Home » Darwinism, Intelligent Design, Science » Nature “writes back” to Behe Eight Years Later

Nature “writes back” to Behe Eight Years Later

Eight years ago, biochemist Michael Behe wrote this open letter to the prestigious scientific journal, Nature:

Sir-

As a public skeptic of the ability of Darwinian processes to account for complex cellular systems and a proponent of the hypothesis of intelligent design, (1) I often encounter a rebuttal that can be paraphrased as “no designer would have done it that way.” …
If at least some pseudogenes have unsuspected functions, however, might not other biological features that strike us as odd also have functions we have not yet discovered? Might even the backwards wiring of the vertebrate eye serve some useful purpose?
….
Hirotsune et al’s (3) work has forcefully shown that our intuitions about what is functionless in biology are not to be trusted.

Sincerely, Michael J. Behe
An Open Letter to Nature

Contrast that with Ken Miller’s now falsified claim in 1994:

the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles.

Ken Miller, 1994


Although Miller won in Judge Jones’ Kangaroo Court, Behe has won where it counts, in the court of empirical facts. Behe has won the argument over the backward wiring of the eye (see the essay by medical researcher Michael Denton: Inverted Retina).

And Behe has scored a second victory in the debate over junk DNA. Although Nature may not have had Behe in mind when they wrote the following, it seems, the net effect is as if they have “written back” eight years later to Behe and affirmed his views while essentially trashing their poster boy Ken Miller the honest Darwinist.

In Human genome at ten: Life is complicated, we read:

Just one decade of post-genome biology has exploded that view. Biology’s new glimpse at a universe of non-coding DNA — what used to be called ‘junk’ DNA — has been fascinating and befuddling. Researchers from an international collaborative project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) showed that in a selected portion of the genome containing just a few per cent of protein-coding sequence, between 74% and 93% of DNA was transcribed into RNA2. Much non-coding DNA has a regulatory role; small RNAs of different varieties seem to control gene expression at the level of both DNA and RNA transcripts in ways that are still only beginning to become clear. “Just the sheer existence of these exotic regulators suggests that our understanding about the most basic things — such as how a cell turns on and off — is incredibly naive,” says Joshua Plotkin, a mathematical biologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

But here is something reported at UD from ScienceDaily regarding ENCODE almost 3 years ago:

The new data indicate the genome contains very little unused sequences and, in fact, is a complex, interwoven network…

Ken Miller may face more embarrassing facts

So Miller is wrong, the genome is not “full of junk and scribbles” in the way he claims. Furthermore:

the ENCODE effort found about half of functional elements in the human genome do not appear to have been obviously constrained during evolution

Translation: at least half of the functioning genome didn’t acquire function via Darwinian processes! I remind the reader of Darwin’s own words:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

There you have it. We’ve discovered functional systems not under the constraints of Darwinian selection, therefore they were not evolved via Darwinian selection. So Darwin was wrong. [I referenced earlier how such inferences are made. See: Peer Reviewed Article Critical of Darwinian Evolution by NAS Member.]

Despite this we have Darrel Falk and friends repeating the same old line:

almost certainly much, if not most, of the DNA plays no role, and in many cases can be harmful

Darrel Falk
Professor of Biology
Evolutionary Biologist Richard Sternberg Challenges Darrel Falk

Given how badly Falk and Miller have been refuted by the evidence, I have to ask : “Is this their Varsity?”

HT: Rob Crowther: Exploding the Darwin Friendly Myth

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

34 Responses to Nature “writes back” to Behe Eight Years Later

  1. Great post. Thank you…

  2. Fantastic information of past history, of present and how the Darwinist get away with murder in the biased media.

    This goes uncovered the way Climate-Gate is pushed off to the side.

    Darwinist failed because their hueristic insight failed.

    Design hueristics are more profitable for research and future development.

  3. “We would have to wonder why an intelligent designer placed the neural wiring of the retina on the side facing the incoming light… This arrangement… produces a blind spot at the point where the wiring is pulled through the light-sensitive retina to produce the optic nerve that carries visual images to the brain.”

    Ken Miller

    As pointed out, on this point, Miller is wrong again (surprise surprise).

    The whole “bad design” argument deserves further exploration. Maybe when I can clear my schedule, I’ll address it.

    PS
    T. lise, I’m the thread on Michael Lynch is still in the works, its about 5 postings away in the queue, maybe more, but I’m trying to get o it. Take care.

  4. 4
    Jonathan McLatchie

    Scordova -

    Does the proposition of front-loading as proposed by yourself, David Scott, Michael Sherman and others not predict a significant volume of functionless DNA, particularly in the lower taxons?

    J

  5. Good stuff.

    Despite this we have Darrel Falk and friends repeating the same old line…

    This Falk and his friend Ayala are all the same. I like most sad faces of these old darwinian wariors. Ayala is unsurpassable. He pops up with very very grave face expressing the deep emotion “listen what I have to say” and then he starts : “Sorry for bad news. Science proved beyond any doubts that God didn’t create man. Unfortunatelly he is only a random outcome of Natural selection. I am really sorry for bad news.”.

