Dembski Responds to Rosenhouse

Dembski has laid himself wide open to being quote-mined:

On the one hand, it can mean that design theorists have developed rigorous mathematical ideas that both advance intelligent design and solidly refute neo-Darwinism. On the other hand, it can mean that design theorists have developed a mathematical song and dance that convinces the naive and gullible, but that falls apart upon informed scrutiny.

Perhaps he knows that his detractors are more honest than his companions.


Also, despite being a mathematician, Dembski doesn’t know what a “geometric progression” is.


Turnaround is fair play.

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Over at Panda’s Thumb Matt Young has posted his review of Rosenhouse’s book. I think it is fair to say that he offers a more balanced opinion.

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Rosenhouse denies that adaptations ever require multiple coordinated mutational steps: “[E]volution will not move a population from point A to point B if multiple, simultaneous mutations are required. No one disagrees with this, but in practice there is no way of showing that multiple, simultaneous mutations are actually required.” (pp. 159–160)

So Rosenhouse agrees with Behe’s edge of evolution! If only it can be shown that multiple, simultaneous mutations are required, which I believe Behe shows, in regard to new protein-protein interactions.

“Although finding the right neutral changes would itself be an improbable step, we’ll again err on the conservative side and discount the average number of neutral mutations from the average number of total necessary changes. That leaves three or four amino acid changes that might cause trouble if they occur singly. For the Darwinian step in question, they must occur together. Three or four simultaneous amino acid mutations is like skipping two or three steps on an evolutionary staircase.” (The Edge of Evolution, p. 134)

Or the bacterial flagellum!

Everyone agrees that there is an edge of evolution, what they disagree with is that any known attribute of a living organism is beyond that edge.

But he doesn’t show this. He assumes it in order to argue protein-protein interactions are beyond the edge. He says to evolve a new protein-protein interaction would require multiple simultaneous mutations, and without this intermediates are deleterious. But that’s all he does, SAY it. He doesn’t SHOW that this is true. All evidence we have show that it ISN’T true.

So yes, if we join Behe in making a demonstrably false assumption about biochemistry then with this false assumption evolution couldn’t produce X. It’s just that the assumption is demonstrably false.

The End.

I remind you that the flagellum already exists and that in the thread on T-URF13 evolution you said this:

And yet here you are pointing to the flagellum after the fact. Ironic.


But the point was that Rosenhouse agrees with Behe’s edge.

“We can adapt the lessons of the immune system and shape space to help understand the problems random mutation would face in making new protein-protein binding sites in the cell.” (The Edge of Evolution, pp. 130-131)

So Behe does not just assume this, he makes an argument based primarily on considerations of protein shape space.

No, I view the development of the flagellum before the fact, which is the only real probability of interest.

We all agree with Behe’s edge, we just don’t think any known adaptation lies beyond it.

He literally just assumes it right there. Thanks for showing where Behe merely states his assumption. Notice how there is no argument there. There is no premise stated from which the conclusion follows. It’s just vaguely handwaving in the direction of “lessons from the immune system and shape space.”

I can state things with just as much confidence as Behe yet which imply the diametrically opposite.
You ready? Hold on to your hats!:
“We can adapt the lessons of the immune system and shape space to help understand how random mutation and natural selection aid evolution in making new protein-protein binding sites in the cell.” - Me, right here.

Which you yourself have provided the reason why is meaningless, because after the fact the probability is 1. So coming up with an imaginary calculation from the perspective of the past, for the probability of a history that actually might be what occurred to give rise to the present, after the fact it occurred, can’t show you that history didn’t occur.


Evolution is not teleological. A royal flush is not remarkable due to the odds of drawing it, which is the same as any other draw, but because of the significant we assign to it. There could be a trillion planets, each one with a unique ecology, with inhabitants that view the probability of their evolving as one in a trillion. Or there could be just one planet with sentient life, which views the probability of their evolving as one in a trillion. Either way, the path to their particular existence, before or after the fact, is not statistically indicative of a favored or foreordained outcome.


I’ve been waiting for you for, it must be weeks if not month, for you to spell out the evidence and argument by which you believe Behe has shown this. When can we expect that?



No, he goes on to discuss shape space, and how a new binding site would be on the order of difficulty of developing chloroquine resistance.

Assuming the flagellum evolved, which is just the point at issue.

Well, the significance here is that we have flagella! So we can compute its probability of evolving, and if that is miniscule, look for other causes.

It’s a rather extended argument, I can’t produce it in a sound-bite. It has to do with considerations of protein shape space:

“The general results from Winter’s lab have been consistently confirmed: In order to get a particular protein to bind to any other one with modest strength, on average you have to wade through about ten to a hundred million binding sites.” (p. 132)

“Consider a hypothetical case where it would give an organism some advantage if a particular two of its proteins, which had been working separately, bound specifically to each other. Perhaps the two-protein complex would be able to perform some new task, or do an old task much better. The lesson from shape space is that, in order for the one to bind the other, we should expect to have to search through tens of millions of different mutant sequences before luckily happening upon one that would specifically stick with even modest strength,” (p. 133)

“Let’s make a rough calculation for the average number of organisms we would have to slog through to find a new protein-protein binding site. As I said, shape space tells us that about one in ten to a hundred million coherent protein-binding sites must be sifted before finding one that binds specifically and firmly to a given target. The simplest way to alter a protein is by point mutation, where one amino acid is substituted for another at a position in a protein. There are twenty different kinds of amino acids found in proteins. That means that if just five or six positions changed to the right residues—the ones that would allow the two proteins to bind—that would be an event of approximately the right frequency, since twenty multiplied by itself five or six times (20^5 or 20^6) is about three million or sixty million, respectively—relatively close to the ten to a hundred million different sites we need.” (pp. 133-134)

“So one way to get a new binding site would be to change just five or six amino acids in a coherent patch in the right way. [12] This very rough estimation fits nicely with studies that have been done on protein structure. [13]” (p. 134)

That’s viewing it after-the-fact, not before-the-fact.

To paraphrase some-one:

Well, the probability (before the fact) that something won’t go extinct is pretty high, and the probability that something that doesn’t go extinct will evolve new features is 1. Now you are remarking that some feature evolved, which is highly probable. We have to distinguish it from the probability that a specific feature evolved, these are two different events, with different probabilities.

This should be a lightbulb moment.


Chloroquine resistance evolved in a matter of decades and did not involve or require any deleterious mutations, so I don’t see how more is a problem for the 4 billion year evolutionary history and diversity of life.

Yes but if it did then doing such an imaginary “from the perspective of the past” calculation would cause you to misleadingly reject a history that actually happened just because the probability outcome that actually happened, from the perspective of the past, looks very miniscule. That’s the whole point here: That doing such attempted calculations can’t tell you what actually happened.


You were asked for evidence. You didn’t produce any. What Behe says about the evidence isn’t evidence, it’s hearsay.

What does the Bible say about using hearsay for judgment?


That does not show that multiple simultaneous mutations are required. Perhaps you did not understand the question?


Then Behe is wrong. In a group of a few billion B-cells there are many, many new protein-protein binding sites in the randomly produced antibodies within each B-cell lineage.


Yes, that’s a valid perspective, the problem arises when we mix them up.

Well, I don’t think that the probability that something that doesn’t go extinct will evolve new features is 1, for starters.