Michael Behe - The Edge of Evolution

November 9, 2007

Michael J. Behe, a central figure in the Intelligent Design movement, is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and most recently The Edge of Evolution: Searching for the Limits of Darwinism.
 
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Behe discusses his prominent role in the ID movement, and how he first got involved. He explores the differences between creationism and Intelligent Design theory, and details some of his experiences as a key witness for the defense in the Dover, Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial. He also explains the thesis of his new book, and talks about what he considers the biases of mainstream science.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Philip Kitcher - Living with Darwin
July 13, 2007

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

I guess there’s one thing to be said about inviting people with false ideas to the show: It offers an opportunity to review ones arguments.
That said, without having seen the book there wasn’t much there. I was somewhat baffled to see how bluntly that tired old ‘God of the Gaps’ stratagem is still played today as if it were an Ace or a Joker.
First the claim that Darwinians don’t know, or don’t know enough, and next comes enlightenment: An intelligent designer made it happen. You can almost see Behe hopping up and down: “Nana nana naa naa!”
Supposedly, as he says in closing, his goal is to “evaluate how much Darwinian processes can do” - obviously in hopes to hit upon something that cannot be accounted for by mutation and natural selection. But this lazy strategy has one big problem: it provides no real mechanism to effect anything - a Deus Ex Machina doesn’t count. By contrast, its demonstrated mechanism is exactly what makes the New Synthesis so explanatorily powerful.
If you want to have some fun reading I suggest to go to some of the acerbic reviews on Amazon re “The Edge of Evolution”. Lots of discussion there, and Dr Behe also gets a word in edgewise, for what it’s worth.
http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Evolution-Search-Limits-Darwinism/dp/0743296206/ref=cm_cr_pr_sims_t/103-7479516-9966220

One last thought: I resent the dark insinuation that some sociological peer pressure is keeping scientists from joining the ID club. It’s reminiscent of the folks who religiously believe (against all evidence) that 9/11 was an inside job and explain away the fact that nowhere on this earth have any ‘alternative’ theories about the WTC collapses made it to or through peer review. One afflicted aquaintance of mine says the CIA must have infiltrated the editorial boards; Behe says,  in essence, they’re all peeing in their pants. How interesting!

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 12:47am by moreover Comment #1

If DJ Grothe’s intent was to give Behe enough rope to hang himself he did an excellent job. I especially liked the part where Grothe asked Behe about his testimony in the Kitzmiller trial, and Behe said “Well, personally, myself, I thought my testimony went great.”

The presiding judge had a different opinion. Then again, apparently Behe doesn’t think much of the judge’s qualifications. “I, uh, went over all of the points I wanted to, and I thought I made them clear enough that even a former liquor control board head, uh could, uh, could understand it.” Then Behe agreed the reports his testimony did not go well were just “bad PR.”

What a maroon.

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 1:35am by DarronS Comment #2

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that? 

Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.”  All people die.  If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary.  And something bad is needed to stop a body from living.  If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer.  if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck.  In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria.  There has to be *some* agent of death in this world.  Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.

J. D.

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 7:06am by jdmack Comment #3

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Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 7:46am by zarcus Comment #4

Zarcus, you can download a PDF of the Kitzmiller decision here. All 136 pages. Very interesting reading. Here’s a snippet from the judge.

Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God.

Could Professor Behe have been disingenuous while Grothe interviewed him?

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 8:11am by DarronS Comment #5

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Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 8:24am by zarcus Comment #6

D.J. did a wonderful job, he not only gave Behe room to pull enough rope, but he led him to the gallows where Behe pulled the lever himself!

The malaria question was the “coup de grace”.

I have to comment on the general inappropriateness of good and bad scientists to use an academic credentials to comment on anything, Behe earned his credentials in biochemistry, but I have never heard or read anything publicly authored in his field.

I am particularly sensitive to the topic of Medicine, EVERYBODY feels they know better! I am particularly offended by Philosophy PhDs that like to render opinions in other topics beyond the realm of thought/reason.

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 10:32am by OhioDoc Comment #7

Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.”  All people die.  If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary.  And something bad is needed to stop a body from living.  If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer.  if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck.  In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria.  There has to be *some* agent of death in this world.  Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.

J. D.

According to most religions, it is possible to have a place without any death, and therefore no agents of death.  A place big enough for all people who have ever lived as well.  And apparently, such a place will be a reality in the age to come.  Pretty poor designing in my opinion that makes a world too small, and therefore must create agents of death and torture to clear out room for the next generation…especially when the designers’ apparent original intention was to create immortal beings, who only became mortal after they picked the fruit.

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 2:18pm by Jennifer Grayson Comment #8

I actually read this book this summer, and found it extremely dissatisfying.  It was my first reading on evolution besides Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” and I wanted to read it before “Blind Watchmaker” which I read right after, just to see what someone would be reading having little knowledge of the other writings on the topic - I kind of think many people that will read Behe’s book have probably not read anything by Dawkins.  (That’s an assumption based on my church days where books on science by authors like Dawkins would not have been worth reading, since we all knew they were ‘wrong’ anyways.)

I felt Behe spent a LOT of time belabouring analogies that seemed completely irrelevant to me.  He would make his point that the cell was too complex, and then rather than giving more proofs or citing studies he had done, he would start explaining the concept of complexity - likening it to old men jumping up stairs where every third and fourth stair was missing, etc.  Large portions of text were devoted to numbers and math, trying to prove that there hasn’t been enough time, or enough generations for human cells to evolve through random mutation to the point that they have. 

He spent a lot of time discussing malaria and how the population of malaria cells is exponentially greater than that of humans, and that since malaria has had only a few helpful mutations in overcoming our drugs and mutations, in the relatively small population of humans there is no chance we could have developed to where we are today through random mutations which, he says would be far too rare in occurance, never mind selecting between them for usefullness. 

I found definite undertones of religion in the book, even in the subtle underlying assumption that in order for evolution to be ‘right’, humans must come out on top.  As if because we haven’t beaten malaria yet, evolution is somehow failing.  But without the belief that an intelligent designer who created humans as the crown of creation, it is of course quite arrogant to think that the laws of evolution are ultimately going to be in our favor for now and forevermore amen.  I can’t remember exact quotes, but I do recall a number of times where I had to stop and think about this because it kind of got snuck in there. 

I was excited to see this week’s guest, and enjoyed the interview!

Posted on Nov 10, 2007 at 2:34pm by Jennifer Grayson Comment #9

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that? 

J. D.

I remember hearing about this some time ago and seeing extensive discussion.
Finally found link: positiveliberty.com/2006/12/the-legal-culture’s-intellectual-standards.html#more-1996

Here is a snippet (sorry, it’s missing the live links):
————————————-
Larry Moran has a long post here reflecting on the DI’s portrayal of Judge Jones as a plagiarist. At first, Moran felt that Jones had really done something wrong, but he appears to have taken to heart the explanations here and elsewhere that judges are expected to follow the proposed findings of fact of the party whom they find most convincing. It seems like a simple, innocent misunderstanding. But Moran goes on to make comments that seem like criticisms of the legal culture’s standards of ethics and “standards of brilliance,” that I think deserve some discussion.
————————————-

So basically it’s just another sort of ad hominem attack, only this time against the legal system as a whole. Definitely a sign of desperation on their part.

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I think DJ was at his best in this interview. Calm, penetrating questions, not getting bogged down in debate. Behe was totally unprepared for the final question about the Problem of Evil.  Of Malaria he says “sickness an unintended side product.”  Something God made has unintended side effects??? He’s got to be kidding! It almost seemed like DJ bailed him out of that one by putting less embarrassing words in his mouth: “so it’s all part of God’s plan.”

Richard

Posted on Nov 11, 2007 at 9:35am by rgill Comment #10

Does anybody know if the transcripts of the trial are available anywhere online? 

Regarding the claim that the plaintiffs wrote much of the text found in the decision: that’s not irregular at all; it’s very common.  Attorneys for the party in the suit simply submit to the court a “proposed” ruling about the facts presented, applicable law, and the judgment rendered.  These proposals are just a regular court filing.  The judge frequently uses the proposal like a rough draft and makes his or her changes to it to draft the final judgment.  Behe represented it pretty fairly in the interview, imo.  He didn’t suggest there was anything underhanded about the plaintiff’s hand in the wording.  Behe was maybe suggesting the judge was gullible to the plaintiff’s arguments, but not that the judge was malfeasant.

Posted on Nov 11, 2007 at 9:40am by Aesopo Comment #11

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Posted on Nov 11, 2007 at 11:18am by zarcus Comment #12

Never mind about the transcript.  I found them at talkorigins.

Zarcus, I think Behe is convinced he’s right and that his side’s evidence disproved the other side’s evidence.  He’s convinced that the judge had to have agreed with Behe, believing his side’s case was so strong.  The judge didn’t, and Behe complains the judge was somehow fooled by the other side.  I agree with you there.  Probably close to 100% of all defendants in this situation would do just about the same.

But Behe didn’t claim the judge and plaintiff had something underhanded going on between them.  He lost, he’s simply whining about the judge; I think that’s kind of expected.  Some on the other side would predictably do the same if decision went against them.

Posted on Nov 11, 2007 at 1:46pm by Aesopo Comment #13

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Posted on Nov 11, 2007 at 2:19pm by zarcus Comment #14

I was a little upset that DJ didn’t address the whole “reshaping the groundwork of science” issue.  That is, Behe admitted that his definition of science would include astrology during Dover.  What about alchemy?  To include these would be a re-shaping of the definiton of science as being nature-bound.  I’d love to hear more of his foot-in-mouth attempts to explain this and still admit he is pro-science.

Also, as to whther ID concepts should be taught in public schools: DJ didn’t address the fact that Behe’s main claim (irreducible complexity) requires a level of study that is beyond the middle/high school curriculum.

Lastly, addressing the plaigarism claim: I would be curious to know if Phillip Johnson ever engaged in the process of drafting a ruling for a judge in his carrer as a lawyer.

Otherwise, I think DJ’s content and process rocked.

Posted on Nov 12, 2007 at 8:51am by mauteman Comment #15

I just finished listening to the interview on my iPod.  Overall I thought it was very well done, although there are some points where Behe could have been nailed a little harder.  This is the main one, though:

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that?

