Monday, November 19, 2012

Michael Behe in Toronto: Part 2

Behe's main talk was last Thursday evening at 7pm (Nov. 15, 2012). It was in the lecture theater were we teach medical students. The room holds about 350 students and every seat was taken. There were about 100 people sitting in the aisles and on the floor.

The gist of Behe's talk was that "Darwinism" can't explain macroevolution. The problem isn't common descent—Behe agrees that common descent is "trivial." The problem isn't natural selection—Behe doesn't have a problem with natural selection. The problem is random mutation. It's incapable of generating the required changes in a timely manner.

Behe pointed to the problems of getting off of a local adaptive peak in order to climb a higher nearby peak. He pointed out that in order to move down a peak you would have to become less adaptive (i.e. maladaptive). He did not mention that fixation of slightly deleterious mutations is part of modern evolutionary theory because he only talks about Darwinism.

Behe claims that the probability of fixing multiple mutations is so low that most populations could never do it in billions of years. The implication—obvious to all—is that you need divine intervention in order to get the job done.

Behe claims that none of the evolution experiments have demonstrated the evolution of new functions. They all, according to Behe, involve disabling or modifying existing genes, a simple pathway that's quite compatible with the limitations of Darwinism.

He talked about Richard Lenski's long term E. coli experiment, pointing out that evolution of the ability to use citrate turned out to be as simple as activating a transporter gene that was otherwise silent. The experiment has followed more than 55,000 generations; that's equivalent to more than one million years of mammalian evolution and still nothing spectacular has happened.

After the talk I spoke with a Yong Earth Creationist who was very impressed by this result. He asked me why Lenski didn't see fruit flies forming in his flask since one million years is a very long time. The result shows that evolution fails the experimental test.

The audience was very polite. There were a few questions challenging Behe but they focused on rather obscure points that were way over the heads of the audience and, besides, Behe gave reasonable answers. The dominant impression was that Behe gave a very technical talk in a prestigious venue and none of the scientists in the audience could refute what he was saying. The fact that few people could understand what he was saying was irrelevant. It all sounded very scientific.

As one of the Sandwalk readers noted, the religious high school students who were bussed in would have rightly concluded that what Behe was saying is mainstream science sanctioned by the University of Toronto and the Faculty of Medicine. It's very difficult to refute Behe's claims in such a venue. You can't just stand up in question period and tell the audience that Behe is full of crap and that he's lying about evolution. (Although I was sorely tempted to do just that.)


64 comments :

  1. Did he really say that about Lenski's work? That's really dishonest.

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    1. Oops, that comment by Anonymous above mine was not there when I wrote mine....My comment was not a response to Anonymous. It was directed at Larry's last line in the post: "You can't just stand up in question period and tell the audience that Behe is full of crap and that he's lying about evolution." Why the heck not stand up and say that?! Someone should have. I didn't think Larry was the shy type.

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    2. because if that is all you say you will just end up looking like a crank.
      In a situation like that, you have about 30 seconds to make your point and it is not possible in that time span to both describe the multi-fold problems with the speakers thesis and what the better opinions are.

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    3. I wasn't there, so maybe you are right, but a person might well be able to give one simple well-chosen example of a lie in less than 30 seconds.

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    4. ... a person might well be able to give one simple well-chosen example of a lie in less than 30 seconds.

      I've been thinking about that for 25 years and I haven't come up with anything convincing.

      Do you have an example that would be useful in such a context?

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  3. After the talk I spoke with a Yong Earth Creationist who was very impressed by this result. He asked me why Lenski didn't see fruit flies forming in his flask since one million years is a very long time.

    Oh I dunno, because in nature it took (assuming a 1 day bacterial generation time) one TRILLION and 95 million generations to get to fruit flies from the earliest evidence of life we have. A measly 55 thousand generations is insignificant in comparison.

