Andrea Bottaro posted Entry 1108 on June 2, 2005 03:10 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1106

In the Inferno, Dante tells the story of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca (don’t even try to pronounce it, unless you are Italian). Count Ugolino was locked up in a tower with his sons, without food or water, by his Pisan political enemies, whom he had betrayed. To survive, he ate his own children (he died anyway, and got to spend eternity stuck in a frozen lake, gnawing at his incarcerator’s skull).

Michael Behe also had to face Ugolino’s choice: starving for support for ID, he was forced to eat his own brain-child, “irreducible complexity” (IC). The meal was fully consumed in Behe’s response to my “The Revenge of Calvin and Hobbes” post.

Dr. Behe claims that the only evidence that would convince him of the evolution of an IC system consists not only of a complete step-by-step list of mutations,

… but also a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more.
Michael Behe, “Calvin and Hobbes are alive and well in Darwinland”

(For those who are wondering what that “much more” might even be, let me offer another prognostication: if an IC system was shown to have evolved to the level of detail demanded by Behe, his next step back would be to demand an account that each individual mutation was truly random with regard to fitness, as opposed as “poofed in” by the Designer. The ID goalposts have well-oiled wheels.)

But does this demand even make sense with respect to IC? It is worth remembering that IC, the ID advocates hoped, was supposed to be the silver bullet that takes out “Darwinism”, the one answering Darwin’s own challenge:

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.
Charles Darwin, “On The Origin of Species”, Chapter 6, “Modes of Transition”

There is, Behe and the ID advocates argued, something intrinsically special about IC, that makes it particularly impervious to Darwinian explanations.

An irreducibly complex system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution.
Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 39

Indeed, Dr. Behe has no problem at all with Darwinian explanations as they apply to other, not irreducibly complex systems. For instance, Behe accepts that hemoglobin (the protein complex that carries oxygen in red blood cells) evolved from a myoglobin-like homologue (myoglobin is the protein that stores oxygen within muscle fibers). Here’s what he said about this:

The question is, if we assume that we already have an oxygen-binding protein like myoglobin, can we infer intelligent design from the function of hemoglobin? The case for design is weak. The starting point, myoglobin, can already bind oxygen. The behavior of hemoglobin can be achieved by a rather simple modification of the behavior of myoglobin, and the individual proteins of hemoglobin strongly resemble myoglobin. So although hemoglobin can be thought of a system with interacting parts, the interaction does nothing much that is clearly beyond the individual components of the system.
Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 207

Behe even goes on to compare hemoglobin to the “man in the moon”: suggestive of design, but almost certainly an illusion.

But wait a minute: does Behe have in hand the list of mutations that occurred on the path from myoglobin to hemoglobin? Does he have “a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more”? You can try asking him, but I doubt it. The reason why Behe has no qualms with the evolution of the hemoglobin system is that it makes sense. The available evidence for precursors, intermediates and their functions, partial as it is, is sufficient to conclude that known, well-characterized evolutionary processes were responsible, as opposed to supernatural intervention. It really doesn’t matter what every single amino acid substitution did in the long-extinct critters that evolved hemoglobins: only someone incompetent of biology, or an unrepentant Creationist, would require that level of detail. Behe knows that’s absurd.

That Dr. Behe asks for such an unnecessary level of detail for the evolution of the immune system (or any other IC system) carries two implications. First, it essentially reduces the concept of “irreducible complexity” to just a special case of evolution incredulity in general. Arguments from incredulity never go away (see Behe’s “and much more”, discussed above). In the case of evolution, we cannot have a mutation-by-mutation, selective-step-by-selective-step of pretty much anything, because the evidence cannot work that way, just like the evidence for plate tectonics can never be an inch-by-inch historical account of all the relevant forces involved in the motion of continents after the break-up of Pangea, or in the rise of the Himalayas.

Even when we can make a very strong inference of selective effects on a protein?s evolution (like in this case), we are still stuck with a level of detail that cannot compare to the absurd detail Behe is demanding.

By insisting on a degree of evidence for IC systems’ evolution that even evolutionary accounts of much simpler systems cannot provide, Dr. Behe has therefore effectively conceded that the concept of “irreducible complexity” is utterly meaningless: there is nothing special about IC systems, they just look fancy. In other words, it is not the “multiple, necessary, interacting parts” that make IC something that supposedly resists darwinian interpretations - it is amino acids, selective pressures, effective population sizes, like every other protein. Sic transit…

To get a sense of how silly the argument actually becomes, consider the following. Below is an alignment of the simple, 30-amino acid B peptide of insulin in a few species. Many positions match, some do not.

                       10                  20                  30
     ------------------+-------------------+-------------------+-
  1  F V K Q H L C G P H L V E A L Y L V C G E R G F F Y T P K S    rat
  1  . . N . . . . . S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . T    human
  1  . . N . . . . . S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . T    elephant
  1  A . N . . . . . S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Q . . A    blackbird
  1  . D N . Y . . . S . . . . . . . M . . . D . . . . . S . R .    frog
  1  A P A . . . . . S . . . . . . F . . . . . . . . . F N . D T    elephantnosefish
  1  R T T G . . . . K D . . N . . . I A . . V . . . . . D . T K    hagfish

With a little luck and hard work, we may be able to sample enough organisms to have, at least for some branches, a real mutation-by-mutation account of the evolution of peptide B. But no matter how we try, we will never have “a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more”. Why is insulin peptide B less of a challenge for Darwinian evolution than the adaptive immune system?

Behe himself had summarized in his book what he saw as the insurmountable problem of immune system evolution - not amino acids and selective forces, but:

In the absence of the machine [RAG1/RAG2], the parts [V, D and J gene segments] never get cut out and joined. In the absence of the signals [RSSs], it’s like expecting a machine that’s randomly cutting paper to make a paper doll. And, of course, in the absence of the message for the antibody itself, the other components would be pointless.
Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, p. 130

This is the “problem” the current data largely address: despite Behe’s disbelief, there was a simple way that machine could be put together, by integrating a RAG-bearing transposon (which we now know exists) into an immunoglobulin-like immune receptor already under selection for diversity (which we now know exists). This single event, which bypasses all of Behe’s objections above, is actually no more complex than the transition from a monomeric myoglobin to an allosteric hemoglobin complex (“allosteric” is just a technical word for a protein that works by changing its shape). In fact, arguably it’s simpler.

But rather than admitting he was wrong, that the evidence for evolution of the adaptive immune system is solid, and strengthening by the day, Behe has chosen instead to sacrifice whatever significance IC ever had. He ate his own child, to survive another day.

The second issue with Behe’s argument goes back to my original Calvin and Hobbes post. In it, I was not trying to make the point that the study of the evolutionary origin of the immune system is over. Indeed, I said that thankfully there is much more to be learned. My point was to compare the lively and steadily progressing field of evolutionary immunology, in Calvin and Hobbes’s box, to the stale air inside the IC cabinet, in which all efforts are directed at keeping the door tightly shut. This really highlights the difference between the ID view of science, and what science actually is. ID is about absolute philosophical claims - it does not, cannot cope with the fact that science is a process. As a political movement, ID has no time to let science take its course - it must provide an ideologically satisfying answer right away, for its fund-raisers and activists, and defend it to the end. That is why scientists put their efforts into collecting data bit by bit, and ID advocates put theirs in revising definitions and raising the evidence bar to protect their claims from the new scientific data.

Even Behe now behaves more like a spin doctor than a scientist. Consider this: in his post, Behe repeats once again the canard that Russ Doolittle made a mistake referring to clotting factor-deficient mice a few years back (an accusation which was nicely debunked by Ian Musgrave right here on the Thumb). I am quite sure people have pointed out to Behe that his claim is false before. In fact, since we know ID advocates eagerly read the Thumb (it took Behe only 24 hours to respond to my previous post!), I doubt that Behe was unaware of Ian’s argument as he penned his latest reply. Assuming Behe now will likely read this post, can we expect him to cease propagating this falsehood? We’ll see.

Finally, Behe states that Orr and I “seem to think that because Darwinists’ fantastic claims are very difficult to support in a convincing fashion, they should be given a pass”. That’s simply ludicrous: just my own post described a decade worth of hard-earned experimental results (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) from dozens of scientists, published in the very best scientific journals, supporting an evolutionary hypothesis that Behe had embarrassingly dismissed without a thought. Compare this level of effort and accomplishment to that of Behe’s and his fellow ID advocates’: in the same decade, they have put out not a single iota of a positive result for ID, while the Discovery Institute was throwing away Ahmanson’s millions at school board challenges and PR campaigns hailing the upcoming scientific revolution.

I’ll leave it to others to judge whether Behe’s words are more arrogant or ignorant. The real question to consider is: who is asking to be given a pass for “fantastic claims” here, those who are collecting data to support their hypotheses, or those who are running away from them?

