DI vs. Biologos on the immune system and Edge of Evolution

There hasn’t been a heck of a lot to talk about regarding the ID movement lately. ID arguments have always been recycled creationist silliness, but in the early days, at least they would update the arguments to apply them to somewhat new/interesting systems, like the bacterial flagellum, and thus there would be something to talk about for awhile. But after the Kitzmiller case and followup publications in 2006-2007, pretty comprehensive rebuttals of all of the ID movement’s major arguments and attempted examples have been available.

It might have been interesting if the ID movement’s response to these had been substantive, but that would have involved hard work, developing a deep knowledge of the relevant science, and doing a seriously acknowledgment and review of the relevant literature (both the direct rebuttals, and the literature they cite). However, what we’ve seen instead is, basically, attempts to continue the ID argument while pretending that the technical rebuttals and literature don’t exist.

That’s just not very interesting from my perspective, or, I think, the majority of the PT bloggers. What made fighting about ID mildly interesting in the past was that involved digging into the scientific research literature, learning about a bunch of science on how system/species X operates, evolved, etc., and then popularizing that information in articles and blogs. But there just hasn’t been a need for much of that, for quite a while now.

I think this decay in the ID movement’s “quality” – a poor choice of words, I know, but I’ve tried to describe what I mean above – is the primary reason there hasn’t been a huge amount of anti-ID stuff on PT lately. The last mildly interesting attempt to put forward a serious ID argument was Behe’s Edge of Evolution, and this was a pale shadow of Darwin’s Black Box. Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell was pretty much just the same old creationist/ID info-babble word games, and thus very light on detailed scientific argumentation.

What the ID movement has produced lately is mostly (1) explicit theist apologetics and responses to the New Atheist movement – it’s not really even interesting except when they try to hide it; (2) the usual evolution-undermines-morality silliness, and (3) rebuttals of theistic evolutionists, who have come on strong lately via the BioLogos organization. The latter can sometimes be somewhat interesting, since some of the BioLogos posts are explicit criticisms of ID science-ish argument, and apparently the folks at the DI feel more threatened by the BioLogos authors than by the standard creation-evolution geeks – probably because BioLogos has access to the same audience that forms the core of ID support, namely evangelical Christians. (To a first approximation, if evangelicals become OK with evolution, then the evolution fight will be over and the evolutionists will have won, in the Western world, at least.)

Anyways, the two items I’m talking about are Behe’s response to Dave Ussery’s BioLogos rebuttal to the Edge of Evolution, and the response of a creationist immunologist now in the DI circle, Donald Ewert, to Kathryn Applegate’s posts on the use of randomness in adaptive immunity. My own rough sense of things is that the BioLogos posts are pretty good, but not amazing. The best ID rebuttals really go to the scientific heart of the issues – they cite the most relevant literature, and they call out and directly rebut the (often well hidden) assumptions and assertions that the ID proponent is relying on. And they avoid leaving openings for the ID guys.

In my humble opinion, the most important problems with Behe’s argument are (1) his statistical argument is horribly naive and flawed at every step and (2) he doesn’t provide a good reason to think that 2 simultaneous mutations are a common requirement for the evolution of major adaptations, either at the protein binding-site level or anywhere else. The problems with ID arguments about adaptive immunity are (1) there is a huge amount of literature on its evolution, we’ve been through this before in a rather prominent way, and the entire ID movement pretty much pretends the field and literature of evolutionary immunology doesn’t exist, and (2) ID proponents nevertheless feel free to assert that adaptive immunity just obviously looks designed at face-value, completely ignoring problems with this perspective, like the stupendous design flaws in adaptive immunity – such as the fact that the adaptive immunity acquired by one individual is not passed on to offspring. Before modern medicine this was probably literally and directly responsible for the routine death of something like 50% of all children due to common childhood diseases.

(And here’s a special note for Cornelius Hunter: Cornelius, just so you don’t miss this totally obvious point like you usually do: it was Ewert and Behe who introduced a model of what good design should look like and why adaptive immunity fits it, not me, I’m just taking their premise and running with it here and showing that it leads to a horrible self-contradiction.)

Anyway, I’m interested in comments on any of these themes.