Behe lied.  90% of Judge Jones’ OPINION was not cribbed from the plaintiff’s lawyers.  90% of the FINDINGS OF FACT section was taken directly from the “proposed findings of fact” submitted to him by the plaintiff’s lawyers.  That section is about 20 pages out of a 139-page ruling (15% of the ruling).  As far as I have heard, the other 85% is all Jones’ own original writing.

In a legal confrontation, both sides typically submit a proposal for findings of fact, hoping the judge will find their proposal as indicative of the true facts.  Jones did.  He adopted the Kitzmiller proposal almost verbatim, while taking nothing at all from the defendants’ facts.  As one blogger (I forget who) pointed out at the time, raising a big stink about this is tantamount to the Discovery Institute complaining “HEY!  The judge completely agreed with our opponents and didn’t accept our story AT ALL!  That’s not fair!”


Apart from that issue, one other area I would have liked to hear more ass-kicking would have been when at the beginning of the interview, when Michael Behe claimed “Lots of the leaders in the ID movement are just doing pure science, and didn’t start with any preconception that the designer is God.  Like me and Bill Dembski and Jonathan Wells.”

This is total bunk, but it’s easily demonstrated bunk when it comes to Jonathan Wells.  Wells is a Moonie, a disciple of the ultra-right wing reverend Sun Myung Moon, and he started working towards a biology degree BECAUSE he wanted to undermine evolution for religious reasons.

[quote author=“Jonathan Wells”]http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/talks/wells/DARWIN.htm

Father’s words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.

“Father” in this context is a description of Reverend Moon.


However, as I said before, good interview overall.  I liked it when DJ made Behe stammer over the question of whether this was just an anti-evolution book and not pro-anything.  Also at the end, DJ got Behe talking about God, and Behe was eager to defend the “unnamed designer” (wink wink) as always good.  I’m curious, though.  Behe says that malaria is “an unintended side effect of something that is, when you look at the big picture, good.”

An unintended side effect?  WTF?  This sounds like an awfully bumbling omnipotent creator.  Oh wait, I forgot, it’s not God.  The designers purposes must be seen as “good” regardless of how they appear.  But it’s not God.

Posted on Nov 14, 2007 at 11:59am by Kazim Comment #16

It was clear from the interview that Behe is a very clever man. I find it hard to reconcile that with his opinion that resorting to susperstition is not unscientific.

Imagine, some bloke, called say ... Isaac Newton, sitting in an orchard. suddenly he his hit on the noggin by a falling apple.  He ponders this for some time, pacing back and forth in the orchard, running equations in his mind to try and explain what makes the apple fall….. When suddently EUREKA!!!!!  GOD DID IT!!!  he puts down his quill and notebook, safe in the knowledge that the question is answered, and studies no more.

What a loss to the world that would have been.

Why did the bacteria in this petre dish die?  could it have been some chemical we could use to treat infections? .... no .... GOD DID IT!  end of study.


All development in science is based on study of measureable things.  When Behe can measure god, then he can include it in science. Until then, he is either lying, or an idiot.

Ski.

Posted on Nov 14, 2007 at 2:05pm by SkiCarver Comment #17

Behe lied.  90% of Judge Jones’ OPINION was not cribbed from the plaintiff’s lawyers.  90% of the FINDINGS OF FACT section was taken directly from the “proposed findings of fact” submitted to him by the plaintiff’s lawyers.  That section is about 20 pages out of a 139-page ruling (15% of the ruling).  As far as I have heard, the other 85% is all Jones’ own original writing.

Thanks for that answer!  I feel better now.

J. D.

Posted on Nov 14, 2007 at 9:33pm by jdmack Comment #18

I finally listened and I got a good laugh out of his staying that Mt Rushmore was created by Intelligent Design.  Please!  Humans put the presidents’ faces into the mountain, not some god.  Now if you are saying humans are gods, well…  They were great artists, I will admit that.

However, after listening to him on PBS and PoI, I can only say one thing- The man is a nut!

Posted on Nov 15, 2007 at 7:55am by Mriana Comment #19

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that?

It’s NOT a biggy.  For an explanation of why not see Refutation of plagiarism charge

Posted on Nov 17, 2007 at 7:33am by randytoad Comment #20

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that?

It’s NOT a biggy.  For an explanation of why not see Refutation of plagiarism charge

That’s dated almost a year ago and Behe is still following the loser’s scripted PR talking points?  I used to think creationists save the spin for folks who aren’t inclined to check out a single thing they say.  But this inclines me back to the “robot” idea.  They just repeat what they’re told, and don’t even check up these things for their own sakes.

Posted on Nov 17, 2007 at 9:18am by Aesopo Comment #21

I agree with a lot of what has been stated previously in this thread.  Mainly, I think DJ did an extremely fine job of handling a most difficult topic and an even more difficult guest. 

I especially liked his question to Behe regarding peer-review.  Behe successfully managed to completely avoid giving any answer of substance.  It’s been my experience when I talk to someone who is a proponent of ID and creation “science” that when I bring up the subject of peer-review and the lack thereof in the ID camp, the person I am speaking with usually offers up the supreme cop-out that the “scientific elites just won’t publish our work”.  Nothing gets me more heated than this little urban legend. 

Scientists as a whole are not elitists, and there isn’t some good ‘ole boys club waiting to wield the hammer on those $#% christians.  Science, the field in which scientists work, is a ruthless, take no prisoners, no holds barred endeavor to get at the essence of natural phenomena.  Science, and the scientific method, really could care less in the end whether the person submitting the work is from the Discovery Institute or the Discover Card.  As long as there is an hypothesis that can be tested with valid and reliable experimental methods and shown to be either true or false based on the data obtained, then eventually said agency or party should be able to publish their scientific findings in a peer-reviewed journal, period.  None of this, “Well, we couldn’t get peer-reviewed because no one would listen to us” holds any weight whatsoever.  This type of argument is at best being disingenuous, and at worst, downright deceitful. 

I will choose to think the former of Mr. Behe, and simply ask that if he has such problems with the theory of evolution then PLEASE come up with alternative SCIENTIFIC theories that can be tested and get them published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Participate in the scientific method like everyone else in science has to. 

As Stephen Colbert says in his new book, “There are no free rides!”, so I say to Mr. Behe, with the caveat, “and NO loitering around the express science train!”

Posted on Nov 17, 2007 at 7:52pm by Drew Comment #22

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that?

It’s NOT a biggy.  For an explanation of why not see Refutation of plagiarism charge

That’s dated almost a year ago and Behe is still following the loser’s scripted PR talking points?  I used to think creationists save the spin for folks who aren’t inclined to check out a single thing they say.  But this inclines me back to the “robot” idea.  They just repeat what they’re told, and don’t even check up these things for their own sakes.

Sadly, I think they still use these arguments because they spread very effectively, are easy for people to remember and difficult to refute in one simple sentence. The argument appeals to persons who fall for conspiracy theories and are led to believe that they are a persecuted minority. It is effective propaganda and shows that they have an “ends justify the means” mentality in which the “ends” are religious.

Richard

Posted on Nov 18, 2007 at 2:42pm by rgill Comment #23

I will choose to think the former of Mr. Behe, and simply ask that if he has such problems with the theory of evolution then PLEASE come up with alternative SCIENTIFIC theories that can be tested and get them published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Participate in the scientific method like everyone else in science has to. 

As Stephen Colbert says in his new book, “There are no free rides!”, so I say to Mr. Behe, with the caveat, “and NO loitering around the express science train!”

I would like to raise a question. Is behe (and his ilk) actually interested in science? At the root of it, they are after power, influence and wealth. If this was not the case, they would simply be happy to believe whatever they choose and keep to themselves. So, to achieve influence over the masses, do they need to have a valid scientific hypothesis? Clearly, no they do not. A large proportion of people in the US (and the UK for that matter) are scientifically illiterate, especially when it comes to evolution. All the ID’ers need, is something that ‘looks science’ to add to the perceived validity of their ideas, and they have something they can use to deceive the public.

Will they develop their ideas into a scientifically testable hypothesis? No, because they won’t want to risk being wrong.

Ski.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 2:44am by SkiCarver Comment #24

I will choose to think the former of Mr. Behe, and simply ask that if he has such problems with the theory of evolution then PLEASE come up with alternative SCIENTIFIC theories that can be tested and get them published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Participate in the scientific method like everyone else in science has to. 

As Stephen Colbert says in his new book, “There are no free rides!”, so I say to Mr. Behe, with the caveat, “and NO loitering around the express science train!”

I would like to raise a question. Is behe (and his ilk) actually interested in science? At the root of it, they are after power, influence and wealth. If this was not the case, they would simply be happy to believe whatever they choose and keep to themselves. So, to achieve influence over the masses, do they need to have a valid scientific hypothesis? Clearly, no they do not. A large proportion of people in the US (and the UK for that matter) are scientifically illiterate, especially when it comes to evolution. All the ID’ers need, is something that ‘looks science’ to add to the perceived validity of their ideas, and they have something they can use to deceive the public.

Will they develop their ideas into a scientifically testable hypothesis? No, because they won’t want to risk being wrong.

Ski.

I think people like Behe also have too much at stake personally. He’s too deep into it to back off and say he was wrong, though he did recently admit to being wrong about HIV:

“Yes, I’m perfectly willing to concede that this does appear to be the development of a new viral protein-viral protein binding site, one which I overlooked when writing about HIV.”

http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/11/mr-owl-how-many-days-does-it-take-to.html

Here’s an interesting link: “Oddly, Hypocrisy Rooted in High Morals”
http://www.livescience.com/strangenews/071114-cheating-basics.html

—- e.g. having too much a sense of moral superiority ironically can lead to unethical acts.


Richard

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:03am by rgill Comment #25

I’ll join the chorus of congratulating DJ for a very polite and respectful interview of someone who clearly is a strong spokesperson for our “cultural competitors.” It was a great opportunity to hear the strengths and weaknesses of the other side, and I really respect DJ for avoiding the talk radio sort of hostile interview there’s all too much of elsewhere. We should be better than that, and clearly he was.

I also agree that Behe hung himself quite handily with the rope provided, though I doubt most believers, or even neutral non-scientists, would think so. Hence the challenge. I think Behe has created a position that is beyond any rational challenege or contradictory evidence. According to his statements:

1) If you’re not a scientist (like the judge in Dover who Behe says got snowed by the opposition on the immunology point because “what would a judge know about immunology”), then you only disagree with ID out of ignorance.