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Comment #33221

Posted by Russell on June 2, 2005 2:13 PM (e)

Dr. Bottaro wrote:

Compare this level of effort and accomplishment to that of Behe’s and his fellow ID advocates’: in the same decade, they have put out not a single iota of a positive result for ID, while the Discovery Institute was throwing away Ahmanson’s millions at school board challenges and PR campaigns hailing the upcoming scientific revolution.

Oh, I beg to differ. While gathering scientific evidence for ID doesn’t have a prayer of success (and I use the term advisedly), the political pressure and PR tactics seen in Ohio, Kansas, Dover PA, etc. seem to be meeting with some success.

It’s a lot easier to fool a willfully gullible electorate than it is to fool Mother Nature. My guess is that Howard is not much concerned with the lack of progress in the laboratory.

Comment #33222

Posted by MrDarwin on June 2, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

Don’t try to use logic or reason because, frankly, the public doesn’t understand the issues or the arguments. I think we need to beat Behe at his own game by coining a concise and memorable phrase to describe ID–how about “Behe’s Black Box”? Because the ID proponents keep insisting that ID does not, and can not, say anything about the designer(s)–how many there were, how he/she/it/they went about designing anything, just what he/she/it/they did or did not design, or how, or where, or when (or even whether the “designs” are particularly efficient or competent). ID is focused entirely on the end product (design) and completely ignores the process (designer).

And that just ain’t science–but as scientists it’s a question we should be asking, over and over: What’s inside Behe’s Black Box?

Comment #33225

Posted by Mike Walker on June 2, 2005 2:30 PM (e)

That’s simply ludicrous: just my own post described a decade worth of hard-earned experimental results (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) from dozens of scientists, published in the very best scientific journals, supporting an evolutionary hypothesis that Behe had embarrassingly dismissed without a thought. Compare this level of effort and accomplishment to that of Behe’s and his fellow ID advocates’: in the same decade, they have put out not a single iota of a positive result for ID, while the Discovery Institute was throwing away Ahmanson’s millions at school board challenges and PR campaigns hailing the upcoming scientific revolution.

It is this sort of pathetic behaviour that puts ID firmly in the same camp as the other pseudosciences. How is this any different from a few fringe scientists extrapolating a whole ancient Martian civilization from a single blurry photograph all-the-while heaping scorn on the decades-long efforts of thousands of scientists trying to understand the true nature of Mars and potential for microbial life?

Those who can, do the research and publish peer reviewed papers, those who can’t cry conspiracy and publish popular (non-)fiction.

Maybe Michael Behe is proud to be considered ID’s Richard C. Hoaland?

Comment #33226

Posted by steve on June 2, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

And don’t forget “First off, let’s be clear that design can accommodate all the results of Darwinism. “ (Dembski).

So the theory of ID is “Somebody unknown did something unknown at some time in the past, which might even look exactly like evolution, but wasn’t.”

Comment #33227

Posted by SteveF on June 2, 2005 2:40 PM (e)

Totally off topic, but thought it is so cool I’d put it on what is likely to be a popular thread.

Mary Schweitzer’s latest Dino research

Comment #33228

Posted by Glen Davidson on June 2, 2005 2:53 PM (e)

They staked too much on their claims, derided their critics with the usual litany of complaints that cranks (and the occasional genius) print off of the internet, and promised the moon. No one heard of Behe before Darwin’s Black Box and the only notoriety he has is bound up with an idea that becomes more and more tenuous even in his own mind.

He could give up what he’s gotten from this ID nonsense by saying that he was fatally wrong from the beginning. No doubt that is somewhat tempting, since I’m sure he’d rather be admired by scientists and thinkers instead of the ignorant slobs he gulls. But he’s too deep in it, apparently, and just sort of wings it in the desperate attempt to sound not too stupid around the educated, and to keep his gaggle of followers awed by his repackaging of YEC criticisms of evolution.

He knows that we know it’s ridiculous, probably even knows that we know that he’s aware of having been pushed out onto a very thin limb with his more current remarks. When substance has left your (public, at least) life, however, appearances matter even more than usual, and particularly the appearance of himself in his own eyes. He’s not going to have a great triumph during the rest of his life, and will take what tawdry medals that ID gives him.

He’s the George Costanza of ID now, obsessed with appearances and willing to go for deniability whenever he can’t fake plausibility any more. Hey, he’s got us, we can’t show every last step of an evolutionary development. Sorry, we played that game in middle school, where we could always come up with impossibly high standards for the other guy to meet. And we don’t play that any more.

Regardless, it will keep the boobs in line as he demands of evolutionary science what no one demands of geology, history, or even in many cases, even present-day phenomena. “Prove every step of the development of a hurricane if you think you know how hurricane Francis developed, Mr. Arrogant Scientist!” I just remembered, it wasn’t really most of us (here) who played that game, it was the stupid bullies picking on the smart boys.

Yeah, but it’s all he has now. So it’s his mode and method now, blustering his way into increasing irrelevance.

Comment #33229

Posted by frank schmidt on June 2, 2005 2:55 PM (e)

Behe’s demand for

a mutation-by-mutation account of critical steps (which will likely be very, very many), at the amino acid level

is of course quite unattainable. It is also specious. In this he proclaims himself as a doubter of historical science, because we can never have an “account of critical steps” for any historical event. Consider the American revolution: Despite the voluminous paper trail, including the edited manuscript, how many books have been written implying that Jefferson’s contributions to the Declaration of Independence were greater than Franklin’s, or vice versa?

Some would therefore say that historical science is a contradiction, and that only experimental science is real science. Again, this is incorrect: In experimental science, we use past events (measurements, etc.) to predict future ones, but the data are always inexact (the only constants that are known precisely are the ones that are defined, e.g., the mass of Carbon-12). So it is equally impossible to predict that, e.g., one’s experimental result will turn out exactly the way it did the last time. Instead, if we’re careful, we determine variances, and use that information statistically.

This fits in with what science actually is: the construction of models (mathematical, pictures, etc.) of complex phenomena. Models of reality in science share properties with model airplanes: they are of a different scale, they are simpler (and thereby tractable to our limited brains), their level of simplification can vary, they show the most important properties of the phenomena we’re describing, and so on.

Behe knows all this. His own scientific papers rely on modeling of biomolecules but he doesn’t apply the same rubric to Biology. This is what makes his misrepresentations of science so infuriation - DBB is one gigantic blind spot, cover to cover. A horrible misuse of his vocation and training.

Guess the notoriety and royalties make it all worthwhile.

Comment #33230

Posted by frank schmidt on June 2, 2005 2:58 PM (e)

I of course meant “infuriating.”

Comment #33234

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 2, 2005 3:12 PM (e)

It is quite troubling to me to see how readily previously well reasoning scientists throw themselves on their own swords when it comes to defending some irrational belief system. I say irrational because of the obvious inconsistency of application that has been pointed out so many times, and because of the pursuit of this viewpoint in the face of such overwhelming evidence against it, that we see things like what Behe has just done.

It seems the primary M.O. for just about every previously respectable scientist that gets involved in supporting ID.

the continuing argument in the face of everything logical and rational ends up costing them their careers, basically.

Is this just some sort of martyr syndrome, or is there more too it?

It can’t just be the money, can it?

Comment #33236

Posted by 386sx on June 2, 2005 3:24 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'url'

Comment #33237

Posted by SteveF on June 2, 2005 3:31 PM (e)

To be fair, Behe aint the only scientist around to have dogmatically refused to give up on their pet idea. With Behe its a bit of a shame. The guy is obviously intelligent, has a decent publishing record and has genuinely contributed to science. This is particularly the case when compared to some other IDists, (cough) Dembski (cough).

A colleague of mine recently wrote a paper that, as a fledgling scientist, greatly encouraged me. He proceeded to summarise a substantial bulk of the work he had undertaken since the early ’70s. He then said it was seriously flawed and future research needed to be carried out in a different manner. It takes a great deal of character to do something like this. Evidently Behe doesn’t possess such character, though given all the social issues tied up with his work it must be difficult for him to make a retraction.

Comment #33238

Posted by steve on June 2, 2005 3:33 PM (e)

Comment #33227
Posted by SteveF on June 2, 2005 02:40 PM (e) (s)

Totally off topic, but thought it is so cool I’d put it on what is likely to be a popular thread.

Mary Schweitzer’s latest Dino research

That’s why I posted that on the bathroom wall, a little while ago.

Comment #33239

Posted by bill on June 2, 2005 3:38 PM (e)

Glen Davidson wrote:

Regardless, it will keep the boobs in line…

Brahe’s Over the Shoulder Blunder Holder?

Ya think there’s a market?

