Kansas’ Creationist Claptrap

I think the “Scopes Monkey Trial” James noted below is going to be a loss for evolutionary theory. I think this not because I think the evidence for evolution is weak, on the contrary I think the evidence is overwhelming. The problem is that the evidence is going to be highly technical (i.e. how many people know the difference between sympatric speciation and allopatric speciation?). On the other hand many of the Creationist and neo-Creationist arguments are easy to understand and often times sound intuitive to the uninformed (about the intricacies of evolutionary theory). For example, Michael Behe’s notion of irreducible complexity sounds quite appealing (airing my dirty laundry: I found the argument quite persuasive when I first encountered it). He holds up a mouse trap, tells the audience that if a single part is removed the mouse trap no longer functions at all. Sounds good. Then Behe says that things like the blood clotting cascade is similar. Remove a single part and the blood clotting cascade doesn’t work and thus, the system cannot have evolved gradually, but had to been designed. Now, there is evidence of blood clotting cascades without all the “necessary component parts”, the blood clotting cascade of dolphins lacks one component: the Hagemann factor. But how many people generally have the patience to sit and listen to a discussion of hte Hagemann factor? Behe’s argument is so much more simple and believable.

Another example is Dembski’s use fo the Cambrian explosion.

The challenge that here confronts evolution is not isolated but pervasive, and comes up most flagrantly in what’s called the Cambrian Explosion. In a very brief window of time during the geological period known as the Cambrian, virtually all the basic animal types appeared suddenly in the fossil record with no trace of evolutionary ancestors. The Cambrian Explosion so flies in the face of evolution that paleontologist Peter Ward wrote, “If ever there was evidence suggesting Divine Creation, surely the Precambrian and Cambrian transition, known from numerous localities across the face of the earth, is it.” Note that Ward is not a creationist.

Of course, this claim not only relies on the Creationist trick of quote mining (I strongly urge readers to read that Panda’s Thumb post as it shows how dishonest Dembski is in terms of misrepresenting Ward’s views), but it also is a questionable assertion in that there is evidence supporting the evolutionary view (I don’t want to make this post horrendously long by copying and pasting the information from Panda’s Thumb, so click over and read it if you are interested). Who wants to sit around and listen to an academic drone on about Ediacarian, and Cambrian fauna?

The problem is that understanding evolution even at a basic level requires a rather substantial investment of time. I first read about Behe’s irreducible complexity almost 10 years ago which got me to look more and more into evolution and I still think of myself as having a rudimentary understanding of the topic. Then there are ideas such as Dembski’s explanatory filter (seriously flawed) which requires a pretty decent grasp of statistics and probability theory. So what is going to be the result of this “show trial”? A loss for evolution. Intelligent Design and Creationism will come out looking more persuasive and it will ultimately be a loss for our children if educational policies are changed to incorporate the Intelligent Design pseudo-science .

FILED UNDER: Education, US Politics
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. Bithead says:

    The problem is that understanding evolution even at a basic level requires a rather substantial investment of time.

    However, form my viewpoint, the more we investigate all of this and thereby, the more we find that there is no contrdiction to ID, the more open people will be to it.

    This is not a loss for evolution, but rather a gain for ID. The two are not mutially exclusive.

  2. FM says:

    Has anybody out there read “Darwin’s Black Box”?

    I would love to come across one opponent of Intelligent Design who has actually read the bible thereof.


  3. Hal says:

    Well, I have. I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian family and went to a private, non-denominational Christian school in Colo Springs. I’ve read the bible cover to cover many times and had oh-so-many bible studies even during school.

    So, what’s your challenge? ID isn’t a science. It isn’t even close.

  4. FM says:


    Sorry if you misunderstood me. Have you read the bible of ID, ie Darwin’s Black Box?

    My issue is that opponents of ID keep rehashing the arguement Behe addresses there, point by point as if none have actually read his book, checked his documentation or followed his sources.

    It still has not been a debate…he and ID are merely dismissed out of hand as Creationist claptrap.

  5. Hal says:

    Hmmm. I think that’s like saying that because you haven’t read a flat earther’s book, you can’t criticize the belief that the earth is flat.

    As to people dismissing them as creationist claptrap, their own words do that for them. You have been following the Kansas trials, haven’t you?

  6. Steve says:


    There is more to ID than Behe, and more to Behe’s writings than simply his book. I’ve read a number of his articles and op-eds as well as Dembski’s stuff. The amazing thing is that after all these years of positing things like irreducible complexity there has yet to be a single experiment built around the concept.

  7. FM says:

    Still waiting for an afirmative…

    OK, let’s not limit it to opponents of ID…has ANYONE read “Darwin’s Black Box”? Anyone at all??

    How about Behe’s Mom, anybody know her? Ms Behe, have you read your son’s book?

  8. Around the Blogosphere
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  9. Hal says:

    FM: have you read anything besides ID stuff? Any hard science at all? How about popular science stuff by Dawkins and Gould? Nothing? Just ID stuff?

    Just wondering.

  10. Intelligent Design
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  11. FM says:

    For the past year or so, I have had a Google News Alert set up for “Michael Behe”. Indeed, Google brought me to Outside the Beltway.

    At first I got a hit or two per week. Then, (interestingly– following election day), the hits picked up. Nowadays I get maybe 5 or 6 per week; sometimes several per day.

    Throughout, these have come as two types. One: more or less straight news stories commenting on events (school board hearings, debates or lectures) featuring Intelligent Design. These might include a quote from Behe and/or other advocates, followed always by counterpoints from their critics for “balance”.

    The other type takes the form of Op/Ed pieces or Letters to the Editor, nearly always in the negative, coming from opponents of ID and Behe. (Google does not sample conservative or Christian sites for their news alerts or there of course would be many more hits generally and many in support of the theory.)

    Invariably, the opposing view describes Behe’s notions of “irreducible complexity” as does Fred Barnes here, in his Chicago Tribune column syndicated across the country the past week or so:

    “ID movement icons such as biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University argue the Earth must have been created through guided, intelligent events, because everything in the universe is just too complicated to have been created through random chance.”

    (Note the implication that Behe and ID proponents generally lack the imagination and broadmindedness necessary to get past such simplistic ideas.)

    But this is in no way a synopsis of irreducible complexity as described in Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box”. To the contrary, the concept is laid out there by Darwin himself as quoted in his “Origin of the Species.” (p.154 of the 6th ed. (1988); New York University Press, NYC):

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

    It is Behe’s contention that if Darwin had had access to the scientific instruments available today, especially the electron microscope, he would know that such complex organs do exist. Behe goes on to describe many such organs and processes and also the prosaic but useful mouse trap analogy.

    Every time ID opponents declare that irreducible complexity is merely an assertion that the world is too complicated to have come about by means of Darwinian evolution they show themselves to be ignorant of the material and addressing instead a stereotype. So their arguments amount to no more than rehashing old quotes from their compatriots proving only that none have read the book.

    As more and more people become aware of the issues and more actually read “Darwin’s Black Box,” they will see that there is in fact no debate because there is no responsible opposition to Intelligent Design. Rather, more like a frat boy rap session in which everybody competes to see who can come up with the coolest put-down.

    The issues involved are too important for such irresponsibility on the part of the physical science establishment and its followers. Somebody should read the book.