PZ Myers posted Entry 3177 on June 8, 2007 12:42 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/3166

I've managed to accumulate a small collection of reviews of parts of Michael Behe's new and horribly awful book, The Edge of Evolution, over on Pharyngula, so here's a listing of links to those various pieces.

Science after Sunclipse also has an extensive list of links to reviews other than those at Pharyngula, so if you want a complete takedown, that's the place to start.

The latest at Pharyngula, just added this afternoon, is a discussion of chapter 9, in which Behe dismisses evo-devo. I'll also recommend Sean Carroll's review of the book — poor Behe may be game, but he's outmatched.

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Comment #182718

Posted by Blake Stacey, OM on June 8, 2007 2:02 PM (e)

Thanks for the link!

Comment #182723

Posted by Neito on June 8, 2007 2:37 PM (e)

This quote from Rodney Caston’s blog appeared right below this post in my RSS reader, and strikes me as truly describing the ID argument:
A poorly constructed argument is like a piano in need of tuning, even if you hit all the right notes; it still will sound flat.

Comment #182760

Posted by a on June 9, 2007 12:33 AM (e)

Sean Carroll wrote:

In Darwin’s Black Box, he posited that genes for modern complex biochemical systems, such as blood clotting, might have been “designed billions of years ago and have been passed down to the present … but not ‘turned on’.” This is known to be genetically impossible because genes that aren’t used will degenerate, but there it was in print.

Wow! Carroll mispresented Behe. Behe had NOT argued, that those genes couldn’t have any use. There are many possibilities. For example, as Krauze have written:

Krauze wrote:

A designer wanting to front-load the evolution of life need not have inserted useless genes… in a unicellular organism, where mutations would erase them in a few million years. Instead, the designer could have designed genes that could be adapted to multiple functions, so that a gene could serve one function in a unicellular organism and another in a multicellular organism. Flexibility - not micro-managing - is the key.

Comment #182771

Posted by Jeremy Mohn on June 9, 2007 8:50 AM (e)

How exactly did Carroll “misrepresent” Behe?

Here’s the full context of the text Carroll quoted from Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box (pp. 227-228):

The irreducibly complex biochemical systems that I have discussed in this book did not have to be produced recently. It is entirely possible, based simply on an examination of the systems themselves, that they were designed billions of years ago and that they have been passed down to the present by the normal processes of cellular reproduction. Perhaps a speculative scenario will illustrate the point. Suppose that nearly four billion years ago the designer made the first cell, already containing all of the irreducibly complex biochemical systems discussed here and many others. (One can postulate that the designs for systems that were to be used later, such as blood clotting, were present but not “turned on.” In present-day organisms plenty of genes are turned off for a while, sometimes for generations, to be turned on at a later time.) Additionally, suppose the designer placed into the cell some other systems for which we cannot adduce enough evidence to conclude design. The cell containing the designed systems then was left on autopilot to reproduce, mutate, eat and be eaten, bump against rocks, and suffer the vagaries of life on earth. During this process, pace [Ken] Miller, pseudogenes might occasionally arise and a complex organ might become nonfunctional. These chance events do not mean that the initial biochemical systems were not designed. The cellular warts and wrinkles that Miller takes as evidence of evolution may simply be evidence of age.

Behe clearly wrote that the “designs for systems that were to be used later, such as blood clotting, were present but not ‘turned on.’” The entire “designs” were inactive, not just the genes. Sounds to me like Behe envisioned the genes for these systems having no prior function before they were “turned on” at a later time.

Behe may not have explicitly argued that the genes were not being used, but that is certainly what he implied when he wrote that the designs were present for billions of years but not turned on.

Comment #182777

Posted by hoary puccoon on June 9, 2007 9:49 AM (e)

a– Are we supposed to believe that ‘used’ means something different from ‘turned on’? If by ‘turned on’ Behe meant genes which are coded into proteins in the cell (or, in a minority of cases, coded into RNA for some other use than making proteins) then Sean Carroll quite properly made the point that genes which aren’t ‘turned on’ will not be subject to natural selection, and will thus degenerate due to mutations.
If by ‘turned on’ Behe meant something other than ‘coded into proteins or at least RNA’ then Behe owes not only Carroll but the entire scientific community a huge apology for wasting their time with sloppy, inaccurate writing. The only thing you should blame Sean Carroll for is possibly giving Behe more credit than he deserves.

