Mike Behe & Joshua Swamidass on Unbelievable: The Kitzmiller-Dover trial and Intelligent Design 15

While Behe kept implying that his motives were purely scientific (and Josh agreed with him), it is interesting that he asked Josh whether Josh had a detailed explanation for the origin of (something – the flagellum?). Meanwhile Behe has his own arguments, which did not include a detailed explanation of the origin of, well, anything! The ID types keep saying that ID is a theory competing with “Darwinism”, when they present no such theory, but rather a collection of arguments about how “Darwinism” can’t account for the diversity of life. It’s just like saying “Here’s my theory: it’s that for reason X, Y, and Z your theory is no good!”

9 Likes

I wish a large majority of ID supporters really understood this problem for ID claims. This is why it is not science.

3 Likes

It’s not even as though the ACLU had a large part in the proceedings – they mostly got everybody else talking to each other at the start of the suit.

Pepper Hamilton provided (and funded through its pro bono budget) most of the legal heavy lifting.

The NCSE provided most of the scientific heavy lifting.

But I suppose the ACLU makes a better bogeyman or bugbear for the Religious Right.

5 Likes

I would note that “Origin of Life” means two rather different things to the Scientific versus the Creationist communities.

This came through very strongly in Monkey Girl’s discussion of tensions between the Dover Science teachers and its Creationist School Board members.

The teachers thought that “Origins of Life” meant abiogenesis, which they didn’t teach, the Board member (Bonsell) thought it meant evolution, which they did teach:

The understanding the science teachers thought had been reached with Bonsell turned out to be a monumental misunderstanding, one that would have long-lasting consequences. When the science teachers told Bonsell they did not teach the origins of life, they were referring to abiogenesis -- the mysterious and as yet unexplained (scientifically, at least) process by which nonliving material in Earth's primordial environment led to the first living organism. This is what scientists consider to be the "origins of life," and the theory of evolution does not attempt to explain how it happened; Darwin's theory assumes that life is already present, and goes on from there. So there was never any reason to broach this topic in ninth-grade biology. But as Bonsell, Buckingham, and other board members used the term "origins of life," they were actually talking about what evolutionists call the "origins of species" or simply "speciation" -- how different *forms* of life evolved from other forms. Biblical creationists believe that God created animals in their current forms all at once -- dinosaurs, for instance, along with all other creatures and man -- as in the biblical Genesis story. So the Darwinian theory of how species originated gradually, through evolution, posed a big problem for Bonsell, Buckingham, and like-minded board members, one that they felt needed to be balanced. Later, when it became clear there had been a misunderstanding and these sorts of origins were being taught after all, the original objections resurfaced. The board saw this as the "monkey to-man" principle all over again -- it didn't matter if human origins were omitted. If one species was evolving into another, this raised the same concerns, because the implication would always come back to humanity made not in God's image, but in an animal's. As Bonsell and Buckingham saw it, the kids were being lied to, and to correct that, they needed "the other side of the story."

@swamidass:

I don’t think that “Ken Ham” and “Theistic Evolution” are particularly good comparitors, in Google Trends comparisons, for “Intelligent Design”.

Ham, because he’s merely a leading advocate of YEC, not YEC itself (which has gone under a variety of labels: including Flood Geology and Creation Science as well). A better head to head comparison for Ham would be to Michael Behe himself:

TE is a poor comparator because the identification of the viewpoint with the label is far looser than between “Intelligent Design” and its followers. A better comparator, with a similarly close identification might be to “Flat Earth”:

I found Behe’s description of how he came to be involved in the Dover trial to be thoroughly disingenuous. He artfully omits to mention his Expert Report, two Rebuttal Expert Reports and his Deposition. Behe must have known that this was a big thing long before he got up on the witness stand – far more than “hey would you like to come and talk to the court”.

I would also note that Behe is happy to parrot (whether through ignorance, dishonesty or willful self-deception, I do not know) the DI’s misrepresentations about the Plaintiff’s Proposed Findings of Facts.

This destroys what little credibility I see Behe as having had. The man is a _____!

Addendum:

@swamidass has asked me to eliminate the description of Behe that was the obvious conclusion to his misrepresentations documented above.

I have done so out of politeness, not because I think that it is not merited. I stand by that description Joshua.

Behe was “bearing false witness” against Judge Jones and casting false doubts about the fairness of the US judicial system. In this, he is doing damage to US civil society in a similar way, albeit on a smaller scale, to Trump’s false accusations about the election.

I think there is a degree of double standard here. Would an atheist who presented this level of mendacity be treated with such kid gloves? Particularly one who has had a history of being less than entirely truthful in his handling of the facts, and less than collegial in his handling of his critics.

3 Likes

Good points. We’re always told we need to provide a detailed, step-wise model for the evolution of the flagellum (which has been done btw)*, and yet we’re never given a detailed model for the design of the flagellum.

