Behe’s meaningless complexity

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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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Here in the pounding-nails-into-the-ID-coffin department of the Panda’s Thumb, we are still hard at work. Longtime PT posters Andrea Bottaro, Matt Inlay, and I have just published a “Commentary” essay in May 2006 issue of Nature Immu... Read More

92 Comments

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.

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?

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?

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.”

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

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.

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.

I of course meant “infuriating.”

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?

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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 #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.

Glen Davidson wrote:

Regardless, it will keep the boobs in line…

Brahe’s Over the Shoulder Blunder Holder?

Ya think there’s a market?

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”

He’s the George Costanza of ID now

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

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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This page contains a single entry by Andrea Bottaro published on June 2, 2005 3:10 PM.

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