Home » Intelligent Design » Are there any anti-ID writings that the Panda’s Thumb won’t endorse?

Are there any anti-ID writings that the Panda’s Thumb won’t endorse?

Mark Chu-Carroll* goes after Behe’s new book here. Judge for yourself whether this deserves to be called a review (Chu-Carroll thinks it does). Nick Matzke endorses Chu-Carroll’s blog post against Behe here. Are there any anti-ID writings, no matter how ill-conceived or mean-spirited, that PT won’t endorse? It might be an interesting exercise to attempt a Sokal-style hoax to see what exactly PT is prepared to believe about ID. I herewith offer a prize, worth up to $200, to anyone who can pull this off and afterward reveal that it was all a hoax (the precise amount to be determined by how cleverly it is pulled off).

——
*Chu-Carroll names his bog GOOD MATH, BAD MATH: FINDING THE FUN IN GOOD MATH, SQUASHING BAD MATH AND THE FOOLS THAT PROMOTE IT. Perhaps I’m missing something, but Chu-Carroll’s expertise is in computer programming, where he has a Ph.D. How much math does he actually know?

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60 Responses to Are there any anti-ID writings that the Panda’s Thumb won’t endorse?

  1. “Elephant hurling” is one of the main tactics Darwnists use in the defense of their religious belief. We all know about the “overwhelming evidence” mantra, right?

  2. We have to understand another thing, when somebody with a PhD in any field (even if Religious Studies) speaks in favor of Darwinism he’s a “real” scientist. While on the other hand if a PhD ID proponent speaks even if in his own field, he’s a pseudo-scientist who’s degree must be taken!

  3. Chu on Dembski

    he [William Dembski]‘s actually a decent mathematician

  4. Wart Chu-Carrol once again trying to pull the sword from the stone to reveal his secret identity as the once and future king of blowhards.

  5. In what sense is it not a review?

  6. Chu-Carrol’s PhD is in computer science, not “computer programming.” It would be amazing if he managed to avoid learning something of the latter. However wrong he may be about ID, it’s a mistake to conflate CS with programming, which is a subordinate practical art.

    Although he works for Google, whose management may be unfriendly to ID, know that some bright young people who work there are more receptive to arguments in favor of ID, so you might want to engage him in debate or blog exchanges.

  7. How much math does he actually know

    I would reckon a lot, depending on the institute of study. For example, at University of California Riverside (where I got my own CS degree) our program was 8 classes or so shy of fulfilling the Math degree requirements.

    So although his review/reasoning seems sloppy, let’s not attack the man…

  8. I’m sure Behe will respond to his critics, as he did when DBB was published, but when his book is officialy out and reviewed in professional journals.

    It’s going to be interesting

  9. jgrr

    In what sense is it not a review?

    Well, if you want to overlook the fact that Carroll is not employed as a book reviewer, his expertise is computer science not biology or evolution, and it’s a personal blog post then I guess it qualifies as a “review” but it’s hardly something you’re going to find in the New York Times or Nature if you get my drift.

    To others – Carroll’s doctoral thesis was in the construction of compilers for general purpose parallel processing. Presumbly his position at Google Inc. is in the same area. There’s very little in the way of math in compiler design but it’s certainly heavily related to programming – it’s hard to imagine anything more involved with programming and less involved with math. For someone who’s been in commercial computer R&D for over 10 years Carroll’s patent portfolio (2 patents, sole inventor on one of those) is abysmal especially for an uber patent-house like IBM where he spent most of his time so far. He’s got a fair number of journal publications but that’s a metric for academicians not industry. Both the patents were in client-server networking i.e. zero math content. I generated twice that many patents in half the time and I was just a non-degreed senior systems engineer. Even that was still short of my performance plan target which called for being a named inventor on two patent submissions per year.

  10. Salvador [post #3],
    Interesting note. It looks like he (Chu) is acting as some kind of academic “royalty”. And as if he is grading Dembski, as to almost, if not actually, suggest that he knows math better.

    I hope someone takes Dembski’s challenge.

    JGuy

  11. FWIW:

    I think Mike Gene is the man to pull off the hoax.

  12. Okay, I just read Chu-Carroll’s attack on Dembski, which begins as follows

    It’s time to take a look at one of the most obnoxious duplicitous promoters of Bad Math, William Dembski. I have a deep revulsion for this character because he’s actually a decent mathematician, but he’s devoted his skills to creating convincing mathematical arguments based on invalid premises.

    Chu-Carroll then goes on to claim that Dembski’s No Free Lunch therom is based on an invalid premise. For those of you not familiar with No Free Lunch, here it is from Dembski in a nutshell

    The upshot of the No Free Lunch theorems is that averaged over all fitness functions, evolutionary computation does no better than blind search.

    Here is Chu-Carroll’s stunning rebuttal

    [I]f you limit yourself to competitive fitness functions (loosely defined, that is, fitness functions where the majority of times that you compare two edges from a node, the target you select will be the one that is better according to the desired fitness function), then the result of running the search will, on average, be better than a random traversal.

    I don’t know if I completely understand Dembski’s approach to this challenge but I can’t help noticing that Chu-Carroll is making the same deeply flawed argument Dawkins made in The Blind Watchmaker with his ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL program. Dawkins sought to show how a competitive search is more efficient than a random walk. Here is how Dawkin’s competitive search program works

    It again begins by choosing a random sequence of 28 letters, just as before … it duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error – ‘mutation’ – in the copying. The computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the ‘progeny’ of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.

    By using this type of “competitive” search, Dawkins is able to arrive at the target in only 43 generations. The obvious flaw in Dawkins’ program, and in Chu-Carroll’s argument, is that natural selection does not “know” the goal and therefore cannot make “competitive” selections based on some telelogical goal. Therefore, competitive selections can only occur where each mutation provides sufficient selective advantage. Unfortunetaly for Darwinists, it has been shown that to achieve even a simple modification of a protein, let’s say two amino acid residues, evolution must cross a sequence space of mutations that provide no selective advantage. Crossing that space requires a purely random walk and that is where RM+NS fails and design is indicated.

