Lenski’s Long Term Evolutionary Experiment | The Skeptical Zone

Lenski’s work invalidates Behe’s IC claims. The consensus is right this time.


I believe you are right and Giltil was being unnecessarily modest on Behe’s behalf.
I am not sure what evolutionary biology is exactly but I believe Behe is saying, as Giltil pointed out that because

You may well opine, ‘what business has a layman contradicting a smart person’, but I begin with Behe’s comparison that “a mechanical engineer can’t contradict a physicist on fundamental principles of life.”
Will you at least agree with that statement, that, “a mechanical engineer can’t contradict a physicist on fundamental principles of life.” Or to be more precise, change the word physicist to physics. “a mechanical engineer can’t contradict the physics of the fundamental principles of life.”

I think someone here, I can’t remember who, suggested that in spite of Feynman’s warning that we not fool ourselves and we being the easist to fool, scientists ensure themselves that they don’t fool themselves.
Found it. Here,

What is one to do with a statement like that. It is so hubris-filled, so against the evidence and self-refuting. Behe, apparently a scientist is being accused of fooling himself.
One of the last things Feynman did was to sit in ‘judgment’ on the decisions of one of, if not the premiere science organisations in the world - NASA.
One can read that here, https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt
A couple of particularly relevant lines,
“Nevertheless, officials
fooled themselves into thinking they had such understanding and
confidence, in spite of the peculiar variations from case to case.”
“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over
public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
How is that not a rousing example of
“a mechanical engineer can’t contradict the physics of the fundamental principles of life.”
It cost 7 astronauts their lives. And, believe it or not some of those decision makers are still in denial - even those with PhD’s.

Exactly. But did any of them demonstrate that they were right without testing a single hypothesis? When do you predict that Behe will get around to testing any of his?


That makes absolutely no sense, Sam.

Why does Behe refuse to test his own hypotheses? Which one of us is more filled with hubris?

Behe QUIT doing science in 1995.

Why are you trying to falsely portray those of us who do science as the critics, when the converse is true?

Correct. Like Behe, they refused to test their hypotheses.

Indeed. This is why Behe only engages in public relations rhetoric, not science. This is why you pretend that Behe is not a mere armchair critic of those who do science in reality.

Which ones in particular, Sam? I am skeptical since you did not name any names.

You and Behe are the ones in denial here. You won’t learn evolutionary biology, so you have no way to see how Behe is attacking nothing but straw men.


Even if we assume that is true, which would you rather drive over: A bridge designed by a mechanical engineer who has experience designing bridges, or one designed by a theoretical physicist with no such experience?


This is a big problem for you. Much of what follows also seems incoherent. I don’t see how either mechanical engineers or physicists have much to say about “fundamental principles of life”, though that would depend on what you think are fundamental principles. The question is whether biochemists have much to say about evolutionary biology. You are not equipped to know, of course. But I am.

Feynman didn’t solve the shuttle mystery because he was a physicist. He solved it because he could reason and because he had the wit to try a simple experiment. Why none of the engineers who had worked on the shuttle figured it out is another mystery. At any rate, that story has no application to the current case. He doesn’t understand evolutionary biology; evolutionary biologists do. That’s all.


Its either you don’t know that is how science works or you are just trying to be funny. What is arrogant about testing a hypothesis?

If Behe actually bothered to test his claims, he would have found them self-refuting as Lenski’s and his bacterial minions showed.


These giants of science proved themselves right by introducing strong experimental evidence that (1) falsified the governing consensus and (2) confirmed the predictions of the new theory.

As far as I can tell, Behe has not even published any experiments in almost 3 decades. More importantly, all of his formulations of “irreducible complexity” have been strongly refuted by experimental evidence.

Do you not perceive this difference between Behe on the one hand and Pasteur, Galileo, etc. on the other, @Giltil?

The number of scientists who have used Behe’s approach to overturn a consensus is exactly zero. If Behe wants to overturn a consensus, he’s going to have to come up with a new strategy. And he will need to start by formulating a theory of ID that makes predictions that can be falsified by evidence, which he has never to my knowledge done. So far, he has only managed (1) to ignore important aspects of evolutionary theory such as constructive neutral evolution, and (2) to resort to “God of the gaps” argumentation.

