Does Summers et al Validate Behe?

@swamidass Hello, Dr. Swamidass , I am a new here, it is already a few days that I am following the discussion on Behe’s new bookDarwin Devolves. In the review, it is stated that «Indeed, a 2014 study, unmentioned by, reported discovery of two genetic paths through which malaria has evolved chloroquine resistance through multiple steps (6)». However, ENV responded that the paper by Summers et al, «did not find that chloroquine resistance can evolve in a “stepwise” manner, where each successive mutation confers a greater advantage. When the paper states that “ the minimum requirement ” for chloroquine resistance is “two mutations,” that means that multiple mutations must exist together before the trait can arise. Ironically, the citation provided by Lents et al. in their review of Darwin Devolves supports Behe’s position, not theirs. Why didn’t the reviewers disclose that Summers et al. vindicated Behe’s prediction that multiple mutations must be present before chloroquine resistance will appear?»․․․ what would be your response to this?

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Nice to meet you @Edgar_Tamarian! Glad you could join us. @NLENTS is here with me, but Lenski is not. THere are other scientists too that can help answer these questions (@T_aquaticus, @Art, @cwhenderson, and more).

This in response to this article by ENV: Science Review Offers False Accusations about Chloroquine Resistance.

@Edgar_Tamarian, now to answer your question.

The Story on the Review

My response is two fold.:

  1. The article is about his book. His book does not explain these controversies even though it relies on his argument in Edge of Evolution and Darwin’s Black Box to be correct.

  2. We do not agree that Summer validates him. In fact, we think quite the opposite, agreeing with Larry Moran:

The recent paper by Summers et al. (2014) shows that seven of the chloroquine resistant strains that have been observed have at least four mutations and some of them are relatively neutral. This refutes and discredits the scenario that Michael Behe put forth in his book.
Sandwalk: Understanding Michael Behe

Yes, I know that Behe responded (unconvincingly) to Moran. In his book, he should have at minimum acknowledged that several scientists have engaged with his argument and found it lacking for several reasons. Yes Behe disagrees with them, but in his book Behe has to acknowledge that his claims are totally disputed; he can’t just assert that he has made his case. His Devolution case depends on him being right here, so it is a consequential error to have left out an explanation of this problem with his case.

Remember, our review was of the book Darwin Devolves, not of Behe himself. His book leaves all this out, ignores the legitimate critique of his peers, and does not eve acknowledge why we are not convinced. With that in mind, our review is entirely solid on this point. It is unfortunate that ENV did not accept our request to clarify any questions they had. This would have given them opportunity to avoid such a misdirected response.

The Story On Malaria

As for the specific problems with this study in supporting Behe’s argument, I direct you to two places. First to Larry Moran’s dialogue with Behe, in which his explanation of the science is quite solid: Prof. Behe's debate with Prof. Moran. I also direct you to @Art hunts article on this Behe and the limits of evolution | The RNA Underworld. You will see that Larry comes to a different conclusion, rightly so. @art’s article merits some explanation.

Note that Malaria probably requires many more than just two mutations to become resistant. Behe badly misreads the epidemiological data on this. For his argument to work, clinical resistance to malaria must require two and only two mutations. Here is how @art summarizes it:

’ll close this essay by noting one source of error on Behe’s part. As I have discussed, Behe asserts that the probability associated with a “CCC” is 1 in 10^20. Where does this number come from? From footnote 16 in the first excerpt given above – White, N. J. 2004. Antimalarial drug resistance. J. Clin. Invest. 113:1084-92. Here is the actual passage from the review by White that mentions the number 10^20:

“Chloroquine resistance in P. falciparum may be multigenic and is initially conferred by mutations in a gene encoding a transporter (PfCRT) (13). In the presence of PfCRT mutations, mutations in a second transporter (PfMDR1) modulate the level of resistance in vitro, but the role of PfMDR1 mutations in determining the therapeutic response following chloroquine treatment remains unclear (13). At least one other as-yet unidentified gene is thought to be involved. Resistance to chloroquine in P. falciparum has arisen spontaneously less than ten times in the past fifty years (14). This suggests that the per-parasite probability of developing resistance de novo is on the order of 1 in 10^20 parasite multiplications. “

Recall that Behe equated one CCC with a double mutation, presumably based on other work showing that two point mutations in the PfCRT gene are associated with durable resistance in the parasite. But White is not talking about double mutations in PfCRT when he tosses out the number 10^20. Rather, he is speculating about the frequency of occurrence of a multigenic trait that involves two or three genes, and more (perhaps many more) than two mutations. In other words, Behe’s use of this citation to argue that the natural frequency of occurrence of a double mutation in PfCRT is 10^20 is inappropriate. This is one reason (not the only reason, but one) why Behe’s claims are so out of touch with reality.