Comment #33246

Posted by Michael Hopkins on June 2, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

Behe has gone off the deep end and seems to forgetten the whole point of IC which was that a “Darwinian” explanation is not even possible in principle. It proposed that multiple parts of [fill in some biochemical feature of life] had to appear at the same time to be of any use. If scientists show that all the multiple parts function outside of that system then the IC argument for that system is disproven.

I simply don’t see the point of a mutation by mutation analysis complete with compete account of selection pressures. Those don’t fossilize and undoubtedly many selection pressures millions of years ago cannot possibly have been known. Could someone living millions of years in the future figure out the selection pressure keeping the sickle-cell hemoglobin in existance without knowing about malaria? Only with omniscient knowledge of the past could one ever do the analysis of the selection presures of any proposed sequence of mutations.

And what basis does Behe assume there is no possible path for natural selection and mutation here? It is certainly not IC anymore. Behe in his book claimed that he could show that there was no possible path for natural selection and mutation (and by implication genetic drift, recombination, horizontal transfer, and other mechanisms known to evolutionary biology). If Behe’s arguments are to be considered a disproof of evolutionary mechanisms then he must show that evolutionary mechanism could not transform the pre-existing parts into the system observed today. If he can’t then his arguments all fall into a “I don’t think it could happen” when he started out with a claim that “It is impossible for it to happen.”

In the end SteveF and other posters are right that Behe’s behavior is simple that of a man who will simply can’t admit that he was wrong. One must ask, to steal a phrase form Bob Park, whether Behe is on the “road from foolishness to fraud.” A great many of those engaged in pseudoscience started sincerely enough but their inability to admit to themselves and/or to others that they were wrong led more and more dishonest spin and more and more desperate rhetoric to avoid admission of error.

Behe wrote:

Professor Bottaro, perhaps sensing that the paper he cites won’t be persuasive to people who are skeptical of Darwinian claims…

Well of cause he can sense it. I am sure that Bottaro can sense that no conceivable evidence will convince Behe.

Someone at the PT needs to set a trackback at Behe’s response to this article.


Anti-spam: Replace “user” with “harlequin2”

Comment #33247

Posted by Ben on June 2, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

He’s the George Costanza of ID now

Exactly. IC is Behe’s house in the Hamptons.

Comment #33266

Posted by Flint on June 2, 2005 7:39 PM (e)

It’s not unheard of for scientists to hitch their wagon to the wrong star, and find their reputations hostage to some notion that no longer looks nearly as attractive as it did before sufficient data bacame available, or before some alternative interpretation of it became fashionable. Combine this entirely human reluctance with an equally misplaced religious conviction (and Darwin’s Black Box surely reflects a desire to find what Belief says had to be there), and I doubt anyone reading this blog would be large enough to toss it all out. Even the great Agassiz couldn’t do it, and his religious faith was under no direct attack.

So I have serious disagreement with those who imply that fame and fortune are at or near the top of Behe’s personal priorities. He STILL is convinced that his God took or continues to take an active role circumventing natural processes here and there to force the pace and direction of biological change.

I suggest it’s worthwhile drawing a distinction between Behe’s public posture (which he can’t back off of for reasons of position and reputation), and his internal convictions (which us tealeaf readers interpret to indicate some genuine doubt). Giving up the house in the Hamptons is something quite different from giving up God.

Comment #33271

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 2, 2005 8:08 PM (e)

Hey, i too feel sorry for someone who lets his internal convinctions influence his public life to the detriment of it.

but that’s just it… if you want to be a scientist, you have to use the scientific method and frickin’ DO science.

If your internal convinctions are so strong they prevent you from doing this, perhaps being a scientist is the wrong career, eh?

I was at or near the top of my class for every physics, chemistry and biology course I participated in when i was an undergraduate at UC santa Barbara. The only course that kicked my ass was advanced population genetics, which i ended up with a C in. The person who taught that course was one of the best evolutionary biologists I have ever met, John Endler. I spent quite a lot of time speaking with him about evolutionary theory and genetics, and questioned him as to what it meant that i got a C in genetics.

He told me: “Uh, maybe it means you shouldn’t be a genetecist?”

I always wonder why it is that literally thousands of professional biologists that employ evolutionary theory every day can reconcile their religious beliefs, while on the other hand there always seem to be a few who can’t, and then feel they must change not their beliefs, but the very nature of science itself.

I personally couldn’t care less what the difference is between Behe’s public posture and his private one. the fact of the matter is, he is doing science a grave disservice in the public eye, for whatever reason, and he should realize that and stop.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has EVER asked Behe to “give up god”.

Comment #33274

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on June 2, 2005 8:54 PM (e)

In the midst of a second great post which ought to be in the “must-read” category, Andrea Bottaro writes,

Indeed, I said that thankfully there is much more to be learned. My point was to compare the lively and steadily progressing field of evolutionary immunology, in Calvin and Hobbes’ box, to the stale air inside the IC cabinet, in which all efforts are directed at keeping the door tightly shut.

Behe accuses evolutionary biologists of inventing impossible explanations out of thin air, and he therefore accuses them of jumping in the magical imaginary flying box with Calvin and Hobbes.

But I think it is more apt to say that Behe is the one invoking magical explanations willy-nilly, Behe is the one who dismisses hard scientific research favor of “Poof! IDdidit!”, and therefore it should be pointed out whenever possible that Behe is the one jumping in the imaginary flying box with Calvin and Hobbes.

Comment #33275

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 2, 2005 9:02 PM (e)

like i said, just more “reversal” tactics. always accuse the other fellow of doing the things you know he will accuse you of doing first.

It’s been a very successful strategy for the Repbulican party for many years now; it seems obvious to me that they simply imparted their “wisdom” to the creationist movement as well.

What galls me is how many people fall for it without a second thought.

It wouldn’t be such a successful strategy if there weren’t so many willing to accept it to begin with.

Behe is just a symptom, the disease is the ignorance of the average american, evidently.

Comment #33276

Posted by Flint on June 2, 2005 9:19 PM (e)

Sir Toejam:

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has EVER asked Behe to “give up god”.

I suspect you aren’t even TRYING to communicate here. Creationists being asked by theistic evolutionists to see it their way are, in their own interpretation, being asked to give up God. Theistic evolutionists being asked by creationists to believe in a god who fakes all the evidence are, in their own interpretation, ALSO being asked to give up God. Both views regard the other as believing in a god so false as to be ludicrous.

What you are saying is that Behe’s (And Dembski’s) Gods are foolish and silly because belief in them incapacitates their ability to do “real” science. I sympathesize with you that these people’s faith is misguided, and their effort to use science to find a god of their preferred description hiding in the real universe obligates them to distort that universe to fit. But demanding that they give up their careers strikes me as the heights of arrogance. Better to focus on education, and hoping the Behes and Dembskis will die out without being replaced.

Nick:

Yes and no. I don’t read Behe as dismissing the hard scientific research, so much as failing to be satisfied with any research, however diligent, that keeps generating the “wrong” explanations. The way I read it, Behe’s conviction is that his god DID things. It’s obvious, transparent, and simple. The job for science is to discover this truism in the evidence. If science fails, science is a failure.

Kind of a shame to watch obviously smart, knowledgeable people, trained to follow the evidence, fighting to make the evidence support something it does not and that they cannot modify. It seems clear that to Behe, the evidence MUST support his faith. Why some people can’t fit their faith to the evidence (or just drop it), I wish some Believer would explain more clearly. The closest any of them seem to come is “I believe because my beliefs are correct. I know this from direct religious experience to which evidence need not apply.”

Comment #33282

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on June 2, 2005 10:01 PM (e)

Frank Schmidt wrote:

In experimental science, we use past events (measurements, etc.) to predict future ones, but the data are always inexact (the only constants that are known precisely are the ones that are defined, e.g., the mass of Carbon-12).

Or more accurately, everything in science is a past event. On cannot observe present events because there is always a delay between the time an event occurs and the time it is observed.

Comment #33286

Posted by Aristotle on June 2, 2005 10:40 PM (e)

On cannot observe present events because there is always a delay between the time an event occurs and the time it is observed.

Careful, Reed. This could be construed as a metaphysical comment.

Comment #33295

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 2, 2005 11:07 PM (e)

Dr. Bottaro wrote:

But wait a minute: does Behe have in hand the list of mutations that occurred on the path from myoglobin to hemoglobin?

But Behe isn’t a Darwinist. Dr. Bottaro, do you have a list of mutations that occurred on the path of this “rather simple modification of the behavior of myoglobin”? Remember, it’s simple. There must be a simple list. Right?

