Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black BoxOn infidels.org there appeared to me this random quote:

Mr. Behe has of course compared, like it or not, the extraordinary complexity of the human cell to the mousetrap. He said if we look at that mousetrap, it was created by a human.

In fact, Mr. Miller improved on it, as you saw earlier tonight. Therefore, if that’s complicated, then indeed the cell must also have been designed by an intelligence.

And as I thought about it tonight, it’s a little bit — we were all talking about nature analogies — it’s a little bit like looking at a mole build a molehill. You say, That’s very interesting. Then we walk out in the woods the next day and we notice a big mountain off in the distance. And we say, Good grief, that’s enormously large. A really big mole must have built that.

The truth of the matter is, it’s not logical. We should be looking for different forces that result in different things.

Your mousetrap was built by human hands because its components are inanimate objects. Cellular life is living, vibrant, breathing, changing matter.

You’re not just comparing apples to oranges, you are comparing plastic apples to organic oranges, and I think therefore this analogy fails. (Ken Miller in “Resolved: That evolutionists should acknowledge creation,” Firing Line, 4 December 1997, 50)

But wait a minute, the big mountain lacks specified complexity; it is not a machine; it performs no function; it does not move or do any work. There is no room for a design inference here.

Miller’s error is that he thinks that our abduction in the case of irreducibly complex biological systems is based on an analogy with man-made machines.

In fact, a mousetrap is an illustration of a principle according to which design can be reliably inferred in anything. That principle, (contingent) specified complexity, governs our speculations of the origins of both mousetraps and, say, bacterial cilia with equal authority.

However, if there is an argument from analogy here, it has in the following form:

(1) Everything that exhibits specified complexity and is such that we can find out independently whether or not it was the product of intelligent design, in fact was the product of intelligent design.

(2) Many biological systems exhibit specified complexity.

(3) Therefore, these systems are most likely the products of intelligent design.

Secondly, it is true that “cellular life is living, vibrant, breathing, changing matter.” That property — life, the soul, teleological causation, the vital principle that animates every living creature and makes it different from inanimate objects — is surely fascinating.

But life is something in addition to the molecular nanotechnology within a cell. Now ID focuses on these sophisticated robots only because they are scientifically tractable, as “life force” is not. And it is sufficient, ID proponents claim, given also the failure of evolutionists to offer anything interesting in response, to infer design.

Life, consciousness are far beyond the design-theoretic research program which is preoccupied with material objects carrying high information content. However, if anything, they make the case for design much stronger than it has so far been made, insofar as life cannot be reduced to matter, or consciousness to computation, and assuming that the origins of both cannot have been purely natural.

Perhaps Miller’s point is simply that life can change, unlike a mousetrap. But that’s where Behe’s irreducible complexity comes in. Even though life can change through random mutations, natural selection cannot build the systems Behe examines in his Darwin’s Black Box.


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