Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Dover and the scientific landscape
Ars Technica ^ | 23 December 2005 | John Timmer

Posted on 12/24/2005 10:43:36 AM PST by PatrickHenry

The verdict [PH here: the journalist means "judgment"] rendered in the Dover case has been echoing around on news and commentary sites for several days now, and a few themes are emerging. Many are upset about the scope of the legal arguments, and there's a smattering of complaints about the social implications. From a science point of view, the interesting thing about the case was that it was the first time that the relative merits of intelligent design (ID) and evolutionary theory were put before a dispassionate observer, who was tasked with evaluting them. Experts, including the most prominent pro-ID biologist, Michael Behe, provided the testimony. The result? An overwhelming win for science. How did this come about?

The first lesson from the ruling is that ID is attempting to be both a social and scientific movement, and that dual role damaged its credibility as science. Its wholesale incorporation of creationism in terms of both literature and followers allowed the clearly creationist text Of Pandas and People to be used against it in the ruling. Even the more scientifically oriented ID proponents were cited in the ruling for some striking language when speaking to non-scientific audiences, such as William Dembski's quote "Christ is never an addendum to a scientific theory but always a completion." Judge Jones also noted that, "Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God."

The judge also recognized that there is a difference between these statements and those regarding the philosophical implications of the scientific findings of evolution, such as Richard Dawkin's claim that evolution allows him to be an intellectually satisfied atheist, a quote brought up by the defense. The former places theological considerations as the basis of their proposal; the later is a philosophical conclusion derived separately from the science. The link between ID proponents and creationists in the ruling has come under criticism as "guilt by association" in places such as this blog by a law professor at the U of Chicago, but this complaint seems odd given that even the more scientific of the ID proponents would have to stop associating with themselves to avoid a clear linkage with religion.

A second aspect of the ruling that reflects a clear split between science and ID is in the judge accepting a definition of science that relies on natural and observable phenomena. In making this decision, Judge Jones relied on both the historical development of science and the current definition of science provided by the National Academy of Sciences. Oddly, the pro-ID Discovery Institute claims that the judge's determination that ID requires supernatural intervention is wrong, despite Jones having used the testimony of Discovery Institute Fellows to reach this conclusion. This is especially ironic given that the Discovery Institute also provided input into the writing of the new Kansas science standards, which permit supernatural explanations in science.

In terms of actual science, the testimony at the trial reflected arguments that have been raging in print and on the Internet for years. Irreducible complexity as a recognizable phenomenon that argues against evolution was defended by Behe, and attacked by the plaintiff's lawyers. The difference was that a clear verdict was rendered by a disinterested judge following this argument. The verdict was that ID concepts such as irreducible complexity fell well short of science. Notable indications of this in the ruling include "Professor Behe's concept of irreducible complexity depends on ignoring ways in which evolution is known to occur" and "the alleged irreducible complexity of the blood-clotting cascade has been disproven by peer-reviewed studies dating back to 1969."

The response to this aspect of the verdict has been to largely pretend that it hasn't happened. Unsurprisingly, press releases from the Discovery Institute continue to trumpet ID as a competing scientific theory. But even legal scholars are making this sort of mistake, refering to the "strong - explicitly scientific - claims put forward by intelligent-design proponents" and claiming that "the champions of intelligent design . . . focus only on where the biological evidence leads." In accusing Judge Jones of getting things wrong after hearing two competing arguments, these commentators assume that he had no reason to find one side or another more compelling and credible.

Forget for a moment that the judge could have reached his decision based solely on the stated opinions of nearly every professional scientific organization regarding ID. The credibility of the pro-ID witnesses wound up having significant problems at the trial. Behe, having claimed that his book was subject to rigorous peer review, was confronted with evidence that one of his reviewers had simply had a 10 minute conversation with a publisher. Behe's cavalier dismissal of extensive peer reviewed literature on the evolution of the immune system, which he viewed as something that "made me feel real good about things," was specifically cited by the judge as an indication "that the ID argument is dependent upon setting a scientifically unreasonable burden of proof." In short, Judge Jones reached his decision because he found the witnesses supporting ID to have limited credibility relative to the experts who supported evolution.

For now, it appears that the ID community will disparage and ignore the legal judgement against their proposals as completely as they have disparaged and ignored science's judgement against them. In some ways, this is their loss. In pointing out the flaws that prevent their concepts from being taken seriously as science, Judge Jones has provided a roadmap for the correction of these flaws. Paying attention to this ruling might help ID proponents move at least some of its proposals onto a more solid scientifc footing. To their loss, they are choosing to ignore it.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: crevolist; discoveryinstitute; dover; scienceeducation
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-71 next last
This will probably be a slow weekend, as most of us will be involved with Christmas activities, but here's a new article with a good analysis of the Dover case to keep us occupied in our online moments.
1 posted on 12/24/2005 10:43:37 AM PST by PatrickHenry
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
Evolution Ping

The List-O-Links
A conservative, pro-evolution science list, now with over 330 names.
See the list's explanation, then FReepmail to be added or dropped.
To assist beginners: But it's "just a theory", Evo-Troll's Toolkit,
and How to argue against a scientific theory.

