Home » Intelligent Design » UD Subscriber Fisks Chu-Carrol’s “Review” of Behe

UD Subscriber Fisks Chu-Carrol’s “Review” of Behe

UD Subscriber Magnan pinches his nose closed long enough to fisk Mark Chu-Carrol’s vitriolic spittle strewn imbecilic diatribereview” of Michael Behe’s new book The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism in a comment here. I reproduce it in its entirety. Now that someone has responded to it point by point I hope those who have been losing sleep over it can get some rest.

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.

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24 Responses to UD Subscriber Fisks Chu-Carrol’s “Review” of Behe

  1. Mike Behe’s book is currently #23 on the amazon bestsellers Science category.

    Bestseller List – Science

    It was “officially” released only two days ago, so I think this is pretty good. Go ID!

  2. I took the simpler route of just emailing Mike and asking what he thought of the review. Something to the effect of “angry young man” and “wait for a calmer reviewer” ;)

  3. Every time Behe publishes I can smell the fear rising from the Darwinist camp. They will hide behind any spokesman who will attack Behe with over confident rhetoric and condescending dismissals and allow them to feel, even if just for a moment, that the issues Behe raises have been addressed. The facts don’t matter to them, what matters is the belicose rhetoric that will salve the torment of fear.

    Cue PZ Myers.

  4. Mike Behe’s book is currently #23 on the amazon bestsellers Science category.

    Bestseller List – Science

    It was “officially” released only two days ago, so I think this is pretty good. Go ID!

    I just ordered mine.

    I see Chu-Carroll’s arguments are already being flogged in the one-star reader review screeds on Amazon. Those reader review screeds, I might add, reek of fear.

  5. Mike Behe’s book is currently #23 on the amazon bestsellers Science category.

    Should we take bets on how long it will be before some anti-ID critic complains about Behe’s book being listed in the Science category on Amazon?

  6. I’m in the middle of “The Edge of Evolution. I’m very pleased. Behe is straight forward and direct in exposing the malaria/sickle cell fallacy as a valid example of evolution. It is well worth the read. He has grown impressively in knowledge and understanding since “Darwin’s Black Box”. His reasoning is rock solid and should bring a lot more damage to the psuedo-scientific theory of evolution than his first book did!

  7. They will hide behind any spokesman who will attack Behe with over confident rhetoric and condescending dismissals and allow them to feel, even if just for a moment, that the issues Behe raises have been addressed.

    Just to prove my point, a Google search of the keywords “Behe” and “Chu-Carroll” scores an amazing 25,700 hits. The demand for Behe bashing is stunning. These people are more afraid of Behe than you realize.

  8. 8
    sagebrush gardener

    OFF TOPIC:

    Jerry Coyne responds to Sam Brownback here.

    I’d like to see someone do a good fisking of this.

    Brownback was mentioned on UD here.

  9. Just to prove my point, a Google search of the keywords “Behe” and “Chu-Carroll” scores an amazing 25,700 hits. The demand for Behe bashing is stunning. These people are more afraid of Behe than you realize.

    I agree. Regardless of whether Chu-Carroll’s arguments are sound or not, many darwinists who haven’t even read the book are linking to his post everywhere.

  10. It is interesting isn’t it. If it is as bad as they claim they shouldn’t need to be quite so shrill and angry about it.

  11. OFF TOPIC

    sagebrush,

    I read most of Coyne’s article. A not so interesting read mainly because I’ve heard it all before, namely that evolution is an accepted fact and we should all just get used to it. I think his comparison with the atom is a foolish comparison for the following reasons. Physicists and chemists don’t know what the atom is. Quantum mechanis shattered any hard established facts about what the atom is. An atom is a “fuzzy” object with even “fuzzier” electrons surrounding a positively charged nucleus composed of “fuzzy” protons and neutrons. The more precisely we try to define what an atom is, the fuzzier it gets. Therefore, if Coyne was trying to make a point, he failed. Just as physicists have disagreed about what the atom is for centuries, biologists disagree about what evolution is. I do want to be clear about something, though, we may not know what exactly the atom is, we do use the known properties of the atom (like mass, number of valence electrons, etc.) to design useful things like transistors, semi-conductors, insulators, etc.

    Some of his other arguments just shows his ignorance about the history of science. For example, Coyne says “He [Brownback] rejects evolution if “it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence.” Using that criterion he’d have to reject all of science, including physics and chemistry! “. The early scientists explored and studied the universe precisely because they felt the universe was created by a “guiding intelligence”. Later Coyne says “Science simply doesn’t deal with hypotheses about a guiding intelligence, or supernatural phenomena like miracles, because science is the search for rational explanations of natural phenomena.” First I ask what is a rational explanation? Is it something that only defers to “natural phenomena”, a circular argument at best. Secondly, Coyne is confusing “miracles” with god of the gap arguments.

