Pharyngula

Now Behe is thrown to the wolves

At least one metaphorical wolf, that is: Richard Dawkins reviews The Edge of Evolution (behind the NYT Select paywall, sorry). Again, he focuses on the argument from improbability that is at the heart of Behe’s book, and he comes up with a clear counter-example: if Behe were right, the modifications achieved by plant and animal domestication would be impossible.

If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

Don’t evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs — every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

If correct, Behe’s calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?

I can predict Behe’s response: that the variations in dogs are all “trivial,” “piddling,” or “modest,” all belittling adjectives he has applied to scientific observations that contradict his claims before. They don’t refute his claim that two specific simultaneous amino acid changes in a single protein are the “edge of evolution” (and they don’t directly), but they do show that evolution can achieve radical alterations in form within short spans of time, and that perhaps his damning mathematical abstraction isn’t really relevant.

Behe has been flailing at refuting his critics on his amazon.com blog. He’s got a few more to wrestle with now. So far, Coyne, Carroll, Ruse, Miller, and Dawkins have put out reviews in major journals, and all have thoroughly panned the poor sap. I hope he does add more arguments to his blog page—it’s a handy compendium of failure, illustrating the breadth of his rejection in the scientific community.

Comments

  1. #1 I_like_latin
    June 27, 2007

    Once again Behe and Dembski prove exactly what they’re trying to do… make money… the arguments are the same, they’re being demolished in the same way as before…

    I’m betting Dembski will come out with a new book soon, his royalties are probably drying up.

  2. #2 Patrick
    June 27, 2007

    Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?

    Hahahahaha, ice burn.

  3. #3 Jerry
    June 27, 2007

    Does any else wonder how much money Behe makes from royalties and speaking fees?

  4. #4 Louis
    June 27, 2007

    I hold to my theory Behe is trying to destroy creationism by making it even stupider.

  5. #5 ERV
    June 27, 2007

    Why are the comments disabled on some of his Amazon entries, and not others? I assumed they would all be disabled.

  6. #6 Dutch Vigilante
    June 27, 2007

    “I hold to my theory Behe is trying to destroy creationism by making it even stupider.”

    Sounds more like he destroys it by trying to make it smarter, since that can’t be done.

  7. #7 Ken Cope
    June 27, 2007

    (behind the NYT Select paywall, sorry)

    If only there were an account set up and paid for on behalf of some uberliberal blogger for readers who only want to read an article behind paywalls every once in a while, something easy to remember, dailykos with the password the same as dailykos the login.

    But it would be wrong…

  8. #8 cm
    June 27, 2007

    Ken Cope, the NY Times “paywall” (never used that word before) is permeable to .edu emails, so just in case anybody didn’t know that, the Times does allow anyone (prof, student, staff) with a .edu email account to access the premium content as of a few months back.

  9. #9 Ken Cope
    June 27, 2007

    Regarding readers with .edu accounts, I’m happy to see what a wide variety of online content is accessible to me, merely by virtue of owning and using my library card. If I remembered that fact more often, I might not have resorted to successfully using dailykos dailykos as login and password just now.

  10. #10 Bronze Dog
    June 27, 2007

    So, if Behe were right, I couldn’t exist. Funny. The fact that I’m-

    Error 606: Commenter not found

  11. #11 Evolving Squid
    June 27, 2007

    You can get past the base login with:

    ID: hjblohmi
    PW: 1qazxsw2

    But that won’t get you past Times Select πŸ™

  12. #12 Jeff
    June 27, 2007

    Actually most of the St Bernards today are from Newfoundland stock, when the Bernards were just about wiped out in the 1800s.

  13. #13 Timothy
    June 27, 2007

    If you don’t want to pay for NYTimes Select you can probably get access through the public library. The Seattle Public Library does that and it works great, except over wifi on my laptop for some reason… weird.

  14. #14 Jim Lemire
    June 27, 2007

    this reminds me of the proof of the physical impossibility of bumblebee flight

  15. #15 Doc Bill
    June 27, 2007

    Behe will simply sigh and repeat for the umteenth time that all this dog stuff is MICRO-evolution and common breeding and that he has NEVER argued against it. On the contrary, Mikey will say, he has a ways supported microevolution and that’s not an issue.

    The fact that he doesn’t address the question that Dawkins raises will be lost in the chaff that Behe spreads.

    I predict that Behe’s next book will be about pruning, the Hedge of Evolution, where he proves that topiary is intelligently designed.