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    1. Never mind that a million years is not that long a time. If we looked back a million years, for instance, hominids would be recognizable as close relatives of modern H. sapiens. Certainly the degree of change from then to now is comparable to what Lenski has observed in his study.

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    2. He asked me why Lenski didn't see fruit flies forming in his flask since one million years is a very long time.

      No LGT, endosymbiosis, syngamous/reductive sex, environmental change or much of an ecology for starters. A 'Lenski experiment' (global, and without a lab-tech daily decimating variation through a pipette-induced bottleneck) went on for 2 billion years on earth before things started to get interesting.

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    3. Indeed, most mammals haven't changed noticeably since mid-Pleistocene times (many have died out, but that's a separate issue). We haven't changed anatomically all that much since Homo ergaster/erectus either; it's our cultural evolution that makes us look special. And our biassed perspective when we look at ourselves, of course.

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    4. I left an un-rinsed beer bottle on my counter this summer and found fruit flies had evolved from yeast cells just overnight.

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  4. "As one of the Sandwalk readers noted, the religious high school students who were bussed in would have rightly concluded that what Behe was saying is mainstream science sanctioned by the University of Toronto and the Faculty of Medicine."

    Pardon the nitpicking, but you probably meant to say "would have REASONABLY concluded", not "rightly concluded", yes?

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    1. You're right (i.e. reasonable)! There is a difference between "rightly" and "reasonably" and I should have used the latter.

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  5. Well, Larry, you have a blog on which you can "stand up and tell the audience that Behe is full of crap and lying about evolution." What's more you can take the time to explain in detail why you think that is the case. Why don't you? Or are you afraid that Behe would respond and make you look bad?

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    1. Scroll down this (or any) page on Larry Moran's blog to the section titled "Essays and Articles" and start reading.

      But you already knew that.

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    2. Hi Steve,

      Which of Larry's essays attempt to refute Behe's arguments?

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    3. Hi Bilbo,

      Several of Larry's essays deal with points that Behe ignores or just plain gets wrong. A good starting point for you would be the essay on Random Genetic Drift. While Behe is not mentioned explicitly in this essay, the points made are relevant, and the facts are quite damaging to Behe's claims.

      What I suspect annoys so many is that Behe is so blatantly wrong in his conceptions and explanations of genetics, and that so many (perhaps including you?) accept his erroneous claims solely because he has a Ph.D. in a biological science.

      One more point - this subject matter is not startlingly new or revolutionary. As Larry will often remind us, the concepts and experiments trace back one or more scientific generation. The question of why Behe seems to be unaware of this is a relevant one, and the answer would be revealing (in many ways).

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    4. I understand that you probably have been spoon-fed creationist pseudo-science from an early age and your critical faculties have been damaged by that socially sanctioned form of child abuse know as religious education but for fucks sake try acting like an adult member of society and take it upon yourself to become informed in the issues that affect us all as members of a global society.

      There is nothing wrong with ignorance, we are all ignorant in many areas, but you put your ignorance on an altar and worship it as a god.

      You may think that acting like an obstreperous child constitutes dialogue amongst peers in the marketplace of ideas but all it really demonstrates is a willful and unethical ignorance that can only have disastrous consequences as our civilization develops in it's ability to manipulate the material world.

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    5. Bilbo asks,

      What's more you can take the time to explain in detail why you think that is the case. Why don't you? Or are you afraid that Behe would respond and make you look bad?

      My Posts on Michael Behe

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    6. This one in particular is excellent. http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2011/08/blown-out-of-water.html

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    7. Hei, Laurence, maybe you could add those "My Posts on Michael Behe" as an entry on the "Themes" section of your blog. In fact, you could expand that section substantially; it's very useful for searching for blog entries on specific themes and topics.

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  6. Behe claims that the probability of fixing multiple mutations is so low that most populations could never do it in billions of years. The implication—obvious to all—is that you need divine intervention in order to get the job done.

    When the science doesn't match the observed data, the preferred approach is to re-work the science so that the models fit the data, not to invoke magic.