2) If you are a scientist, you disagree with ID because of your atheist, materialist philosophical bias and Darwinolatry, not because of a considered understanding of the evidence.

3) If you’re a Christian and you agree with ID, it’s not because of any philosophical bias in favor of a designer god (since his Catholicism had nothing to do with his position on evolution) but because of a considered understanding of the evidence.

Such impregnable castles of belief are infuriating to those of us with a rational, scientific approach to epistemology since they are impervious to evidence but function very effectively to defend a specific position in a way that appears rational while really just being an apologia for an a priori conviction.

The timing for this podcast was good for me as I’m reading Philip Kitcher’s Living with Darwin right now. Some strong arguments against ID, though I do wonder if science can really afford the time and energy to research and disprove each individual point people like Behe makes. Even if we close a lot of the gaps in which they’re finding god, there will always be more, and I think science has more practical and iprotant things to do.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:44am by mckenzievmd Comment #26

I finally listened and I got a good laugh out of his staying that Mt Rushmore was created by Intelligent Design.  Please!  Humans put the presidents’ faces into the mountain, not some god.  Now if you are saying humans are gods, well…  They were great artists, I will admit that.

However, after listening to him on PBS and PoI, I can only say one thing- The man is a nut!

Hi Mriana.  with respect, I think to be fair it should be pointed out that Behe certainly didn’t claim that Mt. Rushmore was created by “God”.  He stated that when you look at Mt. Rushmore you are instantly aware that it was made by an intelligent cause, not just random wind, rain, erosion and time.  Actually your post makes a strong case for Behe.  If you were to come to earth a thousand years after the last human had died and there was no record to tell you how Mt. Rushmore was made, would you believe that it was randomly caused by natural processes or that some intelligent entity must have carved it out of the rock?  The answer is obvious.  When Behe investigates the bacterial flagellum motor for instance, with it’s multiple tuned parts & symmetry, random mutations and natural selection cannot logically or scientifically account for this complexity.  The “bio-pump” often touted as a “stepping stone” to the motor only accounts for 10 of the some 40 parts of the flagellum motor.  Where did the other parts come from since they all to be present at the same time for the structure to function?  Natural Selection is blind to a non-functioning system that is missing parts.  Darwinian Evolution cannot be the sole cause for this system…perhaps some aliens came and….

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 5:13pm by wezx Comment #27

the bacterial flagellum motor for instance, with it’s multiple tuned parts & symmetry, random mutations and natural selection cannot logically or scientifically account for this complexity.  The “bio-pump” often touted as a “stepping stone” to the motor only accounts for 10 of the some 40 parts of the flagellum motor

Wrong.

1) The precise mechanism for how this system evolved haven’t been elucidated, but that’s not evidence natural selection can’t explain it. The only basis for claiming that natural selection cannot make such things is your own difficulty imaging how, which is just another form of the argument from design for god.

2) Your use of the word “random” is misleading, intentionally or not. Mutations are random. The development of new structures through evolution is not. It is guided by differential reproductive success (via natural selection), the necessity of building new things out of existing things rather than creating them intact from scratch, and other such factors.

Each time a gap in the Darwinian explanation is cited by an anti-selectionist to claim the theory as a whole is a failure, I have to point out a) all the things Darwinian theory does explain successfully, b)the things previous thought to be inexplicable by natural selection and modification with descent (like the vertebrate eye) which have since been clearly demonstrated to, in fact, be possible to develop in steps as the theory suggests despite their complexity, and c) the utter absence of an alternative explanation. “Design” just means “it looks like somebody did it to me so somebody must have.” It doesn’t lead to any further understanding or any heuristic predictions. And it begs the questions of why things are imperfectly designed (how many people a year choke to death because of the arrangement of the airway and GI tract in the back of the throat), why almost any anatomic or biochemical feature of one organism can be shown to be a modified form of a similar feature in a related organism, and many others. Darwinian theory, on the other hand, gives cogent explanations for these facts.

I suggest reading Kitcher’s book I referenced above, which demonstrates the falalcies behind the so-called “irreducible” complexity argument Behe puts forward.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 5:26pm by mckenzievmd Comment #28

My understanding is that Mt. Rushmore was a sacred Native American mountain with some animistic significance before the presidents faces were carved on top of it.  Is it possible that this is evidence that there was an earlier creator the proceeded our creator?  :ohh:

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 5:28pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #29

I finally listened and I got a good laugh out of his staying that Mt Rushmore was created by Intelligent Design.  Please!  Humans put the presidents’ faces into the mountain, not some god.  Now if you are saying humans are gods, well…  They were great artists, I will admit that.

However, after listening to him on PBS and PoI, I can only say one thing- The man is a nut!

Hi Mriana.  with respect, I think to be fair it should be pointed out that Behe certainly didn’t claim that Mt. Rushmore was created by “God”.  He stated that when you look at Mt. Rushmore you are instantly aware that it was made by an intelligent cause, not just random wind, rain, erosion and time.  Actually your post makes a strong case for Behe.  If you were to come to earth a thousand years after the last human had died and there was no record to tell you how Mt. Rushmore was made, would you believe that it was randomly caused by natural processes or that some intelligent entity must have carved it out of the rock?  The answer is obvious.  When Behe investigates the bacterial flagellum motor for instance, with it’s multiple tuned parts & symmetry, random mutations and natural selection cannot logically or scientifically account for this complexity.  The “bio-pump” often touted as a “stepping stone” to the motor only accounts for 10 of the some 40 parts of the flagellum motor.  Where did the other parts come from since they all to be present at the same time for the structure to function?  Natural Selection is blind to a non-functioning system that is missing parts.  Darwinian Evolution cannot be the sole cause for this system…perhaps some aliens came and….

Oh brother.  :roll:  If they are intelligent, they would know that people were here before them and not blame it on an invisible deity.  BTW, it would be nice if you introduced yourself in the intro area.  It would be nice to know a little about you.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 6:56pm by Mriana Comment #30

Greetings, thanks for the response.  To begin with I said nothing to imply that natural selection does not work or is “random”.  I apologize if I gave that impression.  I was specifically discussing the flagellum motor and the completely unsatisfying answer or lack thereof that Darwinian Evolution gives for this structure.

“It is guided by differential reproductive success (via natural selection), the necessity of building new things out of existing things rather than creating them intact from scratch, and other such factors.”

None of which are satisfying explanations for the flagellum.

“The precise mechanism for how this system evolved haven’t been elucidated, but that’s not evidence natural selection can’t explain it.”

This sounds surprisingly similar to what Creationists say to me…“we’ll, we don’t know how this came about but I’m sure God must have done it somehow.”  Both sides seem pretty dependent on faith.

“The only basis for claiming that natural selection cannot make such things is your own difficulty imaging how”

Or perhaps anyone’s inability to explain it through said natualistic processes.

“building new things out of existing things rather than creating them intact from scratch”

And in the case of the flagellum that existing structure(s) would be?

“claim the theory as a whole is a failure”

Uh…gee, I never did this.

“why almost any anatomic or biochemical feature of one organism can be shown to be a modified form of a similar feature in a related organism”

Could you please point out what these are for the flagellum motor?

“the things previous thought to be inexplicable by natural selection and modification with descent (like the vertebrate eye) which have since been clearly demonstrated to, in fact, be possible to develop in steps as the theory suggests despite their complexity.”

Would you cite references for this please.

“all the things Darwinian theory does explain successfully”

If a theory successfully explains certain situations it is a logical misstep to assume that that theory can be applied universally because of that fact alone.

“And it begs the questions of why things are imperfectly designed”

And yet with all that “imperfection” do we know of any more complex and well-working machine in the cosmos (man-made or otherwise) than the human body?

I am arguing from a “god-neutral” worldview and letting the evidence lead where it may.  If you are arguing from a worldview that gives no possibility of a “god” or the possibility of any metaphysical existence then the issue has been “pre-ruled-out” and of course there will be no “alternative explanation”.  I am also seeking an “alternative explanation” for what was there BEFORE the Big Bang and having a great deal of difficulty getting any answer besides “we don’t know”.  And if we don’t know is it fair to rule out any explanation that has credible evidence?

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:01pm by wezx Comment #31

Oh brother (on my end)...I didn’t invoke any “god”.  I merely pointed out that you misquoted Behe (which you did) and that you or anyone would recognize the intelligence in the building of Mt. Rushmore and not attribute it to “natural” causes…I certainly meant no insult.  And considering the rather acerbic responses I’ve received to my initial posts I’m not sure I want to introduce myself…

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:06pm by wezx Comment #32

OK you called me out specifically twice on two different threads, what I want to know is what board or forum that we met?  There are a few of them, but it would be nice to know which one, so I know who I’m addressing- obviously you are going by a different handle.  Thus, why I say it would be nice if you introduced yourself in the intro section of the board. Please do, so that we can get a better idea of who you are.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:22pm by Mriana Comment #33

I apologize.  It’s not intentional, I just read your posts and found them interesting.  I apologize if it seems I’m calling you out.  I don’t believe we have met on another forum as rarely post to forums because they end up being a cheerleading squad for whichever side is hosting them and seldom actually attempt to gleen any truth or conclusions.  I am a 39 year old white male Mensa member with interests that range from music and science to history and archaeology.  I am what I call a “Radical Centrist” politically and an open-minded skeptic on most other issues.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:34pm by wezx Comment #34

Oh ok.  Mensa, huh?  Very interesting.  You found my posts interesting?  Not sure what for.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:43pm by Mriana Comment #35

They caught my eye as I perused the site…nothing more.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:54pm by wezx Comment #36

Surely there are far more challenging people here.  I mean, for someone who is mensa material, I’m not much to debate.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:59pm by Mriana Comment #37

On the contary, I really enjoyed “speaking” with you.  I think it’s the “more challenging” types who are often the first to pounce and the least open-minded.  I’m probably guilty of “pouncing” myself on occasion because I’m usually debating the “more challenging” types and you tend to build up a defensive wall…unfortunate.  Anyway, enjoyed “debating” with you!

