Polar Bear Seminar: Why Behe Is Right

Here we go - Polar Bear University by Behe and DI. I bet not one polar bear is saved by this.


@Art, what do you make of this? I will tag @NLENTS too, though I’m sure he wants this all to end. :smile:

Double down much.

Wow, a 5-part series? They’re really rattled.


As long as they keep spelling my name right!


I guess now we know how they’ll be using their time now that no one applies for that ID tutorial seminar :rofl:

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Let’s see if the claims in their article pans out.

That is the first claim Behe failed to support. There are many known mutations in the human APOB gene, and only a few of them are associated with disease. Over at Ensembl I count 21 missense mutations that are present in greater than 1% of the human population, and they are all described as benign. In reading other papers, there are around 5 or so mutations in humans that are known to cause disease. Obviously, there is no reason to think that finding a mutation in APOB automatically means that it is probably damaging.


As we have all learned, the results of computer algorithms aren’t even close to being 100% accurate. You need to study the actual function of the gene in order to make a conclusion one way or another. On top of that, the computer algorithm doesn’t even have “beneficial” as an option.

In this case, Behe leaned too far over his skis. He made conclusions that the data just can’t support.

At the end of the essay:

Perhaps they should rethink the title. Why Behe is right?


A better title maybe, “Behe vs the DI: who’s less wrong?”


It is also worth mentioning that the two most common missense mutations in human APOB, at 0.48 and 0.36, are predicted to be damaging by Polyphen, with scores of 0.999. If these mutations cause disease, then they shouldn’t be reaching such high frequencies.

If someone has the time or interest, please check that I am reading the tables correctly:
Link to Ensembl page


Polyphen-2 predicts damage to human proteins by taking a single SNP and analyzing its effect in the human protein. Essentially, take the polar bear amino acid, put it into the human gene, and now compute the likely effect on the human protein! The point of the comparison using polyphen2 is not to assess the polar bear gene but to determine if the position is important for function. If it is an important amino acid in humans, then it will likely be important in polar bears. As a biochemist, this is kind of weak for a Cell paper. Behe’s conclusions are 100% unfounded.

I plan to write more about this in more detail in a separate post where I tease this out some more.


And Behe really relies on these results to make his case in his book:

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As far as I am concerned, if Behe’s name isn’t on the entries in this series, it’s going to be worthless. The ENV essay on T-urf13 is jaw-droppingly bad, and this multi-authored piece promises to be just as awful.

Honestly, I think it is pretty pathetic that Behe cannot step up to the plate hisself. Without the help of the ENV crew (all of them - I am willing to credit @Agauger, @bjmiller, and @pnelson for these essays).


You can scratch my name off that list.


Application deadline extensions are common for the DI summer seminars. For instance, in both 2017 and 2018, the deadline was extended:


Deadline Extension! Fine, We'll Give You Till April 14 to Apply for Summer Seminars on ID | Evolution News

I’m not on the summer seminar admissions committee (above my pay grade), but here’s what happens, as reported to me by those who process the applications:

  1. Many students are ambivalent about applying. Genuine career risks exist for participating, even with the security DI tries to enact. So students dither about their applications until it is “too late,” so to speak.

  2. The deadline arrives and the ambivalent students suddenly decide, what the hell, I’ll apply and take the risk. So DI sees a rush of applications right at the deadline, with some students sending emails pleading for an extension because they haven’t obtained a letter of recommendation yet. (Can you imagine what that involves for biology students at a place like UCLA or Harvard? Revealing oneself as ID-interested, to a faculty person in the sciences where ID is viewed as noxious, or downright evil?)

  3. DI ends up with a good-sized pool of applications, many of which have arrived after the announced deadline. Students who fail to make the cut the first year they applied hear about the seminar from those who do, and re-apply a second year, or even a third.

Again, I repeat my warning (made in another thread here) about the need to read between the lines with what you see at ENV or on other DI sites. Kinda like Kremlinologists during the Soviet period. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, which, for various reasons, never makes its way into the public eye.

ID is career-endangering in the sciences. That fact should always be kept in mind.


So are they accepting my application this year? That is the real question it seems.


Why don’t you get rid of all this cloak and dagger secretive seminar stuff. Make it open with easy registration on Youtube? Put up last year’s seminar for free for everybody to see. You don’t need letters of recommendations from a ID sympathetic faculty member. By being open you may find the next Stephen Meyer or the next Behe or Denton ready to come aboard. Do like the recent Biologos conference.

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I don’t run the DI show. Some of what you suggest makes perfect sense to me.

But my life as a scholar has benefited from never having to hide my dissent from neo-Darwinism or philosophical / methodological naturalism. When I applied to graduate school, for instance, every letter of recommendation in my file (from, respectively, James Lennox, Adolf Grunbaum, and Nicholas Rescher in the department of History and Philosophy of Science at Pitt) was written with full knowledge that I kept my own counsel about theories of origins. Jim Lennox, in fact, told Chicago that “Paul is a creationist.” Years later, at a professional meeting, I asked Lennox over lunch why he had done that. (A professor at Chicago told me, unsolicited, about Lennox’s letter.) Lennox said he had thought long and hard about what he should say, and decided that if the Chicago program was going to admit me, they needed to know, and I would be more productive as a PhD student if they knew.

He was right.

But things are different today. ID is viewed with deep suspicion or even passionate hatred by most mainstream biologists. At the Cambridge evolution meeting this past week, an ID-sympathetic postdoc with whom I was talking blushed deep red with embarrassment when I commented, rather too loudly, about some of his ideas.

If the critics of ID who read and post at this site want really to understand their ID conversation partners, they will internalize or try to grasp the fear their partners feel in their daily lives in the sciences.


To be fair, they have good reasons for this.


Things are different today. That is why one’s beliefs and faith should be kept somewhat private. Hiring decisions shouldn’t be made on religious or non-religious basis. But discrimination abounds. Since ID is a belief system, why not say that. ID will be a protected class. For example, DI announces that they are having a seminar on ID with the following speakers. Anyone interested in coming? Just like Biologos. Even the Vatican has a yearly astronomy seminar where all faiths and no faith are free to come.

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And this creates the central paradox confronting ID-interested students and faculty in the sciences:

  1. The only way ID can improve as a scientific theory is to engage its external critics, in depth. Karl Popper: conjectures and refutations.

  2. But the loudest of ID’s external critics don’t want the ideas to grow into a real theory. They want to kill those ideas in their cradle.

Hence – defensiveness, pugnacity, secrecy, unspoken dissent, and other pathologies infecting what should be the normal dialectic of science. And ID cannot grow as it should.

The main reason I am grateful for Peaceful Science, despite its defects, is the possibility of dialogue here has not died.


Why do they struggle to concede obviously false points?