  12. Folks:

    My own response is “at last.”

    But, the response is a bit late coming out the starting gate, given the known trend.

    I of course did a bit of Googling.

    1] “UD Subscriber Magnan Mark Chu-Carrol[l]” comes up with one to two hits [both in UD], and similar pages expands to less than three dozen.

    2] ” “Behe” and “Chu-Carroll” ” now comes up with 26,700, i.e we have grown here by 1,000 hits 1/2 overnight!

    That is the underlying point on the importance of being quick out the starting gate about the battle for the public’s mindshare.

    As to Coyne vs Brownback, that is the same game again, of a long since established distortion being appealed to, because an earlier battle for mindshare was by and large lost. Dr Dan is of course right, dead right, but there is a long uphill battle to build a real consensus on that. [Rising revulsion on tellingly totalitarian-like propaganda and persecution tactics, e.g. Gonzalez, will help open quite a few eyes . . .]

    In the earlier thread, I have long since laid out how I think the tide of battle for mindshare can be reversed.

    GEM of TKI

  13. kairosfocus

    Trust me here. If anyone who is undecided about intelligent design is influenced by Chu-Carrol’s vitriolic diatribe it’s going to push them even farther away from the chance & necessity explanation. Mike Behe’s reaction to it (see comment #2) was exactly my reaction – an angry young man… wait for a calmer reviewer. I would have used “legitimate” or “respectable” instead of “calmer” as I’m not nearly as kind as Behe. Dembski’s reaction was closer to mine – is there no bit of anti-ID trash that Panda’s Thumb won’t endorse? I tell ya, if PZ Meyers and his shrill venoumous ilk didn’t exist we’d have to invent them. People like Meyers and Carrol give the other side a bad name so the more publicity they get the better. Imagine if the only review we had of “The God Delusion” was a shrill diatribe written by an abosolute nobody and published on a personal blog. It would seem rather desperate and pathetic as in can’t they do better than that? Panda’s Thumb would have been much better off to wait for a legitimate review by someone respectable. But they aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to being politic so I guess this is just another demonstration of their lack of character, restraint, and common sense.

  14. “lack of character, restraint, and common sense.”

    You just described 98% of the worlds Darwinian/Atheist populace.
    ;-)

  15. Darwinists’ plot to remove Behe from Lehigh University?

    They have succeeded in crucifying Gonzalez. Are they now trying the same on Behe?

    Maybe Behe needs to be wary and begin to gather evidence for such a plot!

    Read this on amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/discu.....zonConnect

    “Can you explain to your colleagues and students at Lehigh University why you think you should still work there in light of the ample errors, lies, omissions, and distortions of fact in your book which several people – including yours truly – have noted and posted here at Amazon.com?”

  16. [off topic]

    Even if they were to succeed in crucifying Behe, Behe will do well just writing books. His book has even been translated and published in Beijing!

    For those who read Chinese…

    Title 达尔文的黑匣子 : 生化理论对进化论的挑战 / 迈克尔。J。贝希著 ; 邢锡范[等]译.
    Author 贝希, 1952-
    Other Title Darwin’s black box: the biochemical challenge to evolution
    Publisher 北京 : 中央编译出版社, 1998.

  17. 17
    sagebrush gardener

    达尔文的黑匣子

    Babelfish translates that as “Darwin’s flight recorder”. :)

  18. Many of the reviews I’ve read convinced me that the whole issue is about religion.

    Over at telicthoughts, there is a post on the book. Prof. Allen MacNeil and others are discussing the book. What’s so interesting is that in over 110 entries so far, very very little is about the science in the book, the whole discussion is about the morality of the designer!

    Also PZ Myers seems more interested in “the-designer-is-evil” thing in Behe’s book than actuall arguments of Behe (although he endorsed Chu-Carroll’s review).

  19. This is because, for almost everyone in the origins debate, intelligent design has been inextricably intertwined with classical theology – the definition of God held by orthodox Christianity, modern Judaism, and Islam. If design theory logically implies classical theism, then all one has to do is show classical theism is false (which is not hard to do) to logically negate intelligent design.

    Since the morality of the designer has relevance to the religious claims of most proponents of design theory, and the demonstration of the logical inconsistency of those claims is easier to demonstrate than the falsity of design theory, we shouldn’t wonder that they spend their energies on the more tractable problem.

    This tactic, unfortunately for the design critic, is an example of a false dichotomy. Design can in fact be present in biology, yet classical theology be false. Indeed, there can be a God, as described in the Bible, yet classical theology be false. Process theology may be viable – at least, it seems a responsible attempt at formulating a theology consistent with the data of experience and Scripture.