2 posted on 12/24/2005 10:44:45 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
From reading the judges opionion, he was hardly a dispassionate observer. He doesn't just issue an objective opionion, he editorializes.

There will be other cases and other judges.

3 posted on 12/24/2005 10:51:04 AM PST by keithtoo (Leftists/Democrats - Traitors, Haters and Vacillators)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: keithtoo
He doesn't just issue an objective opinion, he editorializes.

Here's the judge's opinion. Which of his factual findings are "editorializing"? Which of his legal conclusions are "editorializing"?

4 posted on 12/24/2005 10:55:53 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: keithtoo

Mnay judges are not always scientific, but then, the same may be said of many scientists.


5 posted on 12/24/2005 10:56:55 AM PST by RightWhale (pas de lieu, Rhone que nous)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
The judge in this case is a hardened atheist who went out of his way to make a personal point. He even tried to inoculate criticism of his decision by spelling out that he wasn't an "activist judge" (yeah---right).

Judges who use the courts for their own little personal soapbox eventually lose all credibility and become bigger jokes than Judge Lance Ito. He deserves to be ridiculed for years for the drivel of an opinion he wrote.

6 posted on 12/24/2005 10:57:36 AM PST by SkyPilot
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry

As long as "Science" is defined as Naturalism, ID will never be Science.


7 posted on 12/24/2005 11:00:06 AM PST by fizziwig
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Science: 486,234,288
Mythology: 0, but still hanging in there
8 posted on 12/24/2005 11:00:07 AM PST by balrog666 (A myth by any other name is still inane.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry; All

Merry Christmas!!


9 posted on 12/24/2005 11:04:01 AM PST by <1/1,000,000th%
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry

ID is not science, but this case illustrates the limits of science, and the pitfalls of arguing such issues before a court. To observe and consider the intricate and amazing detail of the processes of life and NOT see an intelligent designer behind it all requires a stunning blindness. "The heavens declare the glory of God," says the psalmist. Yet there are none so blind as those who will not see.


10 posted on 12/24/2005 11:06:38 AM PST by My2Cents (Dead people voting is the closest the Democrats come to believing in eternal life.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: <1/1,000,000th%
Merry Christmas!!

Thanks. And to you. And to all.

11 posted on 12/24/2005 11:06:56 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: fizziwig
As long as "Science" is defined as Naturalism

And definition is not science, it is jurisprudence. /s

12 posted on 12/24/2005 11:07:07 AM PST by cornelis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Which of his factual findings are "editorializing"?

When he arrogantely proclaims that his act of judicial activism is not an act of judicial activism.

13 posted on 12/24/2005 11:07:51 AM PST by My2Cents (Dead people voting is the closest the Democrats come to believing in eternal life.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: My2Cents
Of course what illustrates the limit of science is part of science.

Therefore ID is science.

14 posted on 12/24/2005 11:08:05 AM PST by cornelis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Read this opinion from the U of Chicago law school. There is plenty of personal opinion injected into this judge's decision.

Sample from the first paragraph: " While professing to offer no opinion concerning the truth of intelligent design, the court consistently reveals its contempt for this theory.

http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/religion_/index.html

15 posted on 12/24/2005 11:10:04 AM PST by keithtoo (Leftists/Democrats - Traitors, Haters and Vacillators)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: My2Cents
To observe and consider the intricate and amazing detail of the processes of life and NOT see an intelligent designer behind it all requires a stunning blindness.

I don't yet see the evidence, notwithstanding your claims that somehow you do. Sooner or later, we always get someone (not you, really) who posts something like this:

I pity you Darwinists. When I behold the wonders of creation, I know -- really know -- that there must be a Designer. [Translation -- Whenever I look around, my mind goes blank and I wet my pants.]

16 posted on 12/24/2005 11:10:45 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: keithtoo

What kind of unscientific, superstitious person still believes public schools are a good idea?


17 posted on 12/24/2005 11:16:06 AM PST by AlexandriaDuke
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: My2Cents
When he arrogantely proclaims that his act of judicial activism is not an act of judicial activism.

You have an odd idea of judicial activism to believe that a judge who takes a case to which he has been assigned, considers the evidence with which he has been presented, and then rules based upon the evidence and existing legal precedent is an "activist." Activism is where a judge makes a ruling that isn't based upon precedent or evidence. This one doesn't qualify. Sorry you don't like the outcome.

18 posted on 12/24/2005 11:20:55 AM PST by Chiapet (Two eyebrows are always better than one.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
The credibility of the pro-ID witnesses wound up having significant problems at the trial. Behe, having claimed that his book was subject to rigorous peer review, was confronted with evidence that one of his reviewers had simply had a 10 minute conversation with a publisher.

