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 Mike Saelim
    June 5, 2007

    I think you should write a book paralleling the title “Why Darwin Matters” with the title “Why Behe Sucks.”

    I’d buy it, anyway.

    On a side note, how come you have so much time to post blog entries during times of the day that are normally work hours for Central time?

  2. #2 Ed Darrell
    June 5, 2007

    Malaria? Hmmmm.

    I’ll bet they are setting up to start taking shots at Rachel Carson, joining the ranks of Lyndon LaRouche and the out-of-work tobacco-is-healthy lobbyists in claiming we need to reinstate DDT and spray the hell out of all creation.

    That’s my prediction. Deltoid is on it: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/06/raw_story_follows_the_money_on.php

    Bug Girl is on it, too: http://membracid.wordpress.com/2007/06/04/ddt-junk-science-and-the-attack-on-rachel-carson/

    One more indication that it’s all political.

    Does Behe argue the mosquitoes that carry malaria are also designed by his tormentor god to torment us?

  3. #3 Coragyps
    June 5, 2007

    Hmpf! I’ll bet JAD would have looked it over too, if he’d only asked.

  4. #4 Gerard Harbison
    June 5, 2007

    To be fair, I’d call Douglas Axe a real biologist.

    What Behe really needs is a fact checker. Most scientists can get by without one, but then most of us know the field we’re writing about.

  5. #5 Uncle Joe
    June 5, 2007

    Behe is probably thankful the Gulags aren’t around anymore.

    “Do you now, or have you ever believed, in creationism?”

  6. #6 Mike M
    June 5, 2007

    1 in 10^20 is large, but not really prohibitively so. I don’t understand why he would make such a big deal about it.

    Given: every person with malaria has on the order of billions of malaria cells (10^9), there are on the order of millions of malaria carriers (10^6) at any one time, and malaria reproduces on the order of once a day for the several decades of of chloroquine use (over 10^5 or there abouts). Multiplying those numbers together gives the same order of magnitude as his probability: 10^20 reproduction events. So despite low-balling the number of events and high-balling the probability, it seems reasonable that it happened at least once.

    Am I missing something?

  7. #7 Doc Bill
    June 5, 2007

    PZ, I apologize in advance for what I am going to write because it is heresy.

    However, I can’t get the image out of my head of Behe dressed and acting like Jack Sparrow, er, sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow, when he’s discussing his plan, don’t ye see.

    Somehow the affectations of Sparrow poncing around strike me as so Behe-esque, or is it the other way around? Not quite all there…

  8. #8 Dave C
    June 5, 2007

    Why don’t people ask others with knowledge relevant to the topic to proof read for them? My book keeper does my books, she doesn’t look through my written papers and critique them. Behe asks a a number cruncher likw Dembski to proof his book that’s on biology. (I can’t believe he had him on board for the rather simplified probability exercise.) What the heck West and the others contributed apart from how to wave hands rapidly I have no idea.
    wow is that how science at Lehigh is done?

  9. #9 Nick (Matzke)
    June 5, 2007

    Steve Reuland is actually doing the 1 in 10^20 topic up for real for PT, probably will be up in the next day or two.

  10. #10 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).

  11. #11 Bronze Dog
    June 5, 2007

    Behe is probably thankful the Gulags aren’t around anymore.

    “Do you now, or have you ever believed, in creationism?”

    Glad I wouldn’t be sharing a cell with him for my denial of Lysenkoism, like a lot of other evolutionists did, and got imprisoned and sometimes even executed.

    Of course, criticism of his math and logical fallacies isn’t anything like sending someone to a political prison. At least not in the real world. In the twisted, arbitrary morality of Creationists, though, any dissenting word is tantamount to murder.

  12. #12 Ribozyme
    June 5, 2007

    Lately, I’ve been working with some molecular markers in the tuberculosis bacillus (Mycobacterium tuberculosis). The first thing you learn when you check the literature, is that Mycobacteria usually don’t incorporate genetic material from other germs the way other pathogenic bacteria do (e.g. the superbugs). So, to develop resistance to drugs, the only mechanism they have is the mutation of genes they already have. When the first antituberculosis drugs appeared, it was thought that tuberculosis was soon to be a thing of the past. Of course, time has proven that idea wrong, and now tuberculosis strains that are resistant to 2 or more of the drugs used aren’t uncommon. It even happens that a person sick with a strain that isn’t resistant, later is colonized by a fraction of the initial strain that develops resistance when the person doesn’t follow the drug regime properly…

    PZ, I need your advice. What is your secret? How do you manage to face and go through such idiocy and not burst a vein? Even less blatant stupidity makes me sometimes lose my temper.