Comment #33303

Posted by steve on June 2, 2005 11:42 PM (e)

At Hillsdale, after his public lecture, I challenged Behe in a small-group discussion to give us a positive statement of exactly how the “Intelligent Designer” creates bacterial flagella. As usual, he was evasive. But I didn’t let him get away. And finally, he answered: “In a puff of smoke!” A physicist in our group asked, “Do you mean that the Intelligent Designer suspends the laws of physics through working a miracle?” And Behe answered: “Yes.”

That’s not good enough, Mike. I want a detailed account of the air pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the smoke, the expected time scale over which the puff would be expected to occur, the likely puff sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more.

Comment #33321

Posted by Dene Bebbington on June 3, 2005 5:15 AM (e)

Michael Behe also wrote:

“A third important lesson to draw from Professor Doolittle’s mistake is that Darwinists often have extremely low standards of evidence to support their theory. Any remotely, superficially plausible account for the origin of system is taken by the Darwinian faithful as earth-shaking evidence that unintelligent mechanisms can do the trick. And anyone skeptical of the just-so story is often derided as either dumb or as having vaguely nefarious motives.”

Oh, the irony. The IDers have set up a lopsided argument that says if there is no detailed and complete Darwinian history for the flagellum then by some loose analogy to human designers ID must be the default explanation. This argument from ignorance forms the basis of ID which is nothing more than special pleading that somehow a lesser explanation should become the accepted one. Heck, Dembski has even made a living from this sophistry, demanding a higher bar of evidence for the theory that ID is meant to replace. If they had any intellectual integrity they’d accept that by the same token they must detail who the designer(s) is, how it created the flagellum, and when.

Why do these people squander their abilities in stupid and disguised Christian apologetics. What a waste of intellectual talent.

Comment #33324

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2005 5:42 AM (e)

But Behe isn’t a Darwinist.

But he does accept common descent and the evolution of humans from apelike primates — even without a step-by-step descritpion at the amino acid level.

Comment #33325

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2005 5:44 AM (e)

Dr. Bottaro, do you have a list of mutations that occurred on the path of this “rather simple modification of the behavior of myoglobin”? Remember, it’s simple. There must be a simple list. Right?

IDers, do any of you have a list of actions that the designer carried out in producing the flagellum, or the blood clotting cascade, or … well … anything else? Anything at all?

sound of crickets chirping>

Yep, that’s what I thought.

Comment #33326

Posted by bcpmoon on June 3, 2005 5:50 AM (e)

blastfromthepast wrote:

But Behe isn’t a Darwinist. Dr. Bottaro, do you have a list of mutations that occurred on the path of this “rather simple modification of the behavior of myoglobin”? Remember, it’s simple. There must be a simple list. Right?

Not really. The point was, that Behe accepts the transition from myoglobin to haemoglobin as being possible via evolution. So, following his own standards, he should have that “simple list” already. It is a question of logic. If he does not have that list, then he simply and arbitrarily draws a line somewhere between Evolution- and IC-Systems, based on his own whim.

Comment #33330

Posted by SteveF on June 3, 2005 6:08 AM (e)

Interestingly Flint mentions Agassiz who managed to convince William Buckland about ice age theory. Buckland spent most of his life trying to reconcile geology with the Bible (though he also devoted time to exposing cranks and frauds) and yet when confronted with the evidence for glaciation was big enough to accept it, despite it contradicting much of his work up until that point.

I personally don’t think we should be too hard on Behe. As I said above, plenty of scientists don’t have the grace to admit their mistakes and Behe has a lot of added pressure on his shoulders because of the wider ramifications of his work. He should retract but I doubt many people would, including contributers to the PT.

Comment #33333

Posted by Zarquon on June 3, 2005 6:30 AM (e)

Agassiz and Buckland were arguing when men were real men, women were real women and small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. Behe has 150 years of evolutionary science to refute him so why should he get any sympathy?

Comment #33334

Posted by SteveF on June 3, 2005 6:43 AM (e)

Imagine the situation - you come up with a concept that you believe will lead to the downfall of one of the most famous (and successful) scientific theories of all time. You are then pulled (or go willingly) into the wider ramifications of this, with court cases, massive media reporting, proposed legislation and millions of people believing that your work shoots down something that challenges their most deeply cherished beliefs. Imagine yourself in this situation; how easy would you find it to let go of this concept?

I’m not advocating Behe is given sympathy, rather some understanding.

Comment #33344

Posted by Russell on June 3, 2005 8:24 AM (e)

I’m not advocating Behe is given sympathy, rather some understanding.

Well said.

I think after this last exchange we can all “understand” that (1) Behe* will never retreat, and (2) that you can pretty much dismiss everything he writes on this subject.

*Same, of course, goes for Dembski, Wells, and all the others who have staked their careers and reputations on this scam.

Comment #33345

Posted by Flint on June 3, 2005 8:27 AM (e)

SteveF:

Behe and Dembski seem similar in this respect, and different from the Johnson/Wells camp, in that they both possess and apply considerable technical skills. They are also similar in that they began with the same general goal: to use their skills and expertise to construct a real-world justification for their religious convictions rather than just reciting a catechism. I don’t think they so much thought their ideas would “lead to the downfall” of evolution, so much as provide a vehicle through which thoughtful believers could seriously question it, and do productive research in support of their questioning.

And I think they accomplished their goals in ways no other creationists have, because the arguments of all the other creationists consist of nothing more than misrepresenting scientific statements and positions. Behe and Dembski actually tried to produce testable claims, and indeed scientists have investigated these claims in some considerable detail (and how can you “investigate” mined quotes?)

Perhaps what’s bothering us now is how Behe and Dembski have responded to the consensus concerning genuine flaws in their work. Behe’s main problem (as I understand it) is that IC is an entirely unsurprising condition evolution produces as standard practice, which can be reached by multiple known evolutionary paths. Dembski’s main problem (again as I understand it) is that he has constructed a negative argument (if not A, then B) and that his conceptualization of chance plus regularity fails to address the feedback processes nature employs for nearly everything.

And in response to these criticisms, both Behe and Dembski have chosen to stonewall. Behe grabs the goalposts and heads for the moon, while Dembski retreats into “just delete all criticism” denial. Neither of them has made any attempt to rescue their concepts in the face of entirely valid criticism. In other words, they are scientists (being generous to Dembski) and creationists, but when the two came into conflict in public discourse, both of them behaved entirely like creationists and not a bit like scientists.

And this leads us to wonder in hindsight whether their original work was a sincere effort to reconcile their beliefs with their observations, or whether it was mostly a PR effort, using their expertise to obfuscate known error behind scientistical-sounding noises. Maybe they’re not torn between being honest on the one hand, and keeping their considerable status on the other. Maybe instead, we should give them credit for identifying a trend and positioning themselves to benefit from it, at no time placing their beliefs in the slightest jeopardy. I don’t know.

Comment #33346

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 3, 2005 8:33 AM (e)

Blastfromthepast wrote:
But Behe isn’t a Darwinist. Dr. Bottaro, do you have a list of mutations that occurred on the path of this “rather simple modification of the behavior of myoglobin”? Remember, it’s simple. There must be a simple list. Right?

bcpmoon has alreay answered. It is not me who is asking for that laundry list of evidence in order to be satisfied with an evolutionary hypothesis, it is Behe. So, if he does agree hemoglobin (or the insulin B peptide) evolved, he should provide the laundry list. If he doesn’t have one, he should explain why the laundry list is not necessary in that case, but it is for the immune system.

I am content to say that the evidence we have right now, although incomplete, is in good agreement with both the evolution of hemoglobins and the immune system via known evolutionary mechanisms, and I do not see the need to postulate additional unproven and/or supernatural mechanisms to account for their origin.

In alternative, of course, Behe can say that, by his revised standards, he now doesn’t believe there is sufficient evidence for the evolution of anything at all, complete his transition to the Dark Side, and take on a new name, like Darth Kreo or something.

Comment #33360

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 3, 2005 9:29 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #33364

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 3, 2005 9:35 AM (e)

Sorry I goofed up on the quotes.

I noticed one part of your response I didn’t address. I don’t want to speak for Behe, but I suppose he would say that there is no laundry list of evidence (mutations) linking together the various parts of the immune system; that’s why it is IC. It seems to me the argument for ID is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, it is the “interplay” of the various components (not their origin) that makes the system IC.

Comment #33365

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on June 3, 2005 9:50 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #33366

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 3, 2005 9:54 AM (e)

I don’t want to speak for Behe, but I suppose he would say that there is no laundry list of evidence (mutations) linking together the various parts of the immune system; that’s why it is IC.

