Behe’s bad math

| 49 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Review copies of Michael Behe’s new book The Edge of Evolution are now out – the book is officially coming out on June 5 – and now the reviews are starting. Mark C. Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math, has beat us all to the punch. I perceived many of these problems while giving The Edge of Evolution my own read-through, but it takes a mathematician to comment on Behe’s abuse of fitness landscapes and probability arguments with the appropriate sense of outrage.

I am sure we will have much more on Behe’s latest starting in June. My first take is that The Edge of Evolution is basically an incompetent attempt to provide a biological foundation for the silly assumptions that were made in Behe and Snoke’s (2004) mathematical modeling paper in Protein Science. (You will recall that it received its most thorough critique here at PT and also in a rebuttal written in Protein Science by Michael Lynch; and a biological rebuttal in this 2006 paper in Science – see also summary by Adami.)

Behe uses a pitiful number of examples (count’em: four) to attempt to establish a generalization that binding sites can’t evolve, ignores numerous known cases where binding sites are known to evolve, and then concludes that anything involving the evolution of two or more binding sites is impossible without mystical unspecified guidance by a mystical unspecified supernatural force that somehow mysteriously frontloads nonrandom mutations into the beginning of the universe. Or something. Behe even says explicitly that malaria and HIV are intelligently designed in just this fashion. Along the way he repeatedly violates the First Commandment of Competent Argument Against Evolution – Get Thee To A Library and Double-Check Thy Generalizations About Biology Against The Biological Literature Or Thou Willst Look Like A Fool. My biggest problems with Behe are within this last point, but Chu-Carroll shows that the math area is just as bad. And I’m sure the philosophers will jump in at some point. Most amazingly, in The Edge of Evolution, Behe treds onto ground occupied by population geneticists. Behe’s first book talked about stuff like flagellum evolution, which was actually pretty devious because the number of people who know enough about evolution, creationism, and a random obscure biological organelle to give a detailed rebuttal is bound to be pretty small. But vast herds of population geneticists stampede around the evolution meetings, trampling all foolish enough to get between them and another exciting session on Drosophila genetics. So Behe invading that turf is kind of like the “land war in Asia” scenario. Not a good idea.

Also, be sure to get a load of the press material – see Description, Praise, excerpt, and Q&A with Michael Behe. Count the number of times the word “masterwork” appears.

If you think the publicity material on the publisher website is overwrought, check out the letter they send out with the paper version of the publicity material. The paragraph about ID being a “young science with much work to be done. Until now.” is particularly precious.

FREE PRESS

A MASTERWORK OF SCIENCE AND LOGIC PROPOSING THAT THE UNIVERSE AND LIFE ON EARTH ARE INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED

Dear Editor / Producer: May 2007

What if evolution is NOT (as Darwinists claim) a series of random mutations at the genetic level, but a process based on planned, coherent design? Would that revelation radically change how we see life (and, indeed, the entire natural world) in the same revolutionary way that Darwin’s theories did in the middle of the 19th century?

In THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (Free Press; June 5, 2007; $28.00), Michael J. Behe presents astounding new findings from the genetics revolution to show that Darwinism cannot account for the sheer complexity and near-miraculous design of life as we know it. Behe analyzes three key case studies: tens of thousands of generations of malaria, E. coli, and the HIV virus, and studies the human genomic response to those invaders. He argues that Darwinism is demonstrably true, but trivial. Most important mutations are nonrandom.

After launching the Intelligent Design movement with his best selling book Darwin’s Black Box (Free Press; 1996), Behe became a somewhat reluctant celebrity for the movement in 2005 when the Dover, Pennsylvania school board made a controversial decision to include ID in its high school curriculum. When angry parents struck back in federal court, Behe took the stand as the lead witness for the defense of intelligent design. As he insisted at the time, ID is a young science with much work to be done. Until now. With THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION, intelligent design finally has its masterwork.

Michael J. Behe is available for interview to explain the concept of intelligent design and address the controversy that surrounds it. Some of the questions he can answer include:

* Does intelligent design settle the great Creation vs. Evolution debate?

* Does scientific evidence point to some sort of “higher power” in the world?

* How does this new data change our understanding of humanity’s role in the larger context of life in the universe? What does this say about the probability of intelligent life on other planets?

* Does our new capacity for genetic research give us the ability to predict the course of life in the future?

THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION will be a revelation and a bombshell to both sides of the ID debate. Controversial and timely, THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION presents a comprehensive scientific statement that draws the line between random and non-random mutation in nature; defines the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design; fits design theory together with the findings of cosmology, chemistry, and physics into an overarching theory of the universe; and lays out a research program, with predictions, to counter the failed predictions of Darwin’s enthusiasts.

Michael Behe lives with his wife and nine children near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he is a professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University. His current research involves delimitation of design and natural selection in protein structures. I hope you will consider an interview with the author or a timely review of his new book.

Best, [Simon & Schuster media contact]

1 TrackBack

The list of reviews and follow-ups to reviews continues to grow. The reality-based community has not been kind to Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution, and they’re expressing their reasons why with wit and verve. The latest addition to the... Read More

49 Comments

And I’m sure the philosophers will jump in at some point.

