Robert Shapiro on Behe and ID

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Michael Behe took quite a flogging in Dover. Particularly embarrassing was the revelation that the “peer review” by one scientist of Darwin’s Black Box that Behe himself has described as more rigorous than the process journal submissions go through turned out to be a ten minute phone conversation. PZ Myers closed his blog entry on the matter by saying he’d “love to hear what Shapiro had to say about that book.”

Dr. Robert Shapiro is another scientist who reviewed DBB. Reading PZ’s closing line, I started wondering myself. So I emailed Dr. Shapiro and asked him what he thought of DBB, and Behe’s ideas, and he has been kind enough to give me permission to reprint his response, unedited and in full, here. Thank you, Dr. Shapiro.

Dear Mr. Evans,

I felt that Professor Behe’s book has done a better job of explaining existing science than others of its kind. I agree with him that conventional scientific origin-of-life theory is deeply flawed. I disagreed with him about the idea that one needed to invoke intelligent designer or a supernatural cause to find an answer. I do not support intelligent design theories. I believe that better science will provide the needed answers.

Sincerely yours, Robert Shapiro

In an email to me concerning this post, Matt Inlay points out that had Behe’s submission been to a scientific journal Dr. Shapiro’s review would have forced Behe to either change his conclusion of ID, or remove it entirely.

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A few days ago, I noted the apparently weak peer review of Behe's DBB. At the Dover trial, Behe remembered three reviewers (there were two additional others); Robert Shapiro (NYU), Michael Atchinson (Penn) and K. John Morrow jr. (Texas Tech). Atchinson... Read More

More on Peer Review of Behe's Book from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on October 26, 2005 3:07 PM

There is an update below the fold with much new information Last week I wrote about the fact that Michael Behe claimed last week under oath that his book, Darwin's Black Box, received even more thorough peer review than a... Read More

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Pharyngula augured another very entertaining exchange in Behe’s Day 12 AM cross:

Q. You recently visited the University of Minnesota, didn’t you?

A. Yes.

Q. You spoke with a University Professor named James Kurzinger?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. He actually asked you whether the type III secretory system is a subset of the bacterial flagellum, is that right?

A. I don’t think he said exactly that, but I’m not – we did talk about the flagellum and the type III secretory system, but I’m not prepared to say exactly how the conversation went.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: May I approach the witness, Your Honor?

THE COURT: You may.

BY MR. ROTHSCHILD:

Q. And James Kurzinger is a scientist?

A. He identified himself as such.

Q. And this is – this Exhibit 724 is an article in the Minnesota Daily. It’s an opinion piece. And it says, Intelligent Design 101, Short on Science, Long on Snake Oil. And it goes on to describe –

Sadly, Mr. Rothschild doesn’t go on to cite Curtsinger’s PubMed literature search comparing the number of scientific publications that mention “horse feces” (929) to those supporting “intelligent design” (0). The subsequent exchange is predictably devastating for Behe.

Reviewers aren’t gods. In the case of a science journal Behe may not have had to take the ID conclusion out of his book. Shapiro would have been required to present a reason for disagreeing. He would have had to be specific enough for the author to respond. If the editor decided in favor of the reviewer or reviewers Behe would have been given a chance to address the issue (since Shapiro found some merit in the work). Since he wouldn’t have been able to do this he would have had to modify his manuscript or look for some other place to publish it. For manuscripts that don’t make the grade overall the author may have just gotten a polite letter of rejection.

“In an email to me concerning this post, Matt Inlay points out that had Behe’s submission been to a scientific journal Dr. Shapiro’s review would have forced Behe to either change his conclusion of ID, or remove it entirely.”

That’s simply asinine. Any competent editor would have asked Dr. Shapiro to explain his assumption that “better science” would necessarily lead to answers from which ID is excluded. Without further explanation, it’s merely an unjustified apriorism that fails to detract from a virtually unprecedented effort to define a hypothetical evolution-resistant form of complexity that, according to Charles Darwin himself, would weigh against his theory (thus rendering it falsifiable, i.e., scientific).