  16. #16 Keanus
    June 27, 2007

    The thesis that Behe is making money on his royalties may be slowly sinking into the mud. Sales of The Edge of Evolution now rank just 1554th at Amazon. That’s pathetic. Hitchens’ God is Not Great is 17th; Gore’s The Assault on Reason is 25th; Dawkins’ The God Delusion is 56th.

    Maybe Behe should read Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die which is 83rd. It might give him some good advice or an idea about a sequel that would expand that idea and in which Behe could draw upon some first-hand experience.

  17. #17 CalGeorge
    June 27, 2007

    So, what’s the mock title going to be?

    Kludge of Evolution?

  18. #18 zohn
    June 27, 2007

    WARNING: LONG POST -> COPY AND PASTE OF ARTICLE
    WITH APOLOGIES TO THOSE OFFENDED BY SUCH ACTS, AND BY ALL CAPS SENTENCES.

    ————————————————————-
    July 1, 2007
    Inferior Design
    By Richard Dawkins

    THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION
    The Search for the Limits of Darwinism.

    By Michael J. Behe.

    320 pp. Free Press. $28.

    I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe’s second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him. The first — “Darwin’s Black Box” (1996), which purported to make the scientific case for “intelligent design” — was enlivened by a spark of conviction, however misguided. The second is the book of a man who has given up. Trapped along a false path of his own rather unintelligent design, Behe has left himself no escape. Poster boy of creationists everywhere, he has cut himself adrift from the world of real science. And real science, in the shape of his own department of biological sciences at Lehigh University, has publicly disowned him, via a remarkable disclaimer on its Web site: “While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific.” As the Chicago geneticist Jerry Coyne wrote recently, in a devastating review of Behe’s work in The New Republic, it would be hard to find a precedent.

    For a while, Behe built a nice little career on being a maverick. His colleagues might have disowned him, but they didn’t receive flattering invitations to speak all over the country and to write for The New York Times. Behe’s name, and not theirs, crackled triumphantly around the memosphere. But things went wrong, especially at the famous 2005 trial where Judge John E. Jones III immortally summed up as “breathtaking inanity” the effort to introduce intelligent design into the school curriculum in Dover, Pa. After his humiliation in court, Behe — the star witness for the creationist side — might have wished to re-establish his scientific credentials and start over. Unfortunately, he had dug himself in too deep. He had to soldier on. “The Edge of Evolution” is the messy result, and it doesn’t make for attractive reading.

    We now hear less about “irreducible complexity,” with good reason. In “Darwin’s Black Box,” Behe simply asserted without justification that particular biological structures (like the bacterial flagellum, the tiny propeller by which bacteria swim) needed all their parts to be in place before they would work, and therefore could not have evolved incrementally. This style of argument remains as unconvincing as when Darwin himself anticipated it. It commits the logical error of arguing by default. Two rival theories, A and B, are set up. Theory A explains loads of facts and is supported by mountains of evidence. Theory B has no supporting evidence, nor is any attempt made to find any. Now a single little fact is discovered, which A allegedly can’t explain. Without even asking whether B can explain it, the default conclusion is fallaciously drawn: B must be correct. Incidentally, further research usually reveals that A can explain the phenomenon after all: thus the biologist Kenneth R. Miller (a believing Christian who testified for the other side in the Dover trial) beautifully showed how the bacterial flagellar motor could evolve via known functional intermediates.

    Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation. Descent with modification gives him no problems, nor does natural selection. They are “trivial” and “modest” notions, respectively. Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as “trivial” the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish?

    The crucial passage in “The Edge of Evolution” is this: “By far the most critical aspect of Darwin’s multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept.”

    What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by randomness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection is arguably the most momentous idea ever to occur to a human mind, because it — alone as far as we know — explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a “modest” idea, nor is descent with modification.

    But let’s follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his overrating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an “edge,” beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasite’s resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.

    If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

    Don’t evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of), but Behe, having lost the argument over irreducible complexity, is now in his desperation making a completely different claim: that mutations are too rare to permit significant evolutionary change anyway. From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs — every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

    If correct, Behe’s calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?

    The best way to find out is for Behe to submit a mathematical paper to The Journal of Theoretical Biology, say, or The American Naturalist, whose editors would send it to qualified referees. They might liken Behe’s error to the belief that you can’t win a game of cards unless you have a perfect hand. But, not to second-guess the referees, my point is that Behe, as is normal at the grotesquely ill-named Discovery Institute (a tax-free charity, would you believe?), where he is a senior fellow, has bypassed the peer-review procedure altogether, gone over the heads of the scientists he once aspired to number among his peers, and appealed directly to a public that — as he and his publisher know — is not qualified to rumble him.