  13. 13

    Jehu,

    The point is that “all fitness functions” is different to a subcollection of the fitness functions. NFL depends on your looking at the collection of all functions to work. There are particular sets of fitness functions where specific search algorithms work much better than others.

  14. 14

    Chu-Carroll/Dawkins:

    “The computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the ‘progeny’ of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL.”

    Call me crazy, but isn’t creating a “target Phrase” front loading? It sounds like an argument for design.

  15. Webwanderer: It is both an argument for design and design in action.

    Carroll is an air headed flop when it comes to reasoning – strange when one’s field is computer science which depends on rigid logic. He probably ought to go back and redo his courses on “discrete math” – generally obligatory for a degree in CS.

    The only bad reasoners one encounters in CS are Darwinists. At least in my 15 years experience in that field.

  16. Call me crazy, but isn’t creating a “target Phrase” front loading? It sounds like an argument for design

    Front loading would be where the phrase is already contained in the sequence. Dawkins ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL program is however an example of teleology, where some force is guiding random mutations to an ultimate predetermined goal.

  17. The thing that impresses me the most about the “review” is the vitriolic rage it expresses against the gentle Prof Behe. Mike is even accused of being a money grabber!

    Obviously the anger comes from some underlying personal belief system, not from an objective assessment of the opinions and data presented by Behe.

  18. 18

    Jehu :

    RE:

    ——————–
    “Unfortunetaly for Darwinists, it has been shown that to achieve even a simple modification of a protein, let’s say two amino acid residues, evolution must cross a sequence space of mutations that provide no selective advantage.”
    ———————–

    I would be grateful if you could show me which journal and which article(s) actually shows this.

    A lot of papers do show actual mutation by adaptive changes. I find it hard to believe that they are all in error.

    Thanks.

  19. idnet.com.au,

    I actually got from a reliable source that Prof Behe is involved in witchcraft, canibalism, sun worship, and smoking pot! But don’t quote me on that, ok?

    /sarcasm off

    On a serious note, it’s easy to understand why militant darwinists get so offended when we criticize darwinism: it’s THEIR religion. Think in how devout religious believers react when their faith is attacked.

    The condescending atitude, and the pratonizing remarks are a sign of deep insecurity. Darwinists know that biology has plenty of signs of real design, therefore their fear anyone who uses that design to point to the Designer.

    Here in Lisbon, it’s exacly the same way. Portuguee darwinists answer to critices with the same patronizing and condescending mentality, AS IF that actually deals with the issues.

    I guess we can say that darwinists world wide are at the same stage of evolution.

  20. 20

    Jehu:
    “Front loading would be where the phrase is already contained in the sequence. Dawkins ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL program is however an example of teleology, where some force is guiding random mutations to an ultimate predetermined goal.”

    Thanks for the clarification Jehu. Either way it seems ID wins the debate by virtue of their own argument. Shouldn’t someone tell them?

  21. I’m not sure I fully grasp everything Chu is saying, but it seems like a rational argument for rejecting Behe’s assumptions of a static, low dimension, Fitness Landscape. He even seems to have found a wedge to drive between The Edge of Evolution and No Free Lunch. Despite his petulant prose, it deserves a real response, not a prank.

    In critiquing The Edge of Evolution, Chu doesn’t offer any alternatives, and seems to be saying a Fitness Landscape is impossible to model, reducing Natural Selection to a tautology. Whatever survives must be the most fit. And if a strain of bacteria was never observed before, then it MUST be a recent mutation, not a simple change in population ratios. So even if Chu’s critique of Behe is correct – Darwinism remains squarely under faith based naturalistic philosophy – not fact-observation science.

  22. Well, if you want to overlook the fact that Carroll is not employed as a book reviewer,

    Which is irrelevant. I would call this a blog, even though the author isn’t employed as a blogger. Given the number of IDolators who aren’t employed in any relevant field, this really isn’t the path you probably want to go down.

    his expertise is computer science not biology or evolution,

    And Bill Dembski’s expertise is in theology and math, but you have no objection to his attempts at biology.

    and it’s a personal blog post then I guess it qualifies as a “review”

    I don’t suppose you’ll edit the OP to reflect this acknowledgment.

  23. 23

    Is there anywhere I can read a rebuttal of Carrol’s (or a similar) argument, or an explanation of why he is misrepresenting Behe?

  24. Is there anywhere I can read a rebuttal of Carrol’s (or a similar) argument, or an explanation of why he is misrepresenting Behe?

    Well I think you’ll need to wait until Behe’s book is officially out. It’s due after 2 days I think.
    But searching for a response right now when almost no body has read the book won’t be effective :)

  25. jgrr (Josh Rosenau)

    If anyone here who isn’t a biologist writes a review about a biology book and publishes it as a personal blog entry the same standards must of course apply. Comparing Carrol to Dembski is laughable. Dembski is a double PhD in math and the philosophy of science. He’s eminently qualified to give expert opinions on whether something is science or not science as well as expert opinion on statistics. He has also published a quite number of books, edited even more, and is regarded as perhaps the foremost expert on intelligent design along with Behe. Dembski has also written forwards for God only knows how many other books. Carrol is quite comparable to me and I don’t feel anywhere near qualified to write a critical review of Behe’s book. Carrol’s hubris is laughable. A blogging blowhard extraordinaire. Wake me up when someone credible writes a review in a venue more trustworthy than a personal blog. In the meantime you and Carrol both bore me so put a sock in it
    .

  26. Chris Hyland

    What on earth makes you think anyone will bother dissecting Carrol’s “review”? He’s not an expert in any field related to Behe’s book. If Behe had written a book about network architecture or parallel processing then Carrol would be in a position to review it. Or even if his review were published somewhere other than a personal blog someone qualified to fisk it probably would. Otherwise it’s just unqualified personal opinion that’s not at all noteworthy.

