Rich Lenski takes down Michael Behe and his ID creationism: Part IV


(r_speir) #143

So you and others have made an argument for science. I don’t believe I have a problem with that. Here’s the basic question: does every organism have an ‘ancestor’?

The answer to that question will highlight the ongoing division between all of us.

Later Edit: Better yet, Must every organism have an ancestor?


I suspect you’ve headed off in a tangent over a misunderstanding of what I wrote. Try rereading what I wrote. But this time consider under what conditions one could make the strongest case that a feature with no precursor was added to a species, or group of species. Whether the species in question was specially created doesn’t matter. What sort of data would a scientist use to investigate historical origins of the trait? Remember that you can use information for similar species for the analyses. Now ask, “What sort of situations and cases would you want to study that would lead to the most airtight conclusion about the origin of some new feature?”

(r_speir) #145

We agree…!!! This is science.

I can even forgo this for a space of time to work with you on REAL science. But can you forgo it and admit that you have not yet proven your hypothesis of common descent???

Can we just do science?

(Paul A Nelson) #146

External observers of the Discovery Institute should realize that what they see at ENV, or in Discovery Institute public activities more generally, does NOT reflect what is going on (ID research-wise) behind the scenes. I made the mistake many years ago of floating a design-motivated research idea (ontogenetic depth), in public, in a poster at the annual meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology, long before that idea was actually ready to make a respectable debut. I did so partly in response to external pressure that ID was all, and only, “Boo Darwin, boo evolution!” with nothing of its own to show. An eager ID-friendly student wrote about the idea, PZ Myers saw the student’s comments, launched a blistering critique, and the rest is history. Moral of the story: be patient and do the work first. Submit to mainstream journals, if possible. But don’t talk about ideas still in embryonic form. That’s a surefire path to miscarriage.

In other words, a lot of ID-motivated primary research is being conducted at Discovery, but you won’t hear about it until we get it published. Once burned, twice shy.

A note of realism. I can understand that defenders of undirected or naturalistic evolution don’t like to have their theories criticized or analyzed. No one wants to be poked at under a skeptical lens. But evolutionary theory has grown very fat and lazy over many decades of having a philosophical monopoly on origins (since the alternative to evolution appears to be religious magic). There are plenty of real problems with current accounts of evolution that deserve legitimate critique.

And, Gott sei dank, some of that criticism is now being provided by evolutionary biologists themselves, albeit still within the strictures of methodological naturalism (MN). But MN places artificial limits on what can be said, so the rebels at Discovery use the intellectual freedom they still have to go further.

I know many evolutionary biologists personally. Some are theists, most are not. ALL are limited in what they can say about the ruling theory in their profession.

The consequence?

“Any profession that does not supply its own criticism and iconoclasm will discover that someone else will do the job, and usually in a way it does not like.”

Norman Macbeth, Darwin Retried: An Appeal to Reason (NY: Delta Books, 1971), pp. 149-150.


Thanks for the offer but I’m not interested reviewing a topic that’s been long discussed before and which fills libraries of articles and books. That’s a difference subject than what makes a positive case for ID theory and special creation of species or specific biological features. Remember when I wrote earlier that the opposite of “known origin” is “unknown origin”, and not “ID”?

(Neil Rickert) #148

That sounds like a rephrasing of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

(r_speir) #149

Hi, I am going to ask you a direct question. Those who know me known that I am anti-evolution to my core. I would bleed before I asserted an idea like common descent. However, Lenski’s work here has amazed me. I have never liked biology because it is too squishy, slimy, and it moves when touched, but this piece by Lenski reminds me that there is real investigation ongoing in the biological world. Here’s my question:

The results of his work seem to point to the actual playing out of evolution at least in a microscopic realm. Do you agree (with some) that evolution has taken place here? Personally, I see a new function arising in the mutated lambda virus. Do you see a new function?

(Paul A Nelson) #150

I haven’t read what you are referring to here (sorry), so don’t have an opinion to offer.

Maybe later – a lot going on right now in my day job. That’s it for me in this thread, at least for the remainder of today (3/15).

(r_speir) #151

I think I will end my time here as well. But I would like to say first that YEC’s could benefit - and I believe without compromise to their ideals - from investigations like these. Again, I find this work absolutely fascinating. Life is quite an amazing thing, and to investigate it in an honest manner should expand all of our thinking. The results I see here help me to understand how I have limited the Creator and probably how my thinking has been stunted by not reading more materials like this. Of course, I cannot acknowledge so much regarding evolution, but I must acknowledge what I clearly see here.

I think YEC’s should fully embrace this kind of material and and allow it to reshape some of their thinking. We have a lot of room to grow, even if we cannot embrace the totality of the evolutionary paradigm. I remain amazed at what this very small virus was able to accomplish in such a short span of time. I admit, I apparently do not fully understand life and the impetus behind it. It seems to possess an intelligence of its own. I stand amazed and bewildered at the same time.

  1. Start off with Alfred Russell Wallace’s work on natural selection and evolution, which is nearly identical to the work done by Darwin and published at the same time as Darwin’s work. From there, add in the other work by other scientists over the last 150 years of research in the biological sciences.

  2. Biology would no longer look like science. Biology would be nothing more than a collection of personal opinions divorced from anything resembling the scientific method or empirical evidence.


The larger problem for ID advocates is “Here is what we observe in the living world”. As I am sure you are well aware of, this includes patterns of similarities and differences at the morphological and genetic level. “It looks designed” is an opinion, not science. “Design is the best explanation” is also an opinion.

(Mikkel R.) #154

One problem I see here is that the method of merely attacking evolutionary biology is fundamentally misguided. In any scientific field where some major revolution has occurred, it did not transpire by first eradicating the existing paradigm. Rather, superior explanatory models and theories were developed, and evidence was predicted, collected, and explained which had the result of eventually replacing existing models.

Newtonian gravity was never discarded leaving a blank surface for general relativity to be built upon. The Ptolemaic model of the solar system was not, so to speak, purged from the scientific record so-that-a-new-paradigm-could-begin, it was “simply” replaced by the superior heliocentric model in the Copernican revolution.

An issue at work here is the religious underpinnings of the anti-evolutionism of Cdesign Proponentsists, who appear to be motivated to destroy evolutionary biology for purportedly moral, cultural, and social reasons. Since the apparent view is that evolutionary biologi is somehow morally corrupting for society, this view is emotionally compelling ID proponents to whinge and flail at evolution in an attempt to destroy it, rather than do the proper scientific work of attempting to build an actual model that could replace evolution.

(Timothy Horton) #155

I don’t think there’s any doubt whatsoever in the scientific community that is an accurate appraisal of the DI’s motives and where their efforts are directed.


Yeah, well, constructive neutral evolution to the rescue!

(Chris Falter) #157

Can Argon pretend that hundreds of thousands of scientists did not spend their entire professional lives carefully cross-checking millions of observations and experiments, and collectively inferring the dynamic rules of what they observed?