Comment #182801

Posted by Larry Arnhart on June 9, 2007 7:38 PM (e)

Everyone is missing the really big story in Behe’s new book.

As I have indicated on my blog, he concedes so much to Darwinian science–the limited power of natural selection working on random mutation, common descent, the evolution of the human species from primate ancestors shared with chimpanzees, the rejection of Biblical creationism as “silly,” and a move towards theistic evolution–that the Discovery Institute is going to regret sponsoring and promoting this book. As soon as people have a chance to read this book carefully, they will see that this is a big defeat for “scientific creationism” that subverts the moral and religious agenda of the Discovery Institute. After all, Behe even questions the goodness and omnipotence of the intelligent designer in deliberately creating malaria!

Comment #182833

Posted by a on June 10, 2007 6:32 AM (e)

How exactly did Carroll “misrepresent” Behe?

He quote mined Behe. Behe wrote that designs (irreducibly complex biochemical systems) were not “turned on”, but Carroll quoted him as saying, that genes were not “turned on”. Carroll also presented Behe as claiming that those genes could not have any use before “modern” time. It is a very different thing.

Behe clearly wrote that the “designs for systems that were to be used later, such as blood clotting, were present but not ‘turned on.’”

Yes.

The entire “designs” were inactive, not just the genes. Sounds to me like Behe envisioned the genes for these systems having no prior function before they were “turned on” at a later time.

He didn’t say anything about prior functions.

Comment #182840

Posted by harold on June 10, 2007 8:30 AM (e)

a -

If Carrol said something wrong, which I am not convinced of, it doesn’t make Behe right.

Putting that aside, can you explain to me, in your own words, how, physically, (including reference to supernatural intervention if you wish), a “complex biochemical system” could be “present” but not “turned on”, without mentioning “genes”? Please be as detailed as possible. Describe which biochemical system you refer to, and exactly how it is physically “present but not turned on” in some lineages.

Before you start, let me tell you that mainstream scientists are aware of many regulated systems, for example, the lac operon of E. coli. But such systems are nearly always “turned on” or “off” through regulation that ultimately impacts on gene regulation.

Comment #182842

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on June 10, 2007 8:56 AM (e)

Wow. Behe has really gone off the deep end with his new book. But at least he answers some questions left over from his first. For example, “When did a designer intervene in the development of life?” Well, apparently it’s been doing this practically all the time if it has to oversee the modification of any change involving >2 specific nucleotides. For the number of species on the planet and their rate of appearance, we might expect to see one or two interventions happening somewhere within our lifetimes.

Also, this suggests a further elaboration of what constitutes a ‘minimal’ IC system: Any system requiring >2 interacting changes with each change representing at least a single nucleotide. So, one needn’t see two whole, tightly interacting proteins being formed de novo but simply greater than two amino acid changes in pre-existing ones.

Comment #182843

Posted by hoary puccoon on June 10, 2007 9:02 AM (e)

Clarissa– You’re in need of medical help. Talk to somebody soon, and don’t worry whether they accept God and/or evolution. Just make sure they have a degree from a real school.

Comment #182846

Posted by raven on June 10, 2007 9:56 AM (e)

Clarissa:

Kansas citiznes for scientism has banned EVERY member of our group.
I have confusion and my liver is swollen, Boredrs threw me out but they quit serving diet colas anyway

Gee, you sound under the weather. I’ll help you.

1. Evolution=atheism=communism=mass murder.

2. MDs and other scientists are evil people who have ruined the world by ending the dark ages.

3. Christians, at only 88% of the US population are an endangered minority about to disappear.

Take a few days off and go for a long walk or two.

Comment #182851

Posted by George Cauldron on June 10, 2007 11:59 AM (e)

Clarissa’s back? Wasn’t PT supposed to have banned Clarissa/Grady/Emanuel?