My jaw dropped when I read that part of the trial transcript. Here are the most relevant parts of that exchange, along with my earlier comments (although there's even more that shows Behe to be, at best, extremely sloppy about checking out the claims he makes:

Q. "Okay. Now you stated on Monday that [Behe's mass-market book] Darwin's Black Box was also peer reviewed, right?"

Behe: "That's correct. [...] The review process that the book went through is analogous to peer Furthermore, the book was sent out to more scientists than typically review a manuscript. In the typical case, a manuscript that's going to -- that is submitted for a publication in a scientific journal is reviewed just by two reviewers. My book was sent out to five reviewers. Furthermore, they read it more carefully than most scientists read typical manuscripts that they get to review because they realized that this was a controversial topic. So I think, in fact, my book received much more scrutiny and much more review before publication than the great majority of scientific journal articles."

Hold that thought for a moment, then read the following:
Q. "And one of the peer reviewers you mentioned yesterday was a gentleman named Michael Atchison?"

A. "Yes, I think that's correct."

[...]

Q. [quoting from an article written by Atchison] "While I was identifying myself as a Christian in Philadelphia, a biochemist named Michael Behe at Lehigh University was writing a book on evolution. [...] Behe sent his completed manuscript to the Free Press publishers for consideration. [...] The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class. [...] She advised her husband to give me a call. So unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately ten minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript. I told him that the origin of life issue was still up in the air. It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up, and I never thought about it again, at least until two years later. [...] After some time, Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, the Free Press, 1996, was published. [...] I heard about it, but could not remember if this was the same book that I received the call about from the publisher. Could it be? In November 1998, I finally met Michael Behe when he visited Penn for a faculty outreach talk. He told me that, yes, indeed, it was his book that the publisher called me about. In fact, he said my comments were the deciding factor in convincing the publisher to go ahead with the book. Interesting, I thought."

The mind boggles... One of Behe's "peer reviewers" based his entire decision on A TEN MINUTE PHONE CALL which merely "described" the book, and he had "never seen the manuscript". And yet Behe claims that this fellow's comments "WERE THE DECIDING FACTOR" on the decision to publish, and that his reviewers "read it more carefully than most scientists read typical manuscripts". Ooookay...

In the quoted passage above there's also reference to the fact that Atchison was chosen as a "peer reviewer" on the basis of being the editor's wife's teacher at a vet school, not because he was one of the most qualified to review such a work (or even qualified at all). In the full transcript, it is made clear that the editor didn't really search for qualified reviewers, Atchison was just the one biochemist the editor knew of:

Q. "In fact, he was selected because he was an instructor of your editor's wife?"

Behe: "That's correct. My editor knew one biochemistry professor, so he asked, through his wife, and so he asked him to take a look at it as well."

Also, try to parse this one concerning the other reviewers:
Q. "Now you selected some of your peer reviewers?"

Behe: "No, I did not. I gave my editor at the Free Press suggested names, and he contacted them. Some of them agreed to review."

So you see, Behe didn't "select" those reviewers, he merely gave chose the names and gave them to his editor, who called them. Which is a different thing entirely. Ooookay.

Thus Behe's "peer reviewers" were apparently some folks hand-picked by Behe, and another guy who never actually even looked at the manuscript. Fascinating. To Behe, this equates to his book receiving "much more scrutiny and much more review before publication than the great majority of scientific journal articles". Pull the other leg now.


19 posted on 12/24/2005 11:25:15 AM PST by Ichneumon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
The verdict was that ID concepts such as irreducible complexity fell well short of science. Notable indications of this in the ruling include "Professor Behe's concept of irreducible complexity depends on ignoring ways in which evolution is known to occur" and "the alleged irreducible complexity of the blood-clotting cascade has been disproven by peer-reviewed studies dating back to 1969."

Exactly right. The judge obviously understood the expert testimony (from *both* sides), and came to the same conclusion as almost every other reviewer who has examined the "Irreducible Complexity" argument.

Here are my own analyses of it:

The next idea you probably will not like, and that is irreducible complexity.

As an "idea" I like it just fine, and so do evolutionary scientists. The problem is that Behe (and the creationists who follow him) have created a "straw man" version of "IC" which is quite simply incorrect -- but appears to give the conclusion they want.

The original notion of "IC" goes back to Darwin himself. He wrote:

"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."
-- Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species", 1859
That's "Irreducible Complexity" in a nutshell. It's not as if Behe has pointed out anything that biologists (or Darwin) didn't already realize.

But let's examine Darwin's description of "IC" in a bit more detail (emphasis mine):

No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to my theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we look to an organ common to all the members of a large class, for in this latter case the organ must have been first formed at an extremely remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms, long since become extinct.

We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind. Numerous cases could be given amongst the lower animals of the same organ performing at the same time wholly distinct functions; thus the alimentary canal respires, digests, and excretes in the larva of the dragon-fly and in the fish Cobites. In the Hydra, the animal may be turned inside out, and the exterior surface will then digest and the stomach respire. In such cases natural selection might easily specialise, if any advantage were thus gained, a part or organ, which had performed two functions, for one function alone, and thus wholly change its nature by insensible steps. Two distinct organs sometimes perform simultaneously the same function in the same individual; to give one instance, there are fish with gills or branchiae that breathe the air dissolved in the water, at the same time that they breathe free air in their swimbladders, this latter organ having a ductus pneumaticus for its supply, and being divided by highly vascular partitions. In these cases, one of the two organs might with ease be modified and perfected so as to perform all the work by itself, being aided during the process of modification by the other organ; and then this other organ might be modified for some other and quite distinct purpose, or be quite obliterated.

