Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Interview with Michael Behe

 
I'm reading The Edge of Evolution, the new book by Michael Behe. I'm not finished but I can tell you it's going to be a challenge to refute Behe's main claims. That's not because he's correct—far from it—but because he has done a clever job of picking out scientific data to support his case. The idea is that random mutation and natural selection are simply not capable of doing the things they have to do in order for large scale changes to accumulate. His probability arguments are more sophisticated than those of the average IDiot and I think we owe it to Behe to address them rather than just dismiss them out-of-hand because we don't like the conclusion. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Here's a short interview with Behe (#5) where he explains his views. Behe says that antibiotic resistance is an example of breaking things rather than creating new things. As you listen to him make this claim, think about the evolution of β-lactamase activity from a transpeptidase enzyme [Penicillin Resistance in Bacteria: Before 1960].


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4 comments :

  1. It will be very interesting to see what you find!

    Attempts of quick analysis of Behe's latest book have been made of course. Some of them are pretty good, but AFAIK most or all addresses his main points indirectly. See below, for a link to a long list. (Which I sincerely hope doesn't discourage from a thorough analysis.)

    The perhaps funniest observation among them is by Nick Matzke:

    Which apicomplexan critter is it that builds cilia despite Behe’s declaration that “a functioning cilium requires a working IFT”? Why, it’s Plasmodium falciparum, aka malaria, aka Behe’s own biggest running example used throughout The Edge of Evolution. Yes, it’s the very critter about which Behe wrote on page 237,

    “Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts.”

    But not, apparently, the parts which Behe thought were required for cilium construction. If there is an Intelligent Designer up there, I suspect He’s having a bit of a chuckle right now.
    [Blockquotes and italics removed, bold original.]"

    Among those that more immediately addresses some of Behe's cherry-pickings and statistics is Mark Chu-Carroll:

    This is one of the oldest canards of the IDists: the mis-modeling of evolution as a search process over a static landscape.

    And also ERV, which exemplifies a real case:

    So HIV explores all these possibilities and creates a quasispecies-- instead of points on a graph, like above, when you combine all the possible fitness axes, you get a cloud of maximally fit viruses. NOT optimally fit! Maximally fit, for the given parameters!

    A list of reviews and replies is compiled by Blake Stacey. I believe some of the PT threads discuss Behe's large number assumptions on malaria more closely - IIRC Behe's numbers doesn't really describes what he claims.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought that one of Behe's main claims was that "intelligent design" could account for lots of things, from the "fine tuning" of the physical constants of the universe, to the existence of the malaria parasite.

    Unfortunately, nowhere in Behe's book does he offer a hint as to how "intelligent design" might account for anything.

    If his arguments against evolution have any significance, it is that there is something wrong with evolutionary biology if it doesn't account for something-or-other.

    If that's so, then there it is a major fault with "intelligent design" that it has no hope of ever accounting for anything.

    If there is an "Edge of Evolution" - a limit beyond which evolution doesn't account for things - then where is the "Edge of Intelligent Design"? Behe admits that some things fall within the scope of evolutionary explanatioins, and other things are beyond the edge. But, in reverse, everything - everything - is beyond the "edge of intelligent design".

    It is particularly remarkable that ID cannot account for even the simplest things, not without invoking naturalistic factors, anyway - and yet there is the appearance of being so masterful that it goes beyond accounting for the common structure of the vertebrate eye to the "fine tuning" of the physical constants. All without even a sign of interest in getting down to the business of explaining just any one thing, before making such vast extrapolations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I predict that scordova will meet your challenge by quote mining you in the following way:

    Larry Moran is
    reading The Edge of Evolution, the new book by Michael Behe.

    He admits that
    it's going to be a challenge to refute Behe's main claims because he's correct

    and
    because he has done a clever job. The idea is that random mutation and natural selection are simply not capable of doing the things they have to do in order for large scale changes to accumulate. His probability arguments are more sophisticated than those of the average ID-
    supporter.

    He further admits that
    we owe it to Behe to address them rather than just dismiss them out-of-hand because we don't like the conclusion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. sparc,

    Very funny! I can add

    the challenge that antibiotic resistance is an example of breaking things

    ReplyDelete