I’m afraid he’s too busy pretending to be a YEC.

Bob

Who in the name of the universe wrote that press release? Let me see!!!!! may be the DIsco was involved. Pathetic. Don’t read the book just go to the blogosphere and check Mark C critique. Believe me it will save you a lot of trouble.

Behe became a somewhat reluctant celebrity for the movement in 2005 when the Dover, Pennsylvania school board made a controversial decision to include ID in its high school curriculum. When angry parents struck back in federal court, Behe took the stand as the lead witness for the defense of intelligent design. As he insisted at the time, ID is a young science with much work to be done.

I feel like they omitted some information on his Dover appearance here.…..

Yeah, they also left out the part about how he coauthored the high school intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People back in 1993.

What the hell are Darwinists? ;)

The woman on the cover has some very interesting mammary glands.

'Simonise & Shyster', publishers of obscene literature Wrote:

What if evolution is NOT (as Darwinists claim) a series of random mutations at the genetic level

Yes, what if evolution is a science with many observed mechanisms, NOT relying on the strawman of ‘random’ mutations …

'Simonise & Shyster', publishers of obscene literature Wrote:

He argues that Darwinism is demonstrably true, but trivial. Most important mutations are nonrandom.

… as I thought.

Mark Chu-Carroll picks apart Behe’s strawman for fitness landscape. Behe makes 4 basic creationist mistakes, a constant unchanging one the most egregious.

Part of the reason creationists like Behe get stuck on a constant fitness landscape ;-) is that they can’t envision or acknowledge other species evolving. I doubt Behe has internalized what his earlier admission of microevolution means in these terms, much less his prophetized ‘goddidits’ of new species.

Behe is a splendid case of denialism, making his lone balance act on the edge of evolution.

'Simonise & Shyster', publishers of obscene literature Wrote:

What if evolution is NOT (as Darwinists claim) a series of random mutations at the genetic level

Yes, what if evolution is a science with many observed mechanisms, NOT relying on the strawman of ‘random’ mutations …

'Simonise & Shyster', publishers of obscene literature Wrote:

He argues that Darwinism is demonstrably true, but trivial. Most important mutations are nonrandom.

… as I thought.

Mark Chu-Carroll picks apart Behe’s strawman for fitness landscape. Behe makes 4 basic creationist mistakes, a constant unchanging one the most egregious.

Part of the reason creationists like Behe get stuck on a constant fitness landscape ;-) is that they can’t envision or acknowledge other species evolving. I doubt Behe has internalized what his earlier admission of microevolution means in these terms, much less his prophetized ‘goddidits’ of new species.

Behe is a splendid case of denialism, making his lone balance act on the edge of evolution.

The Rev BDC sez…

I feel like they omitted some information on his Dover appearance here.…..

Naw, Rev, he got it right.…

As (Behe) insisted at the time, ID is a young science with much work to be done.

No track record, and no accomplishments. Sounds right to me.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Along the way he repeatedly violates the First Commandment of Competent Argument Against Evolution — Get Thee To A Library and Double-Check Thy Generalizations About Biology Against The Biological Literature Or Thou Willst Look Like A Fool.”

I haven’t seen Behe’s new book, but I’ve read David Snoke’s review about it. He has written:

David Snoke Wrote:

“With this book, Michael Behe shows that he is truly an independent thinker of the first order. He carefully examines the data of evolution, along the way making an argument for universal common descent that will make him no friends among young-earth creationists, and draws in new facts, especially the data on malaria, that have not been part of the public debate at all up to now.”

Thus Snoke said, that Behe’s new Book is anti-YEC book…

Nick, you are a Public Information Project Director at NCSE (that is “organization providing information and resources for schools, parents and concerned citizens working to keep evolution in public school science education”). What is your opinion: is “The Edge of Evolution” anti-evolution or pro-evolution book?

Having one bad mathematician (Dembski) was bad enough. No a biochemist needs to pretend he can do math and abuse the statistics we hold dear? Given how much statisticians have contributed to Evolutionary Biology since at least the Synthesis it always amazes me that the DI and Creationists can hoodwink so much of the population into thinking somehow we have just ignored probability theory and statistics in our work. Mostly I blame really lax education on evolutionary biology at the secondary level. I use probabilistic models of protein evolution to study protein structure and function so his assertion that binding sites can’t evolve is absolutely ridiculous. If any Panda’s Thumb people happen to be attending SMBE at the end of the month I’ll be doing a poster during one of the sessions.

Fred– …And yet we don’t see that many benefical mutations on a yearly basis…

Wow I didnt know there was a group out there sampling DNA from populations and sequencing their entire genomes! What organism do you work with, Fred? How do you crunch all of that data?? How do you fund that?? I mean, I thought it took years to get one organism completely sequenced– how do you do entire populations?

Fred Wrote:

But most mutations do not end up being beneficial…in fact the overwhelming majority don’t, or are neutral.