  27. One thing that troubles me is the quick dismissal of Chu-Carrol simply because he is not a certified Mathmatician™ or Biologist™. It reminds me of how people dimiss Walter ReMine’s work because he is not a Biologist™.

    Now, I’d gladly concede his review is bad or even arrogant. I bought Behe’s book and it is sitting next to me waiting to be read, so I’m not trying to defend Carrol. But I’d like to see his argument spoken against rather than his lack of credentials.

  28. MCC:

    Anyway, the new book is based on what comes down to a mathematical argument – a mathematical argument that I’ve specifically refuted on this blog numerous times. I’m not mentioning that because I expect Behe to read GM/BM and consider it as a serious source for his research; even if I were an expert in the subject (which I’m not), a blog is not a citable source for real research.

    But this incredible statement: that “there is strong evidence that random mutation is extremely limited”, he doesn’t even attempt to support.

    The rest of the book focuses an this alleged problem: that random mutation is somehow constrained, and can’t produce the necessary changes to explain the diversity of life.

    lol.

  29. atom

    Since you have Behe’s book why don’t you write a review of Carrol’s review?

    If you think you’re not qualified then that is precisely the point. To critique Carrol’s critique one should be qualified to critique the original work. And if you’re qualified to critique the original why would you bother with Carrol’s unqualified ramblings instead of writing a review of the book itself?

    The Panda’s Thumb crew made a mistake in promoting an unqualified review. Can’t they get a real biochemist to review the work of a real biochemist? The fact that they used a blog loudmouth/computer science expert to review the work of a biochemist in the field of biochemistry looks suspiciously like the book can’t be criticized by an expert in biochemistry. Perhaps the biochemists, who would put their reputation at stake in the review of another biochemist, aren’t willing to do that because they can’t make a credible counter-argument. Carrol on the other hand has nothing to lose. If Behe’s book was about computer science and Carrol’s review appeared in a peer reviewed computer science journal then it would be a qualified opinion and he would be expected to have exercised due diligence within his field of expertise. But that’s not the case. Carrol’s review is nothing more than an unqualified personal blog opinion piece and should be treated as such.

    I suggest we wait for a review written by one of Behe’s peers to be published in a peer reviewed trade journal and not bother responding to unqualified hatchet jobs published on personal blogs. There will undoubtedly be a plethora of opinions about Behe’s book published on blogs. To say they’ll be a dime a dozen is inflating their worth.

  30. By the way, I don’t know who else took both chemistry and computer science courses in college, but I did, and I’m here to tell you there was more math in chemistry than in computer science.

    Compare:

    Computer Science Curriculum

    Biochemistry Curriculum

    Behe didn’t get a PhD in biochemistry without advanced mathematics courses.

    Electrical engineering has more math in it than either.

    Electrical Engineering Curriculum

    But of course nothing has more math than a Mathematics major. Dembski’s expertise with PhD’s in both mathematics and the philosophy of science makes him an exceedingly well qualified expert where math and science intersect.

  31. Since you have Behe’s book why don’t you write a review of Carrol’s review?

    Fair enough DS. If I found something written by Gould or Dawkins on Biology that I knew was utterly wrong, and I could cleary state why it was wrong, I would not let me lack of a Bio degree stop me from commenting on it. If there was truth to what I wrote, I would expect others to answer my points, not to simply dismiss me because of my lack of credentials.

    I’m sorry, but truth is open to everyone, regardless of educational background. You yourself, as someone who has studied biology extensively and written about it on this blog, should know that the credential game doesn’t play well. Unless you have a PhD in biology (which I’m not aware of, sorry if that is the case.)

  32. I will read Behe’s book when I finish my current one, and I’ll let you guys know what I think, if I have any thoughts relating to the Chu-Carrol review.

  33. The reviews of Behe’s book are beginning to appear on Amazon and, as expected, they are evenly split between readers who give it 5 stars and readers who give it 1 star. You either love it or hate it. What is amusing in this case is that only 1 of the reviewers has actually read the book.

    I wonder if Chu-Carroll actually read the book?

  34. There is a popular saying in political circles, that an “attack advertisement” against a candidate must be answered within 24 hours of being aired, in order to prevent lasting damage to the candidate’s electoral prospects. I think the ID community needs to take this saying to heart, and respond to Chu-Carroll’s book immediately, rather than wait for a peer review of Behe’s book to come out. By the time it does, the damage will have been done. Why? Well, the sad truth is that many people are too lazy to read a book – particularly a philosophically challenging one. Instead, they prefer to read a review on http://www.amazon.com or on somebody’s blog site. That’s just an unavoidable fact of life.

    Well, the reviews of Behe’s book are already out, so we are now in the “battle of the reviews” phase. Public perception is everything. If the ID community is incapable of producing a qualified biologist who can calmly, swiftly and professionally extinguish the neo-Darwinist “brush fires” directed against Behe, he will end up looking foolish and incompetent, no matter how splendidly written his book may be (I haven’t seen it yet). Chu-Carroll’s work is certainly impertinent and vitriolic; nevertheless, some of his arguments have an air of plausibility, especially to non-biologists like myself. For precisely that reason, they should be promptly refuted.

    While we’re on the subject of adages, here are two more that may warrant consideration. First, I recall reading (in a work by the historian Paul Johnson, if memory serves me right) that one of the reasons why Lenin triumphed over his opponents was that he wrote so much more than they did. Are you listening, WD?

    Finally, here’s an old saying we can all take to heart: “When debating an opponent, always make sure that you have an even better grasp of their arguments than they do.” What this means in practice is that ID proponents need to learn how to “talk the talk” of evolutionary biologists (especially in mathematically rigorous fields such as population genetics) and outdo them at their own game, before they can make any real headway against them.

  35. Notice the tags for the book?
    delustional, science fiction?

  36. 36

    RE:

    ————
    The reviews of Behe’s book are beginning to appear on Amazon and, as expected, they are evenly split between readers who give it 5 stars and readers who give it 1 star.
    ———–

    I don’t consider someone who gives the book a cursory “review” ( note the quotes ) a real reviewer.