Evolution in (Brownian) space: a model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum
Copyright 2003 by N. J. Matzke

Abstract: The bacterial flagellum is a complex molecular system with multiple components required for functional motility. Such systems are sometimes proposed as puzzles for evolutionary theory on the assumption that selection would have no function to act on until all components are in place. Previous work (Thornhill and Ussery, 2000, A classification of possible routes of Darwinian evolution. J Theor Biol. 203 (2), 111-116) has outlined the general pathways by which Darwinian mechanisms can produce multi-component systems. However, published attempts to explain flagellar origins suffer from vagueness and are inconsistent with recent discoveries and the constraints imposed by Brownian motion. A new model is proposed based on two major arguments. First, analysis of dispersal at low Reynolds numbers indicates that even very crude motility can be beneficial for large bacteria. Second, homologies between flagellar and nonflagellar proteins suggest ancestral systems with functions other than motility. The model consists of six major stages: export apparatus, secretion system, adhesion system, pilus, undirected motility, and taxis-enabled motility. The selectability of each stage is documented using analogies with present-day systems. Conclusions include: (1) There is a strong possibility, previously unrecognized, of further homologies between the type III export apparatus and F1F0-ATP synthetase. (2) Much of the flagellum’s complexity evolved after crude motility was in place, via internal gene duplications and subfunctionalization. (3) Only one major system-level change of function, and four minor shifts of function, need be invoked to explain the origin of the flagellum; this involves five subsystem-level cooption events. (4) The transition between each stage is bridgeable by the evolution of a single new binding site, coupling two pre-existing subsystems, followed by coevolutionary optimization of components. Therefore, like the eye contemplated by Darwin, careful analysis shows that there are no major obstacles to gradual evolution of the flagellum.

1 Like

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Roels and others discuss evolution

It is interesting (for an outsider) to track the emerging changes in Big Bang cosmology and particularly how the debate is handled. Erik Verlinde is a rising star but he said “For me, the Big Bang is not believable”. Yet look at how he used a cartoon to mock Big Bang believers as driven by religious zeal.
Cosmologist answers question on Big Bang

1 Like

Ironically, I’m on the side of those criticizing the Big Bang who are for a steady state theory, especially because they seem to have very valid criticisms. But it’s because I think everything was created out of nothing - just a lot faster than the Big Bang so that sort of looks steady. :joy:

But it is interesting that each side thinks the others’ stories and narratives are “religious” - because maybe they really are… now the athiests here can tell me I’m nuts and scientific narratives have nothing to do with religion :slightly_smiling_face:

Here is a pointer into a DVD that was produced around two decades ago showing the belief and motivation aspects.

Big Bang religion

The work of “the heretics” is hard to find now but a new wave of retired ones who no longer worry about tenure or the need to publish has appeared.

1 Like

What I found most revealing was at the very beginning, when Behe repeated one of the standard ID talking, points, that Judge Jones had just copied material from the plaintiffs in the decision.

What I found interesting is that he had just had a discussion with @swamidass on another program, where Joshua had corrected him on this point and explained that this is the standard procedure in a legal case.

Did Behe just forget that? Is his memory that bad? Or is this just confirmation of something I have long suspected: That Behe regularly and deliberately fails to acknowledge corrections and refutations of his claims in the hope that his audience at the moment will not be aware of these and just take him at his word?

7 Likes

On his Amazon blog, after his claim in Edge that HIV had not evolved any new binding sites was conclusively disproven by a graduate student who works on HIV, Behe admitted that she was correct.

The blog has been deleted. You make the call…

2 Likes

Can you find it on webarchive?

Ah, yes, I remember that. Her name was Abbie “ERV” Smith, IIRC. She became a pretty well-known blogger for a while, then got embroiled in some brouhaha which PZ Myers and a bunch of other atheist bloggers, the details of which I can’t quite recall at the moment. Haven’t seen much of her since.

3 Likes

It seems to me, though I don’t have all the examples in front of me at the moment, that he may on some occasions have acknowledged the title of the document from which they were taken, which includes the telltale expression “Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.” But on other occasions he hasn’t – in his long endnote in Darwin Devolves, he leaves the title out, and the way he talks about it gives very much the impression that what the judge has done is something akin to plagiarism.

Behe’s honesty is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Where many DI fellows, like Wells, are plainly intentionally dishonest at essentially all times, Behe really does seem sometimes like he believes what he’s saying. Yet, at the same time, Behe will issue praise for the most awful works – his glowing remarks decorate the covers of some of the most dishonest books ever written. And he will hide the ball, as in omitting the title of this litigation document, and he will make feints at responding to criticisms but fail to address substance, and he CONSTANTLY, when before a friendly audience, lets everybody know that basically nobody has ever actually laid a glove on him because none of the criticisms are accurate or bear on any of the actual points he’s making.

What happened to him? Most ID proponents are either brewers or drinkers of Kool-Aid – Wells, for example, plainly does not believe the garbage he writes, while Shedinger is evidently not bright enough to figure it out. Most of the audience for this material is in the drinker category. My best guess is that Behe is like a meth-lab operator: he’s spent so much time in a poorly ventilated room with his own toxic brew that he can no longer distinguish his strange intuitive notions from reality.

4 Likes

When did he do so? He was going back and forth on it with another biologist linked here after that.

Evolution News covered it.

(Pandas Thumb Fails to Refute Michael Behe on HIV Evolution | Evolution News) at least they didn’t delete their post…

I checked. That’s not available.

2007, IIRC.

It’s objectively false.

Do they have credibility?

1 Like

If you make a claim like that, you should be able to back it up. I was showing Behe, at least, didn’t immediately admit she was correct as the other biologist mentioned her and those two had many back-and-forths. You should be able to point to where Behe did concede the point.

What is objectively false?

It took some sleuthing, but I found it:

Yes, I’m perfectly willing to concede that this does appear to be the development of a new viral protein-viral protein binding site, one which I overlooked when writing about HIV.

3 Likes

Thanks! I like a fellow sleuth. :slightly_smiling_face: I had not taken the time to read through all of those, and I will concede I should have before posting.

The wider context of that blog post is obviously important. He did concede the one point but not his overall argument.

Of course not. He knows the people he is writing for, like yourself, are easily fooled if he just makes some lame excuses and writes some pseudoscience to convince you he still has a point.

I mean, look how he has continued to flog the “irreducibly complex” flagellum, literally decades after that argument was refuted.

3 Likes