The illustration of the swimbladder in fishes is a good one, because it shows us clearly the highly important fact that an organ originally constructed for one purpose, namely flotation, may be converted into one for a wholly different purpose, namely respiration. The swimbladder has, also, been worked in as an accessory to the auditory organs of certain fish, or, for I do not know which view is now generally held, a part of the auditory apparatus has been worked in as a complement to the swimbladder. All physiologists admit that the swimbladder is homologous, or 'ideally similar,' in position and structure with the lungs of the higher vertebrate animals: hence there seems to me to be no great difficulty in believing that natural selection has actually converted a swimbladder into a lung, or organ used exclusively for respiration.

[Example snipped]

In considering transitions of organs, it is so important to bear in mind the probability of conversion from one function to another, that I will give one more instance. [Long detail of example snipped] If all pedunculated cirripedes had become extinct, and they have already suffered far more extinction than have sessile cirripedes, who would ever have imagined that the branchiae in this latter family had originally existed as organs for preventing the ova from being washed out of the sack?

-- Charles Darwin, "On the Origin of Species", 1859

Darwin makes two critical points here:

1. A modern organ need not have evolved into its present form and function from a precursor which had always performed the same function. Evolution is quite capable of evolving a structure to perform one function, and then turning it to some other "purpose".

2. Organs/structures can reach their present form through a *loss* of function or parts, not just through *addition* of function or parts.

Despite the fact that these observations were laid out in 1859, Behe's version of "Irreducible Complexity" pretends they are not factors, and defines "IC" as something which could not have arisen through stepwise *ADDITIONS* (only) while performing the same function *THROUGHOUT ITS EXISTENCE*.

It's hard to tell whether Behe does this through ignorance or willful dishonesty, but the fact remains that *his* definition and analysis of "IC" is too restrictive. He places too many "rules" on how he will "allow" evolution to reach his examples of "Behe-style IC" structures, while evolution itself *IS NOT RESTRICTED TO THOSE RULES* when it operates. Thus Behe's conclusion that "Behe-style evolution" can not reach "Behe-style IC" hardly tells us anything about whether *real-world* evolution could or could not have produced them.

For specific examples, Behe's example of the "Behe-style IC" flagellum is flawed because flagella are composed of components that bacteria use FOR OTHER PURPOSES and were evolved for those purposes then co-opted (1, 2), and Behe's example of the "Behe-style IC" blood-clotting process is flawed because the biochemistry of blood-clotting is easily reached by adding several steps on top of a more primitive biochemical sequence, *and then REMOVING earlier portions which had become redundant* (1, 2).

Even Behe's trivial mousetrap example turns out to not actually be "IC".

The usual qualitative formulation is: "An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced...by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system, that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional..."

Note the key error: By saying that it "breaks" if any part is "missing" (i.e. taken away), it is only saying that evolution could not have reached that endpoint by successively only ADDING parts. True enough, but Behe misses the fact that you can also reach the same state by, say, adding 5 parts one at a time, and then taking away 2 which have become redundant. Let's say that part "A" does the job, but not well. But starting with just "A" serves the need. Then add "B", which improves the function of "A". Add "C" which helps A+B do their job, and so on until you have ABCDE, which does the job very well. Now, however, it may turn out that CDE alone does just fine (conceivably, even better than ABCDE does with A+B getting in the way of CDE's operation). So A and B fade away, leaving CDE. Note that CDE was built in "one change at a time" fashion, with each new change improving the operation. HOWEVER, by Behe's definition CDE is "Irreducibly Complex" and "could not have evolved (been built by single steps)" because removing C or D or E from CDE will "break" it. Note that Behe's conclusion is wrong. His logic is faulty.

The other error in Behe's definition lies in this part: "...any precursor to an irreducibly complex system, that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional". The problem here is that it may be "nonfunctional" for its *current* function, but perfectly functional for some *other* function helpful for survival (and therefore selected by evolution). Behe implicitly claims that if it's not useful for its *current* function, it's useless for *any* function. The flaw in this should be obvious.

"Since natural selection can only choose systems that are already working, then if a biological system cannot be produced gradually it would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell swoop, for natural selection to have anything to act on."

True as far as it goes, but but this is hardly the same as Behe's sleight-of-hand in the first part of his statement, which relies on the false premise that a precursor to a structure is 100% useless for *any* purpose if *taking away* (but not adding) one part from the current purpose makes it unsuitable for the current purpose. Two gaping holes in that one...