    Just read the remark of the person who gave the book one star :

    “Another book from Michael Behe, who infamously admitted that his preferred definition of a ‘Scientific Theory’ would admit Astrology, and who is notorious for misunderstanding and misrepresenting Evolution, Immunology and Bacteriology.”

    This so called “reviewer” never even bothered to engage the points and issues raised by Behe in his book.

    I believe ID proponents ought NOT to follow this lazy short of dismissive argument. Hence, I’d like to read good, reasonable arguments to refute the points raised by Chu-Carrol. Whether he is a biologist or a computer scientist is beside the point.

  37. 37

    BTW, as at the time of this post, several of the so called “reviewers” ( See discussion links ) at Amazon refer to Chu-Carrol’s own review.

    That must be the only substantive one they can refer to thus far.

  38. “Perhaps I’m missing something, but Chu-Carroll’s expertise is in computer programming, where he has a Ph.D. How much math does he actually know?”

    That’s just silly. One, either his arguments are correct or not, so why does it matter what his degrees are? Second, computer science is closely related to mathematics, which is what Chu-Carroll has a degree in (not “computer programming,” whatever that is).

  39. #34 is correct.

    While it is annoying, the big guns should issue, at least periodically, refutations of known bad counter-arguments. But, as some of my discussions around here have gone, I completely sympathize with the choice to not address those who demonstrate a complete lack of awareness of the problematic nature of their positions and don’t understand it when it is illustrated to them.

  40. atom

    I would expect others to answer my points

    Really. I’d expect to be ignored unless I was a recognized expert in the field and my points were made in a venue where such experts normally publish their expert opinions. Your expectation is otherwise unrealistic. Childlike in fact in its expectation of receiving attention.

    There is a popular saying in political circles, that an “attack advertisement” against a candidate must be answered within 24 hours of being aired, in order to prevent lasting damage to the candidate’s electoral prospects.

    vjtorley

    Ah, so that’s how it works. Alrighty then. The following is a political attack ad.

    Hillary Clinton is hiding Osama Bin Laden under her bed.

    There’s a popular saying among people with common sense – consider the source.

  41. Hi Dave Scott:

    Unfortunately, vjtorley has a serious point.

    Nor does, “consider the source” in the abstract properly engage the issue. We have to rapidly engage issues and questions on the merits,a nd effectively.

    We are dealing with a powerful agenda out there, with a corrupt academy run by a self-selecting PC nobility that awards itself and its chosen partyline-parroting acolytes meal tickets for life.

    THey are backed up by professional slander, strawman and red herring groups with abundant amateur enthusasts like Mr Chu.

    Worse, the mainstream media, by and large run and staffed by the benumbed product of the PC academia, will present slanders, misrepresentations and red herrings as “consensus” views, as it that settled the matter. And, as you see on the CC-GW storyline, they will censor out the other side without even thinking twice — after all, you all are “deniers” — with very intentional insinuations that you are parallel to holocaust deniers.

    And, indeed, this very blog is in part a response to the pattern just summarised; with the Evo News and Views blog even moreso.

    I suggest that you need:

    1] a truth squad, kept up to date on issues and developments, and on key anniversaries or upcoming events. (Cf Honest Reporting on the issues related to Israel.)

    2] The TS should have a web site and blog facility, with a hotline email/fill-in the form reporting system, to which reports can be made on developing situations. [You may even want to have registered operatives who volunteer to keep an eye out on what is going on.]

    3] Once a situation emerges,the TS should rapidly compose a draft — i.e its members should have enough expertise in relevant areas to do so — and submit for quick review to the relevant top-flight experts.

    4] Within 12 or at worst 24 – 48 hours, a public report (preferably presented by a recognised spokesman) should go out as a breaking news story, on the relevant blogs and if possible in the relevant media.

    5] Rapidly thereafter, audio and video stories should be issued and put in the public domain. Broadband is now so widespread that this is feasible. Indeed, maybe you need to do at least a regularised, organised podcast news and talk show.)

    6] Where jusrisdiction permits, outrageous cases of slander or libel or discriminaiton etc should be forwarded for rapid legal action. If such actions are not possible [e.g. the US's libel laws are a mess] then the perpetrators should join a public hall of shame.

    7] This can be at least in part supported through a subscription-based newsletter with online and/or print formats. [On a semi annual or quarterly basis, that newsletter can be issued as a bulletin with peer reviewed articles updating ID related research, reviews, features, etc.]

    8] A regular conference series, with proper proceedings, would also be of help in putting out the message.

    9] In a world in which hit pieces are being used to dismiss the credibility of ID arguments, counter-punch pieces need to be put up rapidly. And, in many cases, that will require efforts by the leading lights of the ID movement, or by people who have worked with them through the gestation process for books and major papers etc. For this is plainly a major battlefront in the culture war. And I do not use that as a mere metaphor.

    10] In this context the latest Behe book predictably would have met with a hit piece using highly predictable tactics and rhetoric. Where is the ready counter-stroke for it, that would come out within 24 hours? [In short, this is a tactical error, and one that has already cost you on a front you can ill afford to pay a price like that on.)

    In short, it is time to act in a very strategically focussed, organised way that recognises that we are in the mids t of a kulturekampf.

    Of course, you may be dong all of this and I just don’t realise it, but that is itself telling!

    GEM of TKI

  42. Childlike in fact in its expectation of receiving attention.

    No more childlike than thinking the opinions of non-experts and non-biologists on a popular blog (UD) can raise points that should be answered by the opposition. We UDers can’t have it both ways and keep our consistency.

  43. In short, it is time to act in a very strategically focussed, organised way that recognises that we are in the mids t of a kulturekampf.

    I just don’t think you are being realistic. First, ideas in science change slowly over generations. Ideas in society move even slower. I doubt anybody is going to change their opinion on ID vs. Darwinism on the basis of a book review. Also, who has time and money to organize what you propose? Blogs like UD do not have that kind of funding, neither does DI for that matter. Finally, many of the issues get into very specialized areas of cutting edge research, it isn’t just a matter of “talking the talk” it is a matter of research, evidence, and publication. This is how these ideas progress, not spin doctor call centers and damage control hot lines.