    It’s a pity genius Fyodor Dostoevsky is not alive. He liked to analyse every curiose type of atheists. Be it Ivan Karamazoff, Svidrigajloff, Kirillov from the Possesed et cetera. These old darwinian crusaders are another interesting psychological “types”.
    Dostoevsky also intended to write novel about an old atheist….

    Not to speak about their “arguments”. Ayala’s claims about “junk DNA” is analysed here. I criticised also his fancies about 2% gene difference between man and chimp or how “narrow birth canal” contradicts Intelligent desing in my correspondence with professor Davison only a few days ago here:

    http://cadra.wordpress.com

  6. Although Miller won in Judge Jones’ Kangaroo Court, Behe has won where it counts, in the court of empirical facts. Behe has won the argument over the backward wiring of the eye (see the essay by medical researcher Michael Denton: Inverted Retina).

    The theory of evolution has no difficulty in accounting for structures that are less than optimal from a design perspective. Indeed, it is what would be expected from a process which tends to cobble together Heath Robinson contraptions from whatever happens to be available at the time, the only requirement being that they work adequately.

    The problem for design theorists is how to explain a why a designer, who must be more advanced than we are, should perpetrate designs which even we can see are less than ideal.

    Michael Denton’s essay provides an excellent account of how the vertebrate eye works. He mentions, for example, the need for a lavish blood supply to carry in oxygen and nutrients and carry away waste products, although he doesn’t include heat amongst the waste products. Other articles have suggested a need to cool the retina given that light focused there by the lens will have a heating effect.

    What the essay does not explain, however, is why the inverted retina is the only solution. Surely, it should be possible to design a non-inverted retina which is still supplied with all its requirements. Interestingly, the evidence that this might be possible is supplied by the one part of the retina Denton doesn’t mention.

    The fovea is a small pit in the retina which provides our highest-resolution vision. To see how much sharper, try reading this text while looking off to one side of the monitor, which means your eyes are acquiring the image through the much lower-resolution outer areas of the retina. You should find the text is unreadable.

    The key point about the fovea is that not only is there a high concentration of cone cells packed into it but, most tellingly, there is no ‘wiring’ or ‘plumbing’ laid over the top as is the case with the rest of the retina. It has unobstructed access to the incoming light as you might expect for the area which provides the greatest visual acuity.

    There is a penalty, of course. Because the foveal cells depend only on the blood supply flowing behind them in the retina, in bright light their demand for oxygen can exceed the supply and they become hypoxic. Again, this sort of compromise is what we might expect from an evolutionary process.

    What the existence of the fovea establishes, however, is that the greatest visual acuity is achieved where there is no obstruction between the photoreceptors and incoming light. Given that, why isn’t there a much greater area of HD retina? Why couldn’t the designer have given us the vision of a hawk, for example?

    That the human visual system works and works well, in spite of the inverted retina, is not in doubt. But clearly it is not as good as it could be. The question design theorists must answer is why their putative designer did not do better.

  7. Seversky at #5 writes:

    “The problem for design theorists is how to explain a why a designer, who must be more advanced than we are, should perpetrate designs which even we can see are less than ideal.”

    This has already been answered, but to anyone who has ever designed *anything* at all, or who works in an engineering environment, the answer is that I have never seen an “ideal” design coming from the mind of a known intelligent designer. As an example, I work with high-power transmitters, 500,000 watts to be precise. There is no way to make them ideal, or make them operate at 100%, although you can get close. Whenever I have to lay on my back and remove a 75 pound capacitor, or troubleshoot these things, I curse the people who designed them a whole bunch. And yet, they (the transmitters) are clearly the products of design.

  8. Seversky at #5:

    “Why couldn’t the designer have given us the vision of a hawk, for example?”

    He could have of course. As to why,think again of something that you know is designed. As a history major, try the example of the bomber my dad flew on in WWII; a B-24 Liberator. It was an excellent heavy bomber but would have made a poor fighter or close-support aircraft. Why? Because it was designed with a specific purpose in mind. ALL designers know this, and all operate under that premise.

  9. He could have of course. As to why,think again of something that you know is designed. As a history major, try the example of the bomber my dad flew on in WWII; a B-24 Liberator. It was an excellent heavy bomber but would have made a poor fighter or close-support aircraft. Why? Because it was designed with a specific purpose in mind. ALL designers know this, and all operate under that premise.

    Yup. You don’t judge the design of an airplane as sub-optimal because it isn’t as fuel efficient as a sailboat!!!!

    Unless one has insight into the requirements specification, there is no cause to judge something as suboptimal. By such ad-hoc “bad design” claims one could argue “cars aren’t intelligently designed because they have spare tires, and a competent designer would not build tires that would go flat”.

    Yet these are the bread and butter of Jerry Coyne and Ken Miller.

  10. The theory of evolution has no difficulty in accounting for structures that are less than optimal from a design perspective

    By what standard do you judge a design sub-optimal. And even granting that, a theory of design sees no need to account for such things.

    I have a few broken computers right now. How can one use the “bad design” argument to argue the computers weren’t intelligently designed?

