behe's Testimony:
  • Does "design" mean we can know the designer?
  • Can intelligent design be scientifically disproved?
  • What are the weaknesses of Darwinism?
  • Astrology and ID--similarly scientific?

    (Back to top)
    ATTORNEY: Now does the conclusion that something was designed, does that require knowledge of a designer?

    BEHE: No, it doesn't. And if you can advance to the next slide. I discussed that in Darwin's Black Box in Chapter 9, the chapter entitled Intelligent Design. Let me quote from it.

    Quote, The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, the design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with all the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer.

    Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer was God?

    A. No, that is completely inaccurate.

    Q. Well, people have asked you your opinion as to who you believe the designer is, is that correct?

    A. That is right.

    Q. Has science answered that question?

    A. No, science has not done so.

    Q. And I believe you have answered on occasion that you believe the designer is God, is that correct?

    A. Yes, that's correct.

    Q. Are you making a scientific claim with that answer?

    A. No, I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors.

    (Back to top)
    Q. Is intelligent design falsifyable?

    A. Yes, it is.

    Q. And I want to get to that in a little bit more detail later. Now just to summarize. When you say you are relying on logical inferences, you're referring to inductive reasoning, correct?

    A. Yes, inductive reasoning.

    Q. And other than intelligent design, as you discussed, and you discussed a little bit about paleontology, do you have an example of this sort of reasoning, inductive reasoning that's used in sciences? A. Well, I think an excellent example of inductive reasoning is the Big Bang theory. Most people forget that in the early part of the 20th century that physicists thought the universe was timeless, eternal, and unchanging.

    Intelligent design's scientific antecedents

    _Related Features
  • Dover Parent: 'That's Not My Religion'
  • The ID Debate: Full Coverage
  • FAQs: What is Intelligent Design?
  • Then in the late 1920's, observations were made which led astronomers to think that galaxies that they could observe were rushing away from each other and rushing away from the Earth as if in the aftermath of some giant explosion.

    So they were using inductive reasoning of their experience of explosions to, and applying that to their astronomical observations. And let me emphasize that they were -- the inductive method, as philosophers will tell you, always extrapolates from what a we know to instances of what we don't know.

    So those scientists studying the Big Bang were extrapolating from their knowledge of explosions as seen in, say, fire crackers, cannon balls, and so on, and extrapolating that to the explosion of the entire universe, which is quite a distance from the basis set from which they drew their induction.

    But nonetheless, they were confident that this pattern suggested an explosion based on their experience with more familiar objects.

    Q. And basically, we don't have any experience with universes exploding, correct?

    A. I do not, no.

    Q. And scientists do not?

    A. No, scientists don't either.

    Q. Again, is this similar to the reasoning used in paleontology? For example we haven't seen any live pre-historic birds, for example, but they have features that resemble feathers, as we know them from our common experience today, and we infer that they were used for flying or similar functions, again based on our common experience?

    A. Yes, that's right. That's another example of induction from what we know to things we don't know.

    Q. Again, that's scientific reasoning?

    A. Yes, it is.

    Q. Can science presently tell us what caused the Bang?

    A. No. I'm not a physicist, but I understand the cause of the Big Bang is still unknown.

    Q. Is that similar to intelligent design's claim that science presently cannot tell us the source of design in nature?

    A. Yes, that's very similar. All theories, when they're proposed, have outstanding questions, and intelligent design is no exception. And I'd like to make a further point that I just thought of and was going to make earlier, but that, that induction from explosions of our experience to explosions of the universe is analogous to, similar to the induction that intelligent design makes from our knowledge of objects, the purposeful arrangements of parts in our familiar world and extrapolating that to the cell as well. So that, too, is an example of an induction from what we know to what we have newly discovered.

    (Back to top)
    Q. Sir, do you believe that natural selection is similarly falsifyable?

    A. No. Actually, I think that, in fact, natural selection and Darwinian claims are actually very, very difficult to falsify. And let me go back to my article, Reply to my Critics from the journal Biology and Philosophy.

    And I don't think I'm actually going to read this whole thing, because it refers to things that would take a while to explain. But let me just try to give you the gist of it. Let me read the first sentence. Quote, Let's turn the tables and ask, how could one falsify a claim that a particular biochemical system was produced by Darwinian processes? Close quote.