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    1. That all sounds very nice but it's actually not a sound argument. I can well imagine observing a miracle and concluding that because it cannot be explained naturally there must be a god.

      You could, in theory, show that many structures could only be produced by having half a dozen mutations occur simultaneously. That would be powerful evidence that there's something wrong with our basic assumptions about naturalism. I agree that most of us would try to find other naturalistic models that explain the data but there might be a point where we would have to consider non-naturalists explanations as the only way out.

      In my opinion, that conclusion would fit within my definition of a scientific way of knowing. The fact that some people have prematurely jumped to the conclusion of intelligent design because they don't understand evolution does not make the logical process scientifically invalid. It's just bad science and bad logic.

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    2. The fact that some people have prematurely jumped to the conclusion of intelligent design because they don't understand evolution does not make the logical process scientifically invalid.

      It's not the initial jump, but the refusal to be moved from that initial position by any amount of evidence to the contrary, that makes what Behe is currently doing scientifically invalid. This was all encapsulated quite well in Behe's cross-examination in Dover, where he frankly admitted no amount of scholarly literature (a pile of texts amounting to about a foot in height) would cause him to change his mind regarding a particular "example" of irreducible complexity (the immune cascade - the texts in fact showed less complex cascades than the one Behe had called irreducible).

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    3. It's not the initial jump, but the refusal to be moved from that initial position by any amount of evidence to the contrary, that makes what Behe is currently doing scientifically invalid.

      There are many scientists like that. It's a pattern of behavior that's not limited to creationists.

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    4. Nobody says everything that scientists ever do is scientifically valid. We all know cautionary examples of great scholars turning cranks. If they stop respecting evidence because it threatens their pet ideas, they may succeed in fooling themselves, but they can't fool all their colleagues. That's why science works well as a global collective effort but not so well as an arcane game played in small circles, or -- worse still -- as a lonely genius's individual adventure.

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    5. ...or -- worse still -- as a lonely genius's individual adventure.

      Yes, and if there is one thing the internet has enabled it is these in vast numbers.

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    6. I certainly agree there are many examples of scientists stubbornly refusing to be moved from positions they've taken. In this as in many things, I think it is a question of degree. Behe's statement that the 1-foot-high pile of literature next to him could not possibly convince him to change his mind is to me equivalent to announcing his refusal to consider the issue based on evidence, i.e., scientifically.

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  7. I'm glad he came to Toronto. He is very famous and has, with a few more ID folk, changed the conversation about origin ideas including the more popular YEC opposition.
    He is not a liar in anything.
    People can be sincerely wrong about things. i'm not saying he is wrong about anything.
    Hopefully talks like this interest people in pursuing these subjects.

    Mutations being the creative hand for the glory of my immune system, eyes, and mind, does seem to be absolutely absurd at first blush and upon reflection a strange conviction that must be rooted in historic rejection of the old idea.
    Surely mutationism as a agent of change is coming to a end in our time.
    YEC always said this but the the ID writers have taken the ball and gained a lot of yards suddenly.

    That modern evolutionary biology must get agitated by modern creationism is excellent evidence for a crisis of confidence.
    Evolution really was just a hunch or open hypothesis that never established itself as a scientific theory.
    It was just minor data, lines of reasoning, and unrelated data as support , and then rejection of genesis that brought it into being and continuance.
    I predict evolutionary biology will not last twenty more years or serious criticism of it will not last.
    Its coming to a final end for someone.

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    1. Dear Robert, "you are full of crap and you are lying about evolution"!

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    2. I predict evolutionary biology will not last twenty more years of serious criticism
      Evolutionary biology has not faced any serious criticism.
      The non-serious criticism has predicted the demise of evolutionary biology in 5 years time 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago ...

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    3. The amazing fact is that the "evolutionary biology will not last X more years of serious criticism" assertion has been ongoing for >185 years. Yet evolutionary theory seems quite fine.

      http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/demise.html

      Whatever could that imply?