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:18pm by wezx Comment #38

You’re actions were curious.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:23pm by Mriana Comment #39

Let’s hope wezx is not a synonym for T-R-O-L-L

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:27pm by OhioDoc Comment #40

I’m laughing cynically to myself because it never fails that when you try to present some ideas for discussion, maybe even play devil’s advocate, to perhaps get some answers or at least different points of view from people immediately your motives are questioned and you’re insulted (thanks fotobits).  Whatever happened to discussing the issue at hand instead of acting like I’ve disrupted your delicate forum.  I’m willing to examine my own beliefs even at the point of discomfort…are you?  I’m not sure what a T-R-O-L-L is supposed to be, but it sure as hell doesn’t sound complimentary.  This is exactly why I don’t try posting to forums.  The people on the “religious” forums do the same thing.  The hypocrisy is stifling in both camps.  You folks can have your forum back…have a nice life.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:48pm by wezx Comment #41

Wikipedia will give you a good idea about what trolls are all about. Being a MENSA member, you probably knew that already!! nes pa?

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:00pm by OhioDoc Comment #42

wezx,

As far as the flagellum, I’ve already said that the precise steps leading to its development aren’t yet understood. However, this is not the same thing as saying that Darwinian evolution is unable to explain it, only that it hasn’t yet. This is clearly different from the religious explanation which says “god did it, no further explanation is necessary.” Because Darwinian selection has so successfully explained so many other things, it is reasonable to suppose that it may also be able to explain the flagellum. If it cannot when the detailed study of the problem is made, then you may have a point, but right now you are simply arguing that because every detail of this (or any other complex structure) has not yet been traced to its evolutionary antecedents, Darwinian theory cannot possibly explain the phenomenon, and that is fallacious reasoning.

The evolution of the vertebrate eye is a similar case, in which all the parts must function together to make the organ useful, so the anti-selection argument has been made that it could not have evolved by successive steps. See HERE for the wikipedia summary of current evidence on how this evolution worked, or read Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins or Vision Optics and Evolution in Bioscience, 39, 1989, 298-307. It is clear that the parts of the eye or their antecedents each had functions and evolutionary advantages for their possessors, and that the process of natural selection allowed the complex organ to develop over long periods of time from modifications to the antecedent organs. There is no evidence I’m aware of, though you are free to present some, that suggests the same logic is fundamentally not appplicable to the bacterial flagellum, though the details are not yet clear. The idea that our lack of complete understanding in this case example is somehow evidence that it could not have developed by natural selection is just you assumption based on incredulity, not in fact evidence. Science is based on always having questions to answer and problems to solve, so the fact that such exist in evolutionary biology is not evidence that the field has somehow failed to justify its claims. If a theory explains many things, it may not be true that it can explain everything, but it is also a logical mistep to say that whatever it hasn’t yet explained it can’t ever.

The human body is a wonderfully complex thing, but so are lots of other organisms, so are lots of non-living things (the atom, for example). None of this implies design. Darwininan theory provides a very satisfying and reasonable explanation for how the human body came to be, without positing the existence of a designer. You are adding something unecessary to the story. And my point was that if there was a designer, especially an omniscient, omnipotent, and loving one, why would the body be designed suboptimally? Evolution explains why (the necessity of working with pre-existing structures, the random nature of genetic mutations, etc), whereas design theory doesn’t.


I don’t rule out the possibility of god (see my sig quote), but I don’t consider the complexity of the human body or the bacterial flagellum evidence for one, and I don’t consider the incompleteness of scientific knowledge evidence for one. There have been many things we couldn’t explain which were attributed to the supernatural and which we now can explain without such an attribution. I am comfortable with not knowing everything. The main difference between us seems to be that you want to believe there is more than nature, there is some “metaphysical existence” and you seize on any gap or flaw in scientific materialist explanation as evidence for this. I would love it if there were such a thing (especially if it meant I would get to live forever), but I don’t see any sign of it. Ultimately, a designer could, as Behe put it, sign his name to the flagellum and be done with it if he wanted to, and there wouldn’t be many agnostics or atheists. Maybe he didn’t want to, but theorizing why the designer of the universe chooses to obscure his existence seems less logical and parsimonious than theorizing that it’s hard to find convincing evidence of his existence because he’s not there.

Posted on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:17pm by mckenzievmd Comment #43

When Behe investigates the bacterial flagellum motor for instance, with it’s multiple tuned parts & symmetry, random mutations and natural selection cannot logically or scientifically account for this complexity.  The “bio-pump” often touted as a “stepping stone” to the motor only accounts for 10 of the some 40 parts of the flagellum motor.  Where did the other parts come from since they all to be present at the same time for the structure to function?  Natural Selection is blind to a non-functioning system that is missing parts.  Darwinian Evolution cannot be the sole cause for this system…perhaps some aliens came and….

Check out the animation of the b.f. contained here : http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/programs/ht/wm/3416_08_056.html , and the discussion which follows.

Note that by your own admission, the flagellum motor is “reducibly complex” since you’ve acknowledged yourself one clearly isolatable stepping stone found within it.

Posted on Nov 20, 2007 at 1:23am by Aesopo Comment #44

There is plenty of online info about possible routes of evolution for the bacterial flagellum. For example, HERE and HERE. But in general, appeal to cases like the flagellum are perfect instances of the God-of-the-gaps fallacy, or what Neil Tyson would call “the perimeter of our ignorance”. No matter where we are in the great advance of science, there will always be some features and facts that remain unexplained.

Posted on Nov 20, 2007 at 5:59am by dougsmith Comment #45

There is plenty of online info about possible routes of evolution for the bacterial flagellum. For example, HERE and HERE. But in general, appeal to cases like the flagellum are perfect instances of the God-of-the-gaps fallacy, or what Neil Tyson would call “the perimeter of our ignorance”. No matter where we are in the great advance of science, there will always be some features and facts that remain unexplained.

I’d add to those flagellum references this one (large PDF).  Note that it has the virtue of being testable, and in fact since it was first published on the web at least one of its predictions has been tested and corroborated.

RBH

Posted on Nov 20, 2007 at 10:17pm by RBH_III Comment #46

It is good to have representatives of the other side on the show, as it only reveals the astonishing weakness of their positions. Francis Collins did a great job of illustrating this point a few weeks ago, and now Michael Behe offers his own contribution.

To my mind, it really boils down to a very simple question: what lines of inquiry, what new methods, what productive hypotheses does ID offer? The answer is: nothing. It offers nothing productive. If it were adopted as the mainstream approach, it would shut down evolutionary science overnight.

This feature it has in common with all pseudoscience, along with all the rest: the “common-sense” arguments appealing to the uninformed mind; the claim of a clubbish exclusivity among real scientists to explain why ID work doesn’t appear in Nature or Science any of the other peer-reviewed journals; the related claim to persecution and vcitimhood; the vaguely self-righteous attitude of its proponents; and so on. It’s all there. ID is pseudoscience, plain and simple, and we can only thank Judge Jones in Dover, PA for seeing this so very clearly.

Posted on Nov 22, 2007 at 3:37pm by Trajan117 Comment #47

Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.”  All people die.  If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary.  And something bad is needed to stop a body from living.  If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer.  if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck.  In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria.  There has to be *some* agent of death in this world.  Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.

J. D.

According to most religions, it is possible to have a place without any death, and therefore no agents of death.  A place big enough for all people who have ever lived as well.  And apparently, such a place will be a reality in the age to come.  Pretty poor designing in my opinion that makes a world too small, and therefore must create agents of death and torture to clear out room for the next generation…especially when the designers’ apparent original intention was to create immortal beings, who only became mortal after they picked the fruit.

J.D. this was a really interesting and insightful comment.
Thanks.

Posted on Nov 22, 2007 at 7:18pm by Jackson Comment #48

Greetings, thanks for the response.  To begin with I said nothing to imply that natural selection does not work or is “random”.  I apologize if I gave that impression.  I was specifically discussing the flagellum motor and the completely unsatisfying answer or lack thereof that Darwinian Evolution gives for this structure.

“It is guided by differential reproductive success (via natural selection), the necessity of building new things out of existing things rather than creating them intact from scratch, and other such factors.”

None of which are satisfying explanations for the flagellum.

Others have been responding directly to this point. I would mention that this flagellum stuff is discussed in detail in Behe’s earlier book Darwin’s Black Box, and if one is not a biologist and just reads this book it is fairly convincing.  However, as others have noted here he doesn’t have his facts correct.  In fact the flagellum had been discussed in the journal literature and Behe should have been aware of it (unlike us non-biologists). 

This is why Behe needs to publish his arguments in peer-reviewed journals and convince other experts. And he needs to listen to other experts.

Posted on Nov 22, 2007 at 7:31pm by Jackson Comment #49

I found D.J. Groethe’s cat-and-mouse-style interview with Michael Behe to be delightful.  Prof. Behe’s arguments were appropriately decorated with the tell-tale chuckle at the end, and frankly it was merciful that D.J. spared the professor further foot-in-mouth opportunities.

I am strongly opposed to teaching ID in h.s. science classes simply because there’s not one iota of reproducible evidence to support ID.  I don’t see irreducible complexity as a particular hurdle; the basic concept can easily be explained to school children.  Show them a car and ask how it runs if you remove the wheels ?  Or show them Haley’s watch, Lennox’s factory or Behe’s Mt. Rushmore as you will.  The common fallacy behind all of those arguments is that cars, watches, factories and mountains are not alive, do not reproduce with variation and thus do not evolve.  The real challenge we have is to give children full exposure to the overwhelming volume of archaeological, anthropological, cellular, genetic, biochemical and other empirical evidence, all of which clearly demonstrates Darwinian evolution.  If we want to teach them they’re descended from an ancestor who was pulled ready-made out of a hat like the proverbial rabbit, we should find another venue.  Sunday school perhaps.

Of course, we do need to teach “ID” with respect to GMO’s, cloning, gene therapy and other man-made biotechnologies.

As for the plagiarism issue, I was impressed listening to the interview with Judge Jones that’s available on the Nova “Judgment Day” web site.  I’m convinced the judge has a clear, deep, insightful understanding of the issues and that he made and enunciated his own decision.  He is to be highly commended for not letting any preconceived notions or outside pressures stop him from rendering the correct decision. 

Keep up the good work POI !  D. Thomas (My first post here; any feed back appreciated)

Posted on Nov 27, 2007 at 7:05am by Staying Evolved Comment #50

This was a good interview in which DJ did the proper probing.  I admit I was very disappointed with the free-pass handling of Francis Collins.  Thank you, DJ, for insisting Behe explain his beliefs.