    Richard Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi chair for the public understanding of science at Oxford. His most recent book is “The God Delusion.”
    —————————————————–

  19. #19 Nathan Parker
    June 27, 2007

    If I remembered that fact more often, I might not have resorted to successfully using dailykos dailykos as login and password just now.

    Thank you.

  20. #20 CJ
    June 27, 2007

    Yeah, the book’s not doing great, by any means. According to Nielson, it sold 633 copies last week, bringing total sales up to 2,617 since its release. About a third of that came from Amazon sales, the rest from bookstores.

    And while that’s pretty pathetic, it still ranked 11th nationally in the “Science” category. (Nielson doesn’t recognize “Bad Apologetics” or “Rank Pseudoscience” as categories, more’s the pity.)

  21. #21 CJ
    June 27, 2007

    Grr. that’s Nielsen

  22. #22 Ericb
    June 27, 2007

    I think that ID has officially Jumped the Shark.

  23. #23 Sailor
    June 27, 2007

    Thanks zohn!
    I think we hould use dogs more as a simple “Its obvious look see” sort of illustration of evolution. A good counter to “it looks designed”

  24. #24 Tracy P. Hamilton
    June 27, 2007

    Keanus said”The thesis that Behe is making money on his royalties may be slowly sinking into the mud. Sales of The Edge of Evolution now rank just 1554th at Amazon. That’s pathetic. Hitchens’ God is Not Great is 17th; Gore’s The Assault on Reason is 25th; Dawkins’ The God Delusion is 56th.

    Maybe Behe should read Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die which is 83rd. It might give him some good advice or an idea about a sequel that would expand that idea and in which Behe could draw upon some first-hand experience.”

    For Behe’s audience, books are to be quoted, not read.

    You don’t have to buy the book to do that.

  25. #25 The Science Pundit
    June 27, 2007

    This recently came up in another discussion I was having about Behe: In his defense, Behe was one of the only Kitzmiller defense witnesses who didn’t lie under oath.

  26. #26 Gerard Harbison
    June 27, 2007

    Yeah, the book’s not doing great, by any means. According to Nielson, it sold 633 copies last week, bringing total sales up to 2,617 since its release

    I wonder how many of those copies will ever be read cover-to-cover? I suspect most of Behe’s fans aren’t in the general habit of reading them thar chapter-books.

  27. #27 Chinchillazilla
    June 27, 2007

    It’s official: I’ve finally given in, and Dawkins is now my hero.

  28. #28 Carlie
    June 27, 2007

    He had me at the first two sentences:
    “I had expected to be as irritated by Michael Behe’s second book as by his first. I had not expected to feel sorry for him.” Understatedly brilliant, as always. I feel myself becoming more and more of a groupie.

  29. #29 Robert Maynard
    June 27, 2007

    The Rottweiler strikes again! πŸ˜€
    Dawkins is a great advocate for atheism, but he’s an even better advocate for evolutionary biology.

  30. #30 Frank Sullivan
    June 27, 2007

    As a layperson, I have a difficult time looking at two different species (like a timber wolf and a beagle) and knowing what sort of genetic differences must exist between the two. I’ve heard that it only takes one amino acid change in order for a chicken to have leg feathers instead of leg scales. With that said, it seems easy to guess that the mutations needed to change a timber wold into a beagle are relatively simple, and nowhere near as coincidental and improbable as the ones Behe is talking about.

    When it comes to biology, I trust Dawkins, but I think that people who distrust him (i.e., the majority of Americans), are going to look at this op-ed, unimpressed that mutations have carried us from timber wolf to beagle, and therefore unimpressed with Dawkin’s argument.

  31. #31 GodlessHeathen
    June 27, 2007

    Um… Shouldn’t the title of this blog post be “…thrown to the rottweiler?”

  32. #32 Stogoe
    June 27, 2007

    ID: hjblohmi

    Evolving Squid, or should I say Heywood J Blohmi, is that your login? I had a college friend who liked that name way too much.

  33. #33 dave
    June 27, 2007

    I dunno man. I read Behe’s response on Amazon and he says Darwinism has been falsified and ID has been confirmed. He sounds real sincere. Are you guys lying to me? Can reality be falsified? (Some QM guys seem to think so)

  34. #34 Monado
    June 27, 2007

    I was thinking that the other day: that a comment like “you’re depending on the randomness of natural selection” slips by us while “you’re depending on the randomness of selective breeding” would sound like the nonsense it is.

  35. #35 Monado
    June 27, 2007

    I’m dazzled by the brilliance of the first person to think of breeding a shepherd dog, or anti-wolf wolf, as we call them.

