Inviting Behe and Axe into Dialogue

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(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

@Pnelson, that is what it means to be “virtually” ignored.

My concerns about Behe and Axe are more substantial than the wording of a phrase here or there. Having seen a preprint of his book, I’m very concerned about Behe’s unwillingness to engage with critics. I am doubly concerned about Axe’s unwillingness.

In the past, Axe has said he would rather engage with atheist scientist than me, mentioning @art specifically. For a while now, he has ignored Hunt’s invitation to discus: Art Hunt to Doug Axe: Invitation to Discuss. Or if he cares to engage with me, I am happy to do so too. Ignoring our good faith efforts to engage with him, however, he does not have a right to say we are biased against him. I have far more respect for you, @Agauger, @bjmiller, @kirk, @Winston_Ewert, @MStrauss, and @ericMH, who have all participated in critical conversations here. They were not always fun, but you earn immense credibility with us for actually engaging.

No comparable engagement is visible between Axe and Behe and their critics. We are inviting them here. Or we are happy to meet them elsewhere. However, it is not upfront to continue to complain about being ignored and rejected if they will not engage the scrutiny of other scientists.

I have very big concerns about this. I am considering at the moment the right thing for me to do with these concerns. Do you have any advice?

[NOTE: Both have selectively engaged at times with scientists in the past. The concern here is in the response to requests to engage and clarify over the last several years]


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(Paul A Nelson) #2

I wish I did, but there are feelings of mistrust or even betrayal on all sides. I have an “everyone thinks I’m crazy anyway, so I have nothing to lose” attitude ;-), but Mike and Doug are more protective of their time and reputations.

I communicate with Doug and Mike frequently, so I’ll make asking them about this a priority.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #3

This isn’t about feelings for me right now @pnelson. If Axe dislikes me, I could care less. He should engage with @art then. It is however, not honest, if he is going to complain publicly about bias in mainstream science, but studiously avoid engagement with scientists. He has pick which one, but he can’t have it both ways. Either he is a scientist engaging his critics, or he celebrity that plays a scientist in the media, and his ideas should be out on par with Bill Nye. He cannot have it both ways.

I do appreciate this. I was also disappointed that the important critiques of Behe’s IC were ignored in his new book, despite assurances he gave @colewd. I like Behe, and think he is a kind guy. However, it is egregious if he is using this book as a tool to avoid engaging with critique. I consider him a friend, but this has consequences in society, and these issue may end up being a bit part of my review of his book.


(Paul A Nelson) #4

I promise I will pass on your concerns to both Behe and Axe.

Must leave the discussion now (trying to get over the flu). Thanks again to all, including you, Mr. Horton.


(Guy Coe) #5

What if you, @swamidass and Mike Behe had an office hours discussion here, moderated by, who, @pnelson , maybe James Tour? I share the concern about going to a lay public before thoroughly engaging with all comers who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior --there’s too much at stake, and Bruce Waltke’s comments come rushing to mind. How about it?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

No need to preset terms. At this point, there is no signal of willingness from Axe and Behe. We should wait till there is and go from there.


(Guy Coe) #7

You can’t “fix” these kinds of problems without imaging some kind of proposed solution. What else would you suggest? Honestly not trying to stack any deck here; don’t know Dr. Tour’s views well enough to know whether it was a good suggestion. Concerned enough to act, anyone?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #8

Right now @pnelson is going to discuss with them. I’ve also signaled if they want a different format, I (and I am sure @art) can accommodate them. At the moment, I’m sure that any exchange online would need to be on a protected thread, with only specific people allowed to post. This, of course, can be provided for here, or elsewhere.

As far as moderating, I’m not sure what is needed except the assurance that none of their contributions will be censored or edited, and only designated people are allowed to directly engage on their thread. I suppose also that they may wish to negotiate the scope. Within reason, I am okay with that. Perhaps, they prefer a different format. I’ve seen few formats better than our forum for getting to the bottom of technical topics. If they have a better idea, I will consider it.