Behe (an anathematized name)

For reasons I've outlined above.

talks of the bacterial flagellum, which contains an acid-powered rotary engine, a stator, O-rings, bushings, and a drive shaft. The machinery of this motor requires approximately fifty proteins.

Except that it doesn't. As many biochemists have pointed out, other organisms have function flagella (even *as* flagella) with fewer proteins (and/or different proteins). That flagellum isn't even "IC" by Behe's own definition since you *can* remove proteins and have it still work as a flagellum. [...]

For a far more realistic look at the evolutionary "invention" of the flagellum, see Evolution in (Brownian) space: a model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum , which I linked earlier in this post. From the abstract:

The model consists of six major stages: export apparatus, secretion system, adhesion system, pilus, undirected motility, and taxis-enabled motility. The selectability of each stage is documented using analogies with present-day systems. Conclusions include: (1) There is a strong possibility, previously unrecognized, of further homologies between the type III export apparatus and F1F0-ATP synthetase. (2) Much of the flagellum’s complexity evolved after crude motility was in place, via internal gene duplications and subfunctionalization. (3) Only one major system-level change of function, and four minor shifts of function, need be invoked to explain the origin of the flagellum; this involves five subsystem-level cooption events. (4) The transition between each stage is bridgeable by the evolution of a single new binding site, coupling two pre-existing subsystems, followed by coevolutionary optimization of components. Therefore, like the eye contemplated by Darwin, careful analysis shows that there are no major obstacles to gradual evolution of the flagellum.
And:

For an analysis of numerous errors and such in Dembski's Design arguments/examples, see Not a Free Lunch But a Box of Chocolates: A critique of William Dembski's book No Free Lunch. It also contains material on the flagella issue you raise next.

As for Behe (the other author):

One small example is the flagella on a paramecium. They need four distinct proteins to work.

Actually they need a lot more than that. And as far as I know, Behe never used the cilia on paramecia as his example, he has primarily concentrated on bacterial flagella.

They cannot have evolved from a flagella that need three.

Contrary to creationist claims (or Behe's) that flagella are Irreducibly Complex and can not function at all if any part or protein is removed, in fact a) there are many, many varieties of flagella on various species of single-celled organisms, some with more or fewer parts/proteins than others. So it's clearly inaccurate to make a blanket claim that "flagella" in general contain no irreplacable parts. Even Behe admits that a working flagella can be reduced to a working cilia, which undercuts his entire "Irreducibly Complex" example/claim right off the bat.

For a semi-technical discussion of how flagella are *not* IC, because many of their parts can be eliminated without totally breaking their locomotive ability, see Evolution of the Bacterial Flagella

But even if one could identify, say, four specific proteins (or other components) which were critically necessary for the functioning of all flagellar structures (and good luck: there are three unrelated classes of organisms with flagella built on three independent methods: eubacterial flagella, archebacterial flagella, and eukaryote flagella -- see Faugy DM and Farrel K, (1999 Feb) A twisted tale: the origin and evolution of motility and chemotaxis in prokaryotes. Microbiology, 145, 279-280), Behe makes a fatal (and laughably elementary) error when he states that therefore they could not have arisen by evolution. Even first-year students of evolutionary biology know that quite often evolved structures are built from parts that WERE NOT ORIGINALLY EVOLVED FOR THEIR CURRENT APPLICATION, as Behe naively assumes (or tries to imply).

Okay, fine, so even if you can prove that a flagellum needs 4 certain proteins to function, and would not function AS A FLAGELLUM with only 3, that's absolutely no problem for evolutionary biology, since it may well have evolved from *something else* which used those 3 proteins to successfully function, and only became useful as a method of locomotion when evolution chanced upon the addition of the 4th protein. Biology is chock-full of systems cobbled together from combinations of other components, or made via one addition to an existing system which then fortuitously allows it to perform a new function.

And, lo and behold, it turns out that the "base and pivot" of the bacterial flagella, along with part of the "stalk", is virtually identical to the bacterial Type III Secretory Structure (TTSS). So despite Behe's claim that flagella must be IC because (he says) there's no use for half a flagella, in fact there is indeed such a use. And this utterly devastates Behe's argument, in several different ways. Explaining way in detail would take quite some time, but it turns out that someone has already written an excellent essay on that exact thing, which I strongly encourage you to read: The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity" .

(Note: Several times that essay makes a reference to the "argument from ignorance", with the assumption that the reader is already familiar with it. I'd like to point out that contrary to the way it sounds, Miller is *not* accusing Behe et all of being ignorant. Instead, he's referring to this family of logical fallacies, also known as the "argument from incredulity".)

That is called irreducible complexity.

That's what Behe likes to call it, yes. But the flagella is provably *not* IC. Oops for Behe. Furthermore, while it's certainly easy to *call* something or another "Irreducibly Complex", proving that it actually *is* is another matter entirely.