I do not understand how anyone can attempt to defend Behe’s approach on a forum that includes science in its name and mission.



It is not that biochemistry is above evolutionary biology. Rather, it is that biochemistry is more fundamental than evolutionary biology in the sense that the later must build on underlying basic principles/laws of the former, in the sense also that medecine must built on underlying physiological principles, physiology on cell biology, cell biology on biochemistry, biochemistry on chemistry and chemistry on physics.

I am pretty sure the majority of molecular biologists, geneticists, MDs, and other scientists here have studied university level biochemistry.

I have as well.

Somehow we don’t think evolution is impossible despite having studied biochemistry.

Now, which creationists here who deny evolution have studied biochemistry at university?


Which is irrelevant in the context you presented Behe’s misrepresentations, because Orr, at whom he was aiming, does genetics, which is indisputably more fundamental to evolution than is biochemistry.

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Even if so, we are still left with the complete absence of anything that has been demonstrated in biochemistry that would make contradict the theory of evolution.

As usual, ID Creationists like to get into these abstract philosophical polemicss rather than simply coming up with some testable models or hypotheses, and then testing them.

No mystery as to why that is, of course…


I understand the point, and that is not what was said.

That is not more precise. That is imprecise restatement which does not mean the same thing at all.

Nature is coherent. Nature is self consistent. Nothing I wrote suggests otherwise.

But that is emphatically NOT what Behe claimed. Rather:

A mechanical engineer can’t contradict a physicist on fundamental principles of life.

Behe does not say “A mechanical engineer can’t contradict physics. If that was what was meant, it is a simple concept, and a simple sentence to write.

Since inherited changes are caused by molecular changes, it is biochemists—not evolutionary biologists—who will ultimately decide whether Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection can explain life.

Behe does not say “it is biochemistry—not evolutionary biologists—which will ultimately decide”. If that is what was meant, it is also a simple sentence to write.

Do not construe my reply as insinuating that evolutionary biology can somehow detach from physical reality. But one cannot conflate physics with physicists, and especially with individual physicists.
My claim is that it is the merit of the argument and not the discipline of who makes the case which is compelling. I would join with the consensus of physicist, evolutionary biologists, and biochemists in concluding that Behe is wrong.


I slightly disagree here. Biochemistry is indisputably more fundamental to evolutionary processes than is genetics. However, genetics is indisputably more fundamental to understanding evolutionary change than is biochemistry. Don’t you agree?

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My reading of Behe on this matter is that he is saying, in so many words, that the biochemist will inform about evolutionary mechanisms, and, in Behe’s mind, constrain what we may think is possible when it comes to evolution. In this sense, I suspect Behe does indeed believe that biochemistry is above evolutionary biology, and that biochemistry will be the demise of evolution (unguided, of course).

However, what we have seen play out here on PS, in the research literature, and elsewhere is that evolutionary biology is what informs biochemistry, not the other way around. Specifically, Behe’s single-minded focus and blinders leads him to believe that protein function is highly constrained, impossibly so in an evolutionary context. Evolutionary biology, with a big assist from modern DNA science, that tells us that the opposite is in fact the truth of the matter. In other words, evolutionary biology informs the biochemist, telling us that their perceptions are not correct.


All this about who’s more qualified to comment and who’s field supersedes who’s is a distraction. Behe states a very specific hypothesis. It fails. Fin. Doesn’t matter if he’s Albert freaking Einstein. The hypothesis that systems that meet his definition of “irreducible complexity” can’t evolve is trash.


Gotta get my two-bits in!


Sort of, but as Art notes below, evolutionary biology informs biochemistry too.

And evolutionary biology is an incredibly interdisciplinary scinence. Almost every evolutionary biologist is also an organismal biologist, or a molecular biologist, or a bioinformatician, or a biochemist, or a developmental biologist, or a paleontologist, or a statistician, or an applied mathematician (etc., etc., ad nauseam).


It is, but IMO is easier for laypeople to see Behe’s misrepresentations in that context.

Actually, he never forthrightly states his hypothesis, which is that a biological structure that meets (any of the multiple) definitions of irreducibly complex cannot evolve.

Clearly stating it as a scientific hypothesis would make his failure to test it far more obvious to the laypeople he’s trying to convince.

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