    Darwin's vulnerability

    Now let me just kind of try to explain that in my own -- well, verbally here. Suppose that we did that same experiment as I talked about earlier. Suppose a scientist went into a laboratory, grew a bacterium that was missing a flagellum under selective pressure for motion, waited 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 generations, and at the end of that time, examined it and saw that, well, nothing much had been changed, nothing much had changed.

    Would that result cause Darwinian biologists to think that their theory could not explain the flagellum? I don't think so. I think they would say, number 1, that we didn't wait long enough; number two, perhaps we started with the wrong bacterial species; number 3, maybe we applied the wrong selective pressure, or some other problem.

    Now leaving aside the question of whether those are reasonable responses or not, and some of them might be reasonable, nonetheless, the point is that, it's very difficult to falsify Darwinian claims. What experiment could be done which would show that Darwinian processes could not produce the flagellum?

    And I can think of no such experiment. And as a matter of fact, on the next slide, I have a quotation, kind of putting a point on that argument. In that same article, Reply to my Critics, I wrote that I think Professor Coyne and the National Academy of Sciences have it exactly backwards. And Professor Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist who said that intelligent design is unfalsifyable, and in a publication of the National Academy, they asserted the same thing.

    I wrote that, A strong point of intelligent design is its vulnerability to falsification. A weak point of Darwinian theory is its resistance to falsification. What experimental evidence could possibly be found that would falsify the contention that complex molecular machines evolved by a Darwinian mechanism? I can think of none, close quote.

    So again, the point is that, I think the situation is exactly opposite of what much -- of what many arguments assume, that ironically intelligent design is open to falsification, but Darwinian claims are much more resistant to falsification.

    (Back to top)
    Q. In fact, your definition of scientific theory is synonymous with hypothesis, correct?

    A Partly -- it can be synonymous with hypothesis, it can also include the National Academy s definition. But in fact, the scientific community uses the word "theory" in many times as synonymous with the word "hypothesis," other times it uses the word as a synonym for the definition reached by the National Academy, and at other times it uses it in other ways.

    Q. But the way you are using it is synonymous with the definition of hypothesis?

    A. No, I would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can also include ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while it does include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also includes stronger senses of that term.

    Is ID on par with astrology?

    Q. And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?

    A. Yes.

    Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

    A. Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

    Q. The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?

    A. That is correct.

    Q. But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

    A. Yes, that s correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can t go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories.

    Q. Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?

    A. Well, I am not a historian of science. And certainly nobody -- well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time. But if you go back, you know, Middle Ages and before that, when people were struggling to describe the natural world, some people might indeed think that it is not a priori -- a priori ruled out that what we -- that motions in the earth could affect things on the earth, or motions in the sky could affect things on the earth.

    Q. And just to be clear, why don t we pull up the definition of astrology from Merriam-Webster.

    And archaically it was astronomy; right, that s what it says there?

    A. Yes.

    Q. And now the term is used, "The divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects." That s the scientific theory of astrology?

    A. That s what it says right there, but let me direct your attention to the archaic definition, because the archaic definition is the one which was in effect when astrology was actually thought to perhaps describe real events, at least by the educated community.

    Astrology -- I think astronomy began in, and things like astrology, and the history of science is replete with ideas that we now think to be wrong headed, nonetheless giving way to better ways or more accurate ways of describing the world.

    And simply because an idea is old, and simply because in our time we see it to be foolish, does not mean when it was being discussed as a live possibility, that it was not actually a real scientific theory.

    Q. I didn t take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

    A. I m sorry?

    Q. I did not take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

    A. It seems like that.

    Q. Okay. It seems like that since we started yesterday. But could you turn to page 132 of your deposition?

    A. Yes.

    Q. And if you could turn to the bottom of the page 132, to line 23.

    A. Yes.

    Q. And I asked you, "Is astrology a theory under that definition?" And you answered, "Is astrology? It could be, yes." Right?

    A. That s correct.

    Q. Not, it used to be, right?

    A. Well, that s what I was thinking. I was thinking of astrology when it was first proposed. I m not thinking of tarot cards and little mind readers and so on that you might see along the highway. I was thinking of it in its historical sense.

    Q. I couldn't be a mind reader either, correct?

    A. Yes, yes, but I m sure it would be useful.

    Q. It would make this exchange go much more quickly.

  • more from beliefnet and our partners