Posted on Dec 09, 2007 at 2:37pm by Quine Comment #51

There is something that I’ve never been able to understand with creationists/ID-proponents. They have such a hard time accepting the theory of evolution and must attribute,  in whole or in part, the existence of life and moreover the universe as we know it to some creator or designer, yet they have no qualms accepting that this designer was not created or designed him/her/itself. Granted, it ends up being an infinite regression issue of “who created the creator” and then “who created that creator” and so on, but they are the ones postulating it, so it is only fair to ask where the designer came from as well. After all, they are the ones claiming there are gaps that cannot be explained. So where did the designer come from? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m fine accepting that the universe, in one form or another, always has and always will exist without having to invoke god.

During the entire interview, I kept wondering why this university professor was making an argument from ignorance as to “the gaps” in evolutionary theory. His argument about something having the appearance of design sounds awfully subjective. Since something hasn’t yet been explained, it does not follow that “the intelligent designer” made it happen. Does he truly believe that if we as humans cannot explain something, or haven’t yet the proper tools or mental capacity to understand something, then it can never be explained? That viewpoint would only lead to a lack of research instead of more research. Imagine if a crime scene was investigated this way. In fact, some probably are in order to fit what the investigator wished to find. I’m sure people would be outraged, and rightfully so.

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 at 12:31am by majestyx Comment #52

I’d hate to take one of his exams.  You could miss one question, and he could justify giving you a ZERO.  :lol:

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 at 7:25am by retrospy Comment #53

Thanks for pointing that out, Majestyx. You put your finger on something that has long made me lose the respect for theologians and narrow ideologists:

They keep regurgitating the same tired old arguments ad infinitum. If some pimply teenager would state them he’d be rebuffed in an instant. But once you got academic ‘credentials’ (or a clerical collar!) people are awed by them.
The truth is that a huge pile of philosophical arguments are dead and decomposed, and here’s a prime example. It should also be noted that ID proponents know this full well. In some cases their leaders have encouraged people to acquire degrees in biology (typically at low ranking religious institutions) in order to wave a PhD in front of an audience and purport to speak from a position of legitimate insider knowledge. Shame on them.

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 at 7:31am by moreover Comment #54

Hmm…

I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant.  As I commented to a co-worker, it actually contained more evidence for the theory of evolution than I had seen in my collective reading of Sagan, Darwin, Pennock, my high-school biology books and dozens of issues of Scientific American.  Behe gave a more thorough explanation of the mechanisms by which natural selection works than I had ever read before and did a good deal to convince me of its ability to bring about biological change.  Very educational.  (Let the denouncements of my ignorance roll forth.  Just make the insults creative so they aren’t boring to read.)

Obviously I’m not going to convince anyone here that ID is valid, and I’m not going to try.  But I will ask one question and make one point, both inspired by themes that seemed consistent throughout this thread.

Question: What is this “rope” so many people have mentioned with which Behe hanged himself?  I thought he did a fine job defending himself.  Which of his words were the pulling of this gallows lever?  I didn’t hear the click.

Point: Behe’s argument is not “god of the gaps,” and I think that anyone who claims it is has failed to understand it.  Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for.  He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing.  He is denouncing it.  He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish.  His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them.  Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 2:30pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #55

Hmmm ... so how is this:

Behe gave a more thorough explanation of the mechanisms by which natural selection works than I had ever read before and did a good deal to convince me of its ability to bring about biological change.

consistent with this:

Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for.  He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing.  He is denouncing it.  He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish.  His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them.  Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”

I’m sorry to say that you’ve left me thoroughly confused. Perhaps a short synopsis of what you see as Behe’s argument would be in order.

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 2:46pm by dougsmith Comment #56

I’m confused as to why you’re confused.  :-S

Behe’s claim is that random mutation filtered through natural selection is not able to build systems of any complexity.  In “Edge” he claims that everything from complexes of two cellular proteins on up is too complex for Darwin to account for and gives pretty detailed reasons why he thinks so.  Claiming that all biological systems require design is not “god of the gaps.”

He also spends a lot of time on what Darwinian processes have been proven to do.  For instance, he explains in brief detail how malaria acquires resistance to human drugs and how humans acquire resistance to malaria, through the preservation of advantageous mutations in both cases.  Educational.  (Behe contends that these examples show the upper threshold of what Darwin can do.)

I hope that answers your question, although I’m not really sure what it was.

EDIT: Oh, wait, I think I see it.  You perceive a conflict between his convincing me that Darwinian processes cause change and his saying they don’t build systems?  Well, “change” and “build” are not synonyms.  They are two distinct ideas.  Behe helped to convince me that natural selection causes organisms to change over generations, but he also helped convinced me that these changes are unable to construct new systems.

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 3:12pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #57

You perceive a conflict between his convincing me that Darwinian processes cause change and his saying they don’t build systems?  Well, “change” and “build” are not synonyms.  They are two distinct ideas.  Behe helped to convince me that natural selection causes organisms to change over generations, but he also helped convinced me that these changes are unable to construct new systems.

What’s the difference between “change” and “build”?

What do you mean that these changes are unable to construct new systems? How does Behe define a “new system”?

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 4:03pm by dougsmith Comment #58

I have the impression Mr. Tweedy is in the wrong Forum.

He may be as confused as Mr. Behe!

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 4:16pm by OhioDoc Comment #59

Change: Hurl Molotov at building.  Building burns.  Loose pigeons on building.  Building collects poo.  Subject building to cold.  Pipes in building contract with an eerie creaking sound.  In each case, the building is somehow different, but these differences are not inherently related to the structure of the building nor do they contribute to its overall functionality.

Build: Cute down tree.  Melt sand for glass.  Bring wood and glass to building site.  Measure and cut wood.  Nail cut pieces into frame.  Score and snap glass to fit frame.  Assemble glass and frame.  Nail assembly into hole in the side of the building.  Apply caulk.  Apply trim.  Apply external shingles.  Paint.  Apply internal curtains.  The building now has a new window, a part that is inherently related to and ads to the functioning of the building as a whole.

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 4:19pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #60

Change: Hurl Molotov at building.  Building burns.  Loose pigeons on building.  Building collects poo.  Subject building to cold.  Pipes in building contract with an eerie creaking sound.  In each case, the building is somehow different, but these differences are not inherently related to the structure of the building nor do they contribute to its overall functionality.

Build: Cute down tree.  Melt sand for glass.  Bring wood and glass to building site.  Measure and cut wood.  Nail cut pieces into frame.  Score and snap glass to fit frame.  Assemble glass and frame.  Nail assembly into hole in the side of the building.  Apply caulk.  Apply trim.  Apply external shingles.  Paint.  Apply internal curtains.  The building now has a new window, a part that is inherently related to and ads to the functioning of the building as a whole.

Yes, I know what the words mean in ordinary language, but how do these relate to biological evolution?

Posted on Feb 01, 2008 at 4:26pm by dougsmith Comment #61

Like I said, Doug, I don’t intend to argue for ID here.  I know it won’t work and I know what arguments you’ll use.  You’ll claim that changes can add up to systems.  I’ll point out that any system (like, say, the one that unzips DNA, makes RNA from it, shuttles the RNA out to Golgi apparatus and generates proteins from it) would require numerous discrete steps to be built, most of which would not be beneficial of themselves and hence would not be preserved by natural selection.  You will point to an example of another system that bears some similarities to the one we’re talking about and claim that the similarities somehow prove you point.  I will point out the huge number of unlikely steps to get from to the other.  Ultimately, you will appeal to ignorance, saying that no one really understands how whatever system we’re talking about came to be, but we will find out eventually.  I should believe in evolution in the meantime.

There, I already lost.  ID is defeated again.

I do still have my question, though: What, specifically, did Behe say that was so stupid?  And my point: Behe is not arguing god of the gaps.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 6:40am by Mr. Tweedy Comment #62

Wrong post. Sorry.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 7:55am by George Comment #63

Some reviews of Behe are summarized and linked to HERE. Also apparently Behe claimed that blood clotting proteins were irreducibly complex, a claim which was proved wrong in this paper. Further, Behe’s testimony was essentially shredded by Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller trial: “Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God. ... We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large.”

Irreducible complexity is precisely a claim of the God-of-the-gaps. It claims that there is a complex system the evolution of which we do not yet understand, and that therefore God must have created it. The fact that Behe may see large numbers of these gaps rather than fewer makes no salient difference to the structure of his argument. It also makes no difference that he mendaciously claims not to be referring to God as the creator of these systems. That is simply a rhetorical ploy for political ends.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 10:15am by dougsmith Comment #64

Hmm…

I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant…

Obviously I’m not going to convince anyone here that ID is valid, and I’m not going to try.  But I will ask one question and make one point, both inspired by themes that seemed consistent throughout this thread.

Question: What is this “rope” so many people have mentioned with which Behe hanged himself?  I thought he did a fine job defending himself.  Which of his words were the pulling of this gallows lever?  I didn’t hear the click.

Point: Behe’s argument is not “god of the gaps,” and I think that anyone who claims it is has failed to understand it.  Behe is not saying that a designer did those few fleeting things that evolution has not accounted for.  He is saying that evolution accounts for nothing.  He is denouncing it.  He is saying that it’s all one huge gap from start to finish.  His contention is that no biological system can be accounted for by random mutation plus natural selection and that a designer is needed to explain all of them.  Now, you might say that’s an amazingly stupid claim, but it isn’t “god of the gaps.”

I think Behe himself has indicated that the explanation he favors is an intelligent designer (see the Amazon.com editorial review in the link below), and from my perspective the fundamental flaw in his approach is the mistaken logical path
a. he can’t explain an observation in nature.
b. he assumes no one else can and no one else ever will—he convinces himself (but no consensus of scientists) that one thing or another is ‘irreducibly complex’ and that this means it cannot arise naturally.
c. Therefore God did it.

I bought his earlier book [ Darwin’s Black Box] and was ultimately disappointed as I read more broadly and found that there was a lot of information contradicting Behe’s claims about the flagellum being ‘irreducibly complex’.  etc. etc.  [ This amazon.com page actually has a blog by Behe allowing him to defend himself against criticism on other WWW sites. He also gives a plug for the Point of Inquiry interview.]