  44. kairos

    You and others are acting like there was a bad review in the New York Times or Nature. I would agree that requires a response but Professor Behe is the one who would be expected to respond to that. It’s his book, his ideas, his argument, and ultimately his defense.

    Atom

    Again, I don’t expect anyone to answer any points I raise. The opposition didn’t show up at the Kansas Science Standards hearing. Maybe it’s them that shouldn’t expect to have it both ways. Our side at least provided qualified experts for them to engage.

  45. According to Larry Arnhart, Neil Blackstone (for The Quarterly Review of Biology) and Sean Carroll (for Science) reviewed Behe’s book, “identifying some of Behe’s scientific errors”. These should appear soon, and that’s what we would expect Dr. Behe to respond to.

  46. Michael Ruse:
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....ertainment

    It appears to me that he is doing nothing other than dismissing the book

  47. I posted my thoughts on MarkCC’s blog post reviewing Behe’s new book at the link below:

    http://continued.wordpress.com.....by-m-behe/

  48. Hi Dave [et al]

    I am actually saying that we are in the midst of a cultural civil war and need to act as men in a war zone where arguments and ideas are munitions.

    That means not only presenting one’s case but raising and taking out the major likely objections in the public right off the bat. It also means addressing the likely red herrings, strawman misrepresentations and ad hominems, fast and hard.

    Then, after they have taken two or three bloody noses, the rhetorical bullies will pull out and go home.

    By way of analogy, notice how after being taken out by a numerically and in terms of equipment [especially tanks!] inferior Israeli army in 1967, then finding out that even when surprised the Israelis would fight hard and self-sacrificially even at 10:1 odds to hold the ground, in 1973, the Arabs have backed off from massed army attacks on Israel. [They have resorted to propaganda and assymetric campaigns, manipulating perceptions. The Israelis have not been as good at addressing that, but they are learning.]

    Yes, this is a generational conflict but we must realise that that means that we have to win and hold enough hearts and minds here and now that we can at least keep a force in being strategy going.

    Do you think that the ISU faculty and administrators would have dared to have done this trick if they thought that the wave of public outrage would have probably led to a serious commission of inquiry at state and/or federal level, and probable defunding of their institution?

    Or even a serious inquiry through just and informed credible journalists and commenters in the public eye?

    But, they think GG was a soft target because whatever his personal merits, he has not got enough serious and committed support to make them pay a price for injustice.

    Behe of course has tenure, but that doesn’t stop the rhetors from trying to besmirch his reputation. Back in 96, the situation was more even-tempered, but now the issues are too hot and the rhetoric is far more barbed. So, it is no surprise that his new book would take hits before it is even officially fully published. He should have done a full rollout, with positive reviews at various levels including the blogosphere; coming out the starting gate.

    [Why isn't there an O'Leary and someone else review out there to counterbalance Mr Cho's diatribe? What about a counter-review that exposes the review? And so on . . . No tto mention, if there are indeed blunders in the work, they should have been caught in-house before committing to print.]

    Like it or lump it, this is war. War for the hearts, minds and I daresay, souls, of men. [On that the 2000 year old advice is that we shatter deceptive rhetoric, and expose and break agenda games that use the rhetoric to advance the cause of deception.]

    I am still waiting to see a good counter-Cho. And, a good blogosphere review on Behe etc as their new work comes out. As the Amazon review page shows, that is needed, like yesterday.

    Sorry to sound so strong but we need to pull up our sagging socks.

    GEM of TKI

  49. PS: Continued makes at least a beginning, on one major point — but an important one.

  50. H’mm:

    Here is DI’s blurb on Behe’s book, courtesy a banner ad at ENV blog:

    ________

    Controversial and timely, The Edge of Evolution presents landmark evidence that devastatingly disproves random mutation as a major part of evolution and shows that life developed non-randomly from cells to animals.

    Through a combination of experimental evidence, genome research, and mathematical law, Behe analyzes three key case studies of the tens of thousands of generations of malaria, E. coli, and the HIV virus, and the human genomic response to those invaders. We now know exactly what mutations have occurred in the struggle between these parasites and their human hosts. We know their rate of occurrence. We know all possible types of mutations, and their natural rate of occurrence. Armed with all this, it is a simple matter of extrapolation to determine the limits of Darwinian randomness in the entire tree of life on earth.

    With The Edge of Evolution, intelligent design has the framework for a comprehensive scientific statement that draws the line between random and non-random mutation in nature; defines the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design; fits design theory together with the findings of cosmology, chemistry, and physics into an overarching theory of the universe; and lays out a research program, with predictions, to counter the failed predictions of Darwin’s enthusiasts.

    ________

    Skell’s blurb from the same page:

    _________

    “Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin’s theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation. Now, however, we have begun to scratch the surface of direct evidence, of which this book offers the best possible treatment. Though many critics won’t want to admit it, The Edge of Evolution is very balanced, careful, and devastating. A tremendously important book.”
    —Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, and member of the National Academy of Sciences
    _____________

    Those are important issues and the book is potentially a watershed if it credibly establishes what it sets out to. So, let’s hear the vest pocket version, where its strengths and weaknesses are, and what is the state of play on the rhetoric games around it.

    GEM of TKI

  51. Next:

    I did a web search on the title, and turned up this interview from Simon and Schuster’s book intro page.

    Telling excerpts:

    __________

    What do you believe Darwinian evolutionary processes can actually do?

    The Edge of Evolution asks the sober question, what is it reasonable to think Darwinian evolutionary processes can actually do? Unprecedented genetic data on humans and our microbial parasites (malaria, HIV, E. coli) now allow us to answer that question with some precision. The astonishing result is that, even under intense selective pressure, and given an astronomical number of opportunities, random mutation and natural selection yield only trivial, mostly degenerating changes. The bottom line: the major events that produced life on earth were not driven by random mutations . . . .