After a suitable answer from Shapiro, the editor could, but not necessarily would, have then asked Behe to further refine the concept in question. Only after Behe’s response could he have been “forced” to revise his conclusion.

I knew Professor Shapiro wouldn’t let me down.

‘That’s simply asinine.’

I find it interesting that you go on to explain that Shapiro didn’t review Behe’s book in a fashion comparable to that of a respectable journal’s peer review methodology. ‘More rigorous’ my right foot.

‘according to Charles Darwin himself,’

You may find it instructive and educational to learn of science and events after the 19th century.

-Schmitt.

‘virtually unprecedented’

And during the 19th century for that matter.

-Schmitt.

DBB is a book, for which “a respectable journal’s peer review methodology” is not considered necessary or even appropriate. Because it’s a book, the bulk of the “peer review” came after its publication, not before. Again, as regards Inlay’s opinion, it is wrong even within its own hypothetical scenario.

(Incidentally, Darwin didn’t have much to say about his work after the 19th century.)

DBB is a book, for which “a respectable journal’s peer review methodology” is not considered necessary or even appropriate. Because it’s a book, the bulk of the “peer review” came after its publication, not before.

The actual point here is that Behe claimed in sworn testimony that his book was subjected to a peer review that was more rigorous than journal peer review.

And yet, according to the ACLU blog “Behe agreed, when asked by plaintiff’s counsel Eric Rothschild if the “peer review for Darwin’s Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature.” It was, according to Behe, even more rigorous. There were more than twice standard the number of reviewers and “they read [the book] more carefully… because this was a controversial topic.””

Professor Shapiro doesn’t seem to be giving it a ringing endorsement and Aitcheson… What reality do you inhabit, neurode?

DBB is a book, for which “a respectable journal’s peer review methodology” is not considered necessary or even appropriate.

That’s absolutely correct, if you view it like it should be, as a work of complete fiction.

However, if viewed the way Behe wishes it to be viewed, then you are incorrect, and it should have been peer reviewed.

In the reality I inhabit, Alan, I was responding to Inlay’s opinion, which was couched in an alternate universe where books are subject to the same peer review process as journal contributions. My point was that even in Inlay’s alternate universe, his opinion is wrong.

As for Dr. Behe’s response to the questions asked of him in court, I can’t really say what he meant. You’d have to ask him about that. But it seems to me that he may have been thinking in terms of the review process for books rather than papers - which in some instances can be much more heated and thorough than the pre-publication review of journal submissions - while you and Inlay may be thinking of the review process for papers. Again, DBB is a book and not a paper.

Incidentally, even if Dr. Behe did indeed misunderstand one or two of the questions that he was asked in court, do you really consider it appropriate to impugn his honesty over it without even bothering to ask him the score?

In what alternate universe is that an ethical prerogative?

Ron Okimoto said: For manuscripts that don’t make the grade overall the author may have just gotten a polite letter of rejection.

Concluding ID as the source for biological complexity would result in a rejection letter from any scientific journal, which is perhaps why we were treated to the following exchange in court.

From Behe’s cross examination Q. Now you have never argued for intelligent design in a peer reviewed scientific journal, correct? A. No, I argued for it in my book. Q. Not in a peer reviewed scientific journal? A. That’s correct. Q. And, in fact, there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred, is that correct? A. That is correct, yes. Q. And it is, in fact, the case that in Darwin’s Black Box, you didn’t report any new data or original research? A. I did not do so, but I did generate an attempt at an explanation.

There’s no conspiracy, there’s just no data.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Robert Shapiro: “..felt that Professor Behe’s book has done a better job of explaining existing science than others of its kind.”

Hmmm… What is this “kind” of book Shapiro is talking about? Creationists books, speculative science books?

Robert Shapiro: “..agree with him that conventional scientific origin-of-life theory is deeply flawed.”

Which origin of life theory – the RNA world? I note that Shapiro didn’t say anything about evolution or natural selection at all.

Robert Shapiro: “..I do not support intelligent design theories. I believe that better science will provide the needed answers.”

Is Shapiro going out of his way to be nice to Behe?