His recent book The Edge of Evolution may serve a useful purpose in listing what he thinks are challenges to Darwinian theory and evolution. I’d like to find a WWW site which lists these ‘challenges’ and then documents references answering Behe’s concerns.  This is where the “god of the gaps” label comes from—it sounds like the ideas is to assign God to everything Behe can’t explain rather than have other scientists work on it (?)

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 10:53am by Jackson Comment #65

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

Sure, it’s possible that features of earth-based life originated elsewhere, or even were created by some alien intelligence. However that only pushes the same problem back: the alien intelligence would itself have had to evolve by mechanisms of Darwinian selection. It had to start somewhere.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 11:01am by dougsmith Comment #66

I myself am open to the idea that features on life on earth could have orginated elsewhere in the galaxy and even have been created by an alien intelligence.  This idea is somewhere between the simpler idea that it all originated naturally (and we’ll eventually figure it out) and the self-contradictory idea that this alien intelligence is an omniscient, omnipresent God who cares deeply about humankind and reveals himself in a sporadic and inept way.

Sure, it’s possible that features of earth-based life originated elsewhere, or even were created by some alien intelligence. However that only pushes the same problem back: the alien intelligence would itself have had to evolve by mechanisms of Darwinian selection. It had to start somewhere.

I of course agree with you 100%—although for example the alien intelligence might be a non-DNA/non-RNA life form.  My point is not that this is at all likely but that it’s much more likely than the ominscient-omnipresent-God-Creator-of-the-universe idea—precisely for the reason you cite—the alien intelligence arose by natural causes.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 11:14am by Jackson Comment #67

No, I am still afriad you (all) do not understand Behe’s argument.  He is not coming from a standpoint of mystification and throwing out a default proconception to explain what he does not understand.  He is coming from a standpoint of knowledge and offering what he sees as the most plausible explanation of given observatios.  (From Dawkins’ NY Times review of “Edge,” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t undersatnd it either.)  Of course, your not understanding Behe’s argument does not make his argument true.  But it does mean that you should put a little more effort into digseting his ideas before you eschew them.  One should understand what one is rejecting.

This dialog has caused a question to occur to me, and I’m sure you have a good answer for it.  You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

(Applogies for any spelling errors.  I’m writing this on my Wii and it hasn’t got spell-check.)

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 12:39pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #68

No, I am still afriad you (all) do not understand Behe’s argument. 

This dialog has caused a question to occur to me, and I’m sure you have a good answer for it.  You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

I’m not sure who this is addressed to. I think based on the track record of scientific progress in the last several hundred years, the argument that “we are stuck and we will never figure out a natural cause for this observation of Michael Behe” seems extremely short-sighted.  NEVER is a such a long time, and by some objective metrics the rate of increase in knowledge is increasing.  I don’t think that I myself need to invoke “Darwin” as an explanation for something I don’t understand—rather I am confident based on existing data that many of the items on Behe’s list will be explained to the satisfaction of a consensus of scientists.

What we might do, objectively, is generate Behe’s list and then track the date of an explanation.  I’m not sure how we agree that there is a consensus that there is a satisfactory explanation (in some cases Behe will agree, which makes it easy). 

Here is an example WWW site debunking an example Behe assertion
that

  [In page 179 of Darwin’s Black Box Michael Behe claims:]

“There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems.”

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html

The Behe list has hemoglobin, flagellum, etc….

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 1:07pm by Jackson Comment #69

You alledge Behe simply sticks his designer in whatever gap exists in our understanding.  God in the gaps.  But how is that different from what Darwinists do?  You admit that there are many gaps in your own understanding, yet you are fully confident that Dawinian processes are responsible for the phenomena you observe.  When you see a problem you don’t understand, you say “Darwin did it” as a defalut answer.  How is that different from what you accuse Behe of?  Isn’t that just Darwin in the gaps?

This reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method. I think you would do well to read the Neil Tyson article I cited before, HERE. Back during late antiquity we didn’t even understand how the planets moved. Divine forces were proposed to explain the regularities in heavenly motion. Then when this was understood better, the “gaps” in our knowledge closed somewhat, and divine motivation was discarded. Around the turn of the 20th Century, biological life was not well understood, and there were all sorts of supernatural explanations of the distinction between living and nonliving things, particularly involving the notion of “élan vital” or vital fluids. Now that biochemistry is well understood, there is no need for supernatural distinctions to be made.

The scientific method has been enormously powerful in explaining phenomena which were previously either unexplained or explained incorrectly. The claim that any given “gap” in our knowledge can be filled by experiment and reasoning is a well-justified hypothesis, based on several centuries of advancement, both in our understanding and in the predictive adequacy of our theories.

One fundamental misunderstanding of the ID crowd is to assume that evolution by natural selection is somehow a different sort of scientific explanation than all the rest. It is not. The only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 1:27pm by dougsmith Comment #70

... I should add, just for the sake of clarity, that the hypothesis that “God did it” has as of yet not explained or predicted anything. This is why the “God of the gaps” is a nonfunctional explanation. It leads to no workable theory and no predictive power. It is not a scientifically adequate explanation of anything.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 1:51pm by dougsmith Comment #71

Indeed Doug.  “God did it” answers no questions at all.  It halts us from asking them.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 2:06pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #72

I did not question the scientific method.  I questioned the assumptions that Darwinian processes are responsible for all unexplained biological phenomena.  You see a novel feature and conclude a priori that “this evolved” even if haven’t the slightest idea how that might have happened or even how the feature works or what it does.  You even stated on this thread that you are confident that alien life–something of which no one has any knowledge or experience–must evolve by Darwinian processes.  What justifies this complete confidence that this particular theory will never fail to explain any and all phenomena, including phenomena which have no yet been encountered?

The only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism.

You are aware that Behe accepts universal common descent as well an ancient universe started by a Big Bang?  Behe is not a Biblical literalist, nor are all deniers of evolution.


How does “God did it” keep us from asking questions or exploring the Universe?  Does “Henry Ford did it” keep me from asking questions or learning about how a factory assembly line works?  Does “Frank Lloyd Wright did it” keep me from studying architecture?  Before 1859 there was no hypothesis other than “God did it” to explain the universe.  Are you saying that no science was done before 1859?

This is a bit of atheist rhetoric that has never made any sense to me.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 2:29pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #73

Mr. Tweedy can you edit that last post—the quotes are all jumbled. It was Doug that said “the only reason evolution is tendentiously misconstrued is because of blinkered Biblical literalism”

In a separate post, would you like to start a list of “key Behe challenges” we can work from.  I’d like to start with your list.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 3:37pm by Jackson Comment #74

I did not question the scientific method. ...  What justifies this complete confidence that this particular theory will never fail to explain any and all phenomena, including phenomena which have no yet been encountered?

The problem is that by asking this question you just are questioning the scientific method. I claim the same confidence that evolution would explain alien life that I would that laws of thermodynamics would hold in distant galaxies. The scientific method assumes that the laws which hold here hold everywhere. This, of course, is not totally provable, and it is defeasible: it is possible to come up with evidence that would prove otherwise, for example. But we have some evidence that the laws which hold in New Jersey also hold in Tokyo.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 4:03pm by dougsmith Comment #75

How does “God did it” keep us from asking questions or exploring the Universe?  Does “Henry Ford did it” keep me from asking questions or learning about how a factory assembly line works?  Does “Frank Lloyd Wright did it” keep me from studying architecture?  Before 1859 there was no hypothesis other than “God did it” to explain the universe.  Are you saying that no science was done before 1859?

The motto of the Royal Society (“nullius in verba”).  translates roughly as “don’t make anyone’s word for it”—that is, prove it to yourself.

Stephan J. Gould [(in discussion at Royal Society) ]

The point is that Science doesn’t rely on ‘authority’

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 4:24pm by Jackson Comment #76

An assembly line and a building require a designer. Evolution does not. That’s the beauty of the theory of evolution by natural selection. But what some of us see beautiful, to others can appear dangerous and fearful. The theory of evolution is not really the problem here, is it, Mr. Tweedy? Is it the fear of death? Do you fear the absence of a protector? Tame your demons, Mr. Tweedy! Go and buy a real biology book…

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 5:20pm by George Comment #77

Hmm…

I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant. 

Mr. Tweedy, if we ‘google’ the words “Mr. Tweedy” and “Behe” it seems like you’ve brought this topic up in other discussion groups.  So are you trying here to get a fresh perspective—is that the idea? 

http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1290.100

I think it was good for D.J. to interview Behe, although I think it tends to give him credibility, because D.J. doesn’t in general interview cranks.

This is the definitive review of the Edge of Evolution from the New Republic.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1271,The-Great-Mutator,Jerry-Coyne-The-New-Republic

Here on http://www.talkreason.org is a point-counterpoint on the review, with Behe’s defense:


http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Coyne.cfm

In this WWWsite Coyne specifically addresses some of the items on Behe’s ‘list of challenges’.  You will have to read it yourself to see if you think Behe accepts a single point of criticism.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 7:24pm by Jackson Comment #78

Hmm…

I suspect I will be decried as a “troll” for saying this, but I read “The Edge of Evolution” and thought it was brilliant. 

Mr. Tweedy, if we ‘google’ the words “Mr. Tweedy” and “Behe” it seems like you’ve brought this topic up in other discussion groups.  So are you trying here to get a fresh perspective—is that the idea? 

http://forum.escapeartists.info/index.php?topic=1290.100

I think it was good for D.J. to interview Behe, although I think it tends to give him credibility, because D.J. doesn’t in general interview cranks.

This is the definitive review of the Edge of Evolution from the New Republic.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,1271,The-Great-Mutator,Jerry-Coyne-The-New-Republic

Here on http://www.talkreason.org is a point-counterpoint on the review, with Behe’s defense:


http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Coyne.cfm

In this WWWsite Coyne specifically addresses some of the items on Behe’s ‘list of challenges’.  You will have to read it yourself to see if you think Behe accepts a single point of criticism.

Since for some reason you think it’s relevant, the Escape Pod member who goes by “Darwinist” informed me that this podcast had done an interview with Behe and thought I might be interested in listening.  He provided me with a link.  I am now a subscriber and have listened to several episodes.  They inspired many comments, a few of which I have posted (and not just on this thread).  Discussion of podcast episodes is, I believe, is the purpose of this forum?