Comment #182857

Posted by Frank J on June 10, 2007 5:41 PM (e)

Behe insisted that he accepted common descent, though, and acknowledged all this evidence that, for instance, chimpanzees and humans are related by common descent, while saying that it was impossible for them to have evolved naturally from one to the other.

I just started reading the reviews and caught the above comment, specifically the ambiguous “one to the other”. I imagine PZ caught it too by now. Surely PZ and Behe both know that humans didn’t evolve from chimpanzees (or vice versa) but from a common ancestor species. But sadly that’s how many of the hopelessly-in-denial YEC and OEC fans of Behe will read it.

There are probably many different species between the common ancestor and the current species in each lineage, even discounting extict side branches. Does anyone know if Behe specifically states that there must also be many points along each lineage where evolution, if not “biological continuity” breaks down? And does he anywhere specifically tie them to species? Does he say the same about chimps and bonobos?

Comment #182858

Posted by Frank J on June 10, 2007 6:10 PM (e)

Note to Frank: Read a little more of the article before asking questions.

It seems that, despite his concession of common descent that he is trying to throw a bone to YECs and OECs by at least putting Genera in the “gray area,” thus allowing a possibility for intervention to Homo. He does put Phyla safely in the “designed” category, which should please Stephen Meyer, because his only claim to fame in terms of peer-reviewed “ID research” is incredulity about the Cambrian explosion. And that too doesn’t specifically deny common descent or propose an alternate mechanism of phylum origin.

Of course, by any reasonable definition we have observed species change in real time, so Behe is clever enough to leave that out of the equation. Interestignly, that means that Adam and Eve could have been a different species. But if YECs and OECs can overlook common descent, I guess they could add that to their denial.

Comment #182866

Posted by fnxtr on June 10, 2007 8:56 PM (e)

Isn’t Behe’s “Black Area” in his niftly little racing stripe pretty much like Oolon Coluphid’s use of the babelfish? “It proves you [God] exist, therefore you don’t. QED.”

Comment #182871

Posted by Torbjörn Larsson, OM on June 10, 2007 9:44 PM (e)

a wrote:

Behe wrote that designs (irreducibly complex biochemical systems) were not “turned on”, but Carroll quoted him as saying, that genes were not “turned on”.

Since the quoted sentence is immediately followed by a motivation describing gene behavior, it is quite clear that he meant genes controlling biological systems in the cell:

“One can postulate that the designs for systems that were to be used later, such as blood clotting, were present but not “turned on.” In present-day organisms plenty of genes are turned off for a while, sometimes for generations, to be turned on at a later time.”

raven wrote:

I’ll help you.

Also,
4. Science = scientism = philosophy = dogma = darwinism = materialism = no morals.

Comment #182876

Posted by Douglas Watts on June 11, 2007 12:29 AM (e)

Another review for your reading pleasure:

http://tispaquin.blogspot.com/2007/06/wheels-off…

Comment #182888

Posted by Frank J on June 11, 2007 5:03 AM (e)

So much to read, so little time.

Just caught Larry Arnhart’s interesting comment above, and since I enjoy his writing, will check it out. Whetever the specifics of Behe’s claims, it sure sounds like the DI can’t go on indefinitely trying to have it both ways.

Comment #182897

Posted by harold on June 11, 2007 10:56 AM (e)

Another troll bites the dust -

All I said was

Putting that aside, can you explain to me, in your own words, how, physically, (including reference to supernatural intervention if you wish), a “complex biochemical system” could be “present” but not “turned on”, without mentioning “genes”? Please be as detailed as possible. Describe which biochemical system you refer to, and exactly how it is physically “present but not turned on” in some lineages.

Before you start, let me tell you that mainstream scientists are aware of many regulated systems, for example, the lac operon of E. coli. But such systems are nearly always “turned on” or “off” through regulation that ultimately impacts on gene regulation.

I guess that could be roughly translated as “show some evidence that you have the slightest clue what you’re talking about, rather than just parroting meaningless buzzwords“.

I didn’t get an answer from “a”, and I didn’t expect one.