Neurode’s comments make me feel compelled to clarify the purpose of this post. Although, to be honest, I think he is merely attempting to distract from the real matter at hand.

1) Behe claimed a review process for DBB more rigorous than peer-reviewed journals.

2) In the Dover testimony we learn one of those “reviews” was a ten minute phone converstaion so unremarkable to the “reviewer” after the publishing of DBB he hardly remembered whether that was the book he “reviewed.”

3) PZ wonders what Dr. Shapiro, another reviewer of DBB, thought of the book.

4) So did I.

5) I emailed Dr. Shapiro, and he graciously responded.

I may have done Matt an injustice by including his quick comment from an email without giving him a chance to flesh out more detail, and for that I apologize to Matt.

Neurode, on the other hand, is in an alternative reality if he still thinks that Behe’s claim to a peer review process more rigorous than a professional journal is anything more than a complete crock of bull.

neurode Wrote:

In the reality I inhabit, Alan, I was responding to Inlay’s opinion, which was couched in an alternate universe where books are subject to the same peer review process as journal contributions. My point was that even in Inlay’s alternate universe, his opinion is wrong.

I think you mean to say Behe’s alternate universe, since he is the one who claimed that his book underwent more rigorous peer-review than most typical journal articles.

But it seems to me that [Behe] may have been thinking in terms of the review process for books rather than papers

It may help you understand Behe better if you read the section of his testimony where he discusses peer-review:

Q. You would agree that peer review for a book published in the Trade Press is not as rigorous as the peer review process for the leading scientific journals, would you? A. No, I would not agree with that. The review process that the book went through is analogous to peer review in the literature, because the manuscript was sent out to scientists for their careful reading. Furthermore, the book was sent out to more scientists than typically review a manuscript. In the typical case, a manuscript that’s going to – that is submitted for a publication in a scientific journal is reviewed just by two reviewers. My book was sent out to five reviewers.

I don’t see the point of all these pretenders feeling the need to defend Behe for something he doesn’t defend himself?

doesn’t Behe have a lawyer to defend him?

the only reason i can find is that they aren’t trying to defend Behe at all, but themselves, as they themselves feel under attack.

However, they seem to fail to realize that the one attacking their sensibilities is Behe himself, not the rest of us.

Read the damn transcript!

I find Shapiro’s response baffling, but since nobody else does, maybe someone can explain why not. Shapiro thinks that “conventional scientific origin-of-life theory is deeply flawed.” But evolution isn’t an origin-of-life theory at all, and I don’t think Behe is saying that it is. I don’t think science really HAS any “origin of life theory” to speak of, only some hazy observations of chemical self-organization in some circumstances, which may or may not have been involved originally.

Still, scientific explanations at any level of detail are rarely if ever rejected in a vacuum. Instead, they are found inadequate in comparison to some competing idea. Even given a hopeless paucity of data, science strives to find a “best fit” explanation that is most helpful in suggesting ways of collecting more (and relevant) date from which the explanation can be improved. If science suggested NO possibilities, on the grounds that “we don’t know enough yet”, it’s nearly certain that we would NEVER know enough.

And the implication here is subtle but (at least to me) unmistakeable. Shapiro has SOME competing explanation in mind, but he’s being coy about identifying it. Was Shapiro selected because he is a known Christian? I have no idea on what basis any of these reviewers may have been chosen, except that the 10-minute phone reviewer WAS selected on religious grounds, according to the testimony. A point I hope didn’t escape the judge.

So Shapiro says Behe’s book does a “better job of explaining existing science than others of its kind”? I wonder what is meant by “kind” here - other biology books, or other ID treatises? I could probably agree that if we’re considering the universe of religious books, Behe probably inserts more and better science than most…

DBB is a book, for which “a respectable journal’s peer review methodology” is not considered necessary or even appropriate.

Umm, then why did Behe try to bullshit everyone in the courtroom by implying that it WAS.

yeah, Shapiro’s response was pretty vague, but perhaps intentionally so?

you could always write him yourself, but Shapiro’s opinions were secondary to his clarification of his review of Behe’s book, as far as i can tell from the orignal post.

