Darwin unleashed a new kind of science, if I may call it that; his theories have been taken up, expanded, proven to be true, adjusted, refashioned, etc, over time to the kind of science we have today. Intelligent Design folks, led by people like Michael Behe, contend Darwinian science is lacking and, in fact, they are proposing a different kind of science.
Their science contends that some elements of nature — like the vertebrate immune system, blood-clotting cascade, and the flagellum of certain bacteria — provide a “loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’ … [and] This discovery rivals those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrödinger, Pasteur and Darwin.” This quotation is from Behe in Jason Rodenhouse, Among the Creationists, p. 126.
At the heart, then, of ID is what is called “irreducible complexity,” and Darwin himself admitted if such elements were discovered it would disprove his theory of evolution (or parts of his theory). What Behe means is “a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning” (125). The logic is clear and compelling; the science, Rodenhouse argues, lacking.
There are some analogies, Rodenhouse contends, like how telephones and automobiles were formerly only for the wealthy or an arch was incapable of self-support until all the pieces were available and assembled. Essentially, though, any use of such analogies will break down and it comes to science, and Rodenhouse cites — and does not discuss at length (or satisfactorily, and I think he could have helped his argument had he) — the various scholarly, evolutionary approaches to the elements Behe thinks are irreducibly complex: for the Krebs cycle, the vertebrate immune system, the blood clotting cascade, the wings of birds, and the bacterial flagellum. In other words, mainstream evolutionary science has explanations for such elements.
For me, the problem here is that this a God of the gaps approach, which does not so much prove but asserts “design” where some science does not yet have adequate evidence or proof.
But let’s clarify what is at work here: (1) it has been shown in this series on Rodenhouse’s book that some in ID were creationists by another name; (2) ID is more scientific than some forms of creationism but it is not part of mainstream science at all — many scientists would even say it is not science at all … but this is more important:
(3) arguing that ID is inadequate as science or that the irreducibly complex is capable of being proven not so irreducible does not mean that there is no Designer. It means only that ID is not good enough science.
Science does not and cannot — on its own terms — speak of purpose, or design, or a teleology because that is not what it does. Believing that there is a God enables a believer to explain some things as part of God’s design for this good world of ours, but proving God through science is a hard game to play — since, by its nature, science sticks to the empirical and seeks empirical (non-supernatural) explanations.
Back to Rodenhouse: he engaged Behe and reports on it (I don’t know Behe’s side of this story). One point in Rodenhouse’s presentation of that encounter is important to me: he asked Behe what difference his view of science would make, and Behe’s explanation is not sufficient because Rodenhouse reports that Behe says mainstream scientists can simply continue with what they do. Rodenhouse thinks there’s practically little difference in such a scientific approach. I’d like to hear if Behe actually has more to say on that topic.