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    4. Robert Byers says,

      That modern evolutionary biology must get agitated by modern creationism is excellent evidence for a crisis of confidence.

      You really don't get it, do you? I recently attended a very large meeting of evolutionary biologists. The vast majority, especially those from outside of the United States don't give a damn about creationism. Those that do, think it's a joke.

      The only reason some of us are "agitated" about creationism is because we don't understand how creationists can be so ignorant of science in the 21st century.

      On the other hand, a great many believers in god(s) are actually "agitated" about the very real conflict between their superstitious beliefs and rationality. They know there's a real problem and burying their head in the sand isn't going to make it go away.

      Religions are doomed and that's why there are so many people fighting a desperate last-stand battle.

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    5. I see everywhere profound opposition , or what I call agitation, about the rise and rising of modern creationism.
      It's more then a concern about creationist ignorance about science as I see it.
      Every person or organization that reaches large audiences on subjects of science have all commented and paid great attention to ID and YEC creationism(s)
      Politicians must comment and are commented about their replys everywhere these days.
      There must be a host of new books about creationism from evolutionist believers.

      Evolutionary biologists would be , should be most determined opponents of creationism as a worthy opponent.
      I've seen heaps of them comment and often quite bitterly.
      To say they are oblivious to what is going on might be a sign of why there is so much disturbance by others in "science" about these things.
      What's that saying about Nero fiddling while Rome burns!?

      Origin subjects have become big business in the great conflict of ideas of the western world.
      We all can't live separate lives anymore on these things.
      As I said somebody soon is going to be overthrown in their confidence.
      Of coarse as a YEC I think the great attention brought to evolution etc is the begining of the end of evolutionary biology as a tenable hypothesis.
      No more a obscure subject understood by few and cared about only by a few more.
      It's crossed a threshold in millions of thinking people.
      Proposition or opposition about evolution is going into last rounds.

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    6. As an european, I can pretty much confirm what Larry said. The rare times Iever discussed Creationism/ID with coleagues has been in the context of a US "cultural" phenomenum. It's not something that anyone takes seriously in Europe. There are european ID websites but all they do is to give some short blurb on the issue and then link to US sites. Not a single european scientist I've ever heard of has given a talk on promoting ID here on an academic venue (except for Hoyle, Wickramasingue and Klyce's personal brand of Panspermia that in many ways make use of the same flawed arguments). I suspect that such a talker would be given some serious trashing here, to hell with the 30 seconds comments, if the discussions I've been to are anything to go by, lol.

      On another note, I think that textbooks on Evolution need to start to take into account things like Random Drift, Neutral Theory and so on much more deeply. Right now they are presented almost like afterthoughts in the last chapters. I understand that introductory textbooks take it too much generaly and focus too much on NS because it's a good way of introducing the subject without going to much into subtleties, but there's a price to pay on the longer run. For example, they should have in-depth examples of how complex molecular machines evolved (not just a few paragraphs in a boxed text), they should contain discussions of probabilities and how they used and when are the assumptions for their use correct, etc. Molecular evolution, neofunctionalization, etc, are dealt with too lightly and too fast. We can't expect that every biologist/student out there is going to read "principles of Molecular Evolution" by Graur et al., not to mention that books like that are few and need new editions. Stuff like this should be part of every major texbook in Evolution and Biochemistry. As it is, if a student is not making a PhD in Molecular Evolution or Evolutionary Theory, they probably won't dig much deeper than what they learned in their basic courses. This is a problem. Even in a PhD in Evolutionary Theory they may be concentrating to much on Macroevolution and the subtleties of genome evolution, molecular evolution, etc may not be touched upon in any real depth. I consider that there should be a concerted effort to make these aspects of Evolutionary Theory a standard aspect of basic texbooks at any level. This would equip students with the necessary knowledge to evaluate some of the flawed assumptions like in Behe's recent nonsense on the Biocomplexity Journal. I believe some people reading that paper won't be abble to catch what the problems are, unfortunately. This is all fodder for the ID movement.