If you consider it trollish to go to a public place where a subject that interests you is being discussed and discuss it, then I guess I fit the bill.  The standards for trolls are pretty lax, I guess.  If you now subscribe to Escape Pod (which you should; it’s a good show) and post comments in their forum, then you too will be a troll, by your own criteria.

I’ll check out those links you all have posted.


P.S. I dig the Royal Society’s slogan.  If I ever decide I need some tattoos, I’ll keep “nullius in verba” in mind for the left forearm.

Posted on Feb 02, 2008 at 9:58pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #79

If you now subscribe to Escape Pod (which you should; it’s a good show) and post comments in their forum, then you too will be a troll, by your own criteria.

I’ll check out those links you all have posted.

P.S. I dig the Royal Society’s slogan.  If I ever decide I need some tattoos, I’ll keep “nullius in verba” in mind for the left forearm.

I actually used to download the Escape Pod stories a lot, and contributed $$ as well (the equivalent of a subscription to Analog was what I thought was fair).  I thought it was great that they broadcast Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall to mark a milestone.
I had never looked into the related forums, however.

I was led to the Point of Inquiry podcast by browsing iTunes and the ‘big names and well-known authors’ on the list (like Dawkins).

I think the term you refer to is kind of an ad hominem label and not useful, for the reasons you’ve explained clearly.  I apologize.

I am interested in understanding the best examples Behe has for ‘holes’ in the Darwinian theory which have not been explained—particularly those for which there is a consensus that ‘yes there’s a problem here’.

Posted on Feb 03, 2008 at 6:37am by Jackson Comment #80

Apology accepted.

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.  I will also read through the links you (all) provided.  Maybe we’ll compare notes in a few weeks.  I can’t recomend any ID books for you to read because, asside from “Edge,” I haven’t read any.

You should realy go back to Escape Pod.  They’ve had some great stories in their post-centenial episodes.

Posted on Feb 03, 2008 at 11:32am by Mr. Tweedy Comment #81

Apology accepted.

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.  I will also read through the links you (all) provided.  Maybe we’ll compare notes in a few weeks.  I can’t recomend any ID books for you to read because, asside from “Edge,” I haven’t read any.

You should realy go back to Escape Pod.  They’ve had some great stories in their post-centenial episodes.

I purchased Darwins’ Black Box and enjoyed it. He is a good writer. I later found out that other experts did not agree with his statements and that certain things were incorrect (like there had been a lot of work done to explain how the rotating flaggelum can arise naturally). 

I would like to see an objective, patient discussion of the points Behe raises - do not know of any better links than what I’ve sent.  I also would like to see some independent partial support of some of Behe’s comments—like “yeah, that is a good question you are raising, we don’t have the answer yet”.  I think such discussions are out there.

I’ll check back at Escape Pod—thanks—

Posted on Feb 03, 2008 at 1:05pm by Jackson Comment #82

I’ve got “God Delusion” and “Blind Watchmaker” on hold at the library.

FYI: there are a number of other books that are quite good about the evolution/creationism debate. I haven’t read them, but HERE is a list of resources that includes books. HERE are a list of book reviews that includes Behe’s.

Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine used to be a creationist and an evangelical Christian. He also has a recent book about evolution, HERE. There are also plenty of other similar options.

Posted on Feb 03, 2008 at 1:33pm by dougsmith Comment #83

I did not question the scientific method. ...  What justifies this complete confidence that this particular theory will never fail to explain any and all phenomena, including phenomena which have no yet been encountered?

The problem is that by asking this question you just are questioning the scientific method. I claim the same confidence that evolution would explain alien life that I would that laws of thermodynamics would hold in distant galaxies. The scientific method assumes that the laws which hold here hold everywhere. This, of course, is not totally provable, and it is defeasible: it is possible to come up with evidence that would prove otherwise, for example. But we have some evidence that the laws which hold in New Jersey also hold in Tokyo.

Can you explain this to me?  You’ve said that evolution is not essentially different from any other scientific theory and here compare it to thermodynamics.  But it seems to me that this in not the case at all.

Thermodynamics (and all other scientific theories) provide laws which describe how nature behaves.  These laws can be tested and proven to work by making predictions based on them and then performing experiments to see if the predictions hold true.  For instance, Newton’s law of gravity predicts that a heavy body and light body will fall at the same rate.  Experimentation confirms the prediction.  Hence the law is validated.

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.  There is no component of evolutionary theory that describes how a population of organism will evolve if subjected to a given stimulus.  The theory does not make such statements as “organ A will evolve if population B is subjected to stimulus C.”  To the contrary, evolution is considered inherently unpredictable.

A scientist in New Jersey can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because thermodynamics has laws that hold universally.  A scientist cannot use evolution to predict what organism will be living in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because evolution lacks laws.

Evolution gives a retrospective explanation of what has happened.  This is not in the same class of science as physics or chemistry or even psychology, which are primarily concerned with developing frameworks to predict what will happen.  This seems to me to be a fundamental difference that isolates evolution from other scientific theories.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 9:56am by Mr. Tweedy Comment #84

What you have done here, Mr. Tweedy, is submit a classic straw man argument.

Thermodynamics (and all other scientific theories) provide laws which describe how nature behaves.

Which is precisely what the Theory of Evolution does.

These laws can be tested and proven to work by making predictions based on them and then performing experiments to see if the predictions hold true.

Check. Charles Darwin predicted, using biogeographical arguments, that our species originated in Africa. Fossils and genetics both confirmed this long after Darwin died.

There is no component of evolutionary theory that describes how a population of organism will evolve if subjected to a given stimulus.

Of course not. Evolution is the natural process of passing on random traits. Some of those traits enhance an organism’s ability to cope with its environment, some do not. Those organisms which gain an advantage tend to reproduce more and pass on their genes.

A scientist in New Jersey can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen in Tokyo or a distant galaxy because thermodynamics has laws that hold universally.

Please explain how anyone can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen on the other side of the world, much less the other side of the universe.

Evolution gives a retrospective explanation of what has happened.  This is not in the same class of science as physics or chemistry or even psychology, which are primarily concerned with developing frameworks to predict what will happen.  This seems to me to be a fundamental difference that isolates evolution from other scientific theories.

Actually, the biggest difference between the Theory of Evolution and other scientific theories (psychology is not science) is that Charles Darwin not only developed an elegant theory which explains why organisms evolve, he also proposed the mechanism that drives evolution (heritable variation with natural selection). Newton described the effects of gravity, but did not propose any mechanism for why gravity works. Like Newton, Einstein’s theories are merely descriptive, they do not include an explanation of the underlying mechanism behind gravity. In that way Darwin’s theory is even more complete than Einstein’s.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 11:00am by DarronS Comment #85

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.

I’m not sure where you are getting your information. I have to assume it’s from some very poorly informed people.

Evolution by natural selection is a law that explains the presence of adaptive characteristics. E.g., HERE:

Natural selection is the process by which favorable traits that are heritable become more common in successive generations of a population of reproducing organisms, and unfavorable traits that are heritable become less common.

As for predictions, check HERE, HERE, and HERE for two lists of examples and a recent artlcle.

Quoting the article:

... If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species’ DNA and the two animals’ population sizes.

“That’s a very specific prediction,” said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted. ...

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 11:27am by dougsmith Comment #86

—Accidental Duplication—

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 12:45pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #87

Evolution does not make predictions and offers no laws.

I’m not sure where you are getting your information. I have to assume it’s from some very poorly informed people.

Hmm…  I guess I must have badly misinterpreted your meaning here:

His point is that no matter what final state we get to, no matter what collection of biological features we have, each one will appear in retrospect to have been vanishingly unlikely. Or as SJ Gould would say, if you turned back the clock and re-ran the whole thing again, it’d be vanishingly unlikely to get precisely the biological features you see around you now.

As for the question of useful features ... again, what makes a feature useful is its particular environment, which includes its competition. A feature that might appear suboptimal in our environment (Down’s Syndrome, let’s say) might in fact be a “winning hand” in some other environment. Perhaps all the other humans are infertile, for example.

I took you to mean that it is impossible to predict what features will evolve, what features will be beneficial or what the evolutionary response will be to a given stimulus.  I guess you must have meant something else…

What you have done here, Mr. Tweedy, is submit a classic straw man argument.

If so, I assure you it is unintentional.  (I am, after all, one of the many victims of American public education.)

Charles Darwin predicted, using biogeographical arguments, that our species originated in Africa. Fossils and genetics both confirmed this long after Darwin died.

Well, that was more or less what I meant (be I right or wrong).  One cannot predict a past event.  One can predict that evidence of a past even will be found, but that is not the same thing as predicting the event itself.

The origin of humans is a past event.  Deducing what probably happened in the past and making predictions about what will happen in the future are not at all the same thing.  This is what I mean by evolution not having predictive power.  It makes claims in the same vein as archeology.  By studying ancient pottery, an archeologist may make deductions about what happened 10,000 years ago, but his findings will not amount to archeological laws that allow him to predict the outcomes of future events, as the laws of chemistry allow a chemist to accurately predict that salt will form when chlorine and sodium are combined.

Please explain how anyone can use thermodynamics to predict what will happen on the other side of the world, much less the other side of the universe.

If I heat an iron bar to 950 degrees, it will glow red.  Iron bars heated in Toyko will also glow read.  Iron bars heated heated to 950 in the dark of intergalactic space will also glow red.  Because this is a fixed property of iron, I can predict with confidence that all iron bars anywhere in the universe will behave in this way if subjected to this stimulus.

(psychology is not science)

That is a comfort.  I will continue to ignore the opinions of the APA with renewed confidence.

Like Newton, Einstein’s theories are merely descriptive, they do not include an explanation of the underlying mechanism behind gravity. In that way Darwin’s theory is even more complete than Einstein’s.

Einstein does not explain gravity?  Newton’s theory was merely descriptive, but I was under the impression that Einstein envisioned space as a sort of 4-dimension mesh which is distorted by the presence of mass.

——————-

Apologies to everyone if it seems like I’m just trying to be difficult.  If you see flaws in me, please chalk them up to honest ignorance and naivete, not belligerence or slyness.  I’m trying to be as open as I can here.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 12:50pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #88

I took you to mean that it is impossible to predict what features will evolve, what features will be beneficial or what the evolutionary response will be to a given stimulus.  I guess you must have meant something else…

Well, the evolution of novel features depends on two things. Firstly it depends on chance mutations. We can’t predict which chance mutations will happen.

