DI's response to Art Hunt

It took 12 years but finally DI has responsed to Dr. Art Hunt. @Art Persistence does pay off.


I won’t have time to read this fully and carefully for a few days or weeks, but some inconsistencies are apparent from a quick skim. Chief among them… their summary points #3 and #4 argue that this is a process of “devolution” (which is still a nonsensical term, no matter how often they use it), which is to say that it fits Behe’s first rule of adaptive evolution and is within the scheme of what unguided natural selection can do (according to Behe). Then, in point #1 (and to a less extent #4), they argue that all of this is too complex to have arisen de novo by unguided mutations.

So which is it? Too complex to have arisen by natural process? Or designed and provided by G-d in order to…harm the organism? @Art @swamidass


It is notable that this is not from Behe.

It is also notable that the argument matches nearly exactly Behe’s statement of incredulity.

Combined with the Polat Bear this seems nearly entirely demonstrate epistemic closure.

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Just read the author’s first point (Who is “Evolution News”?), which seems to be this:

Hunt claims that the evolution of T-urf13 required three of Behe’s CCC’s. According to Behe’s argument, this would have required 10^60 organisms in order for the trait to arise thru evolution, far greater than the actual number.

Hunt argues that this demonstrates that Behe’s calculations are incorrect.

“Evolution News” responds that, since Behe’s calculations were correct, T-urf13 could not have arisen thru evolution.

I don’t think I am making this up. That really seems to be the argument.

If that’s the case, is the rest of the article like this? If so, I really don’t want to waste any more brain cells reading further.


You are not making it up.

Epistemic closure.


I will (obviously) be posting much more later*, but I would say that, given that the author is “Evolution News”, I will hold all ENV contributors accountable for the article. That’s correct - Behe, @Agauger, @pnelson, @bjmiller, and the others, as far as I am concerned, are collectively responsible.

One piece of evidence that Behe did actually contribute.

    • by later, I mean after the obligatory period of drinking after the Elite 8 loss …

I really wish Nicholas White would come out with a statement saying “You know, that 10^20 number of mine you creationists are always using? It doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

I actually sent him an email several years ago asking him his opinion on Behe’s (ab)use of his research. His brief response was “Sounds nuts!”, which indicated to me he was not even aware of it. I haven’t felt bold enough to bother him further about the matter, seeing as how he’s busy enough saving the world from malaria.


@terrellclemmons I’m curious how an ID proponent would make theological sense of this.

There is a complex protein that arose de novo in corn. It is so complex that both ID and mainstream scientists agree that, by Behe’s math, it should be impossible by natural processes. They conclude design.

The strange thing about this protein though is that it’s two main functions are causing sterility and rendering the corn more susceptible to a virus.

From an evolutionary science point of view, this all makes sense to us. Behe’s math is wrong and it is fairly easy to evolve complex proteins through a near neutral process. This is what we expect.

Now, for the ID perspective, why in the world would God have designed and specially created this particular complex protein? Why would he choose to accomplish these two functions in such a complex way, rather than just breaking something? Why would He care about this particular strain of corn any way?

I know these are not scientific questions, but ID leads me here. How is a designer’s purpose a remotely plausible explanation of this? Isn’t this just ateleological design? Why infer design for something ateleological?


A piece to add, though, is that they spend A LOT of words, with a lot of references, and a lot of jargon to say all of that, which really looks like nonsense to me. It’s the classic squid ink approach. There is no “there” there.


In the article the DI give their alternative explanation: t-urf13 is a degraded version of a pre-exisiting and functional gated channel. I’m not quite sure why it hasn’t occurred to them that this pre-existing channel gene should be present in other strains of corn and easily homologised with t-urf13.


And Behe, despite his claim to understand this important problem better than those in the field, doesn’t…

That, to me, screams that Behe doesn’t believe what he’s trying to sell.

