Creation Myths with Dr. Michael Behe on "The Edge of Evolution"

Dr. Behe came back on, this time to talk about his second book, “The Edge of Evolution”. I have so many thoughts about the evolutionary biology in this book. Give it a watch if you couldn’t join us live.

I really wanted to avoid covering the same stuff so many other people have covered with “Edge of Evolution”, and focus on the underlying evolutionary theory instead, and I think we mostly stuck to that direction. We covered a lot of ground, and…I think we clarified a few things, but like, I don’t have a better understanding of how Behe thinks we can identify design in biological systems. There’s a pattern, in my first conversation with him and this one of

→ Behe articulates quantifiable standard

→ I provide example that exceeds threshold

→ Behe explains why it doesn’t count, for, to me, seemingly arbitrary reasons

So I don’t know what to make of that. We start off nice and quantifiable, but end up squishy. Which is kind of the problem with his claims, right? They’re unfalsifiable in practice.

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CCC its Behe and Dan.

The last discussion was excellent. Looking forward to this one.

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He @dsterncardinale did a great job keeping the discussion moving.

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So, that was something. I added my thoughts to the OP.

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Hi Dan
I thought the discussion with Mike was very interesting and cooperative. I also enjoyed your recent discussion/teaching session on phylogenetic techniques with @stcordova.

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Interesting interview, @dsterncardinale . A few random thoughts:

It seems to me that Behe has given away the store, so to speak. He as much as said that the evolution of placentas in lizards, and of new photosynthetic organelles in animals, are not beyond the edge of evolution (and, I am assuming, Darwinian mechanisms). It isn’t hard to conclude that, based on examples such as these, all of the variety we seen in life is probably also not beyond the edge of evolution. Which seems to me to dispatch ID to the fringes of biology.

“Purposely Arranged Parts” is a euphemism for “it looks that way to me”. I have a hard time believing that the ID vanguard takes this sort of logic seriously.

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@colewd Thank you, both of these were very enjoyable, and, I think, productive conversations.

Yes. Poke and prod and the standard for “it was designed” is “Michael Behe says it was probably designed”. And that, more than anything else, is the problem.

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Nothing new there. Has has already admitted that there is nothing “beyond the edge of evolution” required for humans to have evolved from our common ancestor with chimps.

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Did you also watch his video on the waiting time problem, since you frequently bring that up here?

The distinction between empirical facts and subjective opinions doesn’t seem to exist in the world of ID. At times, Behe tries to create an objective framework, but the he fails to actually apply the framework to actual biology. In the end, it boils down to the subjective opinion of “it looks designed to me”.

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Yes. I thought Dan made an interesting point with recombination increasing the odds and extending evolutionary reach. A while back we had a discussion here that I consulted Mike on regarding recombination which resulted in the merging of exons in plants and the formation of a gated ion channel. @Art introduced this evidence.

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Has Behe also stated that human evolution includes beneficial mutations which don’t fall into his category of “mutations that break things” per Edge of Evolution?

I don’t. They love it.

I don’t know the specific answer to this question, but if I understand the argument correctly, if the answer is yes, and those mutations exceed the speed limit established in “Edge”, then they are the product of design.

This actually clarifies in my mind how Behe thinks about these things in a pretty significant way. Before, I thought, “well, if we could document an observed case of a trait with X characteristics evolving, then that would invalidate the standard for detecting design”, where X is “irreducible complexity” or exceeding the “Edge” speed limit or whatever.

But that’s not the case. What I now understand, based on yesterday’s conversation, is that if we observe any of those things evolving, that does not mean the standard for design is invalid. It just means those events that we directly witnessed are the result of design. What processes? What mechanism? Not Behe’s problem. It’s enough to be able to say “this is the product of design” and leave it at that.

The problems with this approach are, I think, glaringly obvious.

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I understood Behe’s responses to the examples of placenta evolution and acquisition of photosynthetic organelles by animal cells a bit differently. Going from memory, I seem to recall that Behe’s response to the latter example was “same, pre-existing genes…”, etc. Which would place this well within his self-proclaimed edge of evolution. I suspect that, when he was asking for the molecular details for placenta evolution in lizards, he was pushing something similar - not so much that this fascinating example requires new proteins, new complex (2 or more “CCCs”, irreducible complexity) features, but rather “merely” rewiring of existing proteins and networks. Importantly, implicit in this response is the idea that this rewiring would fall well within his edge of evolution.

In other words, I would argue that Behe’s attempts to re-direct towards the molecular strongly implies that, by his own admission and reasoning, essentially all of the variety (physiological, morphological, ecological, etc.) we see in the biosphere arose via processes (“Darwinian” for short, but including the gamut of so-called undirected mechanisms) that fall well within his proclaimed edge of evolution.

In the spirit of UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, I am inclined to view this as an own goal.

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The re wiring that may enable proteins that come from pre existing genes to function explains the enabling of the function but does not explain the origin of the genes.

As Mike also mentioned the observation of placental reptiles is a problem for common descent. Especially if the origin of the genes themselves are beyond the “edge”.

When did he say that?

Then it would be the genes presence that can’t be explained by common descent, which does not imply a problem with common descent, but raises a question about the origin of genes.

But there’s another problem with that style of argument. To say that the origin of new genes is beyond the “edge” requires you to know how frequently new genes can originate, and show without committing the Texas Sharpshooter (by treating a particular set of genes as a target, rather than just some contingent outcome among many possible) that some putative set of new genes is beyond this set. So, how does Mike propose to be able to do that?

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I came away with the impression that what he considers “beyond the edge” would be something like the complete Kreb’s cycle arising in the space of a single generation. Which, guess what, he’s right. That would be beyond the capability of any known evolutionary processes.

Now, if only he could show that such a thing necessarily happened.

Can you give me a specific example of what “Mike” believes actually happened that was “beyond the edge of evolution”? I gave one above: The Kreb’s cycle arising in a single generation. Is that what you think he has in mind? If not, what?

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