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    7. @Robert:
      As I said somebody soon is going to be overthrown in their confidence.

      That actually already happened some time ago. Even in that bastion of religiosity in the western hemisphere (the U.S.) Republicans like Marco Rubio are ridiculed when they refuse to acknowledge the actual age of the earth (or claim it is still a mystery).
      This must confuse you to no end.

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  8. Hasn't Dembski predicted that ID will have replaced ET in 2010?
    Guess we can agree that the "Newton of Information Theorie" was wrong.

    But the question I had asked Behe would have been something like that:

    - Are you happy with the status quo of ID as science?
    - When can we expect some papers published on your online journal Biocomplexity which deals actually with ID?
    - Is the total fail of YEC to support their position scientifically the reason that ID does not try to support their position in scientific studies?
    - Are you happy with the bunch of people who represent the ID movement on Uncommen Descent? Since this site may be the first place to go for people interested in ID and they find a echochamber for some freaks with some of them only one step away from madness.
    - How do you explain that ID hasn't gained any ground in science after almost 20 years?
    - How do you explain that ID is basically not existing outside the USA? Of course there are some other websites but this websites almost only link to uncommen descent or env.

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  9. I'd say the ultimate problem roots in that the majority of those who accept/believe in evolution are little more sophisticated in their _understanding_ of evolution than Behe, which is to say they believe in an untenable caricature of the real thing. This opens the door for Behe to be scientific in his demolition of that strawman version of evolution. The burden is not so much in refuting Behe's specific narrative as it is in educating people about the authentic theory. The contrast is a bit like the difference between a child's illustrated Bible and actual scripture.

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    1. Yes, this is a real problem. In order to explain why random genetic drift and neutral mutations are important you have to convince people that this is part of modern evolutionary theory.

      It's pretty hard to do this in a question-and-answer session after a creationist talk.

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    2. Well show us evidence that NS and RM can accomplish this and creationists and IDiots will go away.... show them Larry you can do it!!!!!

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    3. @Anonymous
      LOL, you believe IDiots will go away when they have the facts explained to them?

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha...

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    4. This can really not be too hard if its a fact. Please show with evidence how the ear evolved in a stepwise Darwinian process using NS and RM. If it can be done there would be no controversy.....

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    5. "If it can be done there would be no controversy..."

      There is no *scientific* controversy. A "well informed" guy like you, who knows the ins and outs of evolutionary theory, should have no problem getting the relevant literature on these matters. Or could it be that you have spent your whole miserable time reading ID websites and books and you actually have no idea whatsoever of what you're talking about?

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    6. One-of-the-many-or-few-anonymouses said: Well show us evidence that NS and RM can accomplish this

      Another-or-the-same said:
      Please show with evidence how the ear evolved in a stepwise Darwinian process using NS and RM.

      The post to which you respond makes specific mention of the caricature of evolution that many attack. Your response is to repeat that caricature, and demand that scientists explain how your caricatured version of evolution did x.

      Of course, you would be no more impressed by answers that included stochastic factors, because you seem to think that if evolution were true, we should be able to produce a precise analysis of the genetic change and selective advantage of every step on a particular historic pathway. Which would be like trying to determine the causation underlying your great-grandmother's marrying your great-grandfather when there were so many other people in the world she could have gone for, or there's always spinsterism. Therefore design.

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    7. "Which would be like trying to determine the causation underlying your great-grandmother's marrying your great-grandfather when there were so many other people in the world she could have gone for, or there's always spinsterism. Therefore design."

      Please stop being reasonable.

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    8. Please show with evidence how the ear evolved in a stepwise Darwinian process using NS and RM.

      Please show a cargo cult adherent in New Guinea how to build a TV set using his placatory empty TV cabinet with a fire burning in it as a model.