  13. #13 John Danley
    June 5, 2007

    This is fucking hilarious. Go Behe! Goe Behe!

    http://www.thestubborncurmudgeon.blogspot.com

  14. #14 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 5, 2007

    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.

    …Or as Mad Magazine used to say: “the usual gang of idiots”.

    BTW, if malarial parasites were intelligently designed, they just couldn’t have been designed by God. The designer must be some malevolent alien!

    Aliens! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  15. #15 notthedroids
    June 5, 2007

    ID’s increasingly desperate and pathetic death throes. In exactly the manner in which they’ve been predicting for “Darwinism” for years now. Let’s remind ourselves:
    http://www.google.com/trends?q=intelligent+design

    You can only tilt against reality for so long.

  16. #16 Patrick
    June 5, 2007

    “PZ, I need your advice. What is your secret? How do you manage to face and go through such idiocy and not burst a vein? Even less blatant stupidity makes me sometimes lose my temper.”

    Weed. Lots and lots and lots of weed.

  17. #17 notthedroids
    June 5, 2007

    Not exactly relevant aside:

    If Denyse O’Leary blogs in the forest, does it make a sound?

  18. #18 Miguel Garcia-Blanco
    June 5, 2007

    OT, but NSW ministers to defy church over stem cell research. Apparently some politicians do have backbones!

    [MP Adrian Piccoli] says the Church should stay out of politics.

  19. #19 Christian Burnham
    June 5, 2007

    Are we going to get a post on Huckabee discussing evolution (his lack of belief in, that is) in the GOP debate?

    http://www.cnn.com/video/player/player.html?url=/video/politics/2007/06/05/sot.huckabee.evolution.cnn

  20. #20 Monado
    June 5, 2007

    Even Allan Fotheringham, a columnist writing satire about Canadian politics, employed an independent researcher to verify the facts that he so glibly threw off while raking the Establishment from stem to stern. I know this only because she was a friend of a friend. And Pierre Berton, bless his soul, did his own research in historical sources.

  21. #21 ken
    June 6, 2007

    Does Behe cite any reasons why these two mutations HAD to be simultaneous (thus squaring the improbability)?

  22. #22 mclaren
    June 6, 2007

    What happened to America? Once upon a time, we used to be a nation of people famous for skeptical critical thinking and keen common sense. Now, people are wasting their time trying to “debunk” Darwinian macroeveolution, which is about on the level of trying to debunk gravity or disprove the roundness of the earth.
    This idiotic “argument” against Darwinian mechanisms for chloroquinone resistance is really just a slight variation (descent with modification 🙂 of the age-old and long-exploded “argument” againist the mammalian eye as a product of Darwinian evolution. The eye is too complex (so the foolish 29th century scientifically illiterature “argument” goes) and therefore too unlikely to have arisen by chance, since it has so many intricate parts. Therefore some deity must have created the mammalian eye by scratch.
    The mere fact that anyone dredges up this kind of antique dusty long-debunked 19th century antievolutionary “argument” is proof of the shocking level of scientific illiteracy in America, as well as our total lack of knowledge of history. This kind of foolish rationalization was debunked back in the 19th century. It’s as dead as a doornail.
    The mammalian eye is obviously highly improbable if it evolved in its current form all at once, but that’s obviously not what happens in evolution. Darwin taught us that evolution proceeds slowly, not rapidly, through descent with slight modifications. The modification accrete over time. Eventually you get radical changes. Even simple structures can gradually become more complex over eoliotnary spans of time.
    Just as the mammalian eye is much more likely to have started out as a light-sensitive spot or photophore, which then was modified slightly in subsequent generations with a protective outer shell (cornea), and more and more structure to make it more efficient, it’s absurdly unlikely that chloroquinone resistance evolved in one jump. Instead, as with all other examples of Darwinian evolution, chloroquinone resistance obviously started as one point mutation, and then another genetic modification was added to it that slightly enhanced the fitness of those progeny, and so on. Very very slight changes in fitness translate to huge changes in the number of organisms that have the mutation if you just let time run long enough. So even the smallest fitness advantage translates into a huge fitness advantage over evolutionary spans of time.
    This argument against evolution based on the chloroquinone resistance genes is so foolish and so scientifically illiterature and so obviously wrong in so many ways, it’s hard to write down all the incoherent reasoning and ignorance required to spout that kind of gibberish.
    It’s wrong because:
    [1] Darwin taught us that evoution is gradual. The argument presupposes the exact opposite.
    [2] Dollo’s Law taught us that evolution proceeds by modifying existing structures instead of creating new ones ad hoc. Therefore chloroquinone resistance is obviously much mroe likely to occur as a result of multiple cumulative genetic changes, rather than some wholly new gene sequence apeparing out of the blue.
    [3] This “argument” against chlowoquinone resistance as the product of evolution betrays a total lack of knowledge of statistical mathematics.
    [4] This “argument” against chloroquinone resistance is just a tried re-hash of the Huxley vs. Wilburforce debates of the 19th century, and thus shows a shocking lack of knowledge of history.