So how many beneficial mutations would be required in the line of development from the cell to the human brain? Hundreds of billions, certainly. And yet we don’t see that many benefical mutations on a yearly basis as spread out since the 600 million years since the Cambrian.

Perhaps they occured at a much greater rate in the past?

A few very important points:

1) Yes the number of beneficial mutations is the smallest piece of the pie in terms of possible mutations. We’ve known that for a long time and it is fully accepted within evolutionary biology. There is still some debate raging between the Selectionist and Neutralist camps in terms of which is more important in a relative sense. A large portion of possible mutations are deleterious then we have the Neutral and Nearly Neutral mutations (Slightly Deleterious and Slightly Beneficial). The Neutral and Nearly Neutral make up a rather significant portion.

2)We have no idea how many changes we need to go from simple cells to higher organisms with complex brains. But the kicker is that it may not be as large as people initially think because changes in complex systems are achieved by more than simple point mutations. You need to factor in what may turn out to be the most important in terms of radical phylogenetic changes and that is alterations in development, as the field of Evo-Devo is showing us. It actually may not take very many changes to end up with radical differences in body shape, etc.

3)Not all changes need to be Advantageous to bring about big changes. Whether is something is “beneficial” or not is defined in terms of Selection not the end result. The accumulation of neutral changes can have large impacts when taken over evolutionary time and over whole populations. This is quite apparent at the Molecular Level.

Nick,

You are guilty of the same sin as Behe - inserting a period in a sentence and removing following words to change the meaning. Surely you know that the real Commandment is:

“Get Thee To A Library and Double-Check Thy Generalizations About Biology Against The Biological Literature Or Thou Willst Look Like A Fool to Biologists; Most non-Biologists Willst Not Notice, However, And Willst Likely Be Impressed With The Sound Bites.”

Um…maybe it’s because I live in a small town, but I saw a copy of that book for sale (tucked away on a shelf labelled “evolution” strangely enough) yesterday. It kinda threw me for a loop. So I bought my copy of the Selfish Gene and ran away :p.

analyys Wrote:

Thus Snoke said, that Behe’s new Book is anti-YEC book…

Behe is on record as rejecting both YEC and OEC-without-common-descent since before “Darwin’s Black Box.” He position all along, has been against evolution as a mechanism, so this is strictly an anti-evolution book. And anti-science in general because it pretends that design is an explanation.

Nevertheless, the combination of ID’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and the amazing ability of rank & file YECs and OECs to tune out Behe’s concessions will probably mean business as usual. DaveScot’s ~2005 plea to fellow IDers to give up the charade and at least concede common descent was met with a polite “shut up and do what you’re told,” so I’d be surprised if this latest admission changes the strategy.

Bob O’H:

He’s not pretending to “be” a YEC, he’s just following the ID script of mostly telling YECs what they want to hear - “Darwinism” is dead, go ahead and believe what you want.

Behe may say that he personally thinks the case for common descent is convincing, but he is on record stating that YEC is just an alternative, acceptable interpretation of the facts which testifies to “the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. Indeed, he said he thinks that being a YEC, and materially wrong on the science, is better than accepting the evidence for what it is and risk being lured by it into “materialism”.

So much for making “no friends among young-earth creationists”. Behe just continues playing both sides, trying to keep his distance from the YEC yahoos with the general public and the scientists, while winking at traditional Creationists and telling them that all is fine when talking to religious audiences.

I saw it on the “New Hardcovers” table in Borders last weekend.

Frank J Wrote:

He position all along, has been against evolution as a mechanism, so this is strictly an anti-evolution book. And anti-science in general because it pretends that design is an explanation.

Behe is against “darwinism”, not “evolution”. He supports evolution (as guided process). I’ve heard that science is agnostic about God… If it is so, then both “pro-design” and “anti-design”-claims are not “science”…

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

Behe may say that he personally thinks the case for common descent is convincing, but he is on record stating that YEC is just an alternative, acceptable interpretation of the facts which testifies to “the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. Indeed, he said he thinks that being a YEC, and materially wrong on the science, is better than accepting the evidence for what it is and risk being lured by it into “materialism”.

So much for making “no friends among young-earth creationists”. Behe just continues playing both sides, trying to keep his distance from the YEC yahoos with the general public and the scientists, while winking at traditional Creationists and telling them that all is fine when talking to religious audiences.

I think, that you perhaps are mispresenting Behe. I don’t know, what Behe had actually written (his response was so short, that it may have been edited), but because it is published in theological journal, I think it may be reasonable to suppose, that he was writing about (his) theology. Behe replied to Jackie Lee’s and Carmen Catanese’s letters. Carmen Catanese had written for example:

In “Scientific Orthodoxies,” Michael Behe leveled a considerable critique against the use of Darwinian evolutionary theory as a Trojan horse for radical philosophical materialism. This is a welcome clarification of the adversarial role of Intelligent Design—not against evolutionary science, but against a rigidly materialistic philosophy. Ironically, given the accusations of his critics, Behe emerges as a crusader in the millennium-long project to explicitly demarcate the domain of science from that of religion and to critique the philosophies that attempt to bridge the two.