I didn’t even think to take that seriously for precisely the point you just raised. There is no evidence it is a degraded protein. It is literally the example that goes the opposite way Behe predicts. Lower organismal function, with higher Molecular complexity.

It had all the hallmarks of constructive neutral evolution.


This is the classic ID-Creationism response to serious technical challenges. Post an article with lots of smoke and hand-waving which doesn’t actually address the problems with their claims. The point is when the issue comes up on C/E discussion boards the IDC rank and file can then just link back to the smokescreen article and go “SEE! The problem was addressed!” :roll_eyes:


I cannot answer for Behe and his conclusion regarding the evidence. I don’t have the knowledge to adjudicate between the different interpretations regarding the corn protein you’re referring to.

What I can say, since you asked me about making theological sense of a phenomenon that different people interpret differently is this:

I think the, “Why would God do it that way …?” question might be an interesting one for people who believe in the Judeo-Christian concept of God and are actually curious about what they have observed. Where I’ve seen this kind of question expressed, though, it’s usually an argument against the existence of God. And to that, I would say it’s a non-sequiter. Just because something was done in a way that I wouldn’t have done it if I were God or that I don’t understand, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist.

Since I assume you’re not making an argument for the non-existence of God, I’ll just note again what I’ve said earlier. Everyone has the same evidence. Different people interpret the evidence differently.

I will also say this. Your question calls to my mind what someone said yesterday on another thread. That an implicit purpose of PS is to be anti-ID. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not about PS, but I thought I’d mention it.

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The PS purpose isn’t anti-ID per se, it’s anti all crappy unsupported pseudoscience. It just so happens ID as presented now falls squarely in that category.


It is more that I don’t understand the coherence of ID of questions like this are not allowed in science or theology. It just becomes an appeal to…I don’t know what, a special pleading?

If trying to understand ID makes me anti-ID, I’m in a very strange predicament. Right now ID makes no sense to me scientifically. Asking questions, including of leaders in the ID movement, only makes it less coherent.

What am I to do?


I don’t know. I feel the same disconnect but in other ways, but I think it’s good to ask questions in good faith. I would say this: ID will not make sense as a scientific enterprise if the boundaries of what counts as science and what counts as inferences are limited to MN. I understand MN as a limitation of the empirical sciences. The fact that ID theory leaves open the possibility of an inferred designer that is not itself explainable within MN is, I think what provokes the strong anti-science reaction from some.

Also, if MN requires that an inferred designer be itself explainable within MN, then I think that presents a stumbling block for some. That is another issue, probably an existential one.

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It seems to me that Behe et al. are careful in their claims about design, and, to me, seem to be suggesting that T-urf13 was the product of some sort of guidance, such as by the breeders. This is along the lines of @Agauger’s and Behe’s claims that the mere act of plating an E. coli mutant on minimal media in some way guides or causes specific amino acid changes in the desired target enzyme.

So, maybe the question @swamidass is asking of @terrellclemmons is premature? Just thinking out loud here.


I think these kinds of questions fall on deaf ears in the ID camp. It would be like asking “why did God allow my loved one to die in this accident that could have been avoided”. Why not someone else? Why in this way rather than another? It is simply God’s will in their mind and cannot be known. God has a plan and this is part of it.

For ID supporters, God doesn’t need to act consistently and any inconsistencies we see can be chalked up to our limited knowledge and perspective.

This is not a strong or intellectually satisfying position but it is not completely illogical. The ID-bias prevents them from seeing its weaknesses/inconsistencies.

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So I agree with this too.

One reason that science does not make inferences to God is because of MN, so it cannot. There are two responses:

  1. Rage against MN.
  2. Make it clear that MN delimits science’s limits.

#1 does not work so well, but #2 is under-appreciate, important, and even endorsed by scientists. Atheists here (@patrick) are very clear also that science is “silent on God.” I think this is the direction to go. It is a “third way.” We can still do science-engaged philosophy and theology. In fact, limiting science this way dignifies philosophy and theology.

This is my approach.