    Why are Americans wasting their time re-hashing this tired old anti-evolutionary crap? It’s insulting. Our scientists have better things to do with their time than reiterate long-known and ironclad disproofs of long-debunked and unspeakably foolish arguments against Darwinian evolution. The case for Darwinian evolution is so massively supported supported by scientific experiments and published peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that it makes the scientific case in favor of oh, say, the roundness of the earth, or the blueness of the noon sky, seem relatively insubstantial by comparison. Darwinian evolution may be the single best-supported scientific theory in all history, with a mountain of evidence in support of it so gigantic that it blots out the sun. I mean…people…just THINK. We need flu vaccines every year. Doesn’t that tell you something about the obvious correctness of Darwini’s theory of evolution…?
    We face some serious challenges in the arly 21st century. A possible buird flu pandemic, rising numbers of cases of antibiotic resistant disease like the latest case of resistant TB, as well as fantastically promising new treaments involving stem cells which hold out the hope of giving blind people back their sight and making quadraplegics walk again.
    The religious kooks who waste our time with these long-debunked halfwritted innumerate scientifically illiterate “arguments” against Darwinian macroevolution can’t lay their hands on quadraplegics and make ’em walk again. But scientists, working in the lab, are well on their way to doing it.
    Stop wasting scientists’ time, religious kooks. Our best minds have more important things to do than debunk your long-disproven and ignorantly foolish gibberings for the umpteenth time.

  23. #23 ken
    June 6, 2007

    Let’s get this right: evolution seems to be able to work a single point mutation just fine. But two simultaneous point mutations are a different matter, requiring the hand of God.

    You’d think Behe could dig up myriad examples of mutations that required, say, 10 simultaneous mutations. Why does God always seem to operate on the fringe of believability?

  24. #24 ken
    June 6, 2007

    You folks should give Behe more credit. Whether or not the numbers are perfect, he has brought us one step closer to proving that chloroquinone resistance is unlikely to arise in a population of 1,000,000 humans plonked onto a stadium-sized petri dish.

  25. #25 Dunc
    June 6, 2007

    No wonder such bad science could slip into publication.

    Surely you jest, PZ? Please tell me that your not under the erroneous impression that he’s actually trying to get it right, are you?

    These guys are not operating in good faith. They are not seeking truth. They are seeking partisan advantage and money. Whether the book is accurate is of absolutely no importance – all that matters is that it sells, and provides sciencey-sounding talking points for the cretinists so they can continue to claim that their lousy theology has scientific backing, so it can be taught in schools.

    The brief demands bad science.

  26. #26 ConcernedJoe
    June 6, 2007

    Special shutout to “mclaren”; well done and I second the motion!

    Sure is a waste of time this idiocy that comes from the godiots but it is sort of fun countering it. Unless it goes on in circles like a recent post on mind=soul=spirit. Che merde!