It is a good question: has Darwinian evolutionary theory being used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism?

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

… he is on record stating that YEC is just an alternative, acceptable interpretation of the facts which testifies to “the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. Indeed, he said he thinks that being a YEC, and materially wrong on the science, is better than accepting the evidence for what it is and risk being lured by it into “materialism”

No. Behe didn’t argue, that “YEC is just an alternative, acceptable interpretation of the facts” and he didn’t say, that “being a YEC… is better than accepting the evidence for what it is”. It was you, who said so. Behe said, that the letters illustrated the “breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. And Behe also said, that osmosing materialistic presumptions can be dangerous to Christians.

No. Behe didn’t argue, that “YEC is just an alternative, acceptable interpretation of the facts” and he didn’t say, that “being a YEC… is better than accepting the evidence for what it is”. It was you, who said so. Behe said, that the letters illustrated the “breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. And Behe also said, that osmosing materialistic presumptions can be dangerous to Christians.

He sure did say that YEC is acceptable. His response to a letter by a YEC geologist is basically a shrug, the equivalent of: “See how much leeway Christians have in “interpreting the evidence”? They can fit it in whichever they want to least perturb their faith!”

He could have made a statement that it is wrong for Christians to let their faith make them blind to facts, but he didn’t. He chose instead to emphasize that the real danger for them is to accept certain facts that may potentially lead them to perdition. That’s as damning as it gets for a scientist.

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

He sure did say that YEC is acceptable.

I’m not so sure.

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

His response to a letter by a YEC geologist is basically a shrug, the equivalent of: “See how much leeway Christians have in “interpreting the evidence”? They can fit it in whichever they want to least perturb their faith!”

He could have made a statement that it is wrong for Christians to let their faith make them blind to facts, but he didn’t.

Behe’s reply (to two letters) was only 2 sentences. As I said, his response was so short, that it may have been edited. And I don’t know, what he actually had written. But you have still made strong claims, and written about how Behe “could have made” statements, “but he didn’t”.

analyysi Wrote:

Behe is against “darwinism”, not “evolution”. He supports evolution (as guided process).

This doesn’t make much sense, if by darwinism you mean darwinian mechanisms. Speciation can occur by other means, and Behe is specious ;-) about them. He doesn’t allow them all but introduce some mythical barrier. If you mean something else, such as any of the countless strawmen, you must specify which.

Since Behe put up artificial constraints and suggest some sort of extra mechanism he is at least a theistic evolutionist, and not of the philosophical kind either. In any case, it isn’t evolution proper but a perversion of it.

analyysi Wrote:

has Darwinian evolutionary theory being used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism?

Let me parse this in general terms that we should be able to agree on: has evolutionary biology being used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism?

No, the science stands on its own. Some people like Dawkins find that when religion contradicts the found facts, such as disregarding common descent, it is supportive for his atheism. And of course Behe is free to bitch about that. But that is not about the science.

The image of science I recognize is that it is a tool, like a hammer. And just as a hammer doesn’t care if it is used to build a laboratory or a church, science doesn’t care about our philosophical predilections. It’s just doing its job - it is a secular thing.

Behe’s reply (to two letters) was only 2 sentences. As I said, his response was so short, that it may have been edited. And I don’t know, what he actually had written. But you have still made strong claims, and written about how Behe “could have made” statements, “but he didn’t”.

Yes, sorry if I go by the words that by all accounts he wrote, as opposed to imagining scenarios where he may have said something completely different and less embarrassing, and someone else decided to edit it to twist his meaning.

If he thought that being a YEC is a colossal scientific mistake that only people who let themselves be deluded by their own faith can make, he could have said so in a single sentence, instead of waxing philosophical about the “breadth of freedom” some Christians have in making stuff up to make themselves feel better when they tuck in at night. Let’s be serious.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:

This doesn’t make much sense, if by darwinism you mean darwinian mechanisms.

I tried to say, that Behe himself (using his own terminology) doesn’t (and perhaps couldn’t) speak about being against “evolution”. He is sceptic about “darwinian evolution”… but supports the theory of common descent.

Torbjörn Larsson Wrote:
analyysi Wrote:

has Darwinian evolutionary theory being used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism?

Let me parse this in general terms that we should be able to agree on: has evolutionary biology being used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism?

No, the science stands on its own. Some people like Dawkins find that when religion contradicts the found facts, such as disregarding common descent, it is supportive for his atheism. And of course Behe is free to bitch about that. But that is not about the science.

The image of science I recognize is that it is a tool, like a hammer. And just as a hammer doesn’t care if it is used to build a laboratory or a church, science doesn’t care about our philosophical predilections. Science doesn’t care about our philosophical predilectionsIt’s just doing its job - it is a secular thing.

Science shouldn’t care about our philosophical predilections. You told, what is your personal belief, and answered “No”. I care more about science, empirical observations, and what studies shows. If there is (strong) correlation between belief in Darwinian evolutionary theory and metaphysical naturalism, what could it mean? I don’t know how it is in USA, but in Finland many are saying, that (one or only) reason, why they are not theists is Darwinian evolutionary theory. When evolutionary theory is teached, many are learning - not only evolutionary theory - but (at the same time) also materialist interpretation for the physical evidence of nature. If it is so, then Darwinian evolutionary theory perhaps has also been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

analyysi wrote:

has Darwinian evolutionary theory being used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism?