      This is analogous to the task faced by evolutionary scientists trying to explain NS & RM to creotards and IDiots.

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    9. heterofacience,heterochronic, and heterotopic changes led to the evolution of the ear.

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    10. Well its impossible to show, yet it must be true? Come now since when has speculation and untestable become science? Science's truth lies in its ability to be tested and repeated. Just so stories without any testable predictions is nothing more than a fairy tale.... You lot need to hang your heads in shame for being unscientific and secondly for believing that which can not be confirmed, religious much?

      You see for a naturalist evolution is not true because it is, its true because it must..... It's all you have because there are no other natural explanations that have the power to spin anything in a way you like, the theory of evolution has a fantastic explanatory power because no matter what it always has a way out.... and because we are in Larry's backyard we can use Junk DNA as a case in point. Its junk and proves common ancestry yesterday, but today it has function because Darwinist expected it to have... or so it goes.

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    11. Well its impossible to show, yet it must be true? Come now since when has speculation and untestable become science?

      Do you mean the evolution of the mammalian ear? It happens to be one of those structures whose history is beautifully documented in the palaeontological record, with practically every intermediate stage present in fossil taxa. We know exactly how our "irreducibly complex" inner ear developed step by step from the bones of the lower jaw of primitive tetrapods. To choose that as an example of something that can't have evolved is suicidal stupidity.

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    12. Its junk and proves common ancestry yesterday, but today it has function because Darwinist expected it to have... or so it goes.

      Nah... it's still junk. "Darwinists" got it wrong, and so did you.

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    13. Well its impossible to show, yet it must be true?

      For a specific history it is very likely to be impossible to show, because it took place through a long series of now-dead organisms in populations of just-as-dead ones, but that hardly makes it false. If being-impossible-to-show is a reason for doubt, I might offer you that whole Designer nonsense.

      In the case of the ear, we have a good fossil series, but we don't have the detailed selective advantage of the genes, and never will, because it relies on populations long dead. Why should that compel us to magic up our pet Designer? It can just poof the whole thing up in ... some manner unspecified. And this somehow trumps known, continually operating mechanisms of variation and fixation? What does it bring to the table, in this mental filling-in-of-missing-history exercise, that is absent from mutation-fixation processes?

      Evolution is not true because it must be, it is apparently true because evidence supports it and no evidence contradicts it. The fact that someone can point to a missing history does not raise the stature of their pet explanation for the result one iota. The series is missing for all explanations. Evolution has the advantage of known mechanisms.

      As to junk, you are simply parroting something you read on a Creationist site. Evolutionary theory needs neither large nor small amounts of the stuff. Organisms exist right across the apparent-junk spectrum, from hardly any to loads, and no-one bats an eyelid.

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    14. Thank you both for pointing out the validity of your just so science you hold onto...

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    15. Thank you both for pointing out the validity of your just so science you hold onto...

      What's your more sophisticated science? How, according to it, did the ear originate and why does it -- and all the variants of its structure visible in moderm mammals, birds, reptiles and their ancestors (sorry, what am I saying? what ancestors? I mean antediluvial animals) -- look the way they do?

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    16. Thank you both for pointing out the validity of your just so science you hold onto..

      Yeah, well thanks for putting a bit of effort into your response.

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    17. Anonymous said:

      "Just so stories without any testable predictions is nothing more than a fairy tale.... You lot need to hang your heads in shame for being unscientific and secondly for believing that which can not be confirmed, religious much?"

      What "lot" are you? What's your 'story'?

      And as Piotr asked, "What's your more sophisticated science?"

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    18. without any testable predictions

      This says far more about your vast ignorance of the countless correct predictions of evolutionary theory than it does about evolutionary theory.

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  10. You can't just stand up in question period and tell the audience that Behe is full of crap and that he's lying about evolution. (Although I was sorely tempted to do just that.)