Behe often comes back to this misreading to demonstrate that unguided mutations can’t do much. From the ENV article, see what was written:

Behe is just making the reasonable observation that “none of the mechanisms of EES [Extended Evolutionary Synthesis] proponents were anywhere to be seen” in helping this feature to evolve, because “a couple of classical random point mutations in the gene for a single protein plus run-of-the-mill Darwinian natural selection” were sufficient.

That is a reference to this misreading. He think that CCC is just two mutations, but it is actually many more than this. So it turns out that evolutionary processes (which include more than Darwinian natural selection and the EES) can actually accomplish quite a bit more than he thinks. Not just 2 mutations, but many many more.

I could go on, but that is beside the point.

@Nlents and @Art would you add anything?

Nol. You have summarized things nicely.

No. I’m too tired at the moment lol

Dr. Swamidass, Thank you for your longer response

but in the review, the emphasis on Behe himself, not Darwin Devolves «a 2014 study, unmentioned by Behe…Behe does not fully engage with it»,

You just now accepted that Behe had fully engaged with those who ever challenged him, but the review was about the book, let’s remember again not Behe Himself, from the review any reader gets informed that not only the book [ Darwin Devolves] but also Behe himself does not fully engage with his critics. Now the difference in emphasis is clear

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No, that is not true. The review is EXCLUSIVELY. ABOUT. THE. BOOK. Why would you think any different? It is a review of Darwin Devolves.

No, I do NOT accept that he has fully engaged with others. He has inadequately responded to them. He has made many responses, yes, but these responses have not been successful. He has also been studious in avoiding mention of some of his strongest critics. He has refused to engage some of the strongest refutations of his books.

Would you like to know about criticism he has not engaged??

I echo that. He’s very selective in both the topics and the people he will engage with.

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why not think the otherwise, that Behe had fully engaged with several scientists and found them unconvincing. Yes, they disagree with Behe, but all claims made by those scientists were disputed by Behe himself. What I am trying to say that it is just a difference in words order, but the difference in words order predicts your disposition who is right in the first place. Who is right is not depends whether or not Prof. Moran agrees or disagrees, but primarily depends on observational data, experimental results, but here comes interpretation of the data, what makes interpretation right? someone’s philosophical predisposition?

i am glad to see criticism that has not been answered by Behe yet

That is true too. He could have said that, no problem. Instead, Behe, just left the controversy out entirely, and claimed to have put it all away. That is not acceptable standards for a scientist writing for the public. He needed to at least acknowledge the controversy, and explain it. This is even more problematic because he RELIES on these arguments going forward in his book.

Also, the review is our assessment. In our assessment, he did not mention in the book (objective fact) all the ways people have refuted (he might say challenged) his arguments. In my view, his appendix on the coagulation pathway is disturbingly misleading. He does not engage legitimate critiques, and claims that IC has no standing challenges. This is just false. He can dispute it, but he has to actually mention critiques to dispute them.

He could have been upfront about the controversy without conceding that he agreed. That would have been more plausible of an approach. Instead, he just ignored that there are several refutations out there, some of which he has (inadequately) responded to, and many that he has not.

Two key ones he has not responded to yet are:

  1. @Art’s work. We reached out to Behe asking him to respond several times. This has been on the web for about a decade, so we weren’t springing this on him from no where. Behe and the limits of evolution | The RNA Underworld

  2. Perhaps the most important critique of his work is Draper 2002, which convinced Alvin Plantinga that Irreducible Complexity was a flawed argument. No response from Behe; he just ignores it. You get a summary here: ex-apologist: Behe's Darwin's Black Box: Paul Draper's Critique. Some of the same concepts are included here: Which Irreducible Complexity?

I hesitate to add this in, because I am not 100% sure has not responded to this one yet. It is possible I am incorrect here, but I have looked around for it. It is notable, for example, that this is among the strongest references we gave (and the first one), but remains unmentioned by Behe at this time.

  1. As far as I know, he has not responded to this article, which was published alongside the article Darwin Devolves was based upon:

His brief and unofficial response to the T-urf13 example by @art was a fairly stunning dismissal. I won’t repeat it here, because it was secondhand through one of his supporters. These are three examples of critiques to which he has studiously avoided response and engagement. We have been asking at PS several times to clarify himself, and he has refused.

Now, if you can take this list back to ENV and ask Behe to engage, we would be very grateful to you. It is unfortunate it has gotten to this point. We tried several times in several ways to engage with him, and he refused. I was hopeful he would deal with these questions head on in Darwin Devolves, but he did not.

I’ve never seen any ID person respond to any of Maarten’s work. Which is unfortunate because it’s so good

@Edgar_Tamarian, I want to clarify one more point. I am a Christian that believes Jesus rose from the dead, and that God acts in this world. I have no problem with the idea that God might have guided evolution. It does not appear, however, that his guidance is detectable (Would God's Guidance Be DNA-Detectable?).

I am not ideologically biased against Behe. In fact, I agree with Behe on most things. Sometimes, however, it is important to avoid poor arguments in service of correct conclusions. This is one of those times.

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At the very least, Casey Luskin responded once:

The DI was a little more fun when Luskin was around