Of course.

Darwinism’s “power” comes only from its obvious philosophical and religious implications, not from testable and/or falsifiable science. Check the Humanist Manifesto and see what is the first “belief”.

Adding to that, check out the modern day darwinists’ testemonies, and how many of them “lost their faith” upon hearing about the darwinian fairytale.

Analyysi said:

When evolutionary theory is teached, many are learning - not only evolutionary theory - but (at the same time) also materialist interpretation for the physical evidence of nature.

All that amounts to is not attributing observable events to untestable hypothetical constructs. IOW, keep the gods out of the lab. If you think there’s a better way, go for it, and publish your research. Problem is, no one’s found a better way, which is why the IDers can’t even get material for their own journal, and why the research is so groundbreaking at places like Bob Jones and Liberty.

If it is so, then Darwinian evolutionary theory perhaps has also been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

That would be “Keep the gods out of everything”, which is not the same thing at all. Evolutionary theory doesn’t extend that far. You can’t get there from here.

Wow. I just read Mark Chu-Carroll’s review, and all I can say is that if anyone still thinks that Behe believes what he writes, I have a bridge to sell you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure he is honest about his admission of common descent - if he did truly deny it, he’d have no reason to pretend otherwise, and plenty reason to admit denying it or at least playing dumb. On the subject of fitness landscapes, however, Behe read Stuart Kauffman’s “The Origins of Order” even before writing “Darwin’s Black Box,” so he knows (1) that landscapes deform, and (2) even if he were still honestly convinced that that was not enough to get past minima, Kauffman proposes testable alternatives, while Behe is content to peddle incredulity. I’m not sure if he mentions Kauffman in the new book, as he did in DBB, but if he does, ~99% of his audience will either not bother to read Kauffman’s own words, or just play along.

If you ever find Behe’s arguments starting to make sense, just remember that he admitted under oath at Dover, that to accommodate ID, the rules of science must be broadened to accommodate astrology.

Mats Wrote:

Adding to that, check out the modern day darwinists’ testemonies, and how many of them “lost their faith” upon hearing about the darwinian fairytale.

LOL. Legends are growing. Have you read, what Behe actually said in Dover?

Science Avenger Wrote:

That would be “Keep the gods out of everything”, which is not the same thing at all. Evolutionary theory doesn’t extend that far. You can’t get there from here.

Did you agree that “Darwinian evolutionary theory [has] being used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism?”?

1. If there is (strong) correlation between belief in Darwinian evolutionary theory and metaphysical naturalism 2. If there is people who says, that the reason, why they are not theists is Darwinian evolutionary theory 3. If Evolutionary theory doesn’t extend that far

Then it would sound to me like if (Darwinian) evolutionary theory had used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

Oh, no. Quote was wrong. It should be:

Frank J Wrote:

If you ever find Behe’s arguments starting to make sense, just remember that he admitted under oath at Dover, that to accommodate ID, the rules of science must be broadened to accommodate astrology.

LOL. Legends are growing. Have you read, what Behe actually said in Dover?

analyysi Wrote:

LOL. Legends are growing. Have you read, what Behe actually said in Dover?

Yes.

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes.

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that – which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other – many other theories as well.

——-

Behe tries to weasel out of it by trying to include hypotheses that, unlike ID and astrology, were legitimately tested, and falsified, but it was too late. The damage was done.

Over at UD they are bemoaning the review have a read the thread is particularly funny in it Davescot says that someone who’s expertise is in Computer science shouldn’t be taken seriously when talking about biology and anything else outside their field. The needle on my irony meter broke the glass! As they say if you gave that guy an enema there would not be much left.

Analyysi said:

1. If there is (strong) correlation between belief in Darwinian evolutionary theory and metaphysical naturalism 2. If there is people who says, that the reason, why they are not theists is Darwinian evolutionary theory 3. If Evolutionary theory doesn’t extend that far

Then it would sound to me like if (Darwinian) evolutionary theory had used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

Well, that would be the conspiratorial interpretation, and I’m convinced those are, barring clear, solid evidence such as the Wedge Document, for whiners who can’t handle losing the fair fight. The more parsimonious explanation is:

#1 Methodological naturalism is a subset of metaphysical naturalism, and the former leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, thus the correlation.

#2 I seriously doubt there are people who became atheists solely because of evolution. What’s more likely is that evolution was just the last, or nearly the last, of many religious suppositions the person had been taught that fell to the ravages of analysis with life’s experience and an education. Evolution just happens to be a big one, with multiple implications (no Adam, no flood, no inherently special traits, etc.) to knock down many a presupposition. However, were we in a world of demonstrable miracles (prayer), a solid record of intellectual success from the theological perspective (say the Vatican and the Southern Baptist Convention producing Nobel winning science), and Holy books that truly were uncannily accurate historical and scientific documents, instead of being riddled with errors, I doubt Darwin could have created many atheists.