    How does the book evolve from the failure of randomness to the conclusion of intelligent design? Aren’t there possible unintelligent evolutionary explanations other than Darwinism?

    The new genetic results on humans and our parasites tell against not only Darwin’s theory, but against any unintelligent process. In their reciprocal evolutionary struggle, human and parasitic genomes could have been altered in nature by whatever unintelligent mechanism had the ability to help. Yet virtually nothing did. Because the categories of “intelligent” and “unintelligent” processes are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, ruling out unintelligent processes necessarily implicates intelligence.

    What evidence speaks most clearly to the role of intelligent design in biology?

    The elegance of the foundation of life — the cell. Charles Darwin and his contemporaries supposed the cell was a “simple globule of protoplasm,” a microscopic piece of Jell-O. They were wrong. Modern science reveals the cell is a sophisticated, automated, nano-scale factory. For example, the journal Nature marvels, “The cell’s macromolecular machines contain dozens or even hundreds of components. But unlike man made machines, which are built on assembly lines, these cellular machines assemble spontaneously from their …components. It is as though cars could be manufactured by merely tumbling their parts onto the factory floor.” . . . .

    One criticism of ID has been that it makes no predictions, and thus is unscientific. Does The Edge of Evolution address this?

    The Edge of Evolution is almost entirely concerned with the major, opposing predictions of Darwinism and ID. The most essential prediction of Darwinism is that, given an astronomical number of chances, unintelligent processes can make seemingly-designed systems, ones of the complexity of those found in the cell. ID specifically denies this, predicting that in the absence of intelligent input no such systems would develop. So Darwinism and ID make clear, opposite predictions of what we should find when we examine genetic results from a stupendous number of organisms that are under relentless pressure from natural selection. The recent genetic results are a stringent test. The results: 1) Darwinism’s prediction is falsified; 2) Design’s prediction is confirmed . . .

    ____________

    Sounds worth the read . . .

    GEM of TKI

  52. More excerpts that are interesting:

    __________

    How does intelligent design differ from the prevailing Darwinist view of evolution?

    To a surprising extent prevailing evolutionary theory and intelligent design are harmonious. Both agree that the universe and life unfolded over vast ages; both agree that species could follow species in the common descent of life. They differ solely in the overriding role Darwinism ascribes to randomness. Intelligent design says that, while randomness does exist, its role in explaining the unfolding of life is quite limited.

    How does intelligent design differ from creationism? What do you say to critics who charge that it is merely “creationism in disguise”?

    Intelligent design theory is to creationism as the Big Bang theory is to the book of Genesis. Although both intelligent design and the Big Bang may be reminiscent of some religious ideas about the universe and life, they are both grounded on the empirical study of nature, not on holy books. The phrase “Let there be light” may be evocative of the Big Bang, but the Big Bang is science, not scripture. Intelligent design may be compatible with some religious concepts, but the astounding intricacy of cellular molecular machinery is hard scientific data . . . .

    How does your view of intelligent design in biology fit with the findings and theories of cosmology and physics?

    The conclusion of intelligent design in biology fits very well with unexpected results in the past few decades from physics and astronomy, which show that the universe, its laws, physical constants, and many details, are “fine-tuned” for life on earth. For example, if the charge on the electron or the properties of water were much different, life as we know it would be precluded. Biology has now discovered that the fine tuning of the universe for life actually extends into life. The term “consilience” denotes the situation where results from several scientific areas point in the same direction, reinforcing our confidence that the conclusion is correct. Biology has attained consilience with results from cosmology and physics . . . .

    Why do you think there is such resistance within the scientific community to the idea of intelligent design?

    Scientists are trained to think of the universe as a self-contained, self- explanatory system. Unexpected findings that go against that supposition can be disconcerting. When it was first proposed, the idea that the universe had a beginning in a big bang was strongly resisted by some scientists, because it pointed to a reality outside of the universe. Intelligent design of biology evokes even stronger reactions, perhaps because it challenges the supposition of a self-contained universe even more strongly.

    ____________

    We need more like this, with dig-in details.

    GEM of TKI

  53. This too:

    __________

    The book’s subtitle speaks of the “limits of Darwinism.” Are you saying that Darwin’s theory is completely wrong?

    Not at all. It is an excellent explanation for some features of life, but it has sharp limits. Darwin’s theory is an amalgam of several concepts: 1) random mutation, 2) natural selection, and 3) common descent. Common descent and natural selection are very well-supported. Random mutation isn’t. Random mutation is severely constrained. So the process which produced the elegant structures of life could not have been random.
    __________

    GEM of TKI

  54. From the Amazon reviews:

    ___________

    Fritz Ward (who unlike some of the “reviewers” on the other side seems to have read the book . . .):

    In this book Behe strikes off in a new direction from his previous work, ‘Darwin’s Black Box.’ Rather than simply explore cellular mechanisms that seem unlikely to arise from chance, Behe instead considers all the areas where evolution seems to function very well. For example, the rise of resistance among certain diseases, notably malaria, to synthetic drugs. Remarkable evolutionary pressures are at work in the struggle between humans and deadly pathogens. Humans who develop an immunity to maleria have a strong evolutionary advantage over those who don’t. Similarly, protozoan parasites which can avoid the drugs we use to combat them also have an evolutionary advantage. Indeed, this is common knowledge among all biologists and most of the literate public. Germ resistance of all kinds to drug treatments is the star example of evolution at work.

    But what is not so commonly known is that random mutation has severe limits in how effectively it can cope with evolutionary pressure. Indeed, what Behe demonstrates in precise detail is that evolutionary mechanisms are for the most part destructive: a part of the DNA stand is destroyed or replaced with a less efficient coding and the result is a weaker organism, though one which can survive the “trench warfare” of survival with hostile organisms. Thus, for example, humans have developed sickle cell anemia to cope with malaria. This is hardly beneficial, in and of itself, but compared to malarial death, it is a very helpful mutation. Similarly, malaria can rapidly evolve resistance to some drugs, slowly to others (more changes are required, and hence far fewer resistant copies of the cell are likely) but the mutated genes that come from this battle for survival are not optimal. Indeed, like sickle cell anemia, they rapidly die out of the malarial population if not subjected to the pressure of deadly (for the parasite) toxins in the form of antimalarial drugs.