Skip laments: Neurode’s comments make me feel compelled to clarify the purpose of this post. Although, to be honest, I think he is merely attempting to distract from the real matter at hand.

I offer this: “26. Neurode

You have a problem, buddy. You might want to try taking a couple Imodium tablets for it. It’s supposed to work well for stopping crap from pouring out of you.

Was that constructive enough?

Comment by DaveScot — October 21, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

27. Get this thread back on topic or else excommunications will follow. —WmAD.”(1)

1. Uncommon Descent

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Shapiro, I get the impression from his web site, has written plenty of his own on OOL and related matters. If you want to know what his ideas are in this area, read his stuff.

As for the “others of its kind,” Shapiro may mean books written for lay audiences.

Hell, you don’t have to just stray off topic to suffer excommunication from the blog of the masterful WAD. Just disagree with his holiness. Funny, coming from a guy who once claimed to learn more from his critics than those who agree with him. He and Behe produce more poo than any ranch full of cattle I have yet to see out here in Montana, boy howdy!

With all due respect, folks, I’m not quite sure that I follow your reasoning here.

On the one hand, we have Dr. Behe’s sworn testimony that he sent his manuscript to five (5) reviewers. I see no reason to doubt this. It then emerges that Dr. Behe had a ten-minute phone conversation with one of the reviewers (a conversation being a response). That leaves four (4) other reviewers. We then find out that Dr. Shapiro was “another reviewer”; his response has already been discussed. That still leaves three (3) additional reviewers who were duly solicited for their evaluations.

How many informed parties do you think it takes to review a journal entry? If the number surpasses the range 2-5, could you please specify the name of the journal, the interdisciplinary morass it covers, and if appropriate, the alternate universe in which it exists?

If your main point of criticism is Behe’s assertion that the review process to which his work was subjected was even “more rigorous” than that, how do you know that he wasn’t referring to the extremely intensive review to which his work has been subjected by other scientists since its publication? After all, it’s a book, with respect to which extensive post-publication review is the norm.

Did “Tale of Two Cities” undergo peer review?

I think not.

Why then should “Tail of Two Bacteria” be so subjected?

Both works of fiction, one great, one not.

If your main point of criticism is Behe’s assertion that the review process to which his work was subjected was even “more rigorous” than that,

Our main point of criticism is that Behe is attempting to BS us by claiming his book underwent something akin to peer review. It didn’t. Behe is lying to us when he says it did.

how do you know that he wasn’t referring to the extremely intensive review to which his work has been subjected by other scientists since its publication?

Um, all those other scientists thought his book was crap. Behe didn’t seem anxious to brag about that in court, did he.

After all, it’s a book, with respect to which extensive post-publication review is the norm.

As I have already noted, when I wrote my book on tarantulas, I sent it to three different experts for detailed review before I sent it to the publisher.

Indeed, on all five of my books, I sent the manuscript to at least two reviewers before the publisher ever even saw it.

I guess I just care about accuracy more than Behe did, huh.

neurode Wrote:

On the one hand, we have Dr. Behe’s sworn testimony that he sent his manuscript to five (5) reviewers. I see no reason to doubt this.

Actually there is reason to doubt this. Atchison, one of the five reviewers, wrote that he only recieved a phone call from the editor. That is not the same as receiving a manuscript for review. The claim of 5 reviewers is already wrong unless you want to consider the editor one of the reviewers, or do you want to argue that Atchison’s copy was lost in transit?

neurode Wrote:

That still leaves three (3) additional reviewers who were duly solicited for their evaluations.

Why was this not brought up in redirection? If there exists 3 proper reviews it would have been a good idea to let the judge know.

neurode Wrote:

how do you know that he wasn’t referring to the extremely intensive review to which his work has been subjected by other scientists since its publication?

Because that’s not what Behe said in the testimony. Behe was talking about manuscripts being sent to reviewers, that has to be before publication, not after. Read the transcript yourself if you don’t trust me.

