Pharyngula

It just gets worse for Behe

Nick Matzke has dug into the literature on evolution of chloroquinone resistance in a comment so substantial it ought to be a post on the Panda’s Thumb. This magic number of 1 in 1020 as the probability that a specific two-amino acid change could evolve that Behe uses as his linchpin metric for evolvability throughout his book turns out to not actually describe the probability of a pair of mutually dependent mutations…

So it looks like resistance actually occurs by the gradual accumulation of several mutations, and that what you are seeing in the wild is not a few rare double-mutation events, but instead a few much-evolved strains that have accumulated a large number of resistance mutations.

…and the number itself is of rather shaky provenance.

The evolution of malaria really is the major theme running throughout the book, and it’s looking like he hasn’t gotten any of it right. I wondered how such sloppy scholarship could have passed muster, so I took a look at the acknowledgments page to see who had helped him out. Here’s the roster of great minds:

Lydia and Tim McGrew, Peter and Paul Nelson, George Hunter, David DeWitt, Doug Axe, Bill Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Tony Jelsma, Neil Manson, Jay Richards, and Guillermo Gonzalez read the manuscript, and Bruce Chapman, Steve Meyer, John West, and Rob Crowther provide support.

In other words, his reviewers were the gang of incompetent philosophers, theologians, and creationist ideologues who willingly associate themselves with the Discovery Institute, with nary a real biologist among them. No wonder such bad science could slip into publication.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 5, 2007

    I’m glad Steve Reuland is writing this one up, because I was in the middle of working on it when my server crashed (don’t know what’s wrong yet).

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    June 6, 2007

    Why are Americans wasting their time re-hashing this tired old anti-evolutionary crap?

    Because those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

    BTW, it’s “vertebrate eye”, not “mammalian eye”.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    June 6, 2007

    Why are Americans wasting their time re-hashing this tired old anti-evolutionary crap?

    Because those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

    BTW, it’s “vertebrate eye”, not “mammalian eye”.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 6, 2007

    Since the Panda’s Thumb is down for repairs, I tried my hand at writing the chloroquine story myself.

  5. #5 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 6, 2007

    Dear PZ, I need your advice.

    I am currently trying to convince people to put money into a political movement. The movement is founded on that reality is a scary thing.

    Personally I get really, really afraid when I open a book based on observational facts. Especially in biology, because I feel my own person to be the most important there is, and evolutionary biology says it is not so. Quite frankly, I don’t really read whole biology books anymore.

    So we are going to use sciency words to hide our fear and get money for printing more sciency words. Since biology is so complicated the first thing I came up with was the notion of “Irreducible Complexity”. (I use upper case to make it look important and sciency; clever, ain’t it?)

    Well and good, I could point at anything disconcerting and mumble “IC!” and the herd was happy. So I stopped thinking about it, or anything else concerning reality, for a while.

    But lately it has become so hard to get the message out and the money in. People complain about some business in Dover, which I know almost nothing about because I wasn’t really there, and the papers have started to question us. They also complain that all I use is my ability to overlook biology, and use “the large number fallacy”, whatever that is.

    So I ask you, dear PZ, could I instead use very, very small probabilities? Say like 10^-20, to be really, really sure that nothing ever gonna happen when I point and spell “IC!”. Surely such small numbers are all right when really large numbers seems to be a problem?

    Insincerely,

    Michael Baahaa

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?
    June 6, 2007

    Am I missing something?

    No.

    For many years I’ve harbored the thought that Behe doesn’t actually believe the stuff he writes. He makes money selling junk to the true believers.

    Make money.
    Make more money.
    — L. Ron Hubbard

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?
    June 6, 2007

    Am I missing something?

    No.

    For many years I’ve harbored the thought that Behe doesn’t actually believe the stuff he writes. He makes money selling junk to the true believers.

    Make money.
    Make more money.
    — L. Ron Hubbard

  8. #8 PZ Myers
    June 9, 2007

    That’s an interesting argument. So you’re saying that if he’d sent the ms to me, and I’d replied that this was a clumpy lump of coagulated shit, built on flawed premises and flaunting the ego of an impoverished intellect and dishonest scholar, Behe would have nicely thanked me in the acknowledgments?

    Perhaps you are suggesting that these acknowledged readers perhaps made constructive suggestions to improve the quality of the work, and were simply ignored, and their names thrown into the book to be nice to them. If that were the case for me, I’d be horrified, and would be loudly shouting that I’d called the book coagulated shit, I am not responsible for the odious content, and GET MY NAME OUT OF THERE. That would be an interesting tactic: maybe a creationist ought to send review copies out to Wes Elsberry, Nick Matzke, me, Richard Dawkins, whoever, and ignore our protestations to blandly include us in his acknowledgments, making us tacit accomplices. As if we would then sit back and let him get away with it.

    Although I suppose the most charitable assumption would be that these readers were simply completely incompetent to recognize the poor content they were reviewing. If they didn’t endorse it, they at least looked stunned and said “huh?”

  9. #9 The Lone Ranger
    June 9, 2007

    Creationists are (in)famous for using out-of-context quotes from “evolutionists” to support their position. We’re all familiar with Creationist screeds that rely almost entirely on out-of-context and/or horribly outdated quotes to make the case that evolution was long-ago discredited and that scientists are desperately trying to hide this fact from the general public.

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see ID “theorists” doing something very similar by thanking “reviewers” who did not agree with their claims. After all, Creationists have a long history of dishonestly claiming that people like Gould and even Dawkins were actually on their side (often enough that Gould publicly complained about it). This could easily be just another variation of that tried-and-true tactic. Many of the “reviewers” may not even be aware that they’re being thanked for their “support.”

    Cheers,

    Michael

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