Personally, evolution was part of my world view long before I became an atheist. Reading the Bible for real at 19 was what pushed me onto the side of goodness and light. Maybe its the Bible that is being used as a Trojan horse for atheism…

Science Avenger Wrote:

#1 Methodological naturalism is a subset of metaphysical naturalism, and the former leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, thus the correlation.

Methodological naturalism is methodological thing. If non-natural explanations are excluded as a matter of methodology, then science can give us only naturalistic stories. That’s why methodological naturalism itself cannot lead to acceptance of metaphysical naturalism. And that is the reason, why methodological naturalism cannot itself lead to acceptance of anything (as truth): if you exclude the non-natural explanations, then if the world or life or some other phenomena within it are supernaturally caused, you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically. As Collins has said, methodological naturalism moves the truth about questions of origins partly outside the domain of science, to philosophy or theology.

So - if naturalism has lead to acceptance of Darwinian evolutionary theory, it has not been methodological, but metaphysical naturalism, that has been teached. And if (Darwinian) evolutionary theory would have lead to acceptance of naturalist explanations, then there also were perhaps strong reasons to believe, that (Darwinian) evolutionary theory had been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

Methodological questions are not necessarily the truth about questions.

Science Avenger Wrote:

#2 I seriously doubt there are people who became atheists solely because of evolution.

It seems that you set up a straw man. I was not talking about how people are coming atheists. I was talking about people who says, that the reason, why they are not theists (now) is Darwinian evolutionary theory. When Darwinian evolutionary theory has been teached, many of them have not only learnt (methodological version of) the theory, but also materialist interpretation of the nature.

When Darwinian evolutionary theory has teached, many of them have learnt, that you don’t need any creator, and so that creator is an additional supposition. But methodological naturalism is not able to go so far. It doesn’t say anything about if there is needed creator or not. Methodological naturalism can give us only naturalistic stories. And if someone claims, that naturalistic story is true, then he/she has made metaphysical claims.

If someone has learnt, when Darwinian evolutionary theory has teached, that our world or life doesn’t need any creator or God, then it could mean that Darwinian evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

As Collins has said, methodological naturalism moves the truth about questions of origins partly outside the domain of science, to philosophy or theology.

Wrong – “methodological naturalism” simply admits that, at this time, there is not enough physical evidence to answer “questions of origins;” therefore, at this time, a philosophical or theological guess is as good as a scientific one – subject to change without notice as more data comes in.

If someone has learnt, when Darwinian evolutionary theory has teached, that our world or life doesn’t need any creator or God, then it could mean that Darwinian evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.

Minor point: you need to learn English.

Major point: let’s see how much sense your assertion makes if, instead of “Darwinian evolutionary theory,” we talk of criminology and/or crime-scene investigation. Let’s re-word your paragraph as follows (grammatical corrections added for clarity):

“If someone has learned, when criminology and crime-scene investigation have been taught, that crimes can be solved without recourse to any creator or God, then it could mean that criminology and crime-scene investigation has been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.”

Do you agree with that, analyssi? If not, why? If so, how do you think we should investigate crimes?

Science Avenger wrote:

#2 I seriously doubt there are people who became atheists solely because of evolution.

No, but there could very well be a lot of people who become atheists, not merely because evolution and other scientific explanations make so much sense, but also because alternative “explanations” proposed by religious wingnuts and con-artists make so little sense.

Science Avenger wrote:

#2 I seriously doubt there are people who became atheists solely because of evolution.

No, but there could very well be a lot of people who become atheists, not merely because evolution and other scientific explanations make so much sense, but also because alternative “explanations” proposed by religious wingnuts and con-artists make so little sense.

Raging Bee Wrote:

Wrong — “methodological naturalism” simply admits that, at this time, there is not enough physical evidence to answer “questions of origins;” therefore, at this time, a philosophical or theological guess is as good as a scientific one — subject to change without notice as more data comes in.”

Hmm. There are perhaps several different understandings of what MN means. I’ve learned, that MN means the rule, that science can only refer to natural (and not to the supernatural). That is also how it was understood for example in Dover.

Jones Wrote:

We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;

and

Jones Wrote:

while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science

Perhaps also Jones understood, that methodological naturalism (as the rule, that science can only refer to natural (and not to the supernatural)) moves the truth about questions of origins at least partly outside the domain of science, to philosophy or theology…

Raging Bee Wrote:

“If someone has learned, when criminology and crime-scene investigation have been taught, that crimes can be solved without recourse to any creator or God, then it could mean that criminology and crime-scene investigation has been used as a Trojan horse for philosophical materialism.”

Do you agree with that, analyssi?

Hmm. I’m not sure. I could agree and disagree. It depends on how things have been taught. If there is more philosophical materialists after teaching than before, then perhaps. For me the question of whether something has been used as a Trojan horse, is empirical. Without data I cannot know.