    So, while malaria (and several other cases Behe examines) suggests the efficacy of random mutation, it also suggests limits to just how much it can accomplish. Indeed, Behe finds that even two or three simultaneous random changes in DNA sequencing is exceedingly unlikely, and more just about impossible. This is very important because it suggests real limits to the amount of random mutation that could happen among higher mammals. People mistakenly believe that time is the most important factor in allowing for evolutionary change but as Behe demonstrates, population, not time, is what determines successful mutations. Malaria, and even moreso HIV are extraordinarily effective at utilizing evolution. There are a lot of such organisms and they reproduce quickly. Humans, and indeed, all vertebrate and most invertibrate animals, do not. Even given the entire history of life on the planet, it is extremely unlikely that the random mutation proposition of evolution could account for a significant amount of the diversity we witness in the world around us.

    ____________

    Compare 2 – 3 as an effective upper limit on mutations on a per stage basis, with the number of DNA shifts to get new cell or organ or body plan level functionality, and the 250-base pair limit on the Dembski type upper bound.

    Design looks very serious as a contender on the merits — as opposed to the politics.

    Okay, over to the readers of the book for their thoughts . . .

    GEM of TKI

  55. I read Chu-Carroll’s hatchet job against Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution and against Behe personally. This “review” is in his blog and hardly deserves to be so called, but it apparently has been cited in other Darwinist websites, so it interested me to see if there is any substance under all the insulting vituperation. Though not a biologist I found it interesting to try to evaluate some of his arguments. After all, he isn’t a biologist either but that doesn’t seem to have held him back. As distasteful as it is to examine such angry ravings in detail. I perused the sections of The Edge of Evolution most relevant to Chu’s tirade, in advance of thoroughly reading the book. This seems OK since Chu obviously hasn’t read much of it either.

    I found mostly prejudiced misinterpretations and invalid arguments, more than I can completely recount here. The Edge of Evolution is quite evidently directed at nonscientist readers and is simplified accordingly, unfortunately glossing over the fine points. So Chu pounces on every relatively simplified description of evolutionary theory as an indication of Behe’s supposed ignorance and stupidity. For instance, he claims that Behe says that mutations are always single point changes. This is absolutely ridiculous and of course deliberately insulting. Chu, look at Chapter 3 page 62 first paragraph. Another example: “…his (Behe’s) ignorance of any source of genetic diversity other than mutation.” Of course Behe is aware of other sources of variation. Recombination is supposed to be the major source other than mutation. Behe doesn’t mention recombination because mutation is still the major source of change to the genome, as admitted in many orthodox MET sources. Recombination mainly reshuffles alleles (different mutated versions of genes) during reproduction of sex cells in eukaryotic organisms.

    Behe’s prime statistical example of the limits of Darwinian evolution with only random variation is the malaria parasite, and this is a protozoan eukaryote (plasmodium) in which meiotic recombination continually occurs. This example gives every advantage to random variations from all types of mutations and recombinational events in a huge population over millions of generations, but the limitations still applied.

    Chu goes into a long diatribe over Behe’s use of the “fitness landscape” concept in his argument. It seems to me these criticisms are obfuscations and irrelevant to Behe’s thesis. However many dimensions of different interacting fitness functions, and however this “landscape” changes with time for a species, for any particular reproductive fitness function the species can still be trapped at a local maximum, unable to get across the “valley” to the next, higher peak without an extremely improbable giant leap. The reason for this is that the physical genetic loci coding for different fitness functions or factors are generally uncorrelated with each other. Usually they are not even in the same gene. No matter how many other varied genetic changes affect the phenotype in varied ways, certain specific mutational or other genetic changes are needed to make the jump from phenotype structure A to elaborated structure B in time T as evidenced by the fossil record. The probability of this occurring by accumulation of small random changes or by one giant (random) leap is a function of the total complexity of that particular genetic change, the likely presence of steps that are too deleterious to reproductive fitness to spread and fix in the population, and the number of generations. This is regardless of abstract models like the “fitness landscape”.

    The malaria parasite drug resistance example (in addition to others) demonstrates these limitations in the living world, regardless of abstract models.

    Chu then sets up a straw man and demolishes it by implying Behe doesn’t even account for the trillion or so malaria protozoa in each human individual with the disease, in estimating the total number of reproducing parasites subject to Darwinian evolution in the human population. Of course this is ridiculous – Behe clearly accounts for this in his calculations, as shown in numerous places in chapter 3.

    After this travesty, Chu continues to use rhetoric rather than specific arguments and counterexamples, to somehow through any means destroy Behe’s malaria test case. He grudgingly admits some validity to Behe’s statistical estimates for the malaria parasite acquisition of chloroquine resistance, but claims the malaria example is still an “artificially inflated probability number based on the biochemistry of one specific organism”. He vaguely asserts without substantiation that for an organism like malaria these numbers just aren’t “compelling”. I guess we are supposed to take this on faith in his wisdom. He has plenty of rant and bluster, but doesn’t show any specific valid way these numbers were inflated, and he doesn’t show specifically why Behe’s application of these results to human population genetics is invalid. This did, however, make me wonder if this extrapolation was perhaps simplistic. The only factor I could identify that might be questionable in relating the basic population genetics of the two organisms in this way was genome mutation rate per individual per generation. This is fairly low for unicellular organisms with very short lifespans and generation times, but higher animals (metazoans) accumulate mutations in their germ (sex) cells over a much longer time for each individual, so their mutation rate per generation is much higher. To try to correct for this I found some published mutation rate estimates, which indicated that the ratio is a factor of about 10,000. I tried correcting for this and Behe’s numerical argument was not significantly affected. It’s in the noise compared to the other factors. Behe didn’t mention this aspect probably because it is beyond the detail level of the presentation.