On the one hand, we have Dr. Behe’s sworn testimony that he sent his manuscript to five (5) reviewers.

Two of whom were important enough to name, and neither of whom actually reviewed his book or agreed with his thesis. Maybe neurode is correct, and Behe magnanimously elected to name only the WORST reviews?

Remember, this is the same Behe whose sworn testimony says that “focusing exclusively on the mechanism of intellgent design” and “not specifying any mechanism for intelligent design” are “completely consistent” declarations.

How many informed parties do you think it takes to review a journal entry?

I think the point neurode is being so baffled by, is our confusion in thinking that NO review is somehow different from “more rigorous” review, and we are bothered by Behe’s inability to point to any particular review at all. Surely “rigorous review” should imply that *someone* actually *read* the book before publication? But so far, we can’t find such a person. Very confusing indeed.

On the other hand, we HAVE had some good insight into Behe’s notion of being a reviewer. He was listed as a “critical reviewer” of Pandas in the acknowledgements and cited as such (with nary a correction) by Buell and Dembski, but admits under oath that his “critical review” of the book mere consisted of proofreading his own chapter, of which he wasn’t “critical” at all (imagine that). And THEN, Behe goes on to say that he can’t find anything the slightest bit misleading about advertising that the book was “critically reviewed by scientists”. Yep, by these standards, Behe’s book was probably critically reviewed. The ID world isn’t like the one most of us live in.

We have a rather profound integrity issue here. Is it any wonder neurode is confused?

“That’s simply asinine. Any competent editor would have asked Dr. Shapiro to explain his assumption that “better science” would necessarily lead to answers from which ID is excluded.”

Why are IDniks such illogical creatures? Nowhere Shapiro said or even implied such a thing. He simply pointed out that Behe’s ID conclusion is unwarranted by his evidence. Simple, yet IDiots don’t get it.

Does anyone know who the other three reviewers are?

If you are one of the reviewers, do you want to be identified now?

I just receiced this email from Professor Shapiro which he asked to be posted, as follows.

Dear Skip and Alan, As I can’t spare the time this week to master Kwick XML formatting, I would be grateful if either of you would post my additional comments (below) on Darwin’s Black Box and the origin of life on the Panda’s Thumb web site. Best wishes, Robert Shapiro I had seen a significant number of Creation Science books in the previous few years, and Professor Behe’s book was better then them, both in his mastery of the basic (non-controversial) biochemical background and the clarity of his exposition. I also disagreed totally with his conclusions, and let the editor know it. My own opinions on the origin of life field can be found on p 234 of Darwin’s Black Box or at greater length in my own book: Origins: A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. That book is out of print at the current time, but available in many libraries. Some of the material is also presented in my more recent Planetary Dreams, which is still in print. I am not expert in evolutionary theory, but have no reason to quarrel with the conclusions of my scientific colleagues who are better informed. I feel however that the origin of life is a topic that is more fundamental to the debate over intelligent design. The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant. My criticisms of the dominant scientific dogma on the origin of life (by which I mean RNA World and closely related theories) are shared by Nobel Laureate Christian de Duve and a number of other prominent scientists who nonetheless are a minority in the field. For a brief, technical summary of my criticisms, see my paper: A Replicator Was Not Involved in the Origin of Life: IUBMB Life 49, 173-176 (2000). A much more thorough discussion, which also describes a path that I believe will lead to a good scientific solution, will appear in next June’s issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology. For those of you who are impatient, and wish a fairly similar point of view, I would suggest that you consult the books and papers of Professor Harold Morowitz. As a final comment I will add that I am not a Christian, but an Agnostic. I was selected as an editorial consultant for Darwin’s Black Box because the editor was aware that Professor Behe and I are both critics of conventional origin-of -life theories.

neurode Wrote:

Nobody said anything about “proof”. The term I used was “explain”.