    Yes, such a circumstance makes it very difficult to challenge a speaker on details. I found this out a while back when I tried to challenge Michael Ruse regarding his views on the stridency etc of Dawkins and others. It is all too easy to deflect the comments with self-supporting humour etc, which Ruse is pretty good at anyway I think. Later, I rationalized that all was as it should be, it was his talk after all, not mine.

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  11. Larry, et al., it sounds like behe's assertions are just the same old 'Darwinism can't do this and can't do that', so why not ask him exactly which 'designer' he believes in and if he has any POSITIVE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of that alleged 'designer'? If he were to answer the first part of the question by saying that he doesn't believe in a particular designer then just ask him for POSITIVE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of any designer, and don't let him get away with any diversionary crap that isn't POSITIVE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of a designer.

    Another question that could be asked of behe in less than '30 seconds' is; Why do you use the term "Darwinism", since you should know that the modern ToE has gone way beyond what Darwin discovered and published?

    If nothing else, point out that the modern ToE is not "Darwinism", and that his using the term "Darwinism" shows how far behind the times he is, and that even if the ToE (not "Darwinism") is wrong in some ways, 'design' is not automatically true.

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    1. Did you know its illogical to expect an explanation for the explanation? I bet not what do you know of how logic and reason works if you be live in illogical things like accidents and chance can create anything given enough time...

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    2. so why not ask him exactly which 'designer' he believes in and if he has any POSITIVE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of that alleged 'designer'?

      If I'm not mistaken Behe is a devout Catholic. That tells you who he believes is the designer and like any christian he does not need to provide positive scientific evidence for his belief. He merely states that, regardless of who the designer may be, life is not possible without him/it. This is ID in a nutshell, so there isnt much more he would need to say with regard to your question...and half or more of the audience would have no trouble accepting that.

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    3. The whole truth says,

      Another question that could be asked of behe in less than '30 seconds' is; Why do you use the term "Darwinism", since you should know that the modern ToE has gone way beyond what Darwin discovered and published?

      I've asked that question many times. I even asked Behe last Thursday afternoon. The answer is always the same; namely, that natural selection is the only mechanism that Darwinists propose for improving species over time. Sometimes they have some prepared quotes handy that show Dawkins and Gould referring to themselves as Darwinists.

      You can't ask a question like that in front of a large audience of science illiterates because they have no idea what you're talking about. It opens you up to a reply along the lines of, "Yes, I'm aware of the fact that evolutionary theory is in crisis and that there are dozens of other proposals on the table. Scientists are arguing among themselves over things like epigenetics, directed evolution, and neutral evolution but the one thing they all agree on is Darwinian natural selection and I just showed that natural selection and random mutation cannot explain evolution."

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  12. The idea that slightly deleterious mutations can generate non-adaptive innovation is not new. It is central to the evolution of gene duplicates. Unfortunately, all the evidence suggests that an accumulation of slightly harmful mutations just serves to degrade the gene's functionality rather than create anything novel.

    Instead of tunneling through a mountain, to get to the other side of the valley, you are just digging a hole in the ground.

    Why can't people appreciate that a monkey on a typewriter is no substitute for an intelligent designer?

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  13. Instead of tunneling through a mountain, to get to the other side of the valley, you are just digging a hole in the ground.

    True, in a way. But it is a strained and/or improper metaphor... with evolution there is no attempt to "get to the other side of valley". That is, there is no purpose. But what if that purpose-less hole you are digging happens to yield water, or gold, or some other useful commodity? To carry on with your strained metaphor, would you just fill it in, because it didn't get you to the other side of the valley?

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  14. Atheistoclast: tunneling through a mountain, to get to the other side of the valley

    Is that how you get to the other side of the valley? I would just walk downhill and then climb up the opposite slope. It saves you a lot of digging.

    Why can't people appreciate that a monkey on a typewriter is no substitute for an intelligent designer?

    Perhaps they can distinguish a strained rhetorical analogy from a real argument.

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