Darwin and Immunology in Science (and, Behe)

One of the better ideas I’ve ever been associated with was the immune system cross that Eric Rothschild put Behe through in the Kitzmiller trial in 2005. It was one of those show-your-cards moments where, finally, at long last, the ID movement’s endless wild claims about the emptiness of evolutionary biology were put into direct conflict with the weight of the evidence. Everything was crystallized into a short episode – an amazing field of research (the 100+ years of discovery about the function and origins of the immune system), an amazing practical application of evolutionary biology (both common ancestry and variation/selection played absolutely critical roles in developing science’s understanding of the immune system), and a really obvious put-up-or-shut-up moment for the ID movement’s “irreducible complexity” argument, where it completely failed to put up (here’s a review of the ping-pong game the ID movement played with “IC systems”, and how the immune system cross called their bluff).

Anyway, the cross has gotten plenty of attention and all of the details are online, but it is gratifying that Science magazine has devoted one of its “Origins” essays to the history of immunology, the role played by Darwinian ideas (both common ancestry and variation/selection), and highlights the Perry Mason immunology moment from the Kitzmiller case. It also provides an update on the science, and comprehensive links.