    But, if indeed it does come down to classical theism XOR materialism, then materialism wins, no matter how miniscule the probability of attaining the current state of affairs via materialistic processes – for a logical possibility is preferrable to a logical contradiction.

  20. 1- The problem of evil doesn’t trouble me at all. :)
    2- It appears that design-critics should stop pretending that all what they care about is science, since it’s very clear that religion is much more important to them

    This tactic, unfortunately for the design critic, is an example of a false dichotomy. Design can in fact be present in biology, yet classical theology be false. Indeed, there can be a God, as described in the Bible, yet classical theology be false. Process theology may be viable – at least, it seems a responsible attempt at formulating a theology consistent with the data of experience and Scripture.

    I agree. And also may be the designer isn’t “God” in the classical sense at all.

  21. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/...../5830/1427

    here’s Sean Carroll’s review in Science.

    What is interesting about this review is that it, unlike Chu-Carroll’s, says nothing about the fitness landscape, and doesn’t dispute the 10^20 number that Behe used in the book. In fact Carroll describes Behe’s treatement of malaria as “extensive”.

    So it will be very interesting to read Behe’s response to the criticism made by Prof. Carroll

  22. Professor Behe’s wife is in the hospital and he’s got to take care of his 9 (IIRC) children by himself in the meantime. He said he could probably find time to respond to the Science Review in about a week.

    I’ll start a thread on it seeking criticisms and he can peruse it for useful bits and maybe save some time in formulating a response.

  23. 23

    Sean Carrol’s review contains these proofs for evolution.

    Behe begrudgingly allows that only “rarely, several mutations can sequentially add to each other to improve an organism’s chances of survival.” Rarely? This, of course, is the everyday stuff of evolution. Examples of cumulative selection changing multiple sites in evolving proteins include tetrodotoxin resistance in snakes (3), the tuning of color vision in animals (4), cefotaxime antibiotic resistance in bacteria (5), and pyrimethamine resistance in malarial parasites (6)–a notable omission given Behe’s extensive discussion of malarial drugresistance.

    All these examples will turn out to redce the fitness of the organism on the molecular level save for maybe tuning of color vision in which he probably relies on prejudiced evaluation of genetic data to draw his conclusion. Yet the other examples will fall within the realm of Genetic entropy.

  24. Hi Dave et al:

    First and foremost, I trust things are okay over at the Behe household — no 10 let’s hope, not an illness! (Winning the cultural war the old fashioned way . . . differential reproductive success . . .)

    On points raised:

    1] DS on less angry, more credible reviewers etc

    As the onward thread on the Sci Mag review reveals, the start-point for the “calmer” “review” there is to insinuate that Behe is a Creationist and doomed to the alleged fate of Bishop Wilberforce. [In fact, on the merits he had the better of the debate as I recall, but of course nothing that a little media spin and clever rhetoric over many years cannot undo - especially by exploiting a closing rhetorical flourish through a distraction from the merits of the case.)

    But on Chu's diatribe, we note that the current Google hit count is 16,700 - 800. UD etc still comes up at one hit. At least the UD link shows up on the first Google page, after PT, skeptic friends etc etc etc.

    To win on the merits but lose on the public relations side is to lose the battle for hearts and minds overall.

    2] Problem of evil issues

    Quentin Smith bravely attempts to critique Plantinga’s Free Will defense, apparently to get back to the good old days of the triumphalist classical problem of Evil, but let’s just note that there is a good reason why 0over several decades now skeptics at phil level as a whole have given up on the logical form of the problem of evil.

    Namely, Plantinga’s Free Will defense succeeds, quite well thank you. [Nor can trying to wedge apart different aspects of freedom help get away from its force. And, behind lurks the problem of justifying concern over good/evil within an evolutionary materialist worldview . . . on comparative difficulties]

    But this is a bit off-topic, though it underscores the problems of evo mat views on accounting for mind and morals. That of course includes the minds that evo mat advocates use to argue for their worldview.

    3] IDist: design-critics should stop pretending that all what they care about is science, since it’s very clear that religion is much more important to them

    Indeed, you are dead right! Many of the leading advocates against ID are motivated by hostility to the possibility of God in any sense that makes the biblical view of God seem credible.

    4] BA77 on making wishful mountains out of molehills of evidence

    You are right. THe ecvidence is that the sort of loss of informaiton and fucntionality mutations that are commonly seen, reduce overall fitness.

    That is transmuted into claimed support ofr macroevolution by NDT mechanisms because ther eis a strong predisposition to see anything that shows mutaitons as evidence for the power to create life and body plans out of lucky genetic noise. Never mind the implications of entropy for what noise will do to DNA’s functionality.

    And, that is where Behe’s newest work seems to score a big hit; at least on the summary evidence I have seen.

    GEM of TKI

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