    Chu doesn’t even try to address the other related points made in the book, such as in chapter 7 on the failure of the malaria parasite over human history to have evolved any new cellular protein-protein interactions (binding sites).

    Chu also makes the usual hand-waving general claim that the chances of producing any particular biological change is admittedly extremely small, but that the chances of producing at least something or anything adaptive is very high. As if this really explains anything. So if it looks like you were chosen by design it really is only the end of a long chance winnowing process. This is just a rhetorical ploy and carefully avoids trying to apply it to explain any particular evolutionary development sequence.

  56. 56

    magnan,
    As I understand the point of Chu-Carroll’s criticism is that the fitness function is dynamic, that is changing over time.

    Suppose species X is trapped a local minimum. The fitness function, being dynamic, can change; for instance X might migrate to a place with different weather conditions, hence a different fitness function. In the new fitness function, X is no longer trapped.

  57. Just try to program … time-varying/coevolving fitness landscapes and see if they produce solutions to interesting problems (i.e., produce specified complexity). You’ll find one of two things. Either you’ll get sludge because you didn’t adequately constrain how fitness landscapes vary with time in response to a changing environment, or you’ll get something interesting (specified complexity) because you carefully introduced constraints and thereby did design work that cannot be reduced to material mechanisms.

    To be sure, fitness in biology varies with time. As organisms evolve and the environment changes, what the environment deems fit changes as well. But what exactly constrains the transition from one fitness landscape or function to the next? If there is no constraint, then we are in the position of Wolpert and Macready’s Theorem 2, with evolutionary algorithms proceeding independently of their progress to solution and thus unable to outperform blind search (which means that even with 3.5 billion years of evolution, it’s going to be vastly improbable that the evolutionary algorithm approaches a solution). Conveniently, [Darwinists don't] tell us what constrains the transitions. Presumably nature, unprogrammed and unguided, spontaneously gives rise to the right and needed transitions between successive fitness landscapes, thereby ensuring a form of complexity-increasing evolution. But that is precisely what needs to be explained.

    [Dembski] show[s] [in No Free Lunch] that coevolving fitness landscapes are mathematically equivalent to evolution with respect to a fixed fitness landscape. The argument requires reconceptualizing the configuration space so that coevolving fitness, as it were, gets built into it. The upshot is that coevolution introduces no new mathematics and therefore no way out of the displacement problem. If displacement is a problem for evolution with respect to a single fitness landscape, then it remains a problem for coevolving fitness landscapes. (cite)

    Chu-Carroll’s criticism has been dead for a few years.

  58. H’mm:

    Now THAT’S more like it!

    Thank you, Magnan and Jaredl.

    I particularly liked this from Magnan:

    However many dimensions of different interacting fitness functions, and however this “landscape” changes with time for a species [i.e. M is looking at the dynamic case emphasised by Chu-Carroll, Patrick], for any particular reproductive fitness function the species can still be trapped at a local maximum, unable to get across the “valley” to the next, higher peak without an extremely improbable giant leap. The reason for this is that the physical genetic loci coding for different fitness functions or factors are generally uncorrelated with each other. Usually they are not even in the same gene. No matter how many other varied genetic changes affect the phenotype in varied ways, certain specific mutational or other genetic changes are needed to make the jump from phenotype structure A to elaborated structure B in time T as evidenced by the fossil record.

    In short, if the biofunctrional states are sufficiently isolated, random walks cannot credibly move from one to another. That sufficiency of isolation comes in at oh, about 250 base pairs or so, up. As Meyer ands othershave long since documented, just to get tot he Cambrian life revolution, with dozens of new phyla and subphyla over maybe 10 MY on theusual projected chronology, you have to jump from genomes that may be on the order of 1 mb bp to say comparable to a modern arthropod at ~ 180 mn bp. Even if 90% of the increment is mere junk, that makes but little or no material difference tot he resulting isolation of functional states relative to random walks.

    So, Behe has summarised a key point.

    And, as for the issue of the dynamic nature of fitness landscapes, that still does not get around the issue of isolation in the configuration space that makes the lucky noise thesis incredible.

    Jaredl then put the final knife-thrust in by going back tot he No Free Lunch work. Namely, either you don’t find the fit islands, or, you write in the information on how to migrate and where to find the new fit islands.

    But of course, at popular or semipopular levels, misleading rhetoric is often effective – especially for those who don’t want to see their favoured view crumble into dust. Even at professional scientific levels, people are astonishingly prone to rhetorical traps. Not to mention, it is notorious that new paradigms triumph by generational replacement, not by persuasion.

    GEM of TKI

  59. Somebody correct me if I am not getting this right. But are Chu-Carroll and friends saying that dynamic fitness landscape matters because changes in the enviroment allow otherwise neutral mutations to have a selective advantage thereby creating a pathway of gradual beneficial mutations where otherwise there existed only islands of improved fitness seperated by gaps of neutral or non-beneficial sequence space?

    Is that correct?

    Allow me to give an illustration of what I mean.

    Let’s say Gene X needs to change 6 nucleotides to form a new protein with a novel function that will create a selective advantage. Unfortunately for Gene X, until all 6 nucleotides are replaced there is zero selective advantage. So in a fixed fitness landscape, Gene X must change each of those nucleotides by a purely random walk. Behe would point out that the odds of this happening are prohibitive. But Chu-Carroll and company come and point out that the fitness landscape is dynamic, so a change in the enviroment could occur that allows a selective advantage for each of the needed six nucleotide changes in a gradual stepwise manner.

    Is that really what Chu-Carrol and Company are arguing? Frankly, that seems like such an unpersuasive agrument that I suspect I am not understanding it properly.

  60. [...] In contrast, the NCSE is naively promoting Coyne’s terrible review here. Because Coyne’s review is so bad, can we be certain Coyne wasn’t the victim of copying one of the Sokal-type hoaxes which Bill Dembski is offering $200 prizes for? And has world-renowned Darwinist Sean Carroll already fallen prey to such a hoax (well, I not so seriously speculate on the possibility here anyway)? [...]

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