    If the designer is not God, then there the issue of “bad design” is no problem.

    If the designer is God, how can you say he would make perfect designs. Is it logical that God would create something as perfect as Himself? I don’t know, but before one argues that God ought to have made perfect creatures (as perfect and as capable as God), you have to answer such questions.

    Also, one doesn’t argue computer languages aren’t perfectly designed because they admit syntax and semantic errors. I’ve yet to meet a computer scientist that thinks they can create a non-trivial computer language incapable of programming errors. Yet this is the style of flawed reasoning by Miller and Coyne and others. In their view, systems capable of error are somehow created by mindless processes. By that standard,you could say all known engineering artifacts aren’t really designed.

    It would be easy to use the “bad design” arguments for all sorts of things, but on closer inspection, they are quite weak logically. The appeal of “bad design” arguments are emotional, not logical.

  11. Seversky


    The question design theorists must answer is why their putative designer did not do better.

    He could have also provided us with Infra and UV vision. We would have a “survival advantage”. It should not have costed so much – considering the vision of eagle with its small brain. Unless “survival advantage” and “natural selection” are darwinian fantasmagories of course…

  12. Scordova,

    re: Seversky’s failed emotional argument. Well done.

    He is not appealing to logic, but to what he thinks something should be according to his idea of what the designer must do in order to impress upon him that something is designed.

    This is theological territory, phislophical questions at best and nothing to do with actual design criteria.

    Truth is, Seversky never saw anything cobbled together over vast distances of time because he was not there. He is only guessing or “inferring” an unguided process.

    At best, IDist are doing the same, they are inferring Design. Thus William Dembski’s Design Inference.

    Unguided evolution from nothing to humans that create is a theory cobbled together over time of wishful thinking, little actual evidence and much fairy tale amusment, much like Ida or Piltdown and Nebraska man, now Junk DNA is going the way of failed predictions and well… fairy tales told to those that want to follow the Darwinian religion.

  13. #9 Very good point Sal

    but perhaps to put Severski’s ideas where they are worth to be put into (…) it is sufficient a metaphor. Our reflexive guy ha just said something such as:

    “Well, I’m looking at a 2010 F1 Ferrari car.
    It “seems” beautiful but really it isn’t because it is poorly designed:
    1. the engine is very far from optimal; while the hypothetical designer did not use a gas turbine engine?
    2 Aerodynamics is not optimal; really a designer etc …
    3. For wheels are not optimal. Why the designer etc …

    …. and so on :-)

  14. Gleaner63 mentioned that his father flew the B-24 Liberator bomber in WWII. That was designed and a prototype built in 1939 by Consolidated. It was considered advanced for its time and was probably the best that could have been achieved by the science and technology of the period. But is there any doubt that, if the science and technology to build a B-52 or B-2 had become available, those designers in 1939 would have jumped at the chance to use it?

    If the vertebrate eye was designed and built it was not by us. We don’t have that capability yet. Whoever or whatever did it was most probably not human and not terrestrial. They would certainly be more advanced than we are. Given that, we are entitled to ask why they included apparent design flaws that we would have avoided if possible.

    scordova @ 9 asked a pertinent question:

    If the designer is God, how can you say he would make perfect designs. Is it logical that God would create something as perfect as Himself? I don’t know, but before one argues that God ought to have made perfect creatures (as perfect and as capable as God), you have to answer such questions.

    The question is, could a perfect God design anything less than perfection and remain perfect Himself? Is a perfect deity not as constrained by its defining properties as any other being?

    In fact, it raises a further question. If the Christian God is assumed to be the Uncaused First Cause He must be a (philosophically) necessary entity. In other words, He is entirely self-sufficient, not contingent, not dependent on anything outside of Himself. The question then becomes, why would such a being create anything, let alone a Universe, in the first place?

    Christians here have argued that God seeks a close relationship with humanity. He is supposed to love and and wants our love, our worship, in return. But God is also supposed to be this necessary being, self-sufficient, not dependent on anything outside of Himself. That is directly contradicted by His apparent need for a relationship with us.

    Either you have a necessary uncaused First Cause or you have a contingent being whose has needs that cannot be met from within His own resources. You cannot have both.

  15. Seversky,

    In fact, it raises a further question. If the Christian God is assumed to be the Uncaused First Cause He must be a (philosophically) necessary entity. In other words, He is entirely self-sufficient, not contingent, not dependent on anything outside of Himself. The question then becomes, why would such a being create anything, let alone a Universe, in the first place?

    Either you have a necessary uncaused First Cause or you have a contingent being whose has needs that cannot be met from within His own resources. You cannot have both.

    Darwinists have to answer these questions, not design theorists or even creationists. Darwinsits are the ones insinuating “God wouldn’t have done it that way, therefore God doesn’t exist”. So the burden is on Darwinists to speak for a God they don’t believe even exists!!!

    I merely pointed out:

    1. accusations of sub-optimal are inappropriate if one does not have access to the purpose of a design

    2. saying, “God wouldn’t have done it that way” is a suspect argument at best

    These sort of arguments smack of pure philosophy, not hard nosed empiricism or rigorous scientific theory. It’s not even speculative scientific theory!