    Behe is an embarrassment to modern education as Egnor is to the medical profession, etc. But not because they are so technically out of it — but because they are charlatans!! They ain’t that dumb — they are making easy money and gaining notoriety and laughing all the way to the bank. Some of them along the way become delusional themselves because it is easier to sell a lie if you start to believe it yourself. It’s human nature to start to believe your own lies eventually. But basically, what these people exploit is that most people aren’t educated enough to see through sophisticated sounding lies, religion conditions people to accept things on faith especially from an “authority”, that humans hate not having all the ends tied up while being basically lazy, and thus will gravitate toward whatever can tie it up for them easiest, and that we’ve been conditioned to think that there is more to reality than what is real.

    I say … even if my mind is a soul who gives a flip… as long as it is susceptible to a few good glasses of vino when I am having fun, and if broken to some medicine and/or surgeon’s knife for repair… the fact (if true) that it is all vaporware is UNimportant to my daily life! What’s real for me – is what is really tangibly real. That’s sufficiently good enough.

    PS if one of these woo-woo con-artist’s kid got shot in the head and was alive but unconscious would they call 911 and yell “help, my child’s soul’s been shot! Send a priest over right away!!” Well would they?!?!?

  27. #27 Jud
    June 6, 2007

    mclaren said: “It’s wrong because:

    “[1] Darwin taught us that evolution is gradual. The argument presupposes the exact opposite.”

    Careful there. The evolutionary argument is that the rate of variation in Nature is sufficient to account for what we see around us and in the fossil record regarding the amount of variation that has occurred. This doesn’t mean either that small genotypic changes can’t result in relatively large phenotypic consequences (e.g., single point mutations resulting in wholesale differences in color vision between species), or that relatively large phenotypic changes can’t occur and quickly confer advantage (e.g., the aforementioned color vision, or polydactyly in the ancestors of pandas).

    The errors in Behe’s argument that you are pointing out might better be characterized, IMO, as (1) erroneously requiring numbers of genotypic changes to occur in order to cause discernible phenotypic effects, and (2) exaggerating the odds against the occurrence of these changes in various ways, such as by imposing an artificial requirement that they must occur simultaneously rather than cumulatively.

  28. #29 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”.

  29. #30 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”.

  30. #31 Bill Snedden
    June 6, 2007

    To be fair PZ, I don’t think it’s quite right to call Lydia McGrew an incompetent philosopher. I’ve read a number of her articles and essays and while her qualifications to review a book dealing primarily with Biology are definitely questionable, she’s certainly a competent philosopher.

  31. #32 spencer
    June 6, 2007

    A cursory glance at literature reveals that there are indeed two genes associated to CQ resistance. If you have both point mutations (in pfcrt and pfmdr-1), you have something called “high-grade resistance” or RIII. But you can have either of the point mutations and have some level of resistance to CQ.

    Also it is worth pointing out that the mechanism of the antibiotic seems to be implicated in the ability of bacteria to pick up resistance-conferring mutations. Quinolones, which create DNA damage, seem to cause resistance-conferring mutations at a rate that is higher than background. See Cirz et al (2005), PLoS Vol. 3.

  32. #33 tinisoli
    June 6, 2007

    While it may be noteworthy that Behe is playing imbecilic, dirty tricks with the math and the biology, isn’t the essential point in all of this–and the one that seems to elude IDers and so many creationists–that low probability or improbability of any characteristic, trait, gene, protein, etc. evolving is not reflective of anything about evolution? As long as we’re dealing with a timescale and rates of mutation that allow for mutation and natural selection–and we are–what difference does it make if someone calculates (correctly or not) that Species A or gene X required a million or a billion different steps to evolve from an ancestor to its present form? Isn’t Behe stuck in the creationist muck because he’s thinking of life on Earth as being predetermined–that whatever he looks at in nature needed to exist? He’s busy calculating probabilities and treating each one as something that had to happen. Yeah, if you do that then SURE you’re going to be amazed that things turned out the way they did. But if you understand that things didn’t have to be the way they are, then all these games with numbers are totally inane.
    Right? Am I missing something?

  33. #34 comfortably numb
    June 6, 2007

    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.

  34. #35 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.

  35. #36 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

  36. #37 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

  37. #38 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

  38. #39 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

  39. #40 Allen MacNeill
    June 8, 2007

    One thing that has been missed in the criticism of Behe’s new (and old) book(s) is that his position – now virually the “party line” for ID supporters – represents the almost total capitulation of the anti-evolution movement to virtually all of the fundamental principles of the theory of evolution by natural selection, as first presented by Darwin in 1859.

    This is most noticeable in Behe’s complete acceptance of common descent, as reflected in the phylogenetic classification systems now universally used by systematists. By completely accepting common descent, Behe has completely accepted one of Darwin’s two main points in the origin: that of “descent, with modification.” This means, of course, that Behe (and, by implication, anyone who adopts his view of evolution) must accept that humans are the direct genetic descendants of “woodland apes” who inhabited the thinning forests of central Africa a couple of million years ago, along with their close relatives, the chimpanzees.

    Indeed, Behe also conceeds the other half of Darwin’s explanation for biologicical diversity and adaptation: that of natural selection. His quibble is not with selection per se, but rather with the source of the variations upon which selection operates. Not surprisingly, this is exactly the same quibble cited by Darwin’s contemporary, Asa Grey of Harvard, who remained simulataneously a “Darwinian” and a “theistic evolutionist.” Darwin originally welcomed Grey’s rationalization, but later rejected it as irrelevant.

    Which is precisely what Behe’s version of “intelligent design theory” has become…or, more precisely, what it has always been. Having accepted virtually all of classical Darwinism (i.e. common descent and natural selection), Behe looks for the tell-tale hints of intervention of his deity in the simulataneous appearance of mutations conferring antibiotic resistance in the protists that cause malaria. Quite beyond the mathematical problems of Behe’s analysis (which have already been criticized elsewhere), his analysis leaves one wondering precisely why his “Intelligent Designer” is so dedicated to making the most deadly disease known to modern humanity even more deadly.

    In other words, Behe and the rest of the ID crowd who accept any part of Darwinian evolututionary theory have resolutely avoided thinking about the moral and philosophical implications of their beliefs. William Dempski has promised some kind of apologetic for the problem of “theodicy” (i.e. the now universally accepted fact that, if there is an Intelligent Designer, He has an inordinate fondness for facilitating fatal bacterial infections). However, such a disquisition has not appeared, and one can only suspect that this is because it is in fact impossible to square the apparently vicious and morally blind actions of the Intelligent Designer with His alleged designs.

    As Darwin himself said a century and a half ago, he couldn’t bring himself to believe in the benevolence of a deity that would create the parasitoid Ichneumonidae. Apparently Behe and Co. not only can reconcile themselves to the perversity of such a deity, they use His malevolent designs as the underpinning of their worldview.

    Is it therefore not far off that the IDers begin to rationalize all forms of devilishness in nature by saying “the Intelligent Designer designed it that way?”

  40. #41 Clutch
    June 8, 2007

    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

    Bill Snedden rather understates the point in mentioning Lydia McGrew’s competence. She and Tim McGrew, co-authors with Eric Vestrup of “Probabilities and the Fine Tuning Argument: A Sceptical View” (Mind 110 (2001): 1027-37), have done fine work in undermining a fine-tuning ID argument. Neil Manson, whose edited collection anthologized the McGrews’ sceptical paper, is a sharp-minded and thoroughly informed critic and sceptic of the ID movement, albeit a polite one who has largely succeeded in staying on civil terms with IDologists themselves.

    Behe thanks them for reading the manuscript. End of story. That biologists should also have read the manuscript is Behe’s fault, not the fault of the people who did him the favour of reading it; nor does being thanked for reading it license this sort of guilt-by-association accusation. Does PZ know what these volunteer readers told Behe about the ms? How does he know it wasn’t something like “I don’t buy it, Mike, for basically the same reasons I’ve told you I didn’t buy DBB; the key arguments just don’t follow”? PZ’s spleen-venting about “incompetent philosophers” who “willingly associate themselves with the Discovery Institute” is at least unwarranted, and I suspect is plain wrong to boot.

  41. #42 Clutch
    June 8, 2007

    Sorry to repost; hopefully this will make it clear what’s quoted and what isn’t!

    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

    Bill Snedden rather understates the point in mentioning Lydia McGrew’s competence. She and Tim McGrew, co-authors with Eric Vestrup of “Probabilities and the Fine Tuning Argument: A Sceptical View” (Mind 110 (2001): 1027-37), have done fine work in undermining a fine-tuning ID argument. Neil Manson, whose edited collection anthologized the McGrews’ sceptical paper, is a sharp-minded and thoroughly informed critic and sceptic of the ID movement, albeit a polite one who has largely succeeded in staying on civil terms with IDologists themselves.

    Behe thanks them for reading the manuscript. End of story. That biologists should also have read the manuscript is Behe’s fault, not the fault of the people who did him the favour of reading it; nor does being thanked for reading it license this sort of guilt-by-association accusation. Does PZ know what these volunteer readers told Behe about the ms? How does he know it wasn’t something like “I don’t buy it, Mike, for basically the same reasons I’ve told you I didn’t buy DBB; the key arguments just don’t follow”? PZ’s spleen-venting about “incompetent philosophers” who “willingly associate themselves with the Discovery Institute” is at least unwarranted, and I suspect is plain wrong to boot.

  42. #43 Clutch
    June 8, 2007

    Oh, fiddlesticks.

  43. #44 Douglas Watts
    June 9, 2007

    But Clutch, any professional associating themselves with the Discovery Institute is like associating yourself with Apollo Moon Hoaxers. Any “philosopher” who started babbling about the flag on the moon “waving in a vacuum” is an incompetent philosopher. This garbage is no more credible.

  44. #45 Clutch
    June 9, 2007

    Douglas, stop. Think. Seriously.

    Could we take it as read that you’ve established your anti-ID bona fides by snarling about the evils of associating oneself with the DI? The question at hand, however, is whether any rational person could take seeing Behe’s ms before it was published as amounting to such an association in the first place — still less taking it as analogous to “babbling about the flag on the moon waving in a vacuum”. It’s gobsmackingly obvious that the answer is No.

    All you know from the fact that those people are thanked for reading the ms is that they read (some portion of) the ms. Period. Did they say, “Good job, Mike! Loved it!”? Did they say, “This still just looks like an argument from ignorance and a false dilemma”? You have no clue; and you also know jack about the wider careers and abilities of the people I mentioned.

    Anyhow, even if it wasn’t at first obvious to you that reading Behe’s ms /= incompetence, you might consider upping the ante by going on to, you know, inform yourself before making such a judgement. Neil Manson has a website and everything, where you, or PZ, could download and read such papers as “There Is No Adequate Definition of ‘Fine-tuned for Life'” and other critical rebuttals of ID fine-tuning arguments.

  45. #46 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?”

  46. #47 Clutch
    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?”

    Hmm, I wonder if there are ways of being critical, even trenchantly critical, of a work other than calling it “a clumpy lump of coagulated shit, built on flawed premises and flaunting the ego of an impoverished intellect and dishonest scholar”?

    It’s barely conceivable, isn’t it, that Behe might not show work to you in advance because that’s the form your criticism might take? But yes, I suppose I’m suggesting that for all you know Behe is thanking people who read his ms and responded to it negatively. What’s “interesting”, as you put it, is how hysterically you have to ratchet up an imaginary scenario in order for this standard academy-wide practice to appear anything but unremarkable.

    And why should they bridle at being listed as having “read the manuscript” — explicitly distinguished from having “provided support”? It’s the simple truth, after all. Perhaps they should have feared that some people would prove incapable of distinguishing reading a ms from finding no fault with a ms; but I can’t bring myself to blame them for not demanding their names be removed, out of fear of maneuvers like yours in the initial post.

    Anyhow. I’m surprised at the apparent resistance to the suggestion that you, Douglas, T.Bruce, and others might have attempted to learn something about the people you were judging, given the obvious silliness of the inference from reads to approves of. Who would have thought that the idea of learning before deciding would be so unwelcome among champions of scientific thinking?

  47. #48 PZ Myers
    June 9, 2007

    Have you read the book? Have you read any of the criticisms? This book is appallingly bad, wrong from word one. Any scholar reading the book would have to criticize it in the strongest possible terms. Even a personal friend should have told him not to publish it, that it was going to irreparably damage an already tarnished reputation.

    But OK, I will eagerly await the repudiations from the people in the acknowledgments. By your argument, we should expect unstinting criticisms from these people who had such a jump on the rest of us, and have had quite some time to muster their rejections of the assertions on the book. Let me know when you find any.

  48. #49 Clutch
    June 9, 2007

    Of course. Without public repudiations, they must approve of the book. Because, after all, they read it.

    “By your argument, we should expect unstinting criticisms from these people who had such a jump on the rest of us, and have had quite some time to muster their rejections of the assertions on the book.”

    I think you’ll have to explain to me how it follows from my argument (ie, that your inference is obviously fallacious) that other people will make a point of publicly producing “unstinting criticisms” of Behe. That looks like an especially silly straw man, unless you have some reason to think that everyone publicly repudiates everything they find uncompelling. (You seem to be working your way through your own list, mind, but not everyone’s as prolific and motivated.)

    But I’m sure your demand that these folks dance for you will be according all the weight your reasoning here has imparted to it.

  49. #50 PZ Myers
    June 9, 2007

    I am assuming that:
    a) they had some expertise relevant to the field Behe was writing about
    b) they were competent evaluators
    c) they have some self-respect.

    Now, if any of those assumptions are false, than you are correct — we shouldn’t expect any disavowals from them. Maybe if one were the mechanic at Behe’s local gas station, he’d be flattered that he’d been asked his opinion and had his name in the book.

    If your point is that perhaps one of these readers disapproved of the content, though, we’ve got a problem. I would expect someone who was cited as helping with a book, yet found the book seriously deficient, and who has any integrity at all, would be careful to dissociate themselves from it. I sure would.

    So, like I said, your suggestion that some of them did not approve merely awaits confirmation in the form of some open criticism.

  50. #51 Clutch
    June 9, 2007

    Since your conclusion transparently fails to follow from your assumptions, I doubt that these people will see much force in your insistence that they are guilty until proven innocent.

    You might come to recognize some of the many confounds in your reasoning if you stop to reflect on the probability that some of your friends and professional acquaintances have found things you’ve written (including, perhaps, this thread) to have been embarrassments both to you and to them, without publicly, still less “unstintingly”, criticizing you for them. Which of your three assumptions do you insist your friends, colleagues, and readers have failed, in such cases? Or do they never disagree with you without doing it in public?

  51. #52 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

  52. #53 Anton Mates
    June 9, 2007

    Lydia McGrew commented on Behe’s book over on this blog. Apparently he didn’t have her read the biology bits:

    Mike has a new book that has just come out, I think, but I’m ashamed to say that I’ve read only the chapters he sent me for preview, and those were pretty strongly in philosophy rather than science. This bugged me a little, because his strength is in biochemistry; that’s his specialty. I’d just like to see him go out there and do more in the way of naming IC systems and machines and leave the discussion of whether front-loading everything is philosophically respectable and the like to the philosophers.

    Earlier in that thread she says:

    Bill Dembski and I have a long-standing disagreement over probability theory. But I think there are good inferences to be made from the specific engineering details of biological machines–i.e. that they were probably designed by an agent who could plan and put multiple aspects in place at once to make the whole thing work. As, indeed, agents often do. This is not only argued well by Behe, IMO, but also by a guy that almost no one has heard of named Scott Minnich, from Idaho. I’ve been trying to get Scott to publish his thoughts on the way reverse engineering thinking in biochemistry involves ineliminable thinking in design terms, but he has appeared to be discouraged and not to want to publish it. He himself made a particular discovery about some aspect of biochemistry by thinking, “How would I do it?” It was a fascinating story to hear him tell in detail, but I didn’t get it recorded or written down, unfortunately.

    Based on that and some of her writings like Blaming the Handyman, it’s pretty clear that she’s pro-ID; she criticizes particular ID arguments but finds others convincing.

  53. #54 Anton Mates
    June 9, 2007

    Based on the above, too, I would say she does endorse Behe’s biological claims. It’s pretty unlikely that Neil Manson does, from what I’ve read of him.

  54. #55 PZ Mahoogaherz
    June 9, 2007

    And Tim McGrew is an apologist for Jonathan Wells…and there’s Lydia making excuses for Wells’ baseless centriole theory for cancer.

  55. #56 Clutch
    June 10, 2007

    Thanks, Anton and PZM. That looks more like evidence regarding the McGrews, as opposed to the guilt-by-association inference. But as far as the review goes, it sounds like a polite way of saying the philosophy was bollixed, but she trusts him on the biology. (Why? one wonders.) If she thought he’d done a great job on the sections she read, presumably she’d be talking about how masterfully Behe pulls together insights from different disciplines…

    I agree that Manson is unlikely to be so much as “on the fence” about ID, given his writings.

  56. #57 Steve Maxwell
    September 7, 2007

    Why don’t those of you in the forum just read the “Edge of Evolution” book and evaluate it based on scientific critique and analysis? As a cancer geneticist, I have always had my doubts about the creative power of Darwinism that is so emphatically accepted and expounded by many in the scientific arenas. Why is there so much hostility when someone poses questions concerning the obvious flaws in Darwinism to produce new structure/functions. Like many of the posters on this forum, naturalistic dogma has clouded rational and logical thinking. How dare someone question our “Darwin of the Gaps” philosophy! All sorts of derogatory comments are made toward the offender. I see this dogma as more dangerous to free scientific thought than the unscientific arguments made by Creationists against evolution.

    Behe’s mutation probability argue against the creative power of Darwinism and put limits on the role of RM+NS in the mechanism or driving force behind evolution. Evolution is replete with bursts and extinctions in the fossil record, sometimes exhibiting long periods of stasis.

    TalkOrigins.com presents only about 130 examples of macroevolution and transitions that clearly are not gradual changes, but instead each intermediate in the macroevolution example is a dramatic change in holistic phenotypes that require multiple simultaneous mutations in circulatory, nervous, and connective tissue systems. It is striking that only 130 examples of transitional macroevolution is provided from the millions of fossils samples. If RM+NS is involved in creating new life forms/structures, then there should be millions and millions of intermediates but they are markedly absent from the records. None of the macroevolution scenarious are gradual transitions from a molecular/biochemical viewpoint. They require potentially thousands of both simultaneous mutations in order to have a functional, advantageous structure or even biochemical complex.

    What about extinctions in the fossil record where 99% of all species have undergone elimination? If RM+NS is constantly providing increased optimization and survival for species, then why so much destruction? Why is there destruction in gene function in on our best evolutionary RM+NS models such as malaria, E. coli, and HIV? All selective drug mutations result in a cost to organims leading to less viability. For instance, HIV can evade the highly active antiretroviral drug combos by mutation but then the mutated HIV is less viable and will eventually be competed out by wildtype HIV after the drug is removed. The mutant HIV is thus less virulent. Perhaps RM+NS results in genetic decay as a result of the constant onslaught of neutral mutations accumulating to degenerate DNA repair systems. The result would be a gradual erosion of the genome and thus viability of organism eventually leading to extinctions seen in the fossil records. RM+NS does not have creative power but only destructive forces that provide only a survival advantage during an onslaught of a selection pressure that threatens to destroy or eliminate.

    The pure ID movement is made up of scientists like myself that question the ability of RM+NS to create new life forms/structures/functions. I have seen no evidence to lead me to the conclusion that a RM+NS process is creative; it only results in genetic deterioration leading to less functional proteins that can provide in some cases a survival advantage. But take away the selection pressure and the wildtype protein/organism will reappear.

    ID scientists are not creationists or have a religious agenda. We ask hard questions about the mechanisms of evolution and do not allow dogma, in contrast to many of the posters on this forum, to cloud our rational and critical questioning of scientific theories such as Darwinism.

    It is clear from this forum that many react emotionally to anyone that questions their naturalistic dogma, a matter of faith/religion to them rather than a result of scientific inquiry.

    Now that DNA is revealed as the most complex informational code ever, and since only intelligence, never natural mechanisms, produces code and language, then DNA can be inductively inferred to be of intelligent origins. The ID theory is now predicting revolutionary new technologies in computing/information power and programs. Some have now been realized including genetic programming and DNA computers. Since an intelligence greater than human originated DNA code, it would be anticipated that knowledge gained from understanding this complex DNA computer/digital code (see Leroy Hood and David Galas (2003) The digital code of DNA. Nature 421, 444-448) will result in advances in our current computer/information problem solving capabilities.

    The ID theory is now putting Darwinism and RM+NS to intensive scientific testing, rather than dogmatically accepting it based on philosophical basis.

  57. #58 Steve_C
    September 7, 2007

    Oi.

    Yeah, because the theory of evolution hasn’t had any scrutiny or undergone any changes ever.

    Uhg.

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