That’s right, you did. But when you include so many absolute modifiers, it’s tantamount to demanding proof:

To reject the posited relationship out of hand, a reviewer would need to spell out the above objection, and/or explain precisely why it is certain that no unequivocal example of irreducible complexity can possibly exist in biology.…[emphasis added]

You can hide behind semantics all you like. The point is, if Behe claims some things are irreducibly complex and therefore unevolvable, he’s the one making the novel claim. It’s therefore up to him to provide evidence to support that claim. There’s no onus on the reviewers to “explain” their objections to the level of certitude you imply. Perhaps you think there should be, but take my word - that’s not how it works.

And yes, I am familiar with the scientific peer review process. My publications list is admittedly quite modest - fewer than Behe’s to be sure. But more than enough to know whereof I speak.

I’m afraid you’ve gotten off onto the wrong track again, qetzal. My responses have been addressed to the following statement attributed to Matt Inlay:

“…had Behe’s submission been to a scientific journal Dr. Shapiro’s review would have forced Behe to either change his conclusion of ID, or remove it entirely.”

That’s incorrect, as I and others have already explained.

This being understood, I’ll now comment on your seeming insistence that as a matter of accepted practice, a nebulous objection by a single reviewer is enough to get somebody’s work rejected by the editor of a scientific journal. I have no doubt that this sort of thing happens occasionally; perhaps it has even happened to you, in which case I sympathize. But when it does, it is most likely due to a lapse in judgment on the part of the editor. As for my choice of modifiers, it was not a mere attempt to “hide behind semantics”. The relationship posited by Behe is simple: “If (if IC, then not-NS), then ID.” To justify a summary rejection of this thesis, a reviewer must either explain why IC (irreducible complexity) is a biological impossibility, or rule out the implication “not-NS” by explaining how natural selection can produce IC. Otherwise, the author might actually have grounds on which to infer something other than NS.

In other words, if IC occurs in biology, then to show that gradualistic evolution is not thereby falsified, it must be explained how natural selection alone could account for it; conversely, to avoid explaining how NS might account for a form of complexity that would otherwise falsify gradualistic evolution, that form of complexity must be ruled it out in the biological realm.

Dr. Shapiro did neither of those things.

neurode,

I wasn’t commenting on your response to Inlay’s statement. FWIW, I agree - a submission won’t get rejected just because a single reviewer says simply “I disagree with the conclusions.”

If you had limited your point to that, no problem. But you went significantly beyond that, and do so again here:

The relationship posited by Behe is simple: “If (if IC, then not-NS), then ID.” To justify a summary rejection of this thesis, a reviewer must either explain why IC (irreducible complexity) is a biological impossibility, or rule out the implication “not-NS” by explaining how natural selection can produce IC.

You still don’t get it. It’s not incubment on the reviewer to explain why IC is impossible or else fully compatible with NS, simply because Behe hasn’t shown IC exists!

All a reviewer needs to do is point out that Behe hasn’t made a sufficient case for IC in the first place. Without adequate evidence that IC exists, the whole chain of logic is unsupported.

I’m not saying that’s enough to prove Behe wrong. But we’re not discussing that; we’re discussing what it takes to get a paper through scientific peer review. Conclusions based on unsupported assumptions don’t get accepted into reputable journals. Maybe you think they should, but they don’t.

“You still don’t get it. It’s not incubment on the reviewer to explain why IC is impossible or else fully compatible with NS, simply because Behe hasn’t shown IC exists!”

But it obviously does exist. Once again, IC describes any system, the overall function of which is disabled by the subtraction of any part. There are all kinds of machines out there that will not work when a part is removed, absent considerable redesign and reassembly. (Right now, I’m looking at a pair of scissors consisting of three parts: two sides and a screw. Take one of those parts away, and what remains of the scissors won’t serve their original purpose.)

Such functionally indecomposable systems are extremely common…so common that the burden of proof rests on anyone who denies that such systems exist in the biological realm. On the other hand, if their biological existence is granted, then the notion that this property constrains natural selection is logically quite sound. The question thus becomes, is this constraint ever enough to stop NS cold, thus implying the involvement of an alternative mechanism?

And that, of course, is the other thing that Dr. Shapiro didn’t even touch on.

from

http://www.hubertpyockey.com/

The correct definition of “irreducible complexity” in information science is a computation whose result can be computed for eternity and never reach its final answer. Behe cannot appropriate this term and substitute his own intuitive understanding of the words.

