Dissecting Intelligent Design Number 1: "The mousetrap"
Some time ago, in one of the comments to my post "We are apes", someone said the following: "...there is science to support creationism, take the time to look into it." Well, I decided to look into what many believers in ID call science.
First of all, I have to say that I am not a biochemist. I am a humble physician with some knowledge of biochemistry (because physicians have to know the basics of it). When I read the arguments of Michael Behe, a biochemist, I was surprised by the nature of the arguments he showed and by how easily they can be dealt with.
Behe, compares a complex biochemical pathway as a mousetrap. He starts by saying that a biochemical pathway is made of several sequential steps that lead the conversion of a substance numer1 into substance number 2. The biochemical pathway would not work if any of the steps is missing. So far everything is correct. He adds that a mousetrap is like a biochemical pathway because if any of its parts is missing, it would not work. Again, so far, everything is right. However, Behe jumps to the conclusion that it is impossible for all biochemical steps to have appeared at the same time in order to achieve the purpose of converting one substance into the second one. He calls this "irreductible complexity". The mousetrap could not have been created step by step because each of its parts (te wooden base, the spring, the metal hammer, etc) does not have a purpose of its own. He treats the whole biochemical pathway, as a complex structure that cannot be further reduced. Since it is too complex, it must have been designed.
The first thing that surprised me was the teleology of the argument. According to Behe, for things to happen, the have to have a purpose. The non-teleologist approach would say that "things happen, then a purpose is found for them". The nature of the biochemical reactions is probably closer to not having a purpose. That was the philosophical aspect, the aspect that makes Behe's argument a belief. The second surprising issue, specially in a biochemist's argument, is the fact that he is implying that the steps in the biochemical pathway will only lead to substance 2. The different steps are used by other pathways to produce different substances, just like the wooden base of the mousetrap can serve as a paperweight, the spring as part of a scale and the hammer as a paperclip. Evolution produces complex biochemical machines by copying, modifying, and combining proteins previously used for other functions or that still perform those other functions in slightly different environments.
I understand how people who have the will to believe in a superior being, will get impressed by the arguments from a PhD in biochemistry. However, I believe that it is the duty of the scientists to educate the community and to separate science from belief.