Ps. English is not my native language. Yes, I need to learn more English. But yet I have not been able to understand, why I had written “teached”… hmm…

I’ve learned, that MN means the rule, that science can only refer to natural (and not to the supernatural).

True; and the reason for this is that we have never seen anything close to sufficient evidence, or repeatable controlled experiments, to prove that “supernatural” forces or entities exist. Every attempt to do so has instead proven that the alleged supernatural events were either a misunderstood natural phenomenon, or an outright fraud.

Also, once you start using supernatural agents to explain something, then you can pretty much say anything you want, simply on the grounds that “it doesn’t follow natural laws, therefore we can’t expect it to behave by the rules of evidence or logic.” Admitting supernatural agency makes everything unexplainable, unpredictable and uncontrollable. I can say “my father’s ghost did it;” you can say “God did it;” and neither of us would be able to prove one assertion conclusively, or disprove the other. Therefore, honest scientists reject all such “explanations,” and stick to what can be proven or disproven.

I’ve learned, that MN means the rule, that science can only refer to natural (and not to the supernatural).

True; and the reason for this is that we have never seen anything close to sufficient evidence, or repeatable controlled experiments, to prove that “supernatural” forces or entities exist. Every attempt to do so has instead proven that the alleged supernatural events were either a misunderstood natural phenomenon, or an outright fraud.

Also, once you start using supernatural agents to explain something, then you can pretty much say anything you want, simply on the grounds that “it doesn’t follow natural laws, therefore we can’t expect it to behave by the rules of evidence or logic.” Admitting supernatural agency makes everything unexplainable, unpredictable and uncontrollable. I can say “my father’s ghost did it;” you can say “God did it;” and neither of us would be able to prove one assertion conclusively, or disprove the other. Therefore, honest scientists reject all such “explanations,” and stick to what can be proven or disproven. So far, this approach has given us better results in the last 300 years than supernatural “explanations” have given us in the last 30,000.

Analyysi said: Methodological naturalism is methodological thing. If non-natural explanations are excluded as a matter of methodology, then science can give us only naturalistic stories. That’s why methodological naturalism itself cannot lead to acceptance of metaphysical naturalism. And that is the reason, why methodological naturalism cannot itself lead to acceptance of anything (as truth): if you exclude the non-natural explanations, then if the world or life or some other phenomena within it are supernaturally caused, you won’t be able to reach that truth scientifically. As Collins has said, methodological naturalism moves the truth about questions of origins partly outside the domain of science, to philosophy or theology.

Collins is wrong. The question of origins is like any other question involving a physical event at a point in time. That the evidence to date doesn’t allow confident scientific theories doesn’t change the kind of question it is. Only by presuming that the origins question involves something untestable by science does Collins’ statement hold, and that presumption is not warranted.

As for methodological (thM) vs metaphysical naturalism (phyN), my point was that thM leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, but not rejection of the supernatural. phyM does that. I don’t see how anything you said addresses that point, or supports your thesis of evolutionary theory being a Trojan Horse for phyM. Again, you just can’t get there from here.

We may be running up against the language barrier here. Not to knock your English, because I’m sure it’s far superior to my ability with whatever your native tongue is. Nonetheless, some of these arcane issues are difficult enough for two native speakers to reach understanding, much less one working with a second language.

And let’s not give too much reign to this idea that science cannot deal with supernatural beings at all. A gang of gods that popped up at fairly reglar intervals, said “Howdy”, and then magically removed trees or warts or brought back the dead, could be investigated by science to some extent, at least as far as verifying their existence. Think Q on Star Trek. The problem with the kind of supernatural beings that creationists like to posit is that they not only defy the laws of physics, they also seem determined to hide from investigation. Now that kind of supernatural entity is indeed outside the scope of science, but it also seems conveniently like a fictional character.

Science Avenger Wrote:

The question of origins is like any other question involving a physical event at a point in time.

No. It is not. But it is meaningless, because I have not spoken just about questions of origins. I have claimed, that methodological naturalism cannot itself lead to acceptance of anything (as truth).

Science Avenger Wrote:

Only by presuming that the origins question involves something untestable by science does Collins’ statement hold, and that presumption is not warranted.

No. If non-natural explanations are not allowed, then even if A was not naturally caused, someone could invent a natural explanation. And it [wrong explanation] perhaps could pass some tests. (Visible and testable parts of explanation could be partly or perhaps even mostly correct). But you are not able to test if the true explanation is naturalistic.

Science Avenger Wrote:

As for methodological (thM) vs metaphysical naturalism (phyN), my point was that thM leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, but not rejection of the supernatural. phyM does that. I don’t see how anything you said addresses that point, or supports your thesis of evolutionary theory being a Trojan Horse for phyM. Again, you just can’t get there from here.

1.) Could you give some data supporting your thesis, that “thM leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, but not rejection of the supernatural. phyM does that.”, or am I supposed to believe your claims as truth?

2. You have been talking about “evolutionary theory”, but I have been talking about “Darwinian evolutionary theory”, not any evolutionary theory. I know many “theistic evolutionists”, who don’t believe in “Darwinian evolutionary theory”. Many of them don’t believe, that evolution actually has been (mostly) change-driven, but they believe in common descent (like Behe). And they believe, that evolution has had purposes. (For example: human.) They are methodological naturalists, but they don’t believe that methodological naturalism could always lead to truth.