Biology is not irreducibly complex because the bit string in the genome that describes a protein is finite and stops after it produces the protein (so the computation does not run indefinitely).

A summary of another proof of why biology is not “irreducibly complex” is as follows:

As Dr. Yockey’s work shows, the genome is digital, linear and segregated. “Digits” in this case means the letters of an alphabet, each one different from the other. The letters of the alphabet of the genome are the 64 codons of DNA and RNA. The letters are in a sequence in DNA and RNA, so they are linear. And they are separate and distinct from one another, so they are segregated.

Claude Shannon showed that information can be measured in any sequence that is digital, linear and segregated. Therefore the information in the genome can be measured. Therefore the genome—the critical element for evolution in biology—is not “irreducibly complex.” Therefore, there is no requirement in evolution for an Intelligent Designer

Neurode

Re irreducible complexity, as Dr Yockey says

Behe cannot appropriate this term and substitute his own intuitive understanding of the words.

Far from coming up with a testable hypothesis Behe co-opts (how ironic) a term already in use. The co-option of the term seems the only “evidence” that IC, as Behe apparently means it, exists. Your believing it exists is not evidence.

The point, remember, was Behe’s claim that DBB had been more rigorously reviewed than would have occurred in a normal peer review process.

We have:

Dr Atchison who did not read the book.

Professor Shapiro, who thought the book well written but disagreed with the concepts of ID, IC and Behe’s conclusions.

Dr Morrow, who panned the book in no uncertain terms.

Russell Doolittle, who also panned the science, whilst compiimenting the writing style, and defending the freedom of writers to express opinions with which he totally disagrees.

I conclude from the above, that Behe’s evidencetestimony in court on peer review was not true. Can you possibly disagree with that?

Excuse typo SB “complimenting”

Re “The correct definition of “irreducible complexity” in information science is a computation whose result can be computed for eternity and never reach its final answer.”

Like computing all the digits of a transcendental number (such as pi)?

I don’t get why Behe’s first “definition” of IR could be sensibly considered a problem anyway. Seems to me that extra parts would take energy and resources to make, therefore NS would tend to drop parts that aren’t needed. And that would tend to produce things that would break if one of the remaining parts were removed. (Though not being a biologist I might have missed something.)

Henry

“Behe cannot appropriate this term and substitute his own intuitive understanding of the words.”

I’m afraid I don’t agree. Terms are often coopted for use in different contexts. The terms “irreducible” and “complexity” were in general use in all kinds of contexts for centuries before they were coopted by mathematicians (e.g., Kolmogorov, Chaitin), and as we know, mathematical terms are free game for use in any scientific context whatsoever.

Dr. Behe gave a concise functional definition of IC, and with all due respect to Dr. Yockey, he was under no obligation to check its copyright first … particularly since his usage does not pertain directly to genetic sequences, but to phenotypic functional systems. Since Behe’s hypothesis pertains to natural selection, and natural selection works mainly on the phenotypic level, Yockey’s remarks concerning the informational calculus of genetic sequences is not directly relevant.

Of course, given that Dr. Yockey is quite opinionated in general, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that he takes such strong exception to Behe’s usage.

“Behe cannot appropriate this term and substitute his own intuitive understanding of the words.”

I’m afraid I don’t agree. Terms are often coopted for use in different contexts.

Indeed. ID/creationists are masters at arbitrarily re-defining terms (or making up new terms) to suit themselves. Just look at their private definitions of “macroevolution”, “random”, and even “evolution” itself. Creationists can’t tell us what a “kind” is. Behe has given several different definitions of “irreducible complexity” now, based apparently on whatever is most convenient at the moment. Heck, IDers can’t even tell us what the hell “intelligent design” means, beyond “something intelligent happened somewhere”.

That penchant for abritrarily re-defining or making up their own terms seems to be the result of their utter lack of anything scientifically substantial to offer, and their subsequent reduction to mere semantic arguments and rhetorical sophistry. In semantic arguments and sophistry, it’s very helpful to be able to arbitrarily make up or re-define terms as you go along to whatever is most convenient at the moment. Like ID/creationists do.