Secondly it depends on how the phenotype produced by those new mutations interacts with the environment. That is, it depends on the “fitness” of the feature.  We can predict (in a general way) which sorts of features are more likely to be beneficial. For example, if larger sized seeds become difficult to get and smaller sized seeds more abundant, we can predict that birds will evolve smaller beaks to deal with them.

E.g., HERE.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 1:14pm by dougsmith Comment #89

I hate to be nit-picky, but that is not an example of evolution.  Bigger or smaller beaks are not novel features and they aren’t the result of mutation.  A bird with a large or small beak is not a mutant anymore than person with big or small feet is a mutant.  There are such variations within every population of organisms and the dominance of given variant will fluctuate with the changing of seasons.  If big seeds become more available, then average beak size will increase to match.  If small seeds become more available in a later year, then beak sizes will shrink back to their previous size or even shrink to a smaller size.  Etc.

This is predictable, yes, but it is not evolution.  This merely shows that the phenotypes of species are flexible.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 1:50pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #90

I hate to be nit-picky, but that is not an example of evolution.  Bigger or smaller beaks are not novel features and they aren’t the result of mutation.  A bird with a large or small beak is not a mutant anymore than person with big or small feet is a mutant.  There are such variations within every population of organisms and the dominance of given variant will fluctuate with the changing of seasons.  If big seeds become more available, then average beak size will increase to match.  If small seeds become more available in a later year, then beak sizes will shrink back to their previous size or even shrink to a smaller size.  Etc.

Um, yes, this is an example of evolution. It’s not a novel feature, but (assuming that the final beak-size isn’t among the normal variation of the finches before the change) is a result of mutation. At any rate, “evolution” happens even if the feature is not novel.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 2:02pm by dougsmith Comment #91

At any rate, “evolution” happens even if the feature is not novel.

Well, that is a salient point of divergence in our understandings of biology.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 2:16pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #92

Evolution is simply change by virtue of natural selection. E.g. HERE:

In biology, evolution is a change in the inherited traits of a population from one generation to the next.

You are probably thinking of speciation, which is a limiting case of evolution. To see more about speciation, you can look HERE for example, or HERE (they give examples of some observed speciation events), or HERE for an introduction to the species concept from UC Berkeley.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 3:10pm by dougsmith Comment #93

No, I’m not talking about speciation.  It’s a divergence.

I find that it is a dishonest equivocation by Darwinists to use the term “evolution” to describe both variations in the prominence of existing features in a group organisms (such as the case of the finch beaks you cited) and the generation of novel features in a group of organisms.  I can’t think of the Latin off hand, but it’s the logical fallacy where two distinct ideas are yolked together and then the truth of one is claimed as proof of the other.

No matter how large or small a finch beak becomes it remains a beak, with the function, structure and genetic blueprint of a beak.  It will not, by changing in size, become something other than a beak.  Variation in the prominence of a trait and the generation of a new trait are not the same thing and the two phenomena should be called by different terms, for the sake of technical accuracy if not for the sake of honesty.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 3:30pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #94

So Mr. Tweedy, are you ignoring the fossil records which show transitional forms? See Transitional Whales. There are many, many more.

Don’t forget this has happened over the course of several billion years.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 3:58pm by DarronS Comment #95

No matter how large or small a finch beak becomes it remains a beak, with the function, structure and genetic blueprint of a beak.

Does it? Do the new beaks of the finches have the same function? Not entirely. They don’t function to crack large nuts, for instance. The function has changed slightly. Do they have the same structure? Evidently not: they are smaller; indeed, they are too small to do certain tasks that the old beaks could do. Do they have the same genetic blueprint? Obviously not. There must have been some genetic difference to account for the morphological difference.

Do the feathers of a kiwi bird have the same function as those of its ancestors? No. They don’t aid flight. Do they have the same structure? Yes and no; in certain ways they are similar enough to be considered feathers, but they are not competent to enable flight. Do they have the same genetic blueprint? No.

The “technical inaccuracy” you are accusing the biologists of is simply ignorance.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 4:09pm by dougsmith Comment #96

So Mr. Tweedy, are you ignoring the fossil records which show transitional forms? See Transitional Whales. There are many, many more.

Don’t forget this has happened over the course of several billion years.

I don’t recall having commented on fossils.

 

Doug, as for ignorance: I don’t think so, but I can’t offer you any proof that you will not discount.

Reading “The Origin or Species” inspired me to my current view, that species are amazingly plastic.  Darwin’s pigeons, for instance: He noted exhaustively how breeding the common gray rock pigeon can produce a vast variety of phenotypes, yet all of the varieties are able to interbreed and will, in fact, revert to their to their original boring gray condition if they are interbred freely.  A wide latitude of variation is inherent in each species.  When we see species change, we are not seeing evolution, we are rather seeing the potentials latent in the genome of that species being expressed.  From a wolf we get 1000 kinds of dog, yet all are still canis familiaris.  A species is molded from clay, not stone.

But that’s just more ignorance, of course.  I haven’t read the right books yet.  Fear not, I will get to them in time!

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 4:31pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #97

Reading “The Origin or Species” inspired me to my current view, that species are amazingly plastic.  Darwin’s pigeons, for instance: He noted exhaustively how breeding the common gray rock pigeon can produce a vast variety of phenotypes, yet all of the varieties are able to interbreed and will, in fact, revert to their to their original boring gray condition if they are interbred freely.  A wide latitude of variation is inherent in each species.  When we see species change, we are not seeing evolution, we are rather seeing the potentials latent in the genome of that species being expressed.  From a wolf we get 1000 kinds of dog, yet all are still canis familiaris.  A species is molded from clay, not stone.

Yeah, that’s why I suggested the material on speciation. The reason that Darwin’s doves and domesticated dogs still can interbreed is that there hasn’t as yet been enough differentiation between the subspecies. But given enough time you will get dogs that are unable to interbreed, and the same with pigeons. As fotobits was saying, on an evolutionary scale we are talking about very large time spans.

All you need to do is to isolate the populations, keep them small, and let genetic drift take its course.

I would also avoid thinking of Darwin’s book as some sort of Bible of evolution. His was the first step, but modern evolutionary theory has come quite a long way since Origin of Species.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 4:52pm by dougsmith Comment #98

When we see species change, we are not seeing evolution, we are rather seeing the potentials latent in the genome of that species being expressed.  From a wolf we get 1000 kinds of dog, yet all are still canis familiaris. A species is molded from clay, not stone.

From that line of reasoning humans should be able to breed with other primates.

Mr. Tweedy, you’re taking a short-term view of evolution and then dismissing the long-term implications. That’s why I brought up the fossil record. You cannot grasp evolution without examining the fossil record. See Missing Link to Crocodile Found.

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian paleontologists said on Thursday they had found the fossil of a new species of prehistoric predator that represented a “missing link” to modern-day crocodiles.

The well-preserved fossil of Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi, a medium-sized lizard-like predator measuring about 5 1/2 feet (1.7 meters) from head to tail, dates back about 80 million years to the Late Cretaceous period.

“This is scientifically important because the specimen literally is the link between more primitive crocodiles that lived in the era of the dinosaurs 80-85 million years ago and modern species,” said paleontologist Ismar de Souza Carvalho of Rio de Janeiro Federal University.

Dogs have not had enough time to branch into separate species. Give them 80 million years without interbreeding and there’s no telling what they’ll become.

Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 5:12pm by DarronS Comment #99

No, from that line of reasoning humans should be able to diversify into a vast array of phenotypes, all of which could breed with each other, which is indeed the case. [quote author=“dougsmith” date=“1202359966”>I would also avoid thinking of Darwin’s book as some sort of Bible of evolution. His was the first step, but modern evolutionary theory has come quite a long way since Origin of Species.
Oh, of course.  I was just saying what inspired the idea.
Posted on Feb 06, 2008 at 9:26pm by Mr. Tweedy Comment #100

[quote author=“fotobits”]From that line of reasoning humans should be able to breed with other primates.

No, from that line of reasoning humans should be able to diversify into a vast array of phenotypes, all of which could breed with each other, which is indeed the case.

Unless, of course, you “diversify” too far where interbreeding will be either impossible or not so far as not to allow you interbreed but resulting in sterile offspring, like the mule.

Posted on Feb 07, 2008 at 7:03am by George Comment #101

Excellent example, George.

Posted on Feb 07, 2008 at 7:05am by DarronS Comment #102

.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:03am by jholt Comment #103

Any news on upcoming cases involving ID vs. Evolution (along the lines of the Dover case)?

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 10:48am by MountainHumanist Comment #104

I’m a little behind the times, but I just listened to the Behe interview and wondered what comments would have been posted here.

One thing that was interesting to me was his discussion of the “appearance of design.” It seems to me that he equated “appearance of design” with “must have been designed.” He uses the example of Mt. Rushmore that everyone would instantly recognize the work of an “intelligent designer” to make his case. My issue with this, however, is that there have always been and obviosly still are, many natural features that appear to have been “designed” and yet are not. Take the face on Mars for example, or the Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire, crystals, lightening hitting what appears to be a very specific spot, the northern lights, or any other natural “wonder.” At some point, human understanding of each of these examples was limited such that most believed the only plausible explanation was an “intelligent desiger” or some other supernatural explanation. History has not been kind to such beliefs and, for me, there’s no reason to expect that it will treat the current line of reasoning coming from the ID camp any different.

Posted on Apr 23, 2008 at 9:18pm by AntSlice Comment #105

I just got to the POI interview by Grothe with Behe and by a (probably not divinely designed :)  ) strange co-incidence, I’m listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast discussing Behe’s ideas now.

The irreducibly complexity argument has been refuted so many times and so thoroughly, that it is amazing that an educated person can still put it forward with a straight face.  Behe claims not to dispute the scientific evidence for the age of the earth, but still clings to this old IC chestnut as if he doesn’t understand large numbers and the great depths of time over which all the observed biological complexity has evolved.  I guess some people are really attached to their “mother” religion and will go through any mental acrobatics necessary to defend it.

Grothe rightly pointed out that Behe’s arguments are basically the old god of the gaps idea and have no credibility among the overwhelming majority of scientists who actually produce peer reviewed studies.

Posted on Jul 08, 2011 at 9:57pm by ullrich Comment #106