At this point, as it has been for a long time, the ball is in their court. I’m insisting that the studious avoidance of legitimate dialogue with scientists raises serious questions about their integrity. I am hope I am wrong. However, this is not an issue specific to me, and they need not engage with me. Here, we have several qualified scientists, such as, for example, @Art. We can request other scientists to participate too, if they feel there is a misunderstanding on our end about some fundamental detail of the biology.

What ever concerns they have they can be raised and worked out. Avoiding studiously engagement, however, is not a trustworthy strategy. They are welcome to prove me wrong by choosing to engage. I would welcome it gladly, and ensure they are treated with respect here.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #9

I’d also add we are happy to serve as hosts for a conversation with scientists of their choosing too. I can ensure all relevant conversations are tightly protected, and we can use defined timelines for the whole discussion too.


(Guy Coe) #10

Whom do you all highly respect, so as not to become the lightning rod in the discussion? I’d could only dream of being a fly on the wall observing such a discussion. Totally understand the caution when professional reputations are at stake. Just wanting to be helpful with suggestions!


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

I do not understand it. Scientists are usually rough and tumble, and never benefit from moderation. The issue with Behe and Axe is not their poor treatment by scientists, but their refusal to engage in the rough and tumble of normal scientific discourse.

In contrast, I want to commend @Agauger, in particular, for sticking it out several times, publicly admitting mistakes, and honestly making her case with us. I do not agree with her on everything, but this is at least a good faith effort to engage with scientists.

I do not see the same with Behe and Axe. Perhaps they did many years ago. At the moment, however, their books declare themselves as end runs around scientists, all while they are unwilling to entertain good-faith efforts to engage with them.


(Guy Coe) #12

I found her downright courageous, given the tone of comments she faced; but yes, mostly conceptual rather than detailed in her responses. Totally get your concern; let’s tilt at this windmill!


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #13

In the end, I disagree with @Agauger on several points she raised. To her credit, she also acknowledged mistakes and even apologized. She asked genuine questions too. Whether or not I am right on the remaining parts, or she is right, that is beside the point in the larger context. She was courageous, and I think in time there will be more agreement as she engages with @Mercer, @Art, and myself. Disagreements aside, this is respectable, even though it is bruising.


(Guy Coe) #14

Have you ever thought of asking for a meeting with Ahmanson, the money guy, who, as a good businessman, should know valid concerns when he sees them?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #15

That does not seem to be my place to go to him about this. You are a DI supporter. You can and should raise the issue with them directly.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) split this topic #16

3 posts were split to a new topic: Does Ahmanson Still Fund DI?


(Ann Gauger) #19

Oops. Not Freudian I hope. Joke. I have had my share of embarrassing, funny typos.


#20

Ahmanson died in 1968, It is a third generation foundation now with $1.2 Billion in assets. The money they give to DI is pocket change. They are a good foundation especially for the Southern California area. Why D. Swamidass would want a grant for Ahmanson is beyond me, unless it is for his research work at WUSTL which I am sure is not short on funding from the medical/pharmaceutical industries.


(Ann Gauger) #21

@swamidass

Here is the reason they do not engage in the “rough and tumble” debate you are looking for. It’s a no win situation. You are convinced they are wrong. They will not shift you. They know this. You keep saying you respect me, but the reasons you give are not encouraging–I acknowledged mistakes and apologized. And I asked genuine questions. Not that I argued well, or had valid points or made you see things a little differently. I suspect you think the change in agreement will be on my side.

Behe has faced bruising challenges already, and from some big names. To face the kind of abuse and rejection he has already received takes great moral courage and strength. To accuse them of making an end run around the scientific establishment is disingenuous. They have already faced the scientific establishment. The scientific establishment has refused to give them a hearing where the rough and tumble is supposed to take place–the peer reviewed literature.

What precisely is it you are hoping to achieve?


Behe and His Critics
(Timothy Horton) #22

They faced the scientific establishment, their ideas were rejected. Now we’re seeing the end run around the scientific establishment with the publication of popular press books appealing to the lay public.

Are Darwin’s Doubt and Edge of Evolution part of the peer reviewed literature? Is Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves part of the peer reviewed literature?