At the same time, this claim is just moving the goal posts to cover the fact he’s been so badly trounced on many of his other claims. He knows fully well that such semantics are irrelevant and would more than likely impossible to produce (as not all intermediates would exist anymore, as would have to be found to meet such a requirement). The general problem however is that Behe CANNOT produce a ‘laundry list’ of mechanisms that would support his ID argument, he’s just arguing a logical fallacy (appeal to ignorance). The fact is, there is a lot of evidence that demonstrates the immune system has simpler precursors that could definitely have produced the vertebrate immune system. Better still from an evolutionary perspective, there are several ways to make GOD (generation of diversity) systems that function fine in other animals (Such as jawless fish).

Rather than asking for pointless semantics and moving goalposts, what Behe SHOULD provide is a testable hypothesis that would maintain RAG genes and precursor immune genes could NOT have produced the immune system. In short, Behe rather than simply posit that because we don’t know something, then it must be designed (negative evidence at its best) he should provide POSTIVE evidence for these systems being ID. At the moment there is a considerable amount of positive evidence that the immune genes have preliminary precursors in both transposases and genes. This is itself enough to refute Behes initial premises and demonstrates how IC is a load of bunk.

It seems to me the argument for ID is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

But the fact that you can remove parts of that “Irreducibly complex” system by DEFINITION of IC refutes it. At the time Behe wrote black box he couldn’t fathom evidence for the immune system evolving as we know now, so he obviously has to shift the goalposts.

That is all he is doing.

So, it is the “interplay” of the various components (not their origin) that makes the system IC.

But this is wrong again, because as most IDists are want to do, it misses the point of the system altogether. You can have a very simple GOD system, such as the one employed by jawless fish that works fine, but it doesn’t hurt to have something a lot better. The point here is that you don’t *need* the hugely complex immune system of humans to recognise pathogens. What ID needs to explain is WHY the lampreys immune system works if the human immune system is IC. If you need our immune system, in its complete form to recognise pathogens and produce diverse immune receptors (IE it is the IC one) then why doesn’t the Lamprey and other jawless fish? Simply put, Behes entire argument is worthless.

Comment #33367

Posted by steve on June 3, 2005 9:59 AM (e)

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 3, 2005 09:35 AM (e) (s)

Sorry I goofed up on the quotes.

I noticed one part of your response I didn’t address. I don’t want to speak for Behe, but I suppose he would say that there is no laundry list of evidence (mutations) linking together the various parts of the immune system; that’s why it is IC. It seems to me the argument for ID is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, it is the “interplay” of the various components (not their origin) that makes the system IC.

That’s incoherent. First you say no evidence of the origin makes it IC. Then you say it’s not the origin, but the behavior, that makes it IC.

Let me break it down for you.

1 Behe’s Big Claim was that anything which is IC couldn’t have evolved.
2 Scientists quickly showed him two different ways IC things could evolve.
3 Now Behe says I didn’t really mean that, and oh yeah, well, now I claim evolution is inadequate when any last detail remains unknown.

He lost, and he lost bigtime, and Demski tried to reformulate IC to work, and he lost too.

Comment #33369

Posted by steve on June 3, 2005 10:03 AM (e)

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 3, 2005 09:35 AM (e) (s)

Sorry I goofed up on the quotes.

I noticed one part of your response I didn’t address. I don’t want to speak for Behe, but I suppose he would say that there is no laundry list of evidence (mutations) linking together the various parts of the immune system; that’s why it is IC. It seems to me the argument for ID is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So, it is the “interplay” of the various components (not their origin) that makes the system IC.

That’s incoherent. First you say no evidence of the origin makes it IC. Then you say it’s not the origin, but the behavior, that makes it IC.

Let me break it down for you.

1 Behe’s Big Claim was that anything which is IC couldn’t have evolved.
2 Scientists quickly showed him two different ways IC thing could evolve.
3 Now Behe says I didn’t really mean that, and oh yeah, well, now I claim evolution is inadequate when any last detail remains unknown.

He lost, and he lost bigtime, and Demski tried to reformulate IC to work, and he lost too.

Comment #33373

Posted by Russell on June 3, 2005 10:09 AM (e)

Joseph O'Donnell wrote:

You can have a very simple GOD system, such as the one employed by jawless fish

(Perhaps there are readers out there who will appreciate that the GOD in question has nothing to do with theology, but is the “Generator Of Diversity necessary for an adaptive immune system.)

Comment #33377

Posted by steve on June 3, 2005 10:11 AM (e)

ID is like a reworking of the famous Sidney Harris cartoon (for the uninitiated, http://www.acad.sunytccc.edu/instruct/sbrown/pic/miracle.jpg ). Except their thesis is, hey all this evolutionary science, all these textbooks, these hundreds of thousands of papers, why don’t we ditch all that, and replace it with, “A miracle occured”?

Comment #33378

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 3, 2005 10:15 AM (e)

Hrm yes, it appears that I forgot to put the meaning of that while I was writing. I did it for amusement purposes to begin with; when I wrote an essay on the evolution of the immune system I took great delight in naming one of the subsections “Evolutionary mechanisms of GOD” (Generation of Diversity).

:p

Comment #33380

Posted by Aureola Nominee, FCD on June 3, 2005 10:27 AM (e)

Actually you didn’t forget.

Better still from an evolutionary perspective, there are several ways to make GOD (generation of diversity) systems that function fine in other animals (Such as jawless fish).

Comment #33381

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 3, 2005 10:34 AM (e)

The additional clarification is probably useful anyway just in case.

Comment #33387

Posted by Dene Bebbington on June 3, 2005 11:12 AM (e)

Arne wrote:

“Ummmm, what “intellectual talent”? I thought that you had just pointed out that they seem to be singularly lacking in such.”

Well, Dembski can obviously do math, and Behe is a Biochemist. They do have intellectual talent, but they are wasting themselves on sophistry.

Comment #33389

Posted by Dene Bebbington on June 3, 2005 11:16 AM (e)

Arne wrote:

“Ummmm, what “intellectual talent”? I thought that you had just pointed out that they seem to be singularly lacking in such.”

Well, Dembski can do maths and Behe is a Biochemist. Instead they choose to waste themselves on sophistry.

Comment #33392

Posted by SEF on June 3, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

if he does agree hemoglobin (or the insulin B peptide) evolved

Stepping back a moment, if Behe does agree with those then isn’t he also forced into accepting all the common descent which accompanies those (including of course many consequences which other creationists hate)? Otherwise he’d be proposing the much more implausible repetition of evolution across multiple lineages (extensive repeats being genuinely less probable than any previously unspecified path which evolution just happens to make for itself, ie a real case where the maths says it won’t happen rather than the false creationist ones).

NB I know Behe isn’t supposed to be one of those who is himself rabidly against all evolution; but nonetheless it might be worth listing the full consequences of the degree of evolution he’s accepted so far via haemoglobin and insulin, as I don’t suppose his fellow creationists who are rabidly anti-evolution/science/reality are capable of working it out for themselves.

Comment #33395

Posted by Glen Davidson on June 3, 2005 12:00 PM (e)

I’m not advocating Behe is given sympathy, rather some understanding.

Oh, we understand, that’s why I say kick him when he’s down.

You are then pulled (or go willingly) into the wider ramifications of this, with court cases, massive media reporting, proposed legislation and millions of people believing that your work shoots down something that challenges their most deeply cherished beliefs. Imagine yourself in this situation; how easy would you find it to let go of this concept?

Not easy, which is why we should make it harder for him to take the easy way out. Look, he’s not the neighbor down the street who you humor when he quotes Behe or Dembski. He’s the guy taking the neighbor down the street for the ride that he (the neighbor), in fact, wants, but in the manner in which the neighbor didn’t want, through cheesy science and cheap rhetorical tricks (that’s what they are now, at least).

As a person, fine, what do I care what Behe does to maintain his ego? As an ID©ist Jerry Falwell, though, he deserves whatever he gets from us. I said ‘kick him when he’s down’, but that was only to state the principle. What is needed perhaps is a kind of “sympathy” for a man apparently gone barmy in his misguided attempts to be the new Darwin, or rather more pathetically, the new Philip Johnson. Yes I have some sympathy for the man, but I wouldn’t mind using pity and sympathy to further marginalize someone who has given so many false hopes to what are mostly good people who need instead to learn how to reconcile with the world in an honest and straightforward manner.

Comment #33414

Posted by Jeff S on June 3, 2005 1:21 PM (e)

Tomorrows ID headline :

“Darwinists claim that GOD is really just a jawless fish.”

Comment #33432

Posted by Jeff S on June 3, 2005 2:01 PM (e)

It’s really interesting to consider the position that Behe has gotten
himself into. If, as is apparently the case, he is an otherwise
competent scientist, he *has* to realize privately that his IC
argument (however promising he may have thought it originally) has
proven to be a worthless pile of crap. But the emotional hooks of
religion sink pretty deep, and I assume he still believes that his
efforts are for the good, strengthning the “faith” (ignorance) of his
followers. So the common standards of integrity and ethics that we
apply to scientists might not be the appropriate ones to appeal to.