As the "Flagellum Unspun" article above states:

According to Dembski, the detection of "design" requires that an object display complexity that could not be produced by what he calls "natural causes." In order to do that, one must first examine all of the possibilities by which an object, like the flagellum, might have been generated naturally. Dembski and Behe, of course, come to the conclusion that there are no such natural causes. But how did they determine that? What is the scientific method used to support such a conclusion? Could it be that their assertions of the lack of natural causes simply amount to an unsupported personal belief? Suppose that there are such causes, but they simply happened not to think of them? Dembski actually seems to realize that this is a serious problem. He writes: "Now it can happen that we may not know enough to determine all the relevant chance hypotheses [which here, as noted above, means all relevant natural processes (hvt)]. Alternatively, we might think we know the relevant chance hypotheses, but later discover that we missed a crucial one. In the one case a design inference could not even get going; in the other, it would be mistaken" (Dembski 2002, 123 (note 80)).
For more bodyblows against the notion of Irreducible Complexity, see:

Bacterial Flagella and Irreducible Complexity

Irreducible Complexity Demystified

Irreducible Complexity

Review: Michael Behe's "Darwin's Black Box"

The fatal flaws in Behe's argument were recognized as soon as his book was published, and countless reviewers pointed them out. And yet, creationists and IDers, who seem to rely mostly on the echo-chamber of their own clique and appear to seldom read much *actual* scientific sources, still seem blissfully unaware of the problems with Behe's thesis, and keep popping in on a regular basis to wave the book around and smugly yell something like, "See, evolution has already been disproven!"

What's funny is that by Behe's own argument, a stone arch is "irreducibly complex" because it could not have formed by nature *adding* sections of stone at a time (it would have fallen down unless the entire span was already in place -- and indeed will fall down if you take part of the span away):

Needless to say, what Behe's argument is missing in the case of the stone arch is that such arches form easily by natural means when successive layers of sedimentary rock added on top of each other, and *then* erosion carves a hole out from *under* the arch by *removing* material after the "bridge" of the arch itself *was already there*.

Similarly, Behe's arguments about why certain types of biological structures "could not" have evolved fall flat because he doesn't realize that evolution does not only craft features by *adding* components, it also does so by *lateral alteration*, and by *removing* components.

Behe's "irreducible complexity" argument is fatally flawed. It only "proves" that a *simplified* version of evolution (as envisioned by Behe) couldn't give rise to certain structures -- not that the *actual* processes of evolution could not.

And:

[Behe:] An example of an irreducibly complex cellular system is the bacterial flagellum: a rotary propeller, powered by a flow of acid, that bacteria use to swim. The flagellum requires a number of parts before it works - a rotor, stator and motor. Furthermore, genetic studies have shown that about 40 different kinds of proteins are needed to produce a working flagellum.

Behe's either a liar or an idiot on this point. Far from being "irreducibly complex", many simpler versions of working flagella get along just fine, as do several subcomponents of the particular flagellum which Behe uses as his poster-child. And *both* points violate the requirements which Behe states are necessary conditions for a system to be "irredicubly complex". Oops!

See also:
Irreducible Complexity and Michael Behe

Irreducible Complexity Demystified

Beyond suboptimality: Why irreducible complexity does not imply intelligent design

ID's irreducible inconsistency revisited

Irreducible Contradiction

The Revenge of Calvin and Hobbes: Behe's Meaningless Complexity

As for the blood clotting cascade, see this earlier post. Not only do simpler, working versions of the blood clotting cascade exist -- the very existence of which disproves Behe's claim about it being "irreducible" -- but the major steps of the evolutionary development of the blood clotting cascade have been clearly determined already by cross-lineage biochemical and DNA analysis.

20 posted on 12/24/2005 11:31:00 AM PST by Ichneumon
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon
Are you suggesting that -- gasp! -- a creationist might actually make a misleading statement while under oath?
21 posted on 12/24/2005 11:31:36 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
Regarding the objectivity of the judge's findings, let's examine a few representative examples, and see what we find?

It is notable that not one defense expert was able to explain how the supernatural action suggested by ID could be anything other than an inherently religious proposition. [p 31]

===============

Not a single expert witness over the course of the six week trial identified one major scientific association, society or organization that endorsed ID as science. What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best “fringe science” which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community. (21:37-38 (Behe); Fuller Dep. at 98-101, June 21, 2005; 28:47 (Fuller); Minnich Dep. at 89, May 26, 2005). P. 70

======================

Contrary to Professor Behe’s assertions with respect to these few biochemical systems among the myriad existing in nature, however, Dr. Miller presented evidence, based upon peer-reviewed studies, that they are not in fact irreducibly complex.
Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ Document 342 Filed 12/20/2005 Page 76 of 139

========================

In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.” (23:19 (Behe)).

=========================

The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues.” (P-721). A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used. (22:41-45 (Behe); P-756).

=======================

On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” (22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. (21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), 23:4-5 (immune system), and 22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”17 (21:62, 22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. (28:114-15 (Fuller); 18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)). After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents,
Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ Document 342 Filed 12/20/2005 Page 89 of 139
as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.