I think it is also a legacy of the ID/creationists fundamentalist religious style of apologetics, which consists solely of hunting through the Holy Words to find appropriate “proof texts”, “appropriately interpreted” (i.e., whatever is most convenient at the moment), and then presenting this as if it settled the argument.

And, partially, it’s also a function of the fact that many ID/creationists, like Blast and Neurode here, simply aren’t very bright and don’t actually understand any of the Big Words they are using. Under those circumstances, since they don’t know what the words mean anyway, they can make them mean whatever they want.

That’s why it’s such a waste of time to participate in the ID’s semantic sophistry arguments. They are, quite literally, speaking a different language.

I’d prefer that ID/creationists just give us their restible scientific theory and show us how to test it with data and evidence. But, of course, they CAN’T do that. (shrug)

Lenny here keeps on insisting that he be shown a “scientific theory of ID”.

As I see it, the main problem with Lenny’s demand is that he seems to have no idea what actually constitutes a “scientific theory”. That one has managed to get a smattering of work published under that guise is all but irrelevant; one can do or write something that passes for science by imitation alone, merely by following a small collection of cookie-cutter guidelines whose underlying complexities make them highly resistant to justification (and downright opaque for anyone with Lenny’s obviously limited powers of comprehension).

In fact, there is a substantial possibility that in the not-too-distant future, what many toilers now proudly consider their scientific output will be seen to constitute “science” in the same way that a medieval physician, packing his leeches and potions and phlebotomy and trephination tools, can be said to have “practiced medicine”. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t making meaningful contributions; far from it. However, as the history of science has repeatedly and sometimes sadly demonstrated, science often advances in such a way that today’s “scientists” are tomorrow’s bumbling ignoramuses.

As we can easily see from his PT comments alone, there is nothing sufficiently exceptional about Lenny’s viewpoint to convince anybody that he’ll be the one to change that rule. It follows that his opinions and demands can be safely dismissed, particularly given the astonishingly crude manner in which he seems compelled to word them.

Neurode Wrote:

As I see it, the main problem with Lenny’s demand is that he seems to have no idea what actually constitutes a “scientific theory”.

You’ve shown us no reason to doubt that Lenny’s grasp of “scientific theory” is particularly deficient.

No, the main problem with Lenny’s demand is that folks like you keep treating it as a rhetorical question. I guess that’s because you know as well as we do that there is no scientific theory of ID - by any of several acceptable definitions of the term.

Of course, you could prove me wrong by just pointing to one. But I suspect that you will either (a) ignore this request, or (b) flood us with another torrent of obfuscation, attempting to distract us from the elephant in the room that Lenny so doggedly keeps pointing to: the nonexistence of a viable theory of ID.

Russell, I think Neurode’s post #54786 translates as “No, I can’t”.

Think what you like. But while my personal investment in “ID theory”, such as it currently may be, is strictly limited, I’ll make a couple of simple observations anyway.

In science, the object is frequently to refine more or less nebulous correlations among various phenomena into causal relationships. This process is scientific from start to finish; given the possible relevance of a correlation to some question of scientific interest, observing the correlation alone qualifies as part of the scientific agenda.

Suppose that “ID theory” is simply the observation that there exist correlations between some products of nature and the products of human invention with respect to certain observable (if somewhat poorly defined) forms of complexity. Then given the possible relevance of these correlations to evolutionary causation, their observation and discussion immediately qualify as “scientific” pending explanatory refinement.

Whether you and Lenny happen to believe that these correlations are solid, or are being properly refined into causal explanations, is neither here nor there. At this point in time, you simply don’t know enough to summarily evaluate their scientific value. So even if nobody can stop you from pretending that you can, you probably shouldn’t take your own pretensions too seriously.

Much in the same sense that Behe had to admit, under oath, that astrology is just as scientific as anything else.

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This page contains a single entry by Skip published on October 22, 2005 8:35 PM.

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