An Open Letter to Dr. Michael Behe (Part 3)

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Dear Dr. Behe

I have just read your first response to my open letter to you. Is this what your argument is reduced to? A list of examples of Ms Smiths alleged uncivility to you. I find this rather sad

Yes, science is about civil discourse. And we, as experienced scientists are guardians and upholders of this discourse. We teach by example. If someone is discourteous to us, we reply courteously, and continue to reply courteously in the face of adversity. We keep to the topic and discuss the substantiative issues raised. We do not engage in petty sexism, we do not completely ignore someone’s core argument and discuss trivialities.

This is my central disagreement with you [1]. You avoided the issue. As educators, we lead by example. What example do you think it sets to avoid the major substantiative issue that Ms Smith raised?

Dr. Behe, regardless of how you feel about the tone of Ms Smiths discourse, you need to engage with the fact that HIV-1 M Vpu is a viroporin, a new mini-“molecular machine” that has arisen since HIV evolved from SIV. In science, there can be no greater discourtesy than ignoring a key, substantial argument. Until you engage with Vpu viroporin, your professionalism is on the line.

Yours sincerely

A male featherless biped named Ian Musgrave[2,3]

[1] The casual sexism issue is important too, but I leave that to others. [2] As I said before I’m a Senior Lecturer in the Australian system. Even though it is roughly equivalent to a US professorial appointment, calling me a professor is misleading. Dr. Musgrave is my appropriate title. [3] Once again Dr. Behe. I invite you to be co-respondent on “The Vpu Debate” blog, to avoid all this backing and forthing.

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Dear Gentle Readers: At the bottom of this essay, I’m collecting links to reviews of Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution, replies to reviews and so forth. Well, now the burden is off me, and I can devote my book-reviewing time to good books,... Read More

58 Comments

I’ve split off the HIV-related posts to their own section of the great big list.

Behe won’t reply to you point-by-point because he can’t.

Behe is wrong and he knows it.

If I know my Behe he’ll offer subjective evaluations: such-and-such a mutation is not a big deal, this or that is insubstantial or a referenced research result is “piffle,” or he’ll say that you need to read his book again because obviously you have a reading comprehension problem.

Behe will simply wave his staff at all your “evidence” and say, “Begone!”

And that will be that.

We’ve seen this pattern of behavior from Behe for 10 years, we saw it at Kitzmiller and we’ll see it here. Sorry, Ian, if you were hoping to provoke an intellectual discourse out of Behe. That’s just not going to happen.

Perhaps it is time once again, for the edification of newcomers, to show how proud the entire rest of the Lehigh University Biological Department faculty is to have Behe on the same planet:

“Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of “intelligent design.” While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.”

http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm

Michael Behe continues to show that he has abandoned science, and seems to be on a steady downward spiral.

waldteufel:

Michael Behe continues to show that he has abandoned science, and seems to be on a steady downward spiral.

It’s just like in those cartoons where the hapless character keeps crashing through all of the floors in a skyscraper.

Dr. Behe’s justification for his reluctance to debate Abbie Smith is the “insulting” and “puerile” tone of her post. This justification sounds, using Behe’s own term, “unconvincing” because the experience with Behe’s treatment of his opponents shows that he routinely avoids answering critique if it convincingly shows the fallacies of his discourse. An example, personally related to myself, is Behe’s now already 8-years old silence in response to my critique of his book Darwin’s Black Box. My critical article was first posted in 1999 ( see here). Later it was printed as a chapter in my book Unintelligent Design; the article was translated into Russian, printed in a journal Kontinent in 2000, and in a journal Et Levakesh published in Israel; the chapter in question was transalted into Polish and published in a journal in Poland. In my article and in the chapter in question my tone, albeit sometimes unequivocally rejecting Behe’s thesis, was otherwise certainly civil. I did not call Behe names, or engaged in any style demeaning to him. Since I am not a biologist, I avoided discussing the biochemical aspects of Behe’s book. My critique was exclusivley related to the matters which are within my expertise as a scientist with many years of research and teaching behind me, and with a publication record far exceeding that of Behe. What I did was demonstrating Behe’s misunderstanding of probabilities and complexity. In 2005 I wrote another article about Behe’s favorite concept of irreducible complexity, which was both posted on the web ( see here) and printed in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Behe reaction? Silence, apparently implying that, like in case of Abbie Smith, Behe would send me to “soak my head” (his own expression which apparently in his vocabulary is considered civil). Now, in a letter I once received from Biola university, its author suggested that I am “concerned” with Dr. Behe’s lack of response to my critique. I’d like to state that I am not in the least concerned with Behe’s silence. His silence is, to my mind, a sure evidence he just is not capable of coming up with reasonable answers to my critique. Thus he misses a chance to learn something about probabilities and complexity beyond the puerile discussion of these topics in his book.

So essentially Behe’s excuse is that he’s too much a wuss to handle some relatively mild snarkiness, on the internet no less? He’s even more useless than I though he was. Say hello to a couple of your friends for me while you and your credibility are in toilet, Mikey.

Personally, and speaking as an evolutionist, I don’t blame Behe for responding the way he did. I don’t like Behe, and I disagree with his belief system. I do not know whether or not he has an answer to Abbie Smith’s particular objection; maybe he doesn’t. But if he does have an answer to the specific phenomenon addressed, rudeness and uncouth behavior cannot and should not be rewarded. I don’t see that Behe did anything wrong. Throwing the responsibility of civility in discourse on only scientists is absolutely ludicrous. That personality characteristic should come with being a human in a civilized nation, which we all are.

Neil,

You give yourself away by calling yourself an “evolutionist”.

Right, Neil, well said!

And, Behe’s observation that the published research of colleagues in his own field of biochemistry amounted to “piffle” should be treated how?

Behe’s declaration in a public forum that the published research of colleagues in his own field of biochemistry was “inconsequential” should be treated how?

We should ignore Behe’s scientific slander for what reason? To be polite?

So, what should we do, Neil, being humans in a civilized nation, which we are, about unpleasant, sneaky movements which seek to damage science education and are propagated by former scientists like Behe?

Perhaps we should invite them to tea.

Neil Wrote:

I don’t see that Behe did anything wrong. Throwing the responsibility of civility in discourse on only scientists is absolutely ludicrous.

No, it is not. We researchers have a special responsibility. We are the educators and nurturers of upcoming young researchers, it is up to us to set and uphold the standards so that those that follow can learn by our example. There can be no excuse for petty sexism and avoiding the question.

Doc Bill,

I don’t know about the instances you addressed, I was sticking to the issue at hand. If Behe did those things, he’s should be chastised. However, you’re presenting a double standard. If we can be nasty to Behe, why shouldn’t he be nasty to us? At any rate, we weren’t talking about Behe’s ‘scientific slander.’ Please stick to the issue. Tyler DiPietro, you’re overanalyzing the issue. I’m new here, and I just wanted you all to know where I stand. Now, gentlemen, think about this. I posted a very civil message. You both attacked me viciously. I expected intellectually and academically responsible messaging on this blog. What is wrong with you?

Neil

We will have to agree to disagree, Ian, although I respect your opinion.

Neil, I would love the opportunity to call Behe’s research “piffle,” but, alas, Behe hasn’t done any research so that leaves me somewhat frustrated. What’s a human like me in a civilized nation to do?

Doc Bill,

Someone who hasn’t done any research shouldn’t be taken seriously. That very fact should speak loudly enough. However, why do you have to ‘call’ things/people names? I’m sorry, I don’t deal with arguments like that. You are clearly of a different ilk. If I see arguments worthy of my attention, I rebut them. Calling names is what children do. Similarly, speaking with mocking tones is what children do, which is why this is my last response to you. You demonstrate that you aren’t yet ready for respectful dialogue. I hope you will be some day.

Neil, exactly what research has Michael Behe done in the last ten years? Maybe you can clear up a lot by telling us what research and publishing of results of that research in peer reviewed scientific journals Behe has contributed.

Puerile? I wonder if we can get Behe to give his opinion of Uncommon Descent…

ERV’s tone is snarky, rambunctious, and not short on the put-downs. But one big difference is that She’s RIGHT, and Behe stoops far below that level while trying to defend his stance, which is WRONG.

I wonder if he was from Australia, would Behe’s reputation rotate the other way while it flushes?

If we can be nasty to Behe, why shouldn’t he be nasty to us?

In the instance you cite, people are nasty to Behe because he is LYING.

He was nasty to ERV because she’s a WOMAN.

“ERV’s tone is snarky, rambunctious, and not short on the put-downs. But one big difference is that She’s RIGHT, and Behe stoops far below that level while trying to defend his stance, which is WRONG.”

The other big difference is that Behe took the sexist road right out of the door. If Behe had simply responded with a little bit of snark himself, I wouldn’t care. Chances are it would have been as lame as everything else he’s done. But that wasn’t what he did. The only attribute he considered noteworthy was that she was “a woman” who “calls herself a pre-grad student”. No mention of the fact that she is now a grad student (he took that long to respond) and that actively researches HIV. A few jabs don’t warrant Behe’s kneejerk “What’s some uppity woman doing calling my bullcrap?” response.

Alright everyone, calm down, take deep breaths and play nice. Let’s set an example we want to see followed.

Neil Wrote:

We will have to agree to disagree, Ian, although I respect your opinion.

I’ve spent over 17 years researching a teaching, I’ve taught undergraduates, and been mentor to vacation scholars, honours student and PhD students. As well as being on education committees and such like. All my experience, and those of my colleagues, teaches me that it is we, the mentors, who are responsible to act like mentors. And what mentors do is address the central question, not carry on with trivialities.

The mentor role is not a incidental add-on to a researchers life, it is a central part of it. We abandon this at our peril.

Neill writes:

“Personally, and speaking as an evolutionist, I don’t blame Behe for responding the way he did. I don’t like Behe, and I disagree with his belief system. I do not know whether or not he has an answer to Abbie Smith’s particular objection; maybe he doesn’t. But if he does have an answer to the specific phenomenon addressed, rudeness and uncouth behavior cannot and should not be rewarded.”

I think substantive arguments should be addressed regardless of the manner given. The fact is, like or not, is that put-downs, witty reparte and personal attacks have been part and parcel of scientific discourse since scientific discourse started.

I get a lot of crap and ad hominems from expanding earthers. However, I rebut their geological arguments no matter how bad they are, and then, if I feel so inclined, crap on them but good.

If the snarkiness of Ms. Smiths post bothered Behe that much, he should not have responded at all.

I’m having difficulties opening the “The Vpu Debate” blog, I’m just getting a front page. Could blog accessibility be looked at?

Ian,

I can probably predict Behe’s response to this; he’ll say that since you helped Abbie out with her essay, you had, as an educator, a responsibility to get her to tone down the rhetoric.

Personally, I didn’t particularly have a problem with Abbie’s slightly intemperate language; if Behe were publishing this in the literature then he could expect responses to the written in a respectful manner. However, he chose to write a pop-sci book and so is fair game as far as I’m concerned.

This also means I’m not particularly bothered that he included a bit of snark in his reply to Abbie; if she writes in a snarky fashion, she shouldn’t complain too much if it is returned back (irrespective of whether Behe should rise above this). Having said that, the fact that he went with sexism, rather than standard insults, says a lot about the man.

Heleen:

I’m having difficulties opening the “The Vpu Debate” blog, I’m just getting a front page. Could blog accessibility be looked at?

There is only a front page as there is no content yet. Dr. Behe has yet to agree to a debate yet.

the fact that he went with sexism, rather than standard insults, says a lot about the man.

Ah, the irreducible complicity of Michael Behe.

I will say again that I like the constructive tone of this thread and its science participants.

SA “Abby” Smith is jaunty, but as Behe doesn’t present his criticism of biology in the usual manner, I must agree that this manner is as appropriate as any other. And Ian Musgrave has set the appropriate level of discourse here, as Behe seems unable to do so. Of course we can’t resist noticing here that it is yet another failure in the series that has taken Behe away from science into denialism. Why shouldn’t we?

Neil:

I expected intellectually and academically responsible messaging on this blog.

It seems to me that the replies you got contains this, though many were addressed in the tone you opposed. But hard as it may be, you have to accept the factual characteristics of some science discourse that Stuart Weinstein describes, as well as that blog commenters in general aren’t scientists nor agree on behavior.

Personally, I always estimate the clever put-down or witty repartee in principle (that is, even when I get the short end of the stick), but I think personal attacks are mostly childish implicit agreements that the attacker has little or no substance in his argument and attack, and only serves to prolong an inconsequential discussion. (Sometimes they are accurately based on the insistent stupidity, denial, trolling or what have you of an antagonist in the discussion - and they still only serves to prolong an inconsequential discussion.) Alas, not everyone wants to agree on the later. :-P

To add to other comments on the “intellectual and academic messaging” on your comment, I don’t think anyone but creationists would address anyone as “evolutionist” aside from the occasional need to profile against serious alternatives or useful toy models. For example, you don’t see people address themselves as “general relativists”, for natural reasons. But worse, the specific theory considered have nothing to do with the argument on the form of the discussion. So this remark jumps out to us, whether it was an innocent naiveté or not.

This set the form of replies you got, as much as Behe’s behavior (inappropriate venues for serious criticism) sets his.

“of this thread” - of this series of threads, of course.

If Behe doesn’t like Abby’s tone, he can choose to respond to Ian and cut to the chase already, address the science.

I notice that first Behe posted a post about how he was going to respond to the posts. That was an elaborate bit of throat-clearing.

Then he posted a post about how he didn’t like Abby’s tone. Okay… gotcha. So respond to Ian then, if you don’t like Abby. I think it was the combination of Abby and Ian that did it. A little Good cop, Mean cop. I think Behe would have ignored it othewise (not a very smart move of him to engage, if you ask me.)

I’m waiting with baited breath to see when he’s going to get to the science. They’ve got him boxed in.… but he could just type some star trek technobabble and his fanbase would buy it if he sounded self-righteous enough about it.

Question - where does the “piffle” quote come from. Am I wrong in thinking that it was “piddling” that Behe used to describe the work of the biochemist community? Just a minor detail.

Neil: … a human in a civilized nation, which we all are.

Uh, sorry, Neil, not so: the majority of humans posting and commenting at The Panda’s Thumb are citizens of a nation which has for years been committing war crimes, torture, grand theft and a wide range of other atrocities against another nation which has done almost nothing to the aggressor (except in self-defense, as is their acknowledged right under international law).

Please don’t allow this to skip your mind again - such selective cognition is, after all, one of the major reasons the regime responsible for these evils remains in power.

Creationist Tactic #31:

Behave in an exasperating manner. When people become exasperated claim it shows the weakness of their position.

Creationist Tactic #32:

Make claim. Ignore all refutations. Repost claim. Ignore all refutations. Repost claim. Wait for frustrated responses. Claim these show that your opponents “cannot deal with the science” of your claim.

Dr. Behe complains about the tone of a graduate student’s critique–but how is this different that how he and his compadres describe mainstream biologists? Just take a look at the usual language used by contributors at UD–darwinists, darwinoids, etc. To use Behe’s own words, I find many of these comments to be “insulting, jut-jawed, and puerile.” And let’s not forget the low level that Dembski is able to operate at (fart noises in crude animations).

ID critics of evolution employ political language and strategies–and then get all bent out of shape when they are on the receiving end of such rhetoric or tactics–they suddenly want to pretend like they always take the high road, which is more than a little disingenuous.

Barron,

You can add the tactic they pulled on Abbie over on Uncommon Descent. Which was to let the peanut gallery denizens be belligerant to her and pretty much dare her to respond in kind and get instabanned. When she didn’t, and instead responded with super-sweetness they banned her for being “sarcastic”.

Got it. Match mean with mean and you get banned for being mean. Match mean with nice and you get banned for being sarcastic.

“Uh, sorry, Neil, not so: the majority of humans posting and commenting at The Panda’s Thumb are citizens of a nation [i.e. USA] which has for years been committing war crimes, torture, grand theft and a wide range of other atrocities against another nation which has done almost nothing to the aggressor (except in self-defense, as is their acknowledged right under international law).”

Maybe so, but let the nation without sin cast the first stone.

jeh:

“Uh, sorry, Neil, not so: the majority of humans posting and commenting at The Panda’s Thumb are citizens of a nation [i.e. USA] which has for years been committing war crimes, torture, grand theft and a wide range of other atrocities against another nation which has done almost nothing to the aggressor (except in self-defense, as is their acknowledged right under international law).”

Maybe so, but let the nation without sin cast the first stone.

Not only that, but the assertion about America’s wrongdoings is completely off-topic. Even if it true, it does not follow that any of the PT posters are guilty of war crimes, torture, and other such things.

I suppose I’d advise Abbie Smith to be careful about the snarkiness for her own protection. It’s not fair that women have to be more professional than men, but, as a former president once informed us, life isn’t fair.

I’m more interested in the whole phenomenon of scientific versus ordinary codes of courtesy, and especially how canny the creationists are in playing them off to confuse the public.

In ordinary conversation, “everybody’s got a right to his opinion,” is practically the prime rule of conduct. Somebody says, “I believe the earth is 6003 years old,” and you’re supposed to say, “You might have a point.” Even if you’d like to add, “on the top of your head, you idiot.”

In scientific discourse, on the other hand, everyone is supposed to be working toward increased, tested knowledge. So allowing another researcher “the right to his opinion” instead of giving him the new information he needs in order to correct an error is a cruel thing to do. Abbie Smith is working on HIV. Michael Behe made a factual error about her field. If Behe were really interested in developing his career as a scientist, he would have welcomed Smith’s remarks, and used the increased knowledge she gave him to correct his own theories. People in the scientific community do that all the time– even though the correction often does come from a junior colleague. (Because they’re the ones actually out there on the lab benches.)

Behe instead implicitly played on the “everyone’s entitled to his opinion” rule of common courtesy and explicitly played on Smith’s inferior status in the academic hierarchy to avoid correcting his own work as he should have, while at the same time, portraying himself as unfairly set upon by an insolent student.

Of course, this leaves people who play by the rules of common courtesy thinking Behe is the wronged party. On the other hand, people who have the scientific attitude that the goal of the exchange should be to increase knowledge, not to make nice, see Behe’s behavior as completely indefensible.

Shorter jeh: They all do it!

Shorter Dale Husband: We won’t talk about that! It wasn’t us!

It might be fun to compile a list of comparable tactics by those who deny science and those who deny war crimes (in this and certain other countries), but it would be too easy (fish, barrel, bang!) to be of much use.

Hey, Pierce R. Butler:

I’m sorry– I didn’t know you were a member of the subspecies Homo sapiens altruist. I apologize for thinking you were all like the rest of us–fallible human beings born in a fallible societies run by bad people that we didn’t vote for. Mea culpa.

I now know that you come from a long line of people of pure hearts and minds who have never, ever oppressed another human being or knowingly caused another living thing harm. My qpologies! I just wish I could live one day in your noble country, where everything is sweetness and light!

BTW, what does your anti-American screed have to do with anything on this blog? Most of the people writing here can’t do a damn thing about where they happened by chance to be born.

“but it would be too easy (fish, barrel, bang!) to be of much use”

I would say go right ahead–enlighten us all with your wisdom–but I think you’ve wandered on the wrong blog.

Advance Notice: The “warcrimes” stuff is seriously off topic, any more will be sent to the Bathroom Wall.

Neil Wrote:

I don’t see that Behe did anything wrong.

Poof goes your credibility.

In ordinary conversation, “everybody’s got a right to his opinion,”

“I have a right to my opinion” invariably means “I can’t tolerate criticism of my views”.

You give yourself away by calling yourself an “evolutionist”.

How so? That’s a perfectly legitimate characterization, and many of us describe ourselves that way.

I posted a very civil message. You both attacked me viciously. I expected intellectually and academically responsible messaging on this blog. What is wrong with you?

With this, Neil turns himself into a troll.

The “warcrimes” stuff is seriously off topic, any more will be sent to the Bathroom Wall.

Much of Neil’s argument rested on his claim that we are all humans in a civilized nation; a certain amount of rebuttal ought to be allowed.

Frankly, I disagree with Neil, Behe, and you – science is not “about civil discourse”. Civility is only relevant to science to the degree that it furthers the goals of science. You say, “In science, there can be no greater discourtesy than ignoring a key, substantial argument”. Screw courtesy; it’s irresponsible, a violation of a basic intellectual burden. From T. Edward Damer’s “A Code of Conduct for Effective Rational Discussion”:

9. The Rebuttal Principle

One who presents an argument for or against a position should attempt to provide an effective rebuttal to all serious challenges to the argument or the position it supports and to the strongest argument on the other side of the issue.

Ms. Smith posed a serious challenge, regardless of how she expressed it.

Of course, this isn’t the only principle Behe violates; e.g.,

2. The Truth-Seeking Principle

Each participant should be committed to the task of earnestly searching for the truth or at least the most defensible position on the issue at stake. Therefore, one should be willing to examine alternative positions seriously, look for insights in the positions of others, and allow other participants to present arguments for or raise objections to any position held with regard to any disputed issue.

Whether Behe was sexist toward Abbie Smith or not, the fact remains that she brought up a serious problem with his published work. Behe’s response put her down in ways that were far more insulting than the sexism. He simply refused to engage her in an honest exchange of views.

Did Behe really believe Smith would be awed by a response that was merely debating points, not a reasoned, scientific argument? I doubt, really, that he did. I suspect he wasn’t targeting his response to Smith, but to his fan base of IDers. He came up with a response that, to people who know no science, looked reasonable. Of course, Smith knows, and a lot of the people here know, that Behe’s response wasn’t really a response at all, but a mean-spirited refusal to engage.

Thank you, Popper’s Ghost!

I’m glad that somebody around here recognizes that pointing out sanctimonious hypocrisy is not irrelevant to the Panda’s Thumb mission.

Sorry, jeh: you’ll have to figure out the obvious critique of your comments all by yourself…

I suspect he wasn’t targeting his response to Smith, but to his fan base of IDers.

Oh, he knows his fan base’s eyes will glaze over if they try to read Smith’s or Ian Musgrave’s posts. Most will just read Behe’s responses, not the post he is responding to, and nod their heads and say “Oh, Behe says he’s rebutted them so obviously he has”.

This is why Behe has closed comments on his amazon blog and answers there, rather than here or at the neutral site that’s been set up.

One-stop shopping for his supporters.

Pierce, Pierce, Pierce:

Sanctimonius hypocrisy? Please. Who made you judge of PT contributors? You don’t know our individual politics, who we voted for, what causes we support, etc.–yet you’ve just decided to lump all American PT contributors into one big pile, and call us all hypocrites cause we haven’t like launched an armed rebellion to overthrow the Bush-Cheney regime. And because of this we are somehow are all science denialists and war criminals. The next thing I expect to hear from you is that America deserved 9-11. What have you personally done to fight the powers that be? And just what is your problem?

More to the point of this blog, has anyone seen Behe’s third set of comments @Amazon on Musgrave’s open letter? He seems to be really spinning his wheels now. It’s hard to imagine where Mikey will go in parts 4 and 5.

Oh yes, civil discourse is so important. Is that coming from the same Michael Behe who once referred to Judge Jones as “the former head of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board”?

So why is it that a direct reply to a politically-charged misstatement leads to a threat of eviction, while childish and absurd ad hominems spouted off in all directions (except any which actually pertain to the point made) are treated with benign neglect?

jeh, I’ve been busting my butt as a local political activist and organizer against the crimes of the US against Iraq since Gulf War I. Oddly enough, in that time I have never felt it necessary to resort to straw-man caricatures or meaningless distractions from the issues at hand.

What have you done to oppose (for lack of a more concise term) imperialism?

Ian Musgrave, I hope you’ll be much more thoughtful, and less precipitate, with your threats of censorship in the future.

“So why is it that a direct reply to a politically-charged misstatement leads to a threat of eviction, while childish and absurd ad hominems spouted off in all directions (except any which actually pertain to the point made) are treated with benign neglect?”

I don’t have any problem with you stating your opinion–or even your prejudices, but don’t expect that I have to accept being painted with a broad brush as a hypocrite because of my nationality. The point being this–there should not be some sort of purity or litmus test for who can legitimately post to Panda’s Thumb.

jeh - Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, but the only person suggesting a “purity or litmus test” here has been you.

I simply noted that Neil’s presupposiition that everyone here is a member of a “civilized nation” is factually questionable at best, and that pretending not to see your nation’s crimes is to abet them.

Later, I tried to point out that such denial also pertains to the psychology of those who prefer their emotional attachments to the findings of, for example, biological and climatological science.

Why you choose to react with such agitation and defensiveness is a question I leave open to anyone who wants to contemplate it.

“jeh - Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, but the only person suggesting a “purity or litmus test” here has been you.”

That’s a little hard to see–I don’t really care who posts comments here, I think you have just as much right to post what you think as say, bornagain77, but don’t expect that every statement made has to go unchallenged.

I’ve read your comments on the Iraq situation elsewhere and I mostly agree with you, but your reaction to Neil’s misstatement did seem to be a bit extreme, and seemed to lump a lot of us together as implicitly supporting the policies of Bush/Cheney. There are some civilized persons in our uncivilized nation. We’re not all little Eichmanns.

“Why you choose to react with such agitation and defensiveness is a question I leave open to anyone who wants to contemplate it.”

You can forgo the psychoanalysis. I can take criticism as well as give it.

Pierce Butler: I think you and others are arguing across each other because of different usages of “civilised nation.” You’re using it to mean “peaceful and just”, which is an ideal to be wished for, rather than a current description. Most posters here undoubtedly belong to civilized nations, in the sense that their nations have cities. Very few civilisations, now or at any time, have entirely forgone slaughtering foreigners.

Anyway, largely irrelevant to Neil’s absence of point.

Behe is one guy swimming against the tide. He has raised many provocative questions and has caused quite a stir. I think the assertion that Behe must be censored lest he destroy the fragile minds of young scientists is laughable. This is a great topic for discussion and debate that serves as a way to engage young people with the exciting ever changing world of science.

If we really care about science education, lets fix the dogmatic and in many cases wrong biology text books in this area.

Lastly, Behe asks a great question - what are the limits of Darwinian evolution? He lays out a hypothesis and then explores it to great length in his book. His Amazon posts are on whole very professional and fair to his many^2 critics. Like he says, he’s one guy, he can’t respond to everyone everywhere.

Behe’s problem is that the “tide” is caused by the fact that most scientists base their conclusions on verifiable evidence, which tends to cause their conclusions to converge. That’s why the current theory is the current theory.

Henry

The only stir Behe has caused is among those who wish what he said was true so badly they can’t be bothered to check the evidence, and those who value science and science education that lament his piffle being touted as science. Pretending anyone wants to censor him, or is concerned with him negatively effecting scientists, is disingenuous at best.

Behe has nothing to do with the ever-changing world of science. Behe is a religious apologist, not a scientist, and the last thing young people need is to be deluded into thinking that the stale oft-refuted creationist claims of errors in biology are legitimate science.

Dave W, you fail to notice that Mr Behe has never even attempted to experimentally test the “limits of evolution” he proposed in his books. Other people have tests the proposed “limits,” and other people have also fact-checked him, and in both cases, he has proven wrong so many times.

Not only does he refuse to admit that his arguments are really arguments of incredulity that have been over-glorified, but, he also refuses to do experiments, or even make explanations that use, or are even about Intelligent Design. The fact that he’s so unwilling to do any of this strongly suggests that he knows that Intelligent Design is a crock of shit, and is simply going along with the Discovery Institute to make money.

Dave W: I think the assertion that Behe must be censored lest he destroy the fragile minds of young scientists is laughable.

Since no one has made that assertion, what is your point? The key issue here is that when a student pointed an error in Behe’s writing, he disparaged that student and failed to respond to the key points the student made.

Dave W: Lastly, Behe asks a great question - what are the limits of Darwinian evolution? He lays out a hypothesis and then explores it to great length in his book. His Amazon posts are on whole very professional and fair to his many^2 critics. Like he says, he’s one guy, he can’t respond to everyone everywhere.

Only if you are not familiar with the science. As I and others have pointed out, the science doesn’t say what he claims it says, and many of his arguments are inconsistent and in many places incoherent.

Again, the issue is not that he cannot respond to everyone, but that the specific response he made to a student who found a serious error in his work was not only derogatory, but also failed to respond to the error.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on November 12, 2007 5:17 PM.

Openlab 2007: Submission and Judging was the previous entry in this blog.

Reading Levels revisited is the next entry in this blog.

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