=================================

Finally, although Buckingham, Bonsell, and other defense witnesses denied the reports in the news media and contradicted the great weight of the evidence about what transpired at the June 2004 Board meetings, the record reflects that these witnesses either testified inconsistently, or lied outright under oath on several occasions, and are accordingly not credible on these points. P. 105

Sounds like a pretty objective and fact-based decision to me....
22 posted on 12/24/2005 11:32:57 AM PST by longshadow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: longshadow

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ


23 posted on 12/24/2005 11:37:47 AM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ

Damn!

The encryption module of the DarwinNet™ system was apparently on the fritz when that was sent out over the secure low-frequency system.

24 posted on 12/24/2005 11:44:48 AM PST by longshadow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: keithtoo

Maybe you could quote from the legal opinion itself rather than an editorial on the opinion which itself only quotes a historical note from the ruling and makes no attempt to explain where the judge's assessment of the evidence presented is in error.


25 posted on 12/24/2005 11:51:51 AM PST by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: SkyPilot
The judge in this case is a hardened atheist

Evidence for this claim? Or do you just make arrogant, unsupportable proclamations about judges when you don't like their rulings?
26 posted on 12/24/2005 11:52:34 AM PST by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry

"From a science point of view, the interesting thing about the case was that it was the first time that the relative merits of intelligent design (ID) and evolutionary theory were put before a dispassionate observer, who was tasked with evaluting them."

These musings start with a flawed assumption. Namely the judge was a "dispassionate observer." He was not. The tone and demeanor, his disclaimer notwithstanding, of his ruling indicate his bias. The judge all but called Behe a "fundamentalist." Which is stereotypic nonsense in that Professor Behe is a devout Roman Catholic. To the best of my knowledge, "Fundamentalism" is strictly a protestant phenomena. A devout Roman Catholic cannot be a fundamentalist. Ergo, the judge was biased.

This is just one of many problems with the ruling. The good judge should have limited his judgement to stating that the Dover school board was religiously motivated (although I don't see why that should be a problem in America), and used that for ruling against them. The religious motivation was shown by testimony. I don't think their motivation matters, but I will concede that it does to the legal community after previous court cases.

Whatever, the good "Bush appointed" judge couldn't resist getting on a soapbox and pontificating from the bench. Maybe he would like to start a new profession as a Zoology Professsor? Much of what he wrote was more akin to teaching current evolutionary dogma than dealing with law.

I would really like to "dissect" this man's background to discover how he was educated and what his personal religous and scientific views are. I suspect he already had his mind made up beforehand and it shows.

IMO he way overstepped the bounds of good jurisprudence. It is strange that he makes much about the vast majority of scientists holding to a materialistic view of origens and using this as ruling that ID is not science. I thought minority views/rights were supposed to be protected by the constitution and judiciary? He went too far.

Instead of this having a cooling effect on those holding an ID position (and their more conservative distant relatives the creationists), it will just cause them to become more motivated and politically active.


27 posted on 12/24/2005 11:55:06 AM PST by Sola Veritas (Trying to speak truth - not always with the best grammar or spelling)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon
After seeing a post that required hitting pagedown more than once and seeing that it contained factual, relevant information with full references I knew that it had to be you.
28 posted on 12/24/2005 11:56:46 AM PST by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: SkyPilot
The judge in this case is a hardened atheist

An interesting claim, that you can doubtless back up with evidence...

29 posted on 12/24/2005 12:45:00 PM PST by Thatcherite (More abrasive blackguard than SeaLion or ModernMan)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: My2Cents

Blindness is an excuse? Read Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker or Climbing Mount Improbable. Alternatively, Herrnstein & Murray's The Bell Curve.


30 posted on 12/24/2005 12:54:14 PM PST by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: longshadow; PatrickHenry
ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ

Damn!

LOLOLOL!!!!

31 posted on 12/24/2005 2:01:56 PM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon

Nice copy and paste, but can you summarize this?


32 posted on 12/24/2005 2:05:05 PM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon

What are you trying to say? ;)


33 posted on 12/24/2005 2:08:52 PM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: phantomworker; Ichneumon
Nice copy and paste, but can you summarize this?

Ichneumon is a big boy, and he can speak for himself. But as he was posting to me, I'll summarize what I got from his post. Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" is not a new idea. Darwin discussed it, and clearly explained why it wasn't a useful idea. Subsequent research has shown that the concept just doesn't hold up.

Darwin writes very clearly, and so does Ichneuman so if you read what Ichneuman posted, you'll get it.

34 posted on 12/24/2005 2:16:27 PM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry; Ichneumon
Irreducible complexity. As an "idea" I like it just fine, and so do evolutionary scientists.

First of all, I believe in God and evolution, just to be clear. Much of this is biology-centric, of course. As a mathematician, IC makes perfect sense. Things like infinite series or transcendental functions or even the notion of pi or the golden triangle. These in turn explain the universe and thus can be used to explain some to the inherent complexity of evolution.

But I see what you are saying about the biological applications. I'll read further. Thanks!

35 posted on 12/24/2005 2:34:23 PM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

2005-ending-on-a-high-note PLACEMARKER


36 posted on 12/24/2005 3:36:39 PM PST by jennyp (PILTDOWN MAN IS REAL! The evolutionist's story that Piltdown was a hoax is the REAL hoax!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 35 | View Replies]

To: jennyp; longshadow
Actually, pi does explain the universe. My universe, anyway ...
37 posted on 12/24/2005 4:11:08 PM PST by PatrickHenry (... endless horde of misguided Luddites ...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
clearly explained why it wasn't a useful idea

The useful is a political criterion and historically contigent. Universalizing the useful is hocus pocus.

38 posted on 12/24/2005 4:18:07 PM PST by cornelis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 34 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
After all the dumbing down the public schools have gone through recently I'm sure glad to see real science win one in court against special interest groups with a perverted agenda. Everyone have a very happy Christmas holiday!
39 posted on 12/24/2005 7:17:45 PM PST by shuckmaster (An oak tree is an acorns way of making more acorns)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon; PatrickHenry
Thus Behe's "peer reviewers" were apparently some folks hand-picked by Behe,

I was thinking these guys

40 posted on 12/24/2005 7:20:24 PM PST by Oztrich Boy (so natural to mankind is intolerance in whatever they really care about - J S Mill)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Ichneumon

Let us hear it for intelligent redesign. For example, how about 4 legs and 2 arms. An eye in the back of the head would be handy.


41 posted on 12/24/2005 10:28:41 PM PST by dr huer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: SkyPilot
...this ruling might help ID proponents move at least some of its proposals onto a more solid scientifc footing.

The problem with this suggestion is that ID, at its very heart, is anti-science. These jerks will never get their act together because their basic premise is flawed.

42 posted on 12/25/2005 12:22:32 AM PST by Rudder
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Oztrich Boy

Is that Donny Osmond in the middle? My laptop has a smaller viewing screen. LOL!!!


43 posted on 12/25/2005 12:46:03 AM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: dr huer
Let us hear it for intelligent redesign. For example, how about 4 legs and 2 arms. An eye in the back of the head would be handy.

Where's that fish with two mouths?

Two-mouth fish

or

Two-headed fish

44 posted on 12/25/2005 12:55:47 AM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: phantomworker

Try this again:

http://home.comcast.net/~phantomworker/two_mouth_fish1.jpg

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/InNews/genes2004.htm


45 posted on 12/25/2005 1:07:11 AM PST by phantomworker (My life is taking the moment & making the best of it w/o knowing what's going to happen next (gildaR)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry

The Ars Technica discussion following the article is a fascinating read as well. I have been "on" Ars Technica for years now. Fantastic website.


46 posted on 12/25/2005 2:00:19 AM PST by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: longshadow
ƒÂ‚ £Ã‚ £Â, £Ã, £Â‚ £Ã‚ £Â, £Ã, £Â
47 posted on 12/25/2005 6:10:55 AM PST by Physicist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry; My2Cents; RadioAstronomer
I pity you Darwinists. When I behold the wonders of creation, I know -- really know -- that there must be a Designer.

There's another dynamic at work, here, which is best exemplified by Walt Whitman's famous poem When I Heard the Learned Astronomer.

Whitman sneers at the astronomer's learning, implicitly claiming a higher appreciation in his ignorance by assuming that the astronomer has lost the ability to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the stars. Too high a price to pay for knowledge, sniffs the poet.

I've always felt, though, that Whitman's self-congratulation was a defense mechanism in reaction to his own envy. The astronomer has undoubtedly not lost his appreciation of the night sky as an object of beauty. First, he loved it enough to devote his life's labor to it. Second, he spends much more of his time gazing upon it and contemplating it than any poet. Whitman's envy, born of a very well-placed fear, is that the astronomer appreciates the heavens at a level that is beyond the poet's reach. Any fool can say that something looks pleasant, but it takes a connoisseur--an amateur, in the original sense of the word--to understand it.

So, too, the biologist and the physicist appreciates God's handiwork, whether or not it handiwork be, than the ignorant shamanist possibly can. What matters more to the artist: that the viewer understands his painting's meaning and appreciates his technique, or that the viewer gets his name right?

48 posted on 12/25/2005 7:09:09 AM PST by Physicist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: PatrickHenry
From a science point of view, the interesting thing about the case was that it was the first time that the relative merits of intelligent design (ID) and evolutionary theory were put before a dispassionate observer,

So a leftist judicial tyrant with an agenda is a dispassionate observer? right.

49 posted on 12/25/2005 7:12:29 AM PST by ovrtaxt (I looked for common sense with a telescope. All I could see was the moon of Uranus.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Physicist
ƒÂ‚ £Ã‚ £Â, £Ã, £Â‚ £Ã‚ £Â, £Ã, £Â

Damn! There it goes again; Now the GrandMaster at DarwinCentral™ is going to have to pay triple time to get a techie to come out to the Galopagos Islands on a holidy to fix that flakey encryption module I've been complaining about!

50 posted on 12/25/2005 7:28:36 AM PST by longshadow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 47 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-71 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson