I have used the analogy before comparing the ID movement to the movie Weekend at Bernie’s, where two guys drag a dead body around pretending it’s alive to keep the party going a little longer. But nowhere is that analogy more accurate than in the IDers constant flogging of the protein research of Douglas Axe, now with the Biologic Institute that the DI is funding. This work has been shredded time and and time again and shown conclusively not to support ID in the slightest, yet they keep dragging it out and propping it up with a drink in its hand, hoping no one notices the embalming fluid. and the eyes sewn shut.
Here’s a post by John West hauling it out yet again, and this time he’s enlisted Axe himself, who before now has been reluctant to claim that his previous papers actually support ID. Here is what he had to say in the past, as quoted by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross in Creationism’s Trojan Horse:
These three statements summarize my position:
I remain open-minded with respect to the possibility that a sound argument can be made for intelligent design in biology.
I have not attempted to make such an argument in any publications.
Since I understand that Bill Dembski has referred to my work in making such an argument, I shall remain open to the possibility that my published findings may support such an inference until I have had a chance to see his argument.
Surely now that he is on the DI payroll, he has had a chance to see Dembski’s ridiculously exaggerated statement about his previous work, yet he has never corrected it or disputed it. Indeed, Casey Luskin was citing that research in just the last two weeks using the kind of language that Dembski did, with no correction from Axe despite the fact that they both work for the same company. And now Axe seems to be making a similar argument himself, one that absolutely is not supported by the results of his research. Here’s the quote from Axe that West offers:
I have in fact confirmed that these papers add to the evidence for ID. I concluded in the 2000 JMB paper that enzymatic catalysis entails “severe sequence constraints”. The more severe these constraints are, the less likely it is that they can be met by chance. So, yes, that finding is very relevant to the question of the adequacy of chance, which is very relevant to the case for design. In the 2004 paper I reported experimental data used to put a number on the rarity of sequences expected to form working enzymes. The reported figure is less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. Again, yes, this finding does seem to call into question the adequacy of chance, and that certainly adds to the case for intelligent design.
I guess having the DI paying his salary has loosened up his ethics a bit; the fact still remains that neither of his papers provides any support at all for ID, nor are they a problem for evolution to explain. For a detailed explanation of why Axe’s research doesn’t support ID, go here and here. The 2000 JMB paper did not show “severe sequence constraints” at all. It showed quite the opposite, that you could make massive changes in the sequence of amino acids in an enzyme, knocking out 10, 20, even 30 amino acids at a time, without completely destroying the function of the enzyme. It showed that you could make 10 substitutions at a time with only a negligible effect on the enzyme’s function. And this is “severe sequence constraints”? Not even close.
Here’s a very telling fact about Axe’s research: when they had the opportunity to present the results of that work in the Kitzmiller trial, under oath, they didn’t do it. There was a great deal of questioning by the defense team about ID advocates having published articles in peer-reviewed journals. If they could have shown that some of this research actually does support ID, it would have been an enormous help to their case.
When Scott Minnich testified, he mentioned it in an offhand way as an example of ID advocates doing real research, and Richard Thompson brought it up when he cross examined Barbara Forrest, so they were clearly aware of this research. Why didn’t they have either Behe or Minnich testify about the results of that study and why it showed scientific support for ID? For one simple reason: they would have been shredded under cross examination every bit as badly as Behe got shredded over his Protein Science paper. And they knew it.
When Dembski claimed that Axe’s study showed that “any slight modification” of the protein would “not merely destroy the system’s existing function, but also destroys the possibility of any function of the system whatsoever”, he was lying. That kind of blatant distortion of the work of another scientist is enough to get you thrown out of a real professional scientific organization; at the DI, it earns you a salary. And I can tell you this for certain: had Dembski taken the witness stand, that statement would have been thrown in his face as an example of the highly dishonest PR campaign that the ID movement has engaged in about this research.
Isn’t it time to bury this corpse, guys? All it’s doing is stinking up the place.