    Who said a creator needs to do anything. A creative act is by definition, one that is not NEEDED or compelled by definition. If free-will choice defines intelligence, and if free will choice is not deterministic, then, your premise is false. But I emphasize, these are philosophical objections to ID, not scientific ones.

    I took time to offer a philosophical response, but the bottom line is on scientific grounds Behe was right, Miller was wrong. Sternberg was right, Falk was wrong. Paley was mostly right, and Darwin was wrong.

    The “bad design” philosophy can’t fundamentally challenge scientific inferences.

    Thank you, however, for providing a valiant defense of your position. I think it was well articulated.

    But don’t you appreciate the irony of arguing “God wouldn’t have done it that way” for a God one doesn’t even believe in?

    Myself as a Christian, I wouldn’t even presume to make arguments for how Athena or Zeus would do things, but Darwinists seem quite willing to speak for how the Judeo-Christian God would do business.

  16. 16

    Seversky,

    “The question is, could a perfect God design anything less than perfection and remain perfect Himself?”

    Your notions, in tha face of the evidence of design, are child-like. But, you are an adult.

    What is the perfect eye?

  17. I know Behe is something of a hero for this forum, so I appreciated these spirited laments about his poor treatment at the hands of the journal Nature (actually, what scientist hasn’t been treated badly by Science or Nature at some point?) BUT ID has still not inspired an actual experimental research program whereas anyone who actually reads beyond the first ten pages of Nature would be disingenuous if they claimed that evolutionary theory has been anything but productive.

  18. 13 Sev.
    Apparently, Sev. continues to mislead what a design could and should be …

    Gleaner63 mentioned that his father flew the B-24 Liberator bomber in WWII. That was designed and a prototype built in 1939 by Consolidated. It was considered advanced for its time and was probably the best that could have been achieved by the science and technology of the period. But is there any doubt that, if the science and technology to build a B-52 or B-2 had become available, those designers in 1939 would have jumped at the chance to use it?

    Yes, there’s much more than a single doubt. First, this doesn’t take into account the fact that designs are historical acts. Second, this kind of reasoning is quite the same of the guy who would claim that a modern F1 car is a flawed design because … (see above).

    If the vertebrate eye was designed and built it was not by us. We don’t have that capability yet.

    ROTFL. We humans won’t ever have this kind of capability; the best we could reasonably do in the future is to apply the design solutions already present in the eye for our artificial eye.

    Whoever or whatever did it was most probably not human and not terrestrial. They would certainly be more advanced than we are.

    Please discard the conditional tense and we’ll agree :-)
    And if you will persist in maintaining the conditional, YOU are constrained to provide a reasonable proof that the vertebrate eye did arise by purely chance+NS. This is your duty not our …

    Given that, we are entitled to ask why they included apparent design flaws that we would have avoided if possible.

    Sal did already show how not only this is not a scientific question, but even that it’s a bit strange that naturalists can reasonably entitle themselves as holders of the truth about how an historical Deity should have acted to create the world.

    In addition to what Sal (and others) have explained I would simply give a suggestion to Sev. (and any other could think in the same way): dont’t think that the Spinoza god is a credible picture of the God of creation.

  19. (Addendum concerning the vertebrate eye)

    Let us go back to the recent book by Piattelli Palmarini and Fodor, which has been so virulently attacked by the ND orthodoxy defenders.
    In the book PP cited how there are non-vertebrate sea animals, very ancient and very distant from vertebrate animals, which have all the genetic machinery to actually build (or potentially build as it’s the case for blind sea urchins) a set of complete vertebrate eye with its amazingly complex biochemical machinery. How did this occur without any natural selection to drive it? In fact we have an eye which is able to modify and elaborate in a very sophisticated way sets of signals without a brain that be able to use them.

    It’s a very devastating question for neodarwinists.
    And sincerely I don’t think that ever the more naive of them can seriously say that this is
    another example of flawed design :-D

  20. Of course, a designer may choose to make something inferior. Why not? I have a friend who prefers vinyl records to CDs or MP3s. No accounting for taste. My theology is that God gives us an imperfect body on purpose.But my theology doesn’t matter in this debate.
    In the end the question is not, “is it a perfect design?” but “does it exhibit design?”

  21. (my comment, part II)…so, I don’t have much sympathy for Behe’s treatment by Nature. In contrast I have great sympathy for Ken Miller because your treatment of him is uncharitable. You base your criticism of his statement re: junk DNA on information that wasn’t available at the time (the more complete genome annotation provided by ENCODE). Moreover, you misconstrue this statement from ScienceDaily:

    “the ENCODE effort found about half of functional elements in the human genome do not appear to have been obviously constrained during evolution”

    to mean something that any biologist would not think it meant, and in a way that is inconsistent with the next sentence in the article, where these “unconstrained” elements are described as a warehouse of raw material for natural selection. In fact, the above statement, read in the context of the article, presents a description of “junk DNA” with the additional twist that natural selection might salvage such material to cobble together selective advantage. This conclusion is really a nuanced version of Miller’s original point, which is that lots of the human genome is not currently functional and does not organized in a way that indicates intention or contrivance.

  22. Even though I am an ID proponent, I happen to agree with Seversky on suboptimality being an argument against design. And so did Michael Denton, which is why he wrote the paper on the inverted retina, attempting to show that it was indeed an optimal design. BTW, I believe that his views on the retina have been challenged.

    And by allowing the challenge of suboptimality, we ID proponents also create an opportunity to do research, which could either further strengthen or weaken our thesis.

    As to why a necessary being would create, the usual answer is that God was motivated by love. Does that mean God needed to create in order to have someone to love? The usual Christian answer is that a loving relationship already existed between the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. So creation wasn’t necessary but freely done.

  23. The concept of optimality is one based on objectives. What are the overall objectives of a system. What may be optimal in one set of circumstances may be less than optimal in another. If one part of a system were made more efficient, it may interfere with another part of the system and make the overall system less effective. So what may seem as less than optimal, may in fact be great design for optimality.

    All life lives in various ecologies. In order for a life form to persist it must not dominate the ecology it lives in to the point that it ends up destroying the ecology because of its effectiveness. Thus for example, being faster, stronger, smarter or having better vision may not be best for the ecology. So if I were running the zoo, I would make sure that no organism could become dominant and this would require that each organism be limited in some way or be sub optimal.

    What is amazing is that there are literally millions of different ecologies in the world and they only persist because each organism within these ecologies is sub optimally designed. If the various organisms were more efficient they would probably destroy the ecology and eventually themselves. It seems that each organism can adapt but there are always limits on this adeaption or in other words they are optimally sub-optimal.

    Or in the best of all possible worlds, they are perfectly imperfect and this allows for a better world.

  24. Hi Jerry,

    Do you see how your view opens up the possibility of further research? I do.

  25. A wise man once said:

    “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”
    2 Corinthians 4:17

    A property of reality is that the possibility of something bad makes possible good that wouldn’t otherwise be realized.

    For example, the Superbowl in sports. If all teams were winners, the value of the game would be gone.

    Some of these “bad design” arguments strike me as saying, “no intelligent designer would design a sport where there would be some who lose. An intelligent designer would make everyone a winner”. Yet here we are, intelligent designers design sports where there are winners and losers. Suboptimality is a consequence of ID in this circumstance.

    Life is meaningful partly because there are things that are not alive. Life is meaningful partly because there is such a thing as death.

    So why do we have a world and universe that has life but is doomed to death (via thermodynamics eventually)?

    I’ve often thought the futility of this world was by design. The futility of this world might be part of making meaningful another world. That seems to be the thought in 2 Corinthians 4:17. And even if one is not a Christian, I would suppose this still sounds deeply sensible.

    For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

    Romans 8:20

    Biological reality doesn’t seem to be defined by Natural Selection, as the ENCODE project has demonstrated and as articualted by Kimura, Nei, Jukes, Kings, so many others.

    Personally, I see a lot of symbolism. For human life to exist, something other living creature has to be sacrificed as our food source. The sybolism is there if one is willing to see it!

    We see a caterpillar transform into butterfly. We see certain species of insects where the male is consumed as part of what brings life through the female. We see horrible cruelty and sublime beuaty.

    Personally, I see biology as designed symbolism. That is completely consistent with modern engineering where the engineering and communication of symbols constitutes a large part of the Gross Domestic Product.

    Likewise, to me biology isn’t just about survival, it is about symbolism, profound symbolism.

    Whatever Seversky’s issues are with ID, I don’t see that the worldview he defends as worth defending. One might doubt whether there is salvation in Christ, but for sure there is no salvation in Darwinism, “only pointless indifference” to quote Dawkins.

    If Darwinism/Dawkinism argues for “no good, no evil only pointless indifference” what’s the point of defending such views? That seems even less logical than any of the pro-ID arugments offered in this thread.

    But all the philosophy premised on Darwinism is likely moot anyway since it seems scientifcally incorrect.

  26. “Do you see how your view opens up the possibility of further research? I do.”

    Yes, there is a whole range of possible research which would not be taken up because its objective seems to undermine the current wisdom. I can foresee that a lot scientists might be interested in it but like research against global warming there would not be much money to support it.

    The argument that organisms are not optimally designed is really an argument against Darwinian natural selection and the more extensive modern evolutionary synthesis rather than an argument for it. Dawkins makes a big deal about sub-optimal design and so do many of the anti ID people here but they are really undermining their own argument and don’t realize it. There should be no limits on what animals or plants could do, but there seems to be built in limits for everything.

    So yes, it would make interesting research but the pro ID nature of it would stifle it in today’s climate.

  27. 28

    Spot48 @ 17

    “I know Behe is something of a hero for this forum, so I appreciated these spirited laments about his poor treatment at the hands of the journal Nature”

    A couple of issues:

    1) ID is not about Michael Behe, it’s about empirical evidence. Professor Behe is not venerated because Mr. and Mrs. Behe procreated and named their offspring Michael, nor is it because he is an infallible character within the ID debate. He is respected because his observations are in-tune with the actual evidence, and they are not obstructed by the need to serve a historically unreliable consensus.

    2) The OP may have isolated Nature for this discussion, but Nature is hardly the center of the treatment Michael Behe has been subjected to. If you do a search for “Behe Liar” on the web, you will easily get tens of thousands of responses. A significant number of these will come from science-themed websites trafficked by the readers of Nature and other journals in the mainstay. A very typical comment will be something like:

    Behe is obsessed with making money by constantly lying about everything. He couldn’t possibly believe anything in the books he writes, nobody could be that stupid. Like everyone else who works for the Disco Institute, Behe’s job is to be a liar. Behe has what it takes to keep lying no matter what, not caring that every sane person knows he’s a liar. -pandasthumb

    Such comments are never challenged on such sites. They are not only tolerated, but are tacitly endorsed and heavily promoted as the intellectually appropriate reaction any serious person should have to the design hypothesis or any of its proponents. Perhaps this can be illustrated when current NCSE employees are allowed to post articles entitled “Lies and the Lying Liars” as a means of exercising their personal angst. The effect of all of this is well understood; and so it achieves what is intended for it. The ball is picked up and run with:

    Behe is not a legitimate scientist. Behe is a dreadful hack who’s spent most of the last two decades hard at work on a program to deliberately and dishonestly misrepresent science as part of a political agenda. He’s been caught lying repeatedly” – the impartial words of a PhD on scienceblogs

    Of course, what Behe lied about is never forthcoming. In fact, guess how many articles, essays, and blog posts have been initiated by PhD-level academics that use the words “Lying for Jesus” in the title?

    But that is the goal, is it not? And once the ball gets rolling, then you may freely use every means possible to strengthen your position (including those that are patently illogical) as long as they are couched in the resonant refrain – anyone who queries the orthodoxy is immediately invalidated if for no other reason, and is unquestionably dishonest:

    We should not say that we are “defending” evolution science, since it is not under valid attack. We should also be sparing in our use of the word “theory,” for both rhetorical and scientific reasons. “Theory of evolution,” as a synonym for evolutionary science is a cliché that we would be much better off without. Despite this, editors, even in distinguished journals, continue to use the term. We are all familiar with the thoroughly dishonest argument that evolution is a theory…” –National Association of Biology Teachers

    We? We, the National Association of Biology Teachers should unite as a pact to expel the idea that evolution is a theory? Is there a more grandios display of dogmatic assumption in any science discipline on Earth? Has there ever been more of one?

    And what is it that happens when this kind of certitude (about events that happened 4 billion years ago) is allowed to run unchecked? Is there any point where it becomes too much? Can anyone who has a personal axe to grind toward their opposition use their status as a “Biology Teacher” to say anything at all?

    Can anyone out there score me some consecrated communion wafers? There’s no way I can personally get them — my local churches have stakes prepared for me, I’m sure — but if any of you would be willing to do what it takes to get me some, or even one, and mail it to me, I’ll show you sacrilege, gladly, and with much fanfare. I won’t be tempted to hold it hostage (no, not even if I have a choice between returning the Eucharist and watching Bill Donohue kick the pope in the balls, which would apparently be a more humane act than desecrating a goddamned cracker), but will instead treat it with profound disrespect and heinous cracker abuse, all photographed and presented here on the web. I shall do so joyfully and with laughter in my heart. – Prof PZ Meyers

    One does have to reflect on the fact that this is a biology teacher; a university professor; an academic; a laudable member of the majority speaking on a website touted as the world’s “largest on-line community dedicated to science”.

    Science?

    In the defense of the orthodoxy even profoundly joyful disrespect is admired, particularly if it comes from a biology professor. One might wonder; if a biology professor displays his capacity to dispassionately judge biological evidence by taking the time to photograph his angst and upload it to the internet for the admiration of his followers, then what is the exact distinction between him and a raving idiot? Is it his biology teacher status? Yet Behe’s empirical observations regarding the measurable efficacy of mutations goes misrepresented, or evaded, or ignored altogether. After all he is a religious person, right? Whatever observations he makes of the evidence cannot be trusted, right? What else need be said, right?

    3 The word you used to describe Behe (“hero”) hints at a discrediting sense of hero worship. Then again, there is no way of knowing if that was your intent. But if it was, it should be understood that Dr. Behe has taken positions on such matters as common descent which are regularly argued on this forum. That is a clear distinction; no one from the orthodoxy is allowed to present questions on the fundamentals, regardless of their training or expertise on the matter. Interestingly, Dr Behe’s position on common descent is in perfect alignment with neo-Darwinism. Yet, his rationale in arriving at his position has landed him the admiration of Lehigh University where they show their respect for his freedom (to question scientific assumptions based upon empirical findings) by placing a discrediting placard on their website trumpeting their special brand of even-handedness.

    They do what they must.

    - – - – - – -

    Sadly, Dr Behe will probably never see the light of day in his lifetime. He may never have returned to him that which was trampled upon as a matter of pure ideological politics. Trampled upon (by the way) by the unbridled personal hatred of people like PZ Meyers and Richard Dawkins – all of it quietly empowered by the silence of their peers. But then again, the attack on Michael Behe has never been about the evidence.

    And what was his big sin? In his first book he put forth the idea that there are structures in biology that require all the parts to exist in unison before a selectable advantage can be assumed for the organism. Then in his second book he provided the actual field data of the mutational success among Life’s most prodigious replicators. He draws the conclusion that one does not display the efficiency required to accomplish the other.

    Random variation cannot find a way around sickle cell anemia for the malaria virus, despite having more replication events (opportunities) than all births of all the animals that have ever lived on Earth throughout all of time. However (to follow the theory to its end) it can seemingly work wonders in synthesizing all the components necessary for chemical vision and then coordinating them into a functioning system which operates at the level of one photon:

    “When light strikes the retina of the eye, a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to form trans-retinal. The change in the shape of retinal forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein’s metamorphosis alters its behavior, making it stick to another protein called transducin. Before interacting with activated rhodopsin, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with activated rhodopsin, the GDP falls off and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. GTP-transducin-activated rhodopsin now binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase, located in the inner membrane of the cell. When attached to activated rhodopsin and its entourage, the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability to chemically cut a molecule called cGMP. Initially there are a lot of cGMP molecules in the cell, but the phosphodiesterase lowers its concentration, like a pulled plug lowers the water level in a bathtub. Another membrane protein that binds cGMP is called an ion channel. It acts as a gateway that regulates the number of sodium ions in the cell. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while a separate protein actively pumps them out again. The dual action of the ion channel and pump keeps the level of sodium ions in the cell within a narrow range. When the amount of cGMP is reduced because of cleavage by the phosphodiesterase, the ion channel closes, causing the cellular concentration of positively charged sodium ions to be reduced. This causes an imbalance of charge across the cell membrane which, finally, causes a current to be transmitted down the optic nerve to the brain. The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision – Behe”

    And the answer to all this? Well, if you are the NCSE you utterly ignore the origin of the chemical structures that must exist for vision to actually work, and instead you circulate a wonderful video telling the decisive story how light sensitive cells poof into eyes over time. Reasonable, yes? The underlying chemical details are, well, obvious right? So, just throw in some well-worded misrepresentations of the argument, and the actual field data that Behe presented may be ignored for the good of the theory.

    And what of those misrepresentation? Do what always works of course.

    Portray Behe as an anti-evolutionist; a religious fanatic with nothing interesting to report. Say he doesn’t believe in Evolution! Evolution is a process of change over time by known mechanisms with known rates of change; it has been documented repeatedly and is not even a question. (Hell, breeders have been doing it for eons). Nothing serves the purpose better than conflating Behe’s argument as an argument against “Evolution”. Nothing is more effective at marginalizing his empirical observations than that.

    Spot48 @17

    “BUT ID has still not inspired an actual experimental research program whereas anyone who actually reads beyond the first ten pages of Nature would be disingenuous if they claimed that evolutionary theory has been anything but productive.”.

    See how easy that was?

    - – - – - – -

    Hey thanks UD for allowing me to go off like this. After having Prof McNeil type 11,000 characters telling me he completely agrees that meaningful information does indeed require perception in order to exist, and that DNA has meaningful information embedded within it… and then he willfully ignores the obvious implication… well I just needed to ramble.

    At least I picked on old thread to vent.

  28. scordova @ 25

    Whatever Seversky’s issues are with ID, I don’t see that the worldview he defends as worth defending. One might doubt whether there is salvation in Christ, but for sure there is no salvation in Darwinism, “only pointless indifference” to quote Dawkins.

    My issue is not with ID itself. I have said before that investigating the possibility of reliably identifying design, of being able to distinguish it from what was not designed, is a perfectly respectable research program. My issue is with the religious agenda which has inspired it and the religious fervor which attends and drives it.

    There is nothing wrong with a scientist following whatever religion he or she chooses as long as that faith is left outside the laboratory. Science tries to describe and explain what we actually observe not what we would like to be there. Cherry-picking data and concocting explanations that conform to religious beliefs is not doing science. That is not to say that researchers are precluded in principle from invoking God as an explanation only that, if they do so, they must, through argument and evidence, convince their peers that there was no alternative. Another problem is constructing a definition of God that is both scientifically coherent and theologically acceptable.

    The real problem is where people enter science solely to pursue a religious agenda. A prime example is Jonathan Wells who declared openly that his only reason for studying biology was to “destroy Darwinism”. For that reason alone I would not take his unsupported word on anything in that field. He is not the only one to think like that either.

    As for there being no salvation in Darwinism, you might as well complain that a ship cannot fly like a plane. The simple answer, if one were needed, is that ships were not designed to fly, just as the theory of evolution was not written to bring comfort to the afflicted and the promise of salvation.

    If Darwinism/Dawkinism argues for “no good, no evil only pointless indifference” what’s the point of defending such views?

    The point of defending such views is because that is what the evidence suggests the Universe is like and the fact that you and your fellow believers find it unpalatable is not good enough reason to think it wrong. I don’t like it any better that you, neither I suspect does Richard Dawkins, but if that is the way things actually are then the sooner we come to terms with it the better.

  29. Seversky states:

    “Cherry-picking data and concocting explanations that conform to religious beliefs is not doing science.”

    I totally agree and I am glad to finally have you aboard ID,,,, now are you going to start rigorously applying those standards to the religion of materialistic atheism and its pseudo-scientific sock puppet of neo-Darwinism ?

  30. Seversky @6:
    What the existence of the fovea establishes, however, is that the greatest visual acuity is achieved where there is no obstruction between the photoreceptors and incoming light. Given that, why isn’t there a much greater area of HD retina? Why couldn’t the designer have given us the vision of a hawk, for example?

    That the human visual system works and works well, in spite of the inverted retina, is not in doubt. But clearly it is not as good as it could be. The question design theorists must answer is why their putative designer did not do better.

    and @ 29:
    As for there being no salvation in Darwinism, you might as well complain that a ship cannot fly like a plane. The simple answer, if one were needed, is that ships were not designed to fly…

    Seversky, How much help do you need to see the cul-de-sac you have driven into? Since you apparently admit that it’s reasonable and expected to make a ship that floats but can’t fly, then why can’t God make an eye that works according to limitations designed for our benefit? Would our sight be better if we could see sound waves, for example?

    Back to the ship. It sounds to me that you, not scordova, are complaining that a ship can’t fly. Please level with us. Is it okay that a ship can float but not fly, or is that an inherent design flaw?

  31. 32

    bornagain77

    “Cherry-picking data and concocting explanations that conform to religious beliefs is not doing science.”

    but this exactly what you seem to be doing, with your links and videos. You find somebody who’s viewpoint you agree with and use them to bolster your argument.

    When I asked you a simple question, how far away is the “edge of the universe” you did anything but answer me, making all sorts of claims about what I believe instead when in fact you have no way of knowing any of that.

    So I ask again. You claim the universe is bounded by an edge. How far away is that edge?

    Please don’t bother to reply with links to videos and websites, I won’t follow them.

  32. 33

    bornagain77,
    I also asked you why you believe in the interpretation of quantum mechanics that you do. You simply ignored the question.

    It’s ok to admit you did not understand the question, but to ignore it and call me wrong? Simply unacceptable. And probably a sin…

  33. riddick @ 31

    Seversky, How much help do you need to see the cul-de-sac you have driven into? Since you apparently admit that it’s reasonable and expected to make a ship that floats but can’t fly, then why can’t God make an eye that works according to limitations designed for our benefit? Would our sight be better if we could see sound waves, for example?

    Scordova’s complaint was that:

    there is no salvation in Darwinism, “only pointless indifference” to quote Dawkins.

    My reply was quite simply to point out that the theory of evolution was being criticized for not being somthing it was never intended to be in the first place. Darwin wrote a scientific theory not a theological treatise. The analogy of ship and plane illustrates that point. Scordova’s complaint is similar to criticizing a ship for not being a plane. A ship is not designed to fly so it makes no sense to criticize it for not being what it was never intended to be.

    Returning to the eye, if it was designed, we can infer from what we know of its function that it was intended to be a visual sensor, a device to enable us to see, not an ear. If we look at the eye we can see ways in which that design could be better so the question is, why did the putative designer not include them?

    If we go back to the ship/plane analogy, it is silly to criticize one for not being the other but that does not prevent us from seeing where each could be improved. For example, in the early days of monoplane fighter aircraft development before WWII, it became the practice to cover the cockpit with a canopy, even though pilots of the time did not like it. The reasons were that increasing speeds made it necessary to carry airflow more smoothly over the surface of the machine and provide better protection for the pilot. In the early designs the dorsal fuselage aft of the pilot was raised so as to provide a smooth continuous line from the canopy back to the tail.

    These designs worked well but it became apparent that they had a defect. Although the pilot had good vision ahead, above and to the sides, the view astern was partially obscured by the raised fuselage behind the cockpit. Unfortunately, this is precisely the direction from which fighter pilots prefer to attack their opponents if they get the chance. This is why, as WWII progressed, you will observe a near-universal transition to bubble canopies in subsequent fighter designs. In other words, although the earlier designs worked well, the designers of the time identified a flaw which, if corrected, could improve performance. And, as soon as it was practicable, that is exactly what they did.

    This is analogous to the situation with the vertebrate eye. It works well but we can see areas where it could be improved. And if we can see flaws we have to assume that the designer, who must have been more advanced than we are now, could see them as well. So, yet again, the question is, why was nothing done about them?

    It’s not as if it would require radical changes, just a rejig to re-align the photoreceptors and route the wiring and plumbing differently. If, at the same time, some additional photoreceptors could be put in to improve resolution over the whole retina, then so much the better. Sure, it would make the eyes more ‘expensive’ to run in biological terms but that could be solved just by increasing the upstream and downstream capacity of the ‘service’ systems. In fact, while we’re at it, why not do that throughout the body?

    See, it’s not so difficult to improve things, especially if it’s done incrementally. It’s what natural selection can do, so why didn’t the Designer?

Leave a Reply