3) I have mostly been talking about how we could know, IF Darwinian evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism. My thesis was:

1. If there is (strong) correlation between belief in Darwinian evolutionary theory and metaphysical naturalism 2. If there is people who says, that the reason, why they are not theists is Darwinian evolutionary theory 3. If Evolutionary theory doesn’t extend that far (4. If there is more philosophical materialists after teaching [Darwinian evolutionary theory] than before)

Then…

I have not seen any studies about if there is more philosophical materialists after teaching [Darwinian evolutionary theory] than before. And I don’t know, how strong correlation there is…

Could you tell, what evidence/data you would need? (How would you test, whether (Darwinian) evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism or not?)

It depends on how things have been taught. If there is more philosophical materialists after teaching than before, then perhaps.

So in other words, if a good criminology course was taught, and some of the students came out with less belief in their God(s) than they took in, then the course would have to be changed; right?

Or would you consider the possibility that, in such a situation, perhaps the fault would lie with a weak or dishonest religion that couldn’t stand up to reality?

analyysi Wrote:

He is sceptic about “darwinian evolution”… but supports the theory of common descent.

As a “guided process” you say, which would be consistent with his earlier distinction between micro- and macroevolution. As I said, it doesn’t make sense, it is creationism or interventionist theistic evolution.

analyysi Wrote:

You told, what is your personal belief

No, I explained that science stands on its own, as any scientist can tell you.

analyysi Wrote:

that (one or only) reason, why they are not theists is Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Sure, that can be a reasonable conclusion from science. That doesn’t mean it is the purpose of science. You are making an unsupported generalisation.

Mats Wrote:

Humanist Manifesto

You are jumping from science to humanism, which is a politico-social movement. You are making an unsupported generalisation.

How would you test, whether (Darwinian) evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism or not?

Seems pretty simple. You need to prove, a la ID and Creationism, that: 1) Massive acceptance of phyN is a goal shared by most, if not all, philosophical naturalists. 2) The theory of evolution (ToE; meaning Darwinian) is easier for non-philosophical materialists to accept than philosophical materialism (phyN). 3) But nevertheless, acceptance of ToE leads to acceptance of phyN, controlling for the phenomenon that acceptance of methodological naturalism (thM) leads to acceptance of phyN. 4) ToE has no other legitimate uses. E.g. that the ToE was invented solely for this reason. 5) ToE is not a consequence of methodological naturalism.

Let me know how it goes.

Re “(How would you test, whether (Darwinian) evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism or not?)”

Maybe by looking for a paper trail between suspected Trojan-Horse Manufacturers and textbooks used in a large fraction of biology classes? (See records from Dover to see how such an investigation might proceed. ;) )

Henry

Analyysi said: Could you give some data supporting your thesis, that “thM leads to acceptance of evolutionary theory, but not rejection of the supernatural. phyM does that.”, or am I supposed to believe your claims as truth?

I thought it was obvious enough to only need stating. thM is a fundamental part of science, and science overwhelmingly accepts evolutionary theory. As for the second part, think Ken Miller: does good science, but is not into phyM. phyM demands a godless universe. thM can work around it.

You have been talking about “evolutionary theory”, but I have been talking about “Darwinian evolutionary theory”, not any evolutionary theory. I know many “theistic evolutionists”, who don’t believe in “Darwinian evolutionary theory”. Many of them don’t believe, that evolution actually has been (mostly) change-driven, but they believe in common descent (like Behe). And they believe, that evolution has had purposes. (For example: human.) They are methodological naturalists, but they don’t believe that methodological naturalism could always lead to truth.

This is politics dressed up to look like science. It’s the Wedge Document in practice. It’s intent is to confuse, not illuminate. It is just a lot of doubletalk, or in the case of labeling Behe a thM, a sheer case of misrepresentation. This is not how scientists talk.

(How would you test, whether (Darwinian) evolutionary theory has been used as a Trojan horse for metaphysical naturalism or not?)

First you’d have to demonstrate that it is as scientifically vacuous as ID is. That would require a Dallas-like “it was all a dream” kind of paradigm shift, given the mountains of evidence you’d have to come up with an alternative explanation for. Then you’d have to produce the scientists’ Wedge document. Conspiracies require extraordinary evidence for this audience.

I think the proposition is absurd on it’s face, so I’m not optimistic about your success on those tasks. Evolution is solid and exciting science, there is no need for any other explanation for it.

You have been talking about “evolutionary theory”, but I have been talking about “Darwinian evolutionary theory”, not any evolutionary theory.

And the crucial difference is…?

Re “And the crucial difference is…?”

That one of them is easier to badmouth than the other? ;)

Behe latest book is awesome. I recomed everyone to read it.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on May 31, 2007 1:00 PM.

Sam Brownback, defender of the faith was the previous entry in this blog.

Evolution for Everyone: A Review is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter