Behe’s (malevolent) intelligent designer is still at work

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Correction: See this comment and this one. Operating from memory, I mis-stated Behe’s argument below. According to Behe’s “CCC” criterion, chloroquine resistance is (barely) within the capabilities of evolution given the time and population size available. It’s the “double CCC” that’s unevolvable according to Behe. Malaria itself, however, was designed according to Behe, and the case of artemesinin resistance is still open.

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In “The Edge of Evolution”(reviewed here and here), Michael Behe argued explicitly that an intelligent agent is responsible for the evolution of chloroquine-resistant malaria, arguing that the necessary mutations are beyond the reach of chance and selection given the time and population sizes available. Therefore, he claimed, an intelligent designer is responsible for drug-resistant malaria. He wrote

Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts. C-Eve’s children died in her arms partly because an intelligent agent deliberately made malaria, or at least something very similar to it. (p. 237)

Not only that, the purported intelligent agent is responsible for drug resistance in malaria. Behe claimed that because it requires multiple independent mutations, none adaptive by themselves, given the time and population sizes available malarial resistance to chloroquine must have been designed (and presumably manufactured) by an intelligent agent (see his Chapter 3 for elaborate probability calculations). And chloroquine resistance in malaria is now nearly universal.

The currently most effective first-choice treatment for otherwise drug-resistant malaria is artemisinin. Hailed in 2004 as a “magic bullet” against malaria, artemisinin is an extract of a plant grown mainly in Viet Nam. Just a few years later, an artemisinin-resistant strain of malaria appeared in southeast Asia. In fact, according to this paper in Science published yesterday, April 6, 2012, 33 regions on the falciparum malaria genome appear to be under strong selection for artemisinin resistance. (See a news story here.) 33 genome regions on chromosome 13 that are under selection for artemisinin resistance! Surely in Behe’s fantasy world that’s way beyond the capabilities of evolution, and his malevolent intelligent agent is working over-time in Cambodia and Thailand to kill people.

Behe also discussed the research of Barry Hall on a class of antibiotic drugs called carbapenems. He approvingly quoted Hall as writing

“The results predict, with 99.9% confidence, that even under intense selection the [enzyme] will not evolve to confer increased resistance to imipenem [a member of the carbapenems].” (p. 237)

Behe continued, in his own words,

In other words, more than two evolutionary steps would have to be skipped to achieve resistance, effectively ruling out Darwinian evolution. (p. 237).

So if resistance to carbapenems (of which imipenem is an instance) should appear, according to Behe it must have been due to an intelligent agent. But even before Behe published that (“Edge of Evolution” was published in 2007), carbamenem-resistant gram negative bacteria were being detected in 2005. Again, in Behe’s fantasy world, a malevolent intelligent agent is hard at work right now, designing (and manufacturing) pathogens to kill people.

177 Comments

What I don’t get (and I don’t get a lot of willful ignorance) is that the things he claims are impossible have already been shown time and again. This is the 3rd example, that I know of right off the top of my head (and with some effort we could probably come up with many examples).

Does he think that because he’s a molecular biologist, that people will just take him at his word? I mean, getting away with lying in a court of law is a pretty big deal, but everyone knows he did it.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, that evolution cannot do whatever Behe claims it can’t do. He STILL needs to provide evidence that a designer has done it. Look at the lab experiments… where EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? When EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? How EXACTLY does the designer do his thing?

The Darwinian Evolution on a Chip paper shows very clearly, exactly what mutations happened when to result in a series of mutations that are way over Behe’s limit and yet we (almost literally) see them occur.

ogremk5 said: Does he think that because he’s a molecular biologist, that people will just take him at his word? I mean, getting away with lying in a court of law is a pretty big deal, but everyone knows he did it.

Erm, he’s not a molecular biologist, he’s a biochemist. Picky, I know, but that makes him even less qualified to make professional judgments about evolution. And his flirtations with probabilities establish that he’s even less qualified to play in that sandbox.

No, no! The alien or time traveling biologists are acting this way because of The Fall! All very scientific you see!

ogremk5 said: … where EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? When EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? How EXACTLY does the designer do his thing?

And the big one: WHY is it actively improving its weapons designed specifically to torture humans (babies included) for months or years before finally killing them?

And why would anyone worship such a monster?

ogremk5 said:

What I don’t get (and I don’t get a lot of willful ignorance) is that the things he claims are impossible have already been shown time and again. This is the 3rd example, that I know of right off the top of my head (and with some effort we could probably come up with many examples).

Only 3?

In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe claimed that scientists live in ivory towers, and when facing challenges in their work, throw up their hands and cry into their mothers’ aprons, that the immune system couldn’t have evolved, that antibodies only mark pathogens, and not stop them (comparing their alleged lack of effectiveness to a toy dartgun versus a rampaging viking), that the blood clotting cascade couldn’t have evolved, that cilia not only could not have evolved, but that there were absolutely no papers done on cilia evolution.

Does he think that because he’s a molecular biologist, that people will just take him at his word?

Yes, yes he does. But the joke is that he doesn’t realize that no one but other science-deniers take him at his word.

I mean, getting away with lying in a court of law is a pretty big deal, but everyone knows he did it.

I get the impression that Behe thinks he got away with it, even though he had his ass grilled and served to him on a kaiser roll.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, that evolution cannot do whatever Behe claims it can’t do. He STILL needs to provide evidence that a designer has done it. Look at the lab experiments…

What experiments? We’re supposed to take him at his word because he’s a molecular biologist.

where EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? When EXACTLY does the designer do his thing? How EXACTLY does the designer do his thing?

“Irreducibly Complex” = “GODDIDIT” = “AWIZARDDIDIT”

The Darwinian Evolution on a Chip paper shows very clearly, exactly what mutations happened when to result in a series of mutations that are way over Behe’s limit and yet we (almost literally) see them occur.

Evolution deniers pride themselves on their deliberately cultivated lack of imagination much in the same manner some vagrants pride themselves on being public nuisances.

ogremk5 said:The Darwinian Evolution on a Chip paper shows very clearly, exactly what mutations happened when to result in a series of mutations that are way over Behe’s limit and yet we (almost literally) see them occur.

Is this the paper you mean?

Of course chloroquine resistance itself seems not to depend upon only two mutations. Only two seemed to exist in all chloroquine resistance, while none of the latter involved only two–an inconvenient fact that he just ignored, apparently because he decided that two mutations were the “edge of evolution” thus the facts had to be fitted to his pre-determination.

More crucially, clearly he could draw the line anywhere or nowhere, since he has absolutely no independent method of “detecting design.” They wouldn’t dare use actual design criteria, of course, since wild-type life exhibits is devoid of the real hallmarks of design, so Behe had no choice but to make up an “edge of evolution” and then manipulate the facts to fit his fiction.

They’ll just continue to make it up as they go along, either coming up with excuses for why carbapenem resistance agrees with Behe’s arbitrary limit, or arbitrarily redrawing their arbitrary limit. The point is to deny meaningful evolution, not to explain anything, after all.

Evolution explains the apparently meaningless existence of P. falciparum, along with all of the other meaningless adaptations of life, while Behe has to claim that everything is meaningfully designed. Therefore, he claims that it had to be designed based on his own arbitrary assumptions, and thus purposeful, while utterly ignoring the fact that no wild-type life forms demonstrate existence for any purpose whatsoever.

Glen Davidson

The really stupid part is that he thinks that god isn’t smart enough to design systems that could evolve by themselves. He seems to think that god has nothing better to do then to meddle in every genome every minute of every day, just to get a result she could have gotten naturally with a little forethought and planning. Behe worships a very small, very unimaginative and very vindictive and deceitful god. How sad.

And of course it is even sadder that he will never be able to do anything to help any of those people who are suffering from malaria. He will never do any real calculations, never predict any future mutations, never design any drug strategies, never help to advise health programs. All he can do is throw his hands up, admit that god will eventually have her way and condemn many people to death. He can’t even try to help them, because after all, it must be gods will that they are going to die. It’s a wonder he believes in any type of medical intervention, if he in fact does.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

ogremk5 said:The Darwinian Evolution on a Chip paper shows very clearly, exactly what mutations happened when to result in a series of mutations that are way over Behe’s limit and yet we (almost literally) see them occur.

Is this the paper you mean?

Nope, but that’s a good one too… I just haven’t read it in a while. The one I was thinking of was Darwinian Evolution on a Chip… also by Joyce. In that one, a ribozyme, in the course of 72 hours improves its efficiency by 90 fold. There are 4 major mutations (more than Behe’s limit) that result in that improvement. What’s really funny is that one of the mutations, taken by itself, reduces the efficiency of the ribozyme, but when combined with ANY of the other 3 improves the efficiency more than the other one by itself.

Yeah, sorry about misidentifying Behe… it’s not like I pay that much attention to him.

Well the guy must be doing some lab work, in fact he must be doing more lab work than anyone in the history of science. After all, in order to performa any meaningful probability calculations, he must first discover the effect of every possible mutation and every possible combination of mutations. He must determine the probability that each of them occurs empirically, not just theoretically. He must also determine the effect that each one would have in every environment and even in fluctuating environments both individually and in every combination. That would require a tremendous amount of site directed mutagenesis and measurements of fitness.

Now, once he had done all of that , he might be able to make some meaningful calculations. If he didn’t do that, he would just be fooling himself. You know, kind of like the guy who concluded that bumble bees could not possibly fly. DO you suppose that’s the real reason he published this rubbish in books rather than real journals?

Here’s a nice quotation from the Joyce paper I linked above:

Immortality can be rather dreary if it does not allow for the possibility of variation.

apokryltaros Wrote:

Yes, yes he does. But the joke is that he doesn’t realize that no one but other science-deniers take him at his word.

Sure he does. And he also knows that ~90% of most people are some “kind” of science-denier, even if only ~25% are evolution-deniers who will not change their mind under any circumstances. All he needs to do is fool a few million people into saying “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution” and he wins. In fact most people who parrot his sound bites have probably never read his book, let alone the many refutations. Even if he was truly clueless of the math then, he ain’t now.

OK, Behe has convinced me.….that SATAN is the true creator of the life forms on Earth!

Hail Satan! May the Church of Satan become the dominant religion of the world!

No, it’s not a malevolent designer Behe speaks of, but a benevolent designer who would bestow this boon upon the human population. Furthermore, out of its omnipotent kindness towards humankind, per Behe, malaria is also drug resistant. Take that you sinners!

Bloody hell. To assert that God himself is tinkering about, making diseases resistant to the drugs we develop to keep ourselves and our children alive - that’s so far down the rabbit hole I’m not sure if he can ever come back. That Behe’d worship such a malevolent creature says a lot about him.

Of course, Behe could just be keeping up a charade so he can keep selling books and being invited to Creation - sorry, Design - conferences for the easy cash (easy compared to doing actual science and writing books based on reality). Without a serious mouthful of pride and a retraction of all his foolishness he couldn’t possibly regain any credibility (a la Wakefield and his continuing support of the anti-vaccine lobby). Then again, he could actually believe in his own “genius”. Which means we’re probably just fine in dismissing him as yet another crank.

So is God doing some “Red Queen” thing - killing us with diseases, then when we thwart His will by developing a cure, changing the pathogen so it can kill us again? And how come He did this with malaria and not with lightning? And how come the cures often involve natural substances like fungi and artemisinin that He supposedly created in the first place? Behe must have some very strange theology.

Once again. Behe doing crappy biology and crappy theology both.

mandrellian Wrote:

Bloody hell. To assert that God himself is tinkering about, making diseases resistant to the drugs we develop to keep ourselves and our children alive - that’s so far down the rabbit hole I’m not sure if he can ever come back. That Behe’d worship such a malevolent creature says a lot about him.

I know I’m not the only critic who has “Behe’s number,” but sometimes I sure feel like it. Behe worships the same God that his chief critic, Kenneth Miller, does. Behe insists, even under oath (Dover) that the unknown designer he claims to have caught red-handed is not necessarily God, and could be even deceased.

Frankly, Behe has “figured out” his target audience better than we critics have. That audience is the great majority of nonscientists that has some denial and suspicion of science and scientists, and uncritically accepts some pseudoscience. They are mostly not hopeless biblical literalists, though the latter subset probably produces many of his most vocal cheerleaders - and spreader of his memes. For whatever reason, his cheerleaders are very good at tuning out, or pretending to tune out, whatever they find inconvenient, as long as it comes from someone who feeds their intense need to hear that “Darwinism” is dead, dying, falsified or unfalsifiable. More than any anti-evolution activist, he has tried to go as far as he can without alienating or offending his target audience. Remember that he even admitted that the malaria parasite (and all other life) share common ancestors with H. sapiens. ~99.9% of those who rave about him, and clalim to have read the books where he makes those “shocking” concessions, conveniently omit it.

Behe was washed up in Kitzmiller (after which he said famously, “I think that went quite well.”) and he lay low for a couple of years before coming out with, guess what, the Mousetrap at Rushmore!

Behe was taken to pieces by graduate student Abby Smith in Edge and never recovered.

Total. Dolt.

Behe is like a creationist zombie, keeps coming back looking for brains because he doesn’t have any of his own.

Doc Boll Wrote:

Behe was taken to pieces by graduate student Abby Smith in Edge and never recovered.

Heck, he went Jesus one better and “resurrected” as twins: Casey Luskin and David Klinghoffer. Meanwhile, go to a stranger on the street. Even pick one that looks left-leaning and at least non-religious, and ask who won the Smith-Behe “debate.” When he/she says “who?” ask if he/she thinks that evolution is “only a theory.” Be prepared to be disappointed.

Now how could the designer be dead if she continues to design? Guess that was just another thing Behe was wrong about.

And of course the designer is stupid and has no foresight whatsoever. If she did, why not make toe parasites resistant BEFORE they were exposed to the chemicals? Why wait until after humans had developed them? Didn’t god know what was going to happen? Couldn’t she have done things more efficiently?

Seriously, the designer hypothesis seems to suggest that the parasites would be able to develop resistance to agents they have never encountered, while evolution predicts that resistance will only be selected on and spread AFTER the selective agent is encountered. So there you have it, a ready made research program. If Behe is a real scientist he would be doing this test right now.

DS said:

Seriously, the designer hypothesis seems to suggest that the parasites would be able to develop resistance to agents they have never encountered, while evolution predicts that resistance will only be selected on and spread AFTER the selective agent is encountered. So there you have it, a ready made research program. If Behe is a real scientist he would be doing this test right now.

Ah, but maybe parasites pray for resistance in their own way and God answers the prayers of parasites. And how would we know?

Mike Elzinga said:

DS said:

Seriously, the designer hypothesis seems to suggest that the parasites would be able to develop resistance to agents they have never encountered, while evolution predicts that resistance will only be selected on and spread AFTER the selective agent is encountered. So there you have it, a ready made research program. If Behe is a real scientist he would be doing this test right now.

Ah, but maybe parasites pray for resistance in their own way and God answers the prayers of parasites. And how would we know?

Interesting point! We develop artificial resistance to disease in the form of sanitation and medicine; the microbes in response develop innate resistance to our best efforts to kill them - but not naturally; their resistance is accomplished by divine tinkering! It makes you wonder whose god it is - it also makes you wonder if Behe has considered for the slightest fraction of a second the obvious implications of his little notion.

Frank J said:

mandrellian Wrote:

Bloody hell. To assert that God himself is tinkering about, making diseases resistant to the drugs we develop to keep ourselves and our children alive - that’s so far down the rabbit hole I’m not sure if he can ever come back. That Behe’d worship such a malevolent creature says a lot about him.

I know I’m not the only critic who has “Behe’s number,” but sometimes I sure feel like it. Behe worships the same God that his chief critic, Kenneth Miller, does. Behe insists, even under oath (Dover) that the unknown designer he claims to have caught red-handed is not necessarily God, and could be even deceased.

Frankly, Behe has “figured out” his target audience better than we critics have. That audience is the great majority of nonscientists that has some denial and suspicion of science and scientists, and uncritically accepts some pseudoscience. They are mostly not hopeless biblical literalists, though the latter subset probably produces many of his most vocal cheerleaders - and spreader of his memes. For whatever reason, his cheerleaders are very good at tuning out, or pretending to tune out, whatever they find inconvenient, as long as it comes from someone who feeds their intense need to hear that “Darwinism” is dead, dying, falsified or unfalsifiable. More than any anti-evolution activist, he has tried to go as far as he can without alienating or offending his target audience. Remember that he even admitted that the malaria parasite (and all other life) share common ancestors with H. sapiens. ~99.9% of those who rave about him, and clalim to have read the books where he makes those “shocking” concessions, conveniently omit it.

It’s hardly surprising that they’d cherry-pick their hero Behe the same way the cherry-pick the Bible, the scientific literature and literally everything else regarding their pet topic. I don’t think it’d matter to Behe’s target audience one jot if he flat-out said Darwinian evolution was correct, disavowed ID, recanted everything and went on an evolution/anti-creationism speaking tour with Myers and Dawkins; they’d just keep quoting his old stuff as gospel - as “proof” that there’s dissent among scientists.

Behe’s baleful blunders include his failure to appreciate the relevance of an arms race between predators and their prey (Or parasites, as in the case of Plasmodium versus humanity) in which he concludes in Chapter Two, that:

“The arms race metaphor itself is misconceived. The relationship between malaria and humans is nature red in tooth and claw. Real arms race are run by highly intelligent, bespectacled engineers in glass offices thoughtfully designing shiny weapons on modern computers. But there’s no thinking in the mud and cold of nature’s trenches. At best, weapons thrown together amidst the explosions and confusion of smoky battlefields are tiny variations on old ones, held together by chewing gum. If they don’t work, then something else is thrown at the enemy, icnluding the kitchen sink - there’s nothing ‘progressive’ about that. At its usual worst, trench warfare is fought by attrition. If the enemy can be stopped or slowe by burning your own bridges and bombing your own radio towers and oil refineries, then away they go. Darwinian trench warfare does not lead to progress - it leads back to the Stone Age.”

“In a real war, everything relentlessly gets worse. In its real war with malaria, the human genome has only diminished.” (From “The Edge of Evolution”, pgs. 42 - 42)

In response to such inane, utterly simplistic thinking that is prevalent throughout Behe’s screed against “Darwinism”, Dave Wisker and I recognized independently back in 2007 that Behe is absolutely clueless with regards to evolutionary ecology and especially the Red Queen, which was derived independently by Leigh Van Valen (who dubbed it the “Red Queen”) and Michael L. Rosenzweig (who dubbed it the “Rat Race”).

In my Amazon review of this absurd piece of rubbish which earned deservedly one star, I responded to Behe’s ignorance as follows:

“In the opening chapter ‘The Elements of Darwinism’, Behe presents a stereotypical portrait of ‘Darwinism’, or rather, the Modern Synthesis Theory of Evolution, hinting that he’s found excellent examples that refute it in his cursory examinations of the origins and transmittal of the diseases Malaria and HIV/AIDS. He also briefly alludes to the notion of an adaptive landscape that’s played such a crucial role in our understanding of population genetics and speciation, presented all too simplistically as if his intended audience was teenagers with limited attention spans, not presumably well-read, highly educated, adults. In the second chapter, ‘Arms Race or Trench Warfare?’, Behe ridicules the very notion of a co-evolutionary arms race between predators and prey, quickly dismissing the Red Queen hypothesis as a ‘silly statement’ from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ignoring the existence of a substantial body of supporting scientific literature (Like so many great ideas in science, it was proposed independently, almost simultaneously, by two scientists; evolutionary biologist and paleobiologist Leigh Van Valen - who coined the term ‘Red Queen’ - and evolutionary ecologist Michael Rosenzweig in the early 1970s. I should also note too that this was demonstrated clearly in the PBS ‘Evolution’ television miniseries episode which illustrated the Red Queen through an intricate biochemical ‘arms race’ between garter snakes and their highly toxic salamander prey.).”

As an aside, I have been accused of not reviewing books I have not read - which is untrue and especially so here - since I got a review copy from Simon and Schuster. Speaking of which, I wasn’t kind to Simon and Schuster either (I plead the Fifth as to how I got this review copy which I still own, though I do offer a hint.):

“Simon and Schuster truly has had a glorious history of introducing many distinguished writers of fiction and non-fiction to the world, ranging from the likes of Ernest Hemingway to Frank McCourt. It published distinguished evolutionary biologist and paleobiologist Niles Eldrdege’s first book for the general public, ‘Time Frames’, an engrossing memoir on the origins of the evolutionary theory known as ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ (which Eldredge proposed with his friend Stephen Jay Gould back in 1972). Regrettably, its excellent publishing history was tarnished with the original publication of ‘Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution’; now it is tarnished again with ‘The Edge of Evolution’. Clearly Michael Behe doesn’t deserve favorable recognition of the kind bestowed upon both Hemingway and McCourt, but rather, more intense scrutiny, and indeed, more condemnation, in the future, from his scientific peers and an interested public who recognizes that Intelligent Design is not just bad science, but a bad religious idea pretending to be science (The verdict which was issued by Republican Federal Judge John Jones at the conclusion of the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial in which Michael Behe appeared as a key witness for the defense; oddly enough he doesn’t mention the trial nor its verdict in his book.). Those who believe he is due favorable recognition are condoning the ample lies, omissions, and distortions present in his latest book, and are all too willing to join him in his self-created abyss of reason.”

Excellent John - though I think you might’ve been too kind to Behe and his publishers :)

I guess this is my own argument from incredulity, but: I simply can’t understand how a biochemist could literally see evolution occur in front of their faces at an atomic level and deny that it was happening, instead invoking an unseen, unproven and unnecessary mystical force. A grand testament to religious indoctrination, I suppose.

mandrellian said:

Excellent John - though I think you might’ve been too kind to Behe and his publishers :)

I guess this is my own argument from incredulity, but: I simply can’t understand how a biochemist could literally see evolution occur in front of their faces at an atomic level and deny that it was happening, instead invoking an unseen, unproven and unnecessary mystical force. A grand testament to religious indoctrination, I suppose.

Trust me, I wasn’t kind to Behe at all. I pointed out his ignorance of paleobiology, of population genetics, and how he grossly misinterpreted a paper as important as Gould and Lewontin’s “Spandrels of San Marco” paper. I was mocking and satirizing him throughout my review and have done so ever since, even suggesting via private e-mail correspondence (that I sent to him and his “buddy”) that he should co-write with his buddy Dumbski, the definitive textbook on Klingon Cosmology (Ken Miller thought that was such a great idea that he told me that Behe should write a textbook on Klingon biochemistry.). The Simon and Schuster imprint which publishes Behe’s rubbish (The Free Press) has redeemed itself somewhat by publishing Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Evidence for Evolution”, but am sure that there may still be some over at Simon and Schuster who are peeved off with my drubbing of Behe’s rubbish, even if I had studied writing with one of its most successful authors way back when in the Paleozoic Era of my youth.).

Mike Elzinga said: Ah, but maybe parasites pray for resistance in their own way and God answers the prayers of parasites. And how would we know?

Perhaps malaria was created in God’s image, and when the malaria parasites pray to their God He favors them - and we are just meat for their table, cattle for their banquets.

Man obviusly is not the crown of creation, man is an aberration; an example of evolution gone wild. Bacteria are the crown of creation. They rule the world of biology, much of life actually depends on bacteria for its extistence! They were here for a really long time before us, and I’d be surprised if they would not still be in business long after we are gone.

Species come and go; bacteria are here to stay.

Multicellularity may have been a good idea in the struggle for survival but bacteria seems to have found it wise in the long run to stay single. That’s been good for us too!

The world seems to be stranger than we think…

What struck me about the malaria examples from “The Edge of Evolution” was that Behe was giving examples of how acknowledged intelligent design (by humans) was not able to keep up with acknowledged naturalistic evolution of the malaria parasite; and how acknowledged evolution in humans (such as sickle-cell) was able to do a better job of it. The designed drugs were always turning ineffective against the evolving parasite. To me, it looked like Behe was giving examples of how evolution was more productive than design.

SteveP. said:

But really why is a translation necessary for “The kingdom of God is within you”.

Because you refuse to explain to us why this phrase is supposed to magically invalidate Evolutionary Biology, or why it is supposed to support all of the stupid things you have ever said.

mandrellian said:

SteveP. said: We are at a crossroads. We have gone as far as we can materially. There is nothing left but beginning to understand life from an immaterial perspective.

Similar things have been said during almost every period of significant technological in human history - sometimes by scientists, sometimes by clerics, sometimes by philosophers, sometimes by laypeople - but in every single case those words were shown to be hastily chosen at best.

What makes you so positive that no further “material” advances can be made?

What precisely is an “immaterial perspective” and how can we, as material beings, perceive and investigate it?

Yup. Three thousand years ago, nobody understood why the Sun rose and set, why the moon waxed and waned or why it rained,

120 years nobody knew why stars shined.

In every century you had people claiming there were imponderables never to be understood by humanity. They have all been wrong.

Steve P. is no different than them.

Anyway, far and away from why I have a kingdom inside me that I’ve not noticed yet (there was a colony in there once, but Amoxycillin took care of it), let’s return to the topic and my initial response to Steve:

-

What makes you so positive that no further “material” advances” can be made? And what do you actually mean by “material” advances?

What precisely is an “immaterial perspective” and how can we, as material beings, perceive and investigate it? Has it proved useful in the past? If so, how?

-

What (obviously) needs to be pointed out here is that you can’t just assert or proclaim things and expect people to understand them, or to perceive them as obviously true as you. Without evidence or further explanation - and especially when presented with a tangent in place of an actual answer - such assertions or proclamations (or vague spitirual waffle) can and should be dismissed.

On a serious note… If I were at all considering converting to some form of Christianity, the “Ueber Christian Creationists” that post on PT would put me off any such thoughts. They do more to push people away from their beliefs than any 10 atheists can.

And, they keep on doing it, no matter how many times, or by how many different people, this same point gets pointed out to them.

Henry

Henry J said:

On a serious note… If I were at all considering converting to some form of Christianity, the “Ueber Christian Creationists” that post on PT would put me off any such thoughts. They do more to push people away from their beliefs than any 10 atheists can.

And, they keep on doing it, no matter how many times, or by how many different people, this same point gets pointed out to them.

Henry

And the creationist trolls here neither care that they’re pushing people away from Christianity, nor care that such an action was one of the few things Jesus Christ suggested be punished with death (i.e., being “thrown into the sea with a millstone around the neck”).

apokryltaros said:

And the creationist trolls here neither care that they’re pushing people away from Christianity.…

Accounts of these former YECs (click here) further hammer in the point.

The trolls aren’t here to evangelise - not properly, anyway. They aren’t here to spread the Good News of the Gospels and bring people to Christ, they’re here to score points against their “enemies”.

Of course, the only reason we’re their “enemy” in the first place is because they made it so by starting their ridiculous “Culture War”, of which science is but one front (they also can’t keep their sticky little beaks out of other peoples’ grownup relationships and uteri - areas usually considered “nobody else’s goddamn business” by reasonable adults).

If you need billions to try and answer the question “Is there a Higg’s boson?, then it should be clear we are at the edge of science as we know it. What are you(pl) gonna do when its not found? Probably spend a trillion on a modified LHC I’m sure.

See where this is going?

What you will eventually have to ponder is the seemingly impossible notion that it really is ‘all in the mind’. This would then bring us full circle back to Christ’s words.

mandrellian said:

Anyway, far and away from why I have a kingdom inside me that I’ve not noticed yet (there was a colony in there once, but Amoxycillin took care of it), let’s return to the topic and my initial response to Steve:

-

What makes you so positive that no further “material” advances” can be made? And what do you actually mean by “material” advances?

What precisely is an “immaterial perspective” and how can we, as material beings, perceive and investigate it? Has it proved useful in the past? If so, how?

-

What (obviously) needs to be pointed out here is that you can’t just assert or proclaim things and expect people to understand them, or to perceive them as obviously true as you. Without evidence or further explanation - and especially when presented with a tangent in place of an actual answer - such assertions or proclamations (or vague spitirual waffle) can and should be dismissed.

mandrellian said:

Anyway, far and away from why I have a kingdom inside me that I’ve not noticed yet (there was a colony in there once, but Amoxycillin took care of it), let’s return to the topic and my initial response to Steve:

-

What makes you so positive that no further “material” advances” can be made? And what do you actually mean by “material” advances?

What precisely is an “immaterial perspective” and how can we, as material beings, perceive and investigate it? Has it proved useful in the past? If so, how?

-

What (obviously) needs to be pointed out here is that you can’t just assert or proclaim things and expect people to understand them, or to perceive them as obviously true as you. Without evidence or further explanation - and especially when presented with a tangent in place of an actual answer - such assertions or proclamations (or vague spitirual waffle) can and should be dismissed.

SteveP. said:

If you need billions to try and answer the question “Is there a Higg’s boson?, then it should be clear we are at the edge of science as we know it. What are you(pl) gonna do when its not found? Probably spend a trillion on a modified LHC I’m sure.

See where this is going?

What you will eventually have to ponder is the seemingly impossible notion that it really is ‘all in the mind’. This would then bring us full circle back to Christ’s words.

Humanity’s quest to understand reality didn’t start with Christ’s words, so heaven knows what you mean by “full circle.” Let’s just put that in the “incoherent waffle” folder.

Regarding the Higgs boson: the fact that one question in the field of inquiry may in our lifetimes be answered is no indication whatsoever that we’re close - or even close to close - to discovering all that can be discovered about matter or the universe or life, or anything for that matter.

The cold hard fact is that every scientific question that’s ever been answered has spawned a multitude of new questions. If the Higgs (it’s name, not a plural) boson is discovered and turns out to be THE primal subatomic particle, that will inevitably raise new questions about matter and suggest new avenues of research into such things as M-theory and the various multiverse hypotheses; who knows what other discoveries may occur as a result, or what practical applications. Newton and Einstein didn’t stop when they made their breakthroughs (and neither of them were 100% correct anyway) so what makes you think today’s scientists will just stop if they discover the Higgs boson? And if they have to build a bigger, better particle collider to answer the new questions? So be it. It would sure as hell beat a born-again halfwit world leader spending trillonS on military mistakes.

Frankly your ignorance of science - and of the history of science - puts you in no good position to be having this conversation. “Once science solves everything it’ll have to start looking for God?” Give me a break.

Mandrellian,

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist it. In a deep, booming and pompous voice - “you’re not going to like it!” - the large hadron collider will be replaced by the deep hadron collider.

mandrellian said:

The trolls aren’t here to evangelise - not properly, anyway. They aren’t here to spread the Good News of the Gospels and bring people to Christ, they’re here to score points against their “enemies”.

Of course, the only reason we’re their “enemy” in the first place is because they made it so by starting their ridiculous “Culture War”, of which science is but one front (they also can’t keep their sticky little beaks out of other peoples’ grownup relationships and uteri - areas usually considered “nobody else’s goddamn business” by reasonable adults).

This is correct. They are not here to convince anyone but themselves. I have not seen any creationist here, or in any other forum, use traditional, effective techniques that try to convince.

They came to this forum because the fact that somebody, somewhere, accepts biological evolution, makes them very uncomfortable.

My personal strategy is to focus on the topic of this blog, which is biological evolution. They always try to shift the discussion to vague claims about god.

Everyone has the right to respond as they please, but in my view, when you let them make that shift, you are doing them a favor. They were drawn here because the theory of biological evolution is somehow very upsetting to them.

It has nothing to do with whether or not “the kingdom of God is within us”, or what that means. Ken Miller and Francis Collins both think that “the kingdom of God is within us”. Francis Collins thinks that the fact that he enjoyed looking at a waterfall is evidence for the existence of god. However, they don’t deny biological evolution. The Pope and the Dalai Lama don’t deny biological evolution.

I’ve asked Steve P. many times to give testable answers to these questions - “who is the designer, precisely what and mechanistically how did the designer design, when did the designer design, and is there an example of anything that is not designed?”

harold said: I’ve asked Steve P. many times to give testable answers to these questions - “who is the designer, precisely what and mechanistically how did the designer design, when did the designer design, and is there an example of anything that is not designed?”

… and I’d be interested in reading SteveP.’s answers to these questions. Or any design advovate’s answers, for that matter.

Yea Mendel, quit playing with your peas and just eat em already. Don’t you know that there are starving children in Africa?

That’s great Pavlov, now if you could just get that dog to lick stamps, maybe somebody would be interested.

Go back to the dark ages Stevie and reap the rewards you so richly deserve.

SWT said:

harold said: I’ve asked Steve P. many times to give testable answers to these questions - “who is the designer, precisely what and mechanistically how did the designer design, when did the designer design, and is there an example of anything that is not designed?”

… and I’d be interested in reading SteveP.’s answers to these questions. Or any design advovate’s answers, for that matter.

Yes, this would be interesting.

In all prior appearances, he has adhered to the old pre-Dover script and hidden any direct references to Christianity.

Now he endorses “Christian creationism”. Does that mean that the identify of his mysterious “designer” can now be (rather unsurprisingly) revealed?

In response to Steve P.’s ignorance I offer a qoute from physics professor Robert B. Laughlin (A Different Universe, 2006):

… the suggestion in 1900 that the patent office should be abolished because everything had already been invented. Just look around you, I said. Even this room is teeming with things we do not understand. Only people whose common sense has been impaired by too much education cannot see it. The idea that the struggle to understand the natural world world has come to an end is not only wrong, it is ludicruously wrong. We are surrounded by mysterious physical miracles, and the continuing, unfinished task of science is to unravel them. … In passing into the Age of Emergence we learn to accept common sense, leaving behind the practice of trivializing the organizational wonders of nature, and accept that organization is important in and of itself - in some cases even the most important thing.

What will be the role of ID in revealing the mysterious miracles and the organizational wonders of nature?

Rolf said:

In response to Steve P.’s ignorance I offer a qoute from physics professor Robert B. Laughlin (A Different Universe, 2006):

… the suggestion in 1900 that the patent office should be abolished because everything had already been invented. Just look around you, I said. Even this room is teeming with things we do not understand. Only people whose common sense has been impaired by too much education cannot see it. The idea that the struggle to understand the natural world world has come to an end is not only wrong, it is ludicruously wrong. We are surrounded by mysterious physical miracles, and the continuing, unfinished task of science is to unravel them. … In passing into the Age of Emergence we learn to accept common sense, leaving behind the practice of trivializing the organizational wonders of nature, and accept that organization is important in and of itself - in some cases even the most important thing.

What will be the role of ID in revealing the mysterious miracles and the organizational wonders of nature?

Nothing. ID is tantamount to surrender.

harold said:

mandrellian said:

The trolls aren’t here to evangelise - not properly, anyway. They aren’t here to spread the Good News of the Gospels and bring people to Christ, they’re here to score points against their “enemies”.

Of course, the only reason we’re their “enemy” in the first place is because they made it so by starting their ridiculous “Culture War”, of which science is but one front (they also can’t keep their sticky little beaks out of other peoples’ grownup relationships and uteri - areas usually considered “nobody else’s goddamn business” by reasonable adults).

This is correct. They are not here to convince anyone but themselves. I have not seen any creationist here, or in any other forum, use traditional, effective techniques that try to convince.

They came to this forum because the fact that somebody, somewhere, accepts biological evolution, makes them very uncomfortable.

My personal strategy is to focus on the topic of this blog, which is biological evolution. They always try to shift the discussion to vague claims about god.

Everyone has the right to respond as they please, but in my view, when you let them make that shift, you are doing them a favor. They were drawn here because the theory of biological evolution is somehow very upsetting to them.

It has nothing to do with whether or not “the kingdom of God is within us”, or what that means. Ken Miller and Francis Collins both think that “the kingdom of God is within us”. Francis Collins thinks that the fact that he enjoyed looking at a waterfall is evidence for the existence of god. However, they don’t deny biological evolution. The Pope and the Dalai Lama don’t deny biological evolution.

I’ve asked Steve P. many times to give testable answers to these questions - “who is the designer, precisely what and mechanistically how did the designer design, when did the designer design, and is there an example of anything that is not designed?”

You’re quite right and I constantly need to remind myself not to get dragged into theopologetics discussions (except on the Wall, where they belong). Even though they’re just as pointless as discussing science with these trolls, at least science is on topic.

Anyway, I echo your desire to see some actual answers from the cdesign proponentsists beyond “Too complex, me no like”. Behe’s own employers have distanced themselves from his bastardisation of science and the DI is less a scientific organisation than a lawyer-heavy and poorly-disguised Christian lobby group so we can give up on them saying anything coherent - but maybe Steve or another of our guests can enlighten us as to the specifics of the ID notion beyond naive/wilful/dogmatic incredulity.

bigdakine said:

Yup. Three thousand years ago, nobody understood why the Sun rose and set, why the moon waxed and waned or why it rained,

120 years nobody knew why stars shined.

In every century you had people claiming there were imponderables never to be understood by humanity. They have all been wrong.

Steve P. is no different than them.

Bill O’Reilly is SteveP’s hero. At 1:50 Bill O’Reilly says: “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a missed communication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in …”.

But Neil deGrasse Tyson can.

Richard B. Hoppe said:

bigdakine said:

Yup. Three thousand years ago, nobody understood why the Sun rose and set, why the moon waxed and waned or why it rained,

120 years nobody knew why stars shined.

In every century you had people claiming there were imponderables never to be understood by humanity. They have all been wrong.

Steve P. is no different than them.

Bill O’Reilly is SteveP’s hero. At 1:50 Bill O’Reilly says: “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a missed communication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in …”.

But Neil deGrasse Tyson can.

But Neil is just an expert. Why should his opinion count more than Steve’s and Bill’s? Isn’t Steve entitled to his own ill-informed opinion about the tides? Shouldn’t he be able to make predictions about the tides using his own ideas? Even if lives and livelihoods are on the the line, should we really take away the “academic freedom” of people like Steve? Teach the controversy! (End sarcasm, at least for now).

Science writer Faye Flam has this terse account of Behe discussing how G-D is the Intelligent Designer at a post-screening discussion of Randy Olson’s “A Flock of Dodos” that was held Thursday night at Villanova University:

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/[…]7353575.html

Can we please stop beating up on Behe’s religious beliefs for a minute, and can someone please explain to me how it is that Behe and Barry Hall’s prediction that it was impossible to evolve resistance to imipenem was so spectacularly wrong?

Barry Hall is a respected researcher, and he computed his probabilities without assuming Intelligent Design. Why were his probabilities so wrong?

He apparently constructed libraries of randomly mutated bacteria which contained (to a high degree of probability) all possible single and double mutants of a key enzyme that degrades penicillin like molecules–the enzyme metallo-beta-lactamase. But, none of the mutants could survive in imipenem, thus leading Hall to conclude that no single or double mutant of metallo-beta-lactamase could confer imipenem resistance. Well, that failed.

But why? Did triple mutants evolve? Did a different gene mutate? Did Hall make a very bad probability calculation?

Hall’s an evolutionist. If the evolutionist and the ID proponent are both wrong, we have to ask: Why?

Lobert Wesson said, “large evolutionary innovations are not well understood. None has ever been observed, and we have no idea whether any may be in progress. there is no good fossil record of any.” The fossil record gives no good examples of macroevolution and the fossil record of evolutionary change within single evolutionary lineages is very poor. Stephen Jay Gould found the theory of punctuated equilibrium which is the long periods of stasis are broken sporadically by sudden large macroevolutionary jump.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Can we please stop beating up on Behe’s religious beliefs for a minute, and can someone please explain to me how it is that Behe and Barry Hall’s prediction that it was impossible to evolve resistance to imipenem was so spectacularly wrong?

Barry Hall is a respected researcher, and he computed his probabilities without assuming Intelligent Design. Why were his probabilities so wrong?

He apparently constructed libraries of randomly mutated bacteria which contained (to a high degree of probability) all possible single and double mutants of a key enzyme that degrades penicillin like molecules–the enzyme metallo-beta-lactamase. But, none of the mutants could survive in imipenem, thus leading Hall to conclude that no single or double mutant of metallo-beta-lactamase could confer imipenem resistance. Well, that failed.

But why? Did triple mutants evolve? Did a different gene mutate? Did Hall make a very bad probability calculation?

Hall’s an evolutionist. If the evolutionist and the ID proponent are both wrong, we have to ask: Why?

Reference please.

Jay said:

Lobert Wesson said, “large evolutionary innovations are not well understood. None has ever been observed, and we have no idea whether any may be in progress. there is no good fossil record of any.” The fossil record gives no good examples of macroevolution and the fossil record of evolutionary change within single evolutionary lineages is very poor. Stephen Jay Gould found the theory of punctuated equilibrium which is the long periods of stasis are broken sporadically by sudden large macroevolutionary jump.

Sorry, wrong. there is a fairly good record for horse evolution and human evolution, a pretty good fossil record for whale evolution and a pretty good record for bird evolution. The genetic mechanisms responsible for these changes are being investigated at the present time. The field of evo devo is starting to provide some very exciting answers to these important questions. It is true that we don’t have all of the answers yet, but we certainly already know enough to understand the basics mechanisms of macroevolutionary change.

DS said:

diogeneslamp0 said:

Can we please stop beating up on Behe’s religious beliefs for a minute, and can someone please explain to me how it is that Behe and Barry Hall’s prediction that it was impossible to evolve resistance to imipenem was so spectacularly wrong?

Barry Hall is a respected researcher, and he computed his probabilities without assuming Intelligent Design. Why were his probabilities so wrong?

He apparently constructed libraries of randomly mutated bacteria which contained (to a high degree of probability) all possible single and double mutants of a key enzyme that degrades penicillin like molecules–the enzyme metallo-beta-lactamase. But, none of the mutants could survive in imipenem, thus leading Hall to conclude that no single or double mutant of metallo-beta-lactamase could confer imipenem resistance. Well, that failed.

But why? Did triple mutants evolve? Did a different gene mutate? Did Hall make a very bad probability calculation?

Hall’s an evolutionist. If the evolutionist and the ID proponent are both wrong, we have to ask: Why?

Reference please.

Behe cites Hall’s paper on p. 237 of EoE, as mentioned in the article.

For Hall’s paper, please read: Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 March; 48(3): 1032–1033. In Vitro Evolution Predicts that the IMP-1 Metallo-β-Lactamase Does Not Have the Potential To Evolve Increased Activity against Imipenem. Barry G. Hall. doi: 10.1128/AAC.48.3.1032-1033.2004. PMCID: PMC353146.

Online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art[…]s/PMC353146/

Here is the relevant paragraph, I have added notes in [] for mathematical clarity.

Confidence in that prediction is based on a simulation of the in vitro evolution process using the program In vitro Evolution Simulator (6, 11). The program simulates the random mutation of the input sequence and determines the fraction of possible single and double amino acid substitutions that are obtained in a library of a given size. It is important to consider the effects of only one or two independent amino acid substitution mutations, because in nature mutations almost always arise one at a time, and each mutation must be fixed into microbial populations by selection. The input sequence was the IMP-1 sequence, the mutation frequency was 1.2 mutations per molecule, and the fraction of possible single and double amino acid substitutions obtained was calculated separately for each library. The mean fractions per library were 0.897 ± 0.009 of the single amino acid substitutions and 0.670 ± 0.01 of the double amino acid substitutions [that is, prob = 0.103 and 0.33 mutation NOT present] (mean ± standard error). For the eight libraries taken together, the probability of having failed to screen any particular single amino acid substitution enzyme is 1.0 × 10−8 [0.103^8], and the probability of having failed to screen any particular double amino acid substitution enzyme is 1.3 × 10−4 [0.33^8]. These results predict, with >99.9% confidence, that blaIMP-1 will not evolve to confer increased resistance to imipenem. That prediction depends on the sensitivity with which we can detect increased resistance in the laboratory. I cannot eliminate the possibility that increased resistance, below the level of laboratory detection, could be selected in nature.

That quoted paragraph seems to be talking about the odds against getting a known method of resistance, for which the relevant mutations are already known. Doing that does not address the odds against gaining resistance; just that method of it.

Also, the first mutation wouldn’t have to be fixed in the population before the second one occurs; the second would simply have to occur in a lineage that already had the first. (This is assuming absence of horizontal transfer; if such transfer occurs the second wouldn’t even have to be in the same lineage. )

That’s my two cents on that; if somebody who knows more about the subject disagrees, they should say something.

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on April 7, 2012 12:54 PM.

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