If, Dr. Behe, you are reading this post you may want to consider other
leaders in your community who had the “integrity” to come clean, even
if only because decption was no longer working :

Jimmy Swaggert : admitted to “unspecified sin”. This, apparently is
right wing christian code language for boffing a (black !) whore. His
admission (in the 1980s) seems to have come with an extension
clause: at least twice during the ’90s he was caught with prostitues.

Jim Bakker flat out admitted “I was Wrong”, at least after serving 5
years in prison for fraud. He even retracted some of his teachings about
prosperity. Incidently, “I was Wrong” is the title of one of his best
selling books, available at select book stores …

Comment #33440

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 3, 2005 2:16 PM (e)

… and you can catch uncle Jimmy back in the pulpit on your TV again too.

and we wonder why ID has no problems finding supporters among the average american?

Comment #33443

Posted by Sir_Toejam on June 3, 2005 2:30 PM (e)

@Flint:

Please stop misinterpreting everything i write. Read what i posted again.

just to reiterate:

nobody has asked behe to give up his faith in god, merely his attempts to find god wherever he looks and call that science.

yes, I firmly believe that if one tries to force an internal perception on to an external reality, that is NOT science. I have seen several folks get forced out of science, and several voluntarily change careers because of attempts of this nature (or self-realized internal conflicts), and find that to be appropriate myself. Geez, why on earth does PT even exist if we aren’t trying to preserve the scientific method in the face of attacks by those who would force religion into it? I have nothing against folks who have faith in god, but when they try to put a crutch under their faith by inventing a psuedo-science, they should be called on it.

I have also seen plenty of folks who maintain their faith and still do good science. several of the contributors on PT can be described as such.

You are confusing faith with interpretation.

Comment #33449

Posted by Jason on June 3, 2005 3:10 PM (e)

If I’m ever on trial, I want a jury full of Behe’s….

Your honor, since the prosecution could not give a detailed, step-by-step account of exactly how the crime was committed, complete with a full description of every single thought that influenced each of the defendant’s actions, we must reject the DNA evidence, fingerprints, and all the other forensic evidence and find him…..NOT GUILTY!!

I think I’ll try this approach next time I’m visiting some geologic feature, like the Grand Canyon…

Excuse me Mr. Park Ranger, but if you cannot give me a detailed, pebble-by-pebble, grain-by-grain account of exactly how this canyon was allegedly eroded, complete with a full description of the meteorological conditions under which each step occurred, I must reject your naturalistic, materialistic account and conclude that this canyon is the product of an intelligent agent.

Comment #33451

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on June 3, 2005 3:17 PM (e)

SEF wrote:

Stepping back a moment, if Behe does agree with those then isn’t he also forced into accepting all the common descent which accompanies those (including of course many consequences which other creationists hate)? Otherwise he’d be proposing the much more implausible repetition of evolution across multiple lineages (extensive repeats being genuinely less probable than any previously unspecified path which evolution just happens to make for itself, ie a real case where the maths says it won’t happen rather than the false creationist ones).

Not necessarily. It depends on whether he believes all the magic, er, intelligent design, was done at the beginning or whether G–, I mean the intelligent designer, stepped in from time to time to add something complex. To my knowledge, Behe has confessed to some acceptance of common ancestry, but has never divulged details on where and when the design happened.

Comment #33452

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on June 3, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

“Excuse me Mr. Park Ranger, but if you cannot give me a detailed, pebble-by-pebble, grain-by-grain account of exactly how this canyon was allegedly eroded,…

I think you’ll enjoy this piece on evidence and direct observation

Comment #33458

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 3, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

steve wrote:

That’s incoherent. First you say no evidence of the origin makes it IC. Then you say it’s not the origin, but the behavior, that makes it IC.

This is a two-parter: the “origin” of the parts; and the “origin” of the system.

Joseph O'Donnell wrote:

What ID needs to explain is WHY the lampreys immune system works if the human immune system is IC. If you need our immune system, in its complete form to recognise pathogens and produce diverse immune receptors (IE it is the IC one) then why doesn’t the Lamprey and other jawless fish? Simply put, Behe’s entire argument is worthless.

But how do we know that the lamprey immune system is NOT IC? I suspect–just a guess here–that we’re talking about the human system simply because that has been extensively studied (In other words, no one has yet studied the lamprey’s immune system because there isn’t a pressing need to know).

SEF wrote:

Stepping back a moment, if Behe does agree with those then isn’t he also forced into accepting all the common descent which accompanies those (including of course many consequences which other creationists hate)?

I think if you look at Behe’s response, you’ll see that he readily concedes the point on common descent. The fossil record makes abundantly clear that “common descent” is a reasonable assumption. My sense is that most IDers accept that. If an IDer didn’t, then I think you would have to classify him, or her, as a creationist.

Comment #33465

Posted by Flint on June 3, 2005 4:30 PM (e)

Sir Toejam:

Please stop misinterpreting everything i write. Read what i posted again.

I’m afraid you write far too much for me to misinterpret everything you write. Orders of magnitude too much. I’m limited by time constraints to misinterpret only a small part of your prolific output.

Comment #33475

Posted by Quine on June 3, 2005 5:39 PM (e)

STJ wrote:

I firmly believe that if one tries to force an internal perception on to an external reality, that is NOT science.

Ignoring the sloppy use of the word ‘perception’ and the dated talk of ‘internal’ and ‘external’, what a hoplessly naive picture of the epistemological foundations of ‘science’.

I have two words for you: conceptual scheme. If you follow these two words, you’ll soon discover others. Stay the course long enough and you may say something intelligent on the subject.

Comment #33476

Posted by Quine on June 3, 2005 5:42 PM (e)

STJ wrote:

I firmly believe that if one tries to force an internal perception on to an external reality, that is NOT science.

Ignoring the sloppy use of the word ‘perception’ and the dated talk of ‘internal’ and ‘external’, what a hoplessly naive picture of the epistemological foundations of ‘science’.

I have two words for you: conceptual scheme. If you follow these two words, you’ll soon discover others. Stay the course long enough and you may say something intelligent on the subject.

Comment #33479

Posted by Quine on June 3, 2005 5:45 PM (e)

Well, I’m sure you are also hoplessly naive, but I meant to call your position hopelessly naive.

Comment #33490

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #33491

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2005 6:23 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #33493

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 3, 2005 6:28 PM (e)

But Behe is NOT satisfied with the Darwinian mechanism of evolution. That’s his whole point.

How dreadful.

And what, again, is his alternative explanation for the appearence of any of his “IC systems”? What the heck IS this “scientific theory of ID” that I keep hearing so much talk about?

And I’ll even be nice and NOT ask for a step-by-step amino-acid-by-amino-acid explanation – just a general (1) what the designer did, (2) what mechanisms it used to do whatever the heck Behe thinks it did, and (3) where we can see these mechanisms in action today.

Or isn’t ID capable of giving even one-tenth, one-hundredth or even one-thousandth the level of explanation that Behe demands of evolutionary biology ……

Does Behe know what a “goose” and a “gander” are?

Comment #33568

Posted by Julius Barber on June 4, 2005 6:45 AM (e)

The ID campaign is like an escalating game of hide-and-seek: how many layers of blindfolds do they expect their acolytes to put on, in order to ensure that they’ll never discover that there probably isn’t a designer, after all?

Comment #33660

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on June 4, 2005 4:46 PM (e)

Flank wrote:

But he does accept common descent and the evolution of humans from apelike primates —- even without a step-by-step descritpion at the amino acid level.

You’ve said this so many times. Check Behe’s latest post. If it wasn’t clear already it should be now; to Behe common descent means born of a parent, but the Designer did the molecular biololgy when interesting differences are concerned. The first generation of amphibians could have hatched right out of fish eggs.

Comment #33664

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 4, 2005 5:04 PM (e)

But he does accept common descent and the evolution of humans from apelike primates —- even without a step-by-step descritpion at the amino acid level.

You’ve said this so many times.

And so has Behe:

Intelligent Design Is Not Creationism
Response to “Not (Just) in Kansas Anymore” by Eugenie C. Scott, Science (May 2000)

Michael J. Behe
Science Online
July 7, 2000

Scott refers to me as an intelligent design “creationist,” even though I clearly write in my book Darwin’s Black Box (which Scott cites) that I am not a creationist and have no reason to doubt common descent. In fact, my own views fit quite comfortably with the 40% of scientists that Scott acknowledges think “evolution occurred, but was guided by God.”

From “Darwin’s Black Box”
Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. (p. 5)

From “Darwin’s Black Box”
“I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent.” (p.176)

“I dispute the mechanism of natural selection, not common descent.” in Reply to My Critics, Biology and Philosophy 16, p697, 2001.

Christianity Today, August 12th 2002
“A Nuclear Bomb” For Evolution?: Critics of Darwinism say skull’s discovery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

by Todd Hertz

Behe said ID is “several levels of biology removed from the hominid versus chimp distinction.” The point of contention between evolution and intelligent design is whether design or chance guided human development, not how humans developed.

“Darwin’s claim to fame was not so much that he thought that organisms might have evolved from common ancestors,” Behe said. “Other people had put forward other theories but had always invoked guiding intelligence. His main point was that it might happen by chance.”

Darwin’s Black Box, Reviewed by Kenneth R. Miller
(as published in Creation / Evolution Volume 16: pp, 36-40 [1996])

Perhaps the single most stunning thing about Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe’s “Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,” is the amount of territory that its author concedes to Darwinism. As tempted as they might be to pick up this book in their own defense, “scientific creationists” should think twice about enlisting an ally who has concluded that the Earth is several billion years old, that evolutionary biology has had “much success in accounting for the patterns of life we see around us (1),” that evolution accounts for the appearance of new organisms including antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and who is convinced that all organisms share a “common ancestor.” In plain language, this means that Michael Behe and I share an evolutionary view of the natural history of the Earth and the meaning of the fossil record; namely, that present-day organisms have been produced by a process of descent with modification from their ancient ancestors. Behe is clear, firm, and consistent on this point. For example, when Michael and I engaged in debate at the 1995 meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation, I argued that the 100% match of DNA sequences in the pseudogene region of beta-globin was proof that humans and gorillas shared a recent common ancestor. To my surprise, Behe said that he shared that view, and had no problem with the notion of common ancestry. Creationists who believe that Behe is on their side should proceed with caution - he states very clearly that evolution can produce new species, and that human beings are one of those species.

But hey, there is no need to take my word for it what Behe’s opinion is about common descent, human evolution, and young-earth creationists. You can write to him and ASK HIM YOURSELF, just like I did. His email address is: mjb1@lehigh.edu . Write to him. Ask him. Tell us what answer you get.

Comment #33703

Posted by Henry J on June 4, 2005 11:06 PM (e)

Re (From “Darwin’s Black Box”) “Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism.”

I’d think it’s not the questioning (or even having doubts about it), but claims that imply its main points (or some of them) are totally wrong, or that their unsupported (or even contradicted) by evidence.

Re (Behe’s) “His [Darwin’s] main point was that it might happen by chance.”

And here I thought Darwin’s point was that it was caused by adaptation to new or changed environment. Or did I miss something?

Henry

Comment #33733

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 5, 2005 9:45 AM (e)

Re (Behe’s) “His [Darwin’s] main point was that it might happen by chance.”

And here I thought Darwin’s point was that it was caused by adaptation to new or changed environment. Or did I miss something?

Nope, you’re not missing anything. Evolution is based on selection, not “chance”. Selection is the very *opposite* of “chance”. Indeed, if the reproductive success of organisms were based on “random chance” (as all the IDers and creationists keep telling us), then evolution itself would be impossible.

Creationist/IDers seem unable to grasp that simple point.

Comment #33782

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 5, 2005 3:37 PM (e)

quote author=”’Rev Dr’ Lenny FlankNope, you’re not missing anything. Evolution is based on selection, not “chance”. Selection is the very *opposite* of “chance”. Indeed, if the reproductive success of organisms were based on “random chance” (as all the IDers and creationists keep telling us), then evolution itself would be impossible.
[/quote”>

Does this mean you subscribe to Dawkin’s Blind Watchmaker argument? IMOH there are problems with his argument. I don’t find it compelling.

Comment #33786

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 5, 2005 3:53 PM (e)

It’s not so much Dawkin’s argument, it’s just how the world actually appears to work. For example, Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance by deliberately mutating certain genes under stress. In other words, they actually activate mechanisms that increase mutation rates so they have a better chance of ‘hitting’ upon mutations that make them resistant to the antibiotic. The process itself is random because there isn’t a particular mutation that the bacteria are striving to as a ‘goal’. Selection however biases the process, so that it isn’t complete chance that is dictating what survives as only those that get favourable mutations survive. If it was all chance and selection never played a part, evolving anything meaningful would be nearly impossible.

Comment #33810

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 5, 2005 8:33 PM (e)

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny FlankNope, you’re not missing anything. Evolution is based on selection, not “chance”. Selection is the very *opposite* of “chance”. Indeed, if the reproductive success of organisms were based on “random chance” (as all the IDers and creationists keep telling us), then evolution itself would be impossible.

Does this mean you subscribe to Dawkin’s Blind Watchmaker argument?

Huh? How the heck did you get from A to B here …. ?

Comment #33827

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 5, 2005 11:59 PM (e)

Joseph O'Donnell wrote:

It’s not so much Dawkin’s argument, it’s just how the world actually appears to work. For example, Bacteria develop antibiotic resistance by deliberately mutating certain genes under stress… The process itself is random because there isn’t a particular mutation that the bacteria are striving to as a ‘goal’. Selection however biases the process, … If it was all chance and selection never played a part, evolving anything meaningful would be nearly impossible.

There was a recent experiment where they were able to “knock out” the capacity of bacteria to “mutate.” How do we know that what we consider to be “adaptation” (i.e., micromutation=mutation + selection) is nothing other than something that is programmed into eukaryotes? A highly-intelligent designer, it seems to me, would want to “design” an organism so that it could adapt to ‘changing conditions.’ In light of this new experimental result, this doesn’t sound completely outlandish a thought.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

How the heck did you get from A to B here …. ?

Because your argument sounds like a variation on a theme of Dawkins; and, otherwise, I don’t understand what you mean–so I’m trying to understand in Dawkinian terms.

Comment #33830

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 6, 2005 2:13 AM (e)

Firstly, I didn’t see this originally:

But how do we know that the lamprey immune system is NOT IC? I suspect—just a guess here—that we’re talking about the human system simply because that has been extensively studied (In other words, no one has yet studied the lamprey’s immune system because there isn’t a pressing need to know).

Actually nobody knew it existed until recently because nobody realised there were other mechanisms for generating this kind of diversity. The fact of the matter is, there are multiple ways of making an adaptive immune system from different kinds of receptors. It isn’t so much that we need to establish if each one is IC or not, because Lampreys have already been demonstrated to have developed their immune system from simpler precursor molecules. All we’d end up doing is having a retreating argument on this point until we shift the goal posts right back to the first amino acid :)

There was a recent experiment where they were able to “knock out” the capacity of bacteria to “mutate.” How do we know that what we consider to be “adaptation” (i.e., micromutation=mutation + selection) is nothing other than something that is programmed into eukaryotes? A highly-intelligent designer, it seems to me, would want to “design” an organism so that it could adapt to ‘changing conditions.’ In light of this new experimental result, this doesn’t sound completely outlandish a thought.

For semantic purposes, bacteria are prokaryotes, not eukaryotes. Secondly, sure I guess if your designer wants to improve bacteria like MRSA that can literally cause peoples flesh to become nothing more than meat you can pull straight off in strips (depending on the type of infection). Again, these are just mechanisms themselves that are evolutionary speaking, ‘hijacked’ genes that originally served for functions such as DNA repair.

Comment #33936

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 6, 2005 4:16 PM (e)

Joseph O'Donnell wrote:

Secondly, sure I guess if your designer wants to improve bacteria like MRSA that can literally cause peoples flesh to become nothing more than meat you can pull straight off in strips (depending on the type of infection).

Isn’t your argument a metaphysical argument? Doesn’t it introduce questions such as: Is God the designer? Is God good? Is God both good and evil? etc., etc. These questions are independent of the presence (or absence) of design. But simply for argument’s sake: might it not be possible for “designed elements” to be “hijacked” in some sense or other by organisms and lead to unhealthy results? Intelligent design is one thing; determinism is another. I don’t think the one necessarily implies the other. In other words, one can have intelligent design AND contingency all at once.

Comment #33942

Posted by Jim Wynne on June 6, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

BlastfromthePast wrote:

A highly-intelligent designer, it seems to me, would want to “design” an organism so that it could adapt to ‘changing conditions.’

Geez, Blast, why don’t you think about it for a minute. Why wouldn’t the “highly-intelligent” designer just control the “changing conditions” from his highly-comfortable Barcalounger instead of doing all of that tedious front-loading?

Comment #33943

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 6, 2005 4:57 PM (e)

Isn’t your argument a metaphysical argument?

It was a sarcastic comment, I obviously don’t think that way.

Doesn’t it introduce questions such as: Is God the designer? Is God good? Is God both good and evil? etc., etc.

Not really, it was mostly a sarcastic comment. Scientifically, it is irrelevant if God doesn’t like us and makes bacteria with pathogenicity factors that can kill human beings. It’s not important, nor relevant to their position medically and figuring out how to treat them (or where the pathogens came from).

might it not be possible for “designed elements” to be “hijacked” in some sense or other by organisms and lead to unhealthy results?

The problem is, if you can have evolution making extremely complicated pathogenicity factors (see Pseudomonas aeruginosa for the swiss army knife of pathogens) then there is a considerable argument that the original (simpler) components never needed to be designed either. At the moment, that fits the evidence we have found, particularly in comparative genomic studies of these pathogens.

Comment #33968

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 6, 2005 9:06 PM (e)

Joseph O'Donnell wrote:

The problem is, if you can have evolution making extremely complicated pathogenicity factors (see Pseudomonas aeruginosa for the swiss army knife of pathogens) then there is a considerable argument that the original (simpler) components never needed to be designed either. At the moment, that fits the evidence we have found, particularly in comparative genomic studies of these pathogens.

I think my last remark suggests that contingency” could easily (if not, evidently) be a part of “design.” In other words, certain “pathways” and “compounds” could be designed, but enough freedom is left for “variety” to “emerge.” This appears to be the role of NS: simply to allow a variety of basic forms. Creation is all the more splendid for it.

Jim Wynne wrote:

Why wouldn’t the “highly-intelligent” designer just control the “changing conditions” from his highly-comfortable Barcalounger instead of doing all of that tedious front-loading?

I suspect, Jim, that neither you nor I are smart enough to figure that one out with any certainty.

Comment #33983

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 6, 2005 10:08 PM (e)

Why wouldn’t the “highly-intelligent” designer just control the “changing conditions” from his highly-comfortable Barcalounger instead of doing all of that tedious front-loading?

I suspect, Jim, that neither you nor I are smart enough to figure that one out with any certainty.

We’ll just leave it to the learned theologians to argue over, huh. Right after they figure out how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

But since ID claims that it is SCIENCE and NOT religion, I fail to see why you are bringing all this god-talk up in the first place. Unless, of course, ID is after all nothing but religious apologetics, and IDers are after all simply lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Is that it ….?

Comment #33989

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 6, 2005 11:41 PM (e)

Lenny, why don’t you look back a few posts, and then you’ll know why I brought it up.

Comment #34017

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 7, 2005 6:58 AM (e)

Lenny, why don’t you look back a few posts, and then you’ll know why I brought it up.

Blast, why don’t you answer my simple questions?

Or can’t you?

And since you seem so insistent on regaling us with your theology, that brings up another simple question (which you also won’t answer):

*ahem*

What exactly is the source of your religious authority. What exactly makes your (or ANY person’s) religious opinions more (or less) authoritative than anyone else’s. Why should anyone pay any more attention to my religious opinions, or yours, than we pay to the religious opinions of my next door neighbor or my gardener or the guy who delivered my pizza last night. It seems to me that no one alive would or could know any more about God than anyone else alive does, since there doesn’t seem to be any potential source of such knowledge that isn’t equally available to everyone else. You pray; I pray. You read the Bible; I read the Bible. You go to church and listen to the pastor; I go to church and listen to the pastor. So what is it, exactly, that makes your religious opinion any more (or less) valid than anyone else’s. Are you more holy than anyone else? Do you walk more closely with God than anyone else? Does God love you best? Are you the best Biblical scholar in human history? What exactly makes your opinions better than anyone else’s? Other than your say-so?

Is it your opinion that not only is the Bible inerrant and infallible, but YOUR INTERPRETATIONS of it are also inerrant and infallible? Sorry, but I simply don’t believe that you are infallible. Would you mind explaining to me why I SHOULD think you are? Other than your say-so?

It seems to me that your religious opinions are just that, your opinions. They are no more holy or divine or infallible or authoritative than anyone else’s religious opinions. No one is obligated in any way, shape, or form to follow your religious opinions, to accept them, or even to pay any attention at all to them.

Can you show me anything to indicate otherwise? Other than your say-so?

Comment #34064

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 7, 2005 10:53 AM (e)

Lenny–calm down. And why don’t you look back at the posts. Then you’ll see that the whole issue came up because someone inferred that God couldn’t have “designed” bacteria because ‘horrible’ bacteria exist. I said that this then becomes a metaphysical argument.

Now, did I ever quote the Bible? Did I ever say that my interpretation is better than anyone else’s? Did I say I was infallible? So why the rage?

If I speak of God, it is in a general way, and, more in a metaphysical sense than in a purely religious sense. If we are going to talk about God as Creator, we’re transcending Christian categories right there.

Having said all of this, there’s one last point, and that is that you seem to be a complete relativist. You seem to think that truth is relative. I don’t share that opinion. I think there is one, and only one, truth. There’s that joke about the three blind men touching an elephant. We might all have different “impressions” of the truth, but it remains one truth. And I don’t see the problem in trying–and let’s say collectively–to arrive at a fuller understanding of the truth.

I consider this the end of the discussion since we’re trying to talk science here.

Pax

Comment #34163

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 7, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #34216

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 7, 2005 11:20 PM (e)

Lenny, it really is a wonderful thing to see a grown man swear. It must make you feel really big and important.

You talk about arrogance–believe me, you’ve set the high-water mark on that one. The kind of talk that comes out of this website is, at times, hideous and vile.

Why do you consider yourself a scientist? Is this how scientists talk? Is this how scienctific debate takes place?

It’s an indictment of Darwinists that they have sunk to such low levels. You can’t handle criticism, so you resort to maliciousness and slander.

I shake the dust off my sandals.

Comment #34220

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 7, 2005 11:57 PM (e)

Dear Lenny:

I notice that there are a number of posts missing. Isn’t that what always happens on this board? When some thoughtful arguments are made, they just simply disappear to be replaced by invective. Is that you dropping the posts?

Comment #34251

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 8, 2005 7:24 AM (e)

Blast:
I am the only one who can delete posts from this thread, or move them to the Bathroom Wall, and I have not done it. What posts do you say are missing?

Comment #34255

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 8, 2005 7:35 AM (e)

Lenny:
you can make your point in a more civil manner. Tone it down or your posts will be gone.

Comment #34257

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 8, 2005 7:43 AM (e)

In retrospect, Lenny, I don’t think your last two posts were really trying to make any points. I dumped them to the Bathroom Wall. You are welcome to answer Blast again here, as long as you try not to be totally obnoxious.

Comment #34342

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on June 8, 2005 6:54 PM (e)

In retrospect, Lenny, I don’t think your last two posts were really trying to make any points. I dumped them to the Bathroom Wall. You are welcome to try to answer Blast again here, as long as you try not to be totally obnoxious.

Sorry.

I’m not the genteel type. And I see no reason to make nice-nice with the nutters.

Comment #34380

Posted by BlastfromthePast on June 9, 2005 12:48 AM (e)

Andrea Bottaro wrote:

Blast:
I am the only one who can delete posts from this thread, or move them to the Bathroom Wall, and I have not done it. What posts do you say are missing?

I think it’s happened more than once on this topic. I think about 5 to 6 posts just disappeared about 5 to 6 days ago. There was one or two of mine; one or two of Lenny’s, and maybe one or two from either Russell or Joe O’Donnell–as memory serves.

Comment #34501

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 9, 2005 6:19 PM (e)

Blast:
I get e-mail notification for every comment that is posted to my entries, and I just checked my in-box: all comments that were made here are accounted for. No comments were deleted from this thread, except the 2 from Lenny, which as I said were moved to the BW. Perhaps those posts you are thinking about were in a different thread?

Also, to be clear: PT, unlike most ID sites, has a policy of not censoring opposing comments, except the occasional really obnoxious and/or trollish ones. If any of your posts had been deleted, you’d have been the first to know.

Lenny:
By any means, no one is asking you to make “nice-nice with the nutters”. There are just better ways to get your low opinion of them across, without making yourself look like a jerk. That’s all.

Comment #35992

Posted by George Kuraj on June 22, 2005 11:20 AM (e)

I am not sure what is the reason for this debate. It is quite obvious to me that God could chose any mechanism of creating life as soon as He created the reality. It is amusing that God should act like Jimmy Carter and use hammer to build habitat for humanity. Evolutionists
should try to confront such religious people like Theodosius Dobzhansky, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin etc. Evangelicals are an easy target. It remains me of a response of Bohr to Einstein who used to say
“God doesn’t play a dice.” The response was: Albert, don’t tell God what to do. Evolution is a profound process which began with creation of the universe. Some steps are more deterministic (e.g. evolution of stars and chemical elements), other are more stochastic (evolution of
life). Evolution is about changes in time and it occured from the beginning of time.