  36. #36 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 27, 2007

    Say, Zohn, much as I appreciate that you wanted to share the review with those of us that don’t want to pay for NYT Select access, and as much as I appreciate the thought of those of you who provided passwords to NYT Select, keep in mind that the NYT paid for the article. So, it is theft of content and not a good idea.

    The review will appear at richarddawkins.net shortly and the rest of us can read it at that time.

    Not that I am a big fan of the Times’ to the point at which I am concerned about their loss of revenue; but right is right and wrong is wrong. And I am not sure whether or not PZ can get in trouble for this (IANAL)

  37. #37 Paguroidea
    June 27, 2007

    If Behe wants to go to the top of the charts, I would think all he would have to do is to write a book admitting that he was wrong and why, apologize, and make a tremendous effort to try to undo all the mess he has made. He could also have a section in the book on why intelligent people sometimes believe dumb things.

    Although he seems to be in a “no escape” situation, he could change sides and contact Richard Dawkins for advice. Perhaps he could go on to serve as a valuable leader in a pro-science movement.

  38. #38 Graculus
    June 27, 2007

    this reminds me of the proof of the physical impossibility of bumblebee flight

    Something which never happened.

    An engineer expressed the opinion that, according to the then current understanding of aerodynamics, a bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly. At no time was this offered as “proof” of anything except the limitations of aerodynamic theory.

  39. #39 Ken Cope
    June 27, 2007

    Information wants to be free, but information also wants to be expensive. So long as I’m anthropomorphizing abstractions, and worrying about impinging upon the rights of corporations (treated under the law as persons), I’m more concerned about the rights of Professor Dawkins and Doctor P Zed than anybody else’s. Fortunately, nobody got to download any songs, so we have at least dodged that bullet.

    While some may not forgive me for passing on the power of the magic words dailykos dailykos, which have for some years overcome many more barriers to entry than just those at the home of Judith Miller, I hope I haven’t let the cat out of the bag about the power of a public library card. Perhaps the laughing ghost of Ayn Rand will offer guidance toward proper conduct in the marketplace of ideas, here in the future.

  40. #40 Andrew Wade
    June 27, 2007

    When it comes to biology, I trust Dawkins, but I think that people who distrust him (i.e., the majority of Americans), are going to look at this op-ed, unimpressed that mutations have carried us from timber wolf to beagle, and therefore unimpressed with Dawkin’s argument.

    Do remember that Behe’s target audience are quite ignorant of biology. They’re not going to see the same deep similarities between a timber wolf and a beagle that a biologist would. For once the ignorance of his audience would work against Behe, except that they’re not likely to read Dawkin’s op-ed, or anything else that might challenge their world-view.

  41. #41 Skeptic8
    June 27, 2007

    Thank you Zohn!
    From an oldtyme geologist. Retired and watching younger people wrestle with evidence and society. Y’know, I rather incline toward the Pastafarian cosmology but it canna’ get my wholehearted support until we have demonstrations for faith-based moneys from this administration and repral of the tax on our holy sacrament- beer.

  42. #42 386sx
    June 27, 2007

    Dawkins is a great advocate for atheism, but he’s an even better advocate for evolutionary biology.

    Right. Because, unlike theism, evolutionary biology has some actual solid evidence to work with. If there were some real evidence for theism then most atheists would probably be persuaded by it and therefore convert to agnosticism, which is far far far friendlier toward blind speculative unsupported theism than atheism is.

  43. #43 Reality Czech
    June 27, 2007

    I am given to understand that the aforementioned aeronautical engineer actually attempted to prove that, by the understanding of the day, a bumblebee could not glide… which indeed it cannot.

  44. #44 JimC
    June 27, 2007

    I trust Dawkins, but I think that people who distrust him (i.e., the majority of Americans

    I think the majority of Americans would like Dawkins. Many have bought his books and he comes off well in person.

  45. #45 Jimmy
    June 27, 2007

    Thanks Zohn.

    And Mike:

    If anything is a crime, it is the fact that the NY Times printed all that bogus pre-war crap (ie, lies) about Iraqi WMD that led to the mess our country is currently in.

    So let’s maintain a little perspective here, shall we?

  46. #46 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 28, 2007

    Sure, Jimmy, I agree that the NYTimes is guilty of misleading us on several issues that have cost lives. I am not defending them because I love them. What I was pointing out was that stealing content in this manner is not ethical. Zohn could have put it on his own blog, if he needed to release the news. As I closed, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if PZ can be held liable for the entire article being posted in the comment section. I don’t know if Zohn knows these laws, either.

    I am not pure. Half of my mp3 library is purloined from various file-sharing sources. But Pharyngula is a well-known blog, and someone from the NYTimes may monitor it and cause problems. Same issue with the passwords. I think it is reckless, but I appreciate Ken’s info on the library access.

    What is the difference between pasting an entire article onto a popular blog’s comment section and photocopying and distributing the entire content of a magazine article without securing publishing rights from the publisher? It’s still stealing someone else’s work, despite the NYTimes’ complicity in the drum-beating to a war.

  47. #47 Justin Moretti
    June 28, 2007

    the drum-beating to a war.

    A justified one, if you ask me.

    The issue is:

    1) Iraq the dictatorship, under Saddam Hussein, at one time had weapons of mass destruction, which it used both on the battlefield (excusable) and against its own defenceless civilians (not excusable).

    2) At some stage between its use of them and the 2003 invasion, it may or may not have got rid of them; but Saddam was a mendacious prick who could not be trusted, and who – when the US went into one of its little self-enfolded sulks a la post-WW1, and people with clout stopped looking at him – could easily have revived his programmes.

    3) Iraq the dictatorship had, and used, chemical weapons against civilians; quite possibly threw them away; but might one day have had them again. Iraq the elected democracy (wracked by Islamist terrorism, true, but still an elected democracy AND OUR ALLY in the Coalition) does not have WMD and never will.

    4) IIRC Saddam Hussein was, at the eleventh hour, offered the chance to stand down and leave power to spare his country the war. He didn’t take it. Hubris probably told him he wouldn’t get caught. Hubris was wrong.

    There’s a lot of things I don’t like GWB for, but the War against Saddam is not one of them.

  48. #48 John Rynne
    June 28, 2007

    Legal way around NYT paywall

    NYT articles have a little link called “Share”. Clicking it enables you to generate a permalink to the article, free, gratis and fer nowt. I have used it in the past and it works.
    AFAIK, this setup was negotiated with the Times by Dave Winer some years ago to allow bloggers to refer to NYT articles and have the links work down through time.

  49. #49 windy
    June 28, 2007

    I can predict Behe’s response: that the variations in dogs are all “trivial,” “piddling,” or “modest,”…

    Or that all the variation in dog breeds was front-loaded to the original wolf genome, which was front-loaded to the original carnivore genome, which was front-loaded to the original mammal genome…

  50. #50 Paul A
    June 28, 2007

    Sorry for aiding and abetting the threadjack but this riled me.

    Justin

    1) Yes it did. And it disposed of them.

    2) Saying “I don’t like him” and “He MIGHT at some point develop nasty weapons” is NOT a reason for bombing a country which posed no actual threat into a pile of rubble, destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and further destabilising an already volatile region, possibly beyond repair

    3) What do you define as an elected democracy? Exactly what proportion of Iraq’s population voted in the ‘election’? Why were entire regions of the country disqualified from voting? An election limited to friends of the US is not an election.

    4) You don’t recall correctly. Iraq was in the process of fully complying with the inspection regime when the US pulled the inspectors out and decided to invade. Try reading Hans Blix’s book for the real scoop of what went on – Saddam was an ass but Bush wanted a war.

    Sorry but the US, UK, Italy and the several tiny provinces that made up the ‘coalition’ were well in the wrong on this one. The majority of the world is in agreement over this and it’ll take a long time to bounce back from.

  51. #51 MissPrism
    June 28, 2007

    Excellent.
    I remember a similar smackdown Dawkins once gave to a drool-puddle called ‘The Facts Of Life’. Its author and publisher sent indignant letters in reply, and Dawkins responded “Why no letter from his mother?”

  52. #52 Boo
    June 28, 2007

    If Behe were to be consistent he could simply reply that dog breeding worked because the Unkown Intelligent Designer was utilizing their Unkown Intelligent Design Mechanism simultaneously with humanity’s breeding of dogs to create all the different breeds. Since ID makes no claims about how the Design Mechanism actually works, there is logically nothing that would keep this from being the preferred explanation. He won’t, of course, because he knows how silly it would make him look.

  53. #53 Oolon Colluphid
    June 28, 2007

    Gish had his bullfrog, and the cry of ‘Bullfrog!’ followed him around…

    http://www.holysmoke.org/gishlies.htm

    Now, whenever Behe says anything, the correct responses is:

    WOOF WOOF!

  54. #54 Reginald Selkirk
    June 28, 2007

    the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong.

    Prepare the quote mines!

  55. #55 Jimmy
    June 28, 2007

    Justin is undoubtedly from “Planet Denial”, from the “Saddamlovedosama Galaxy”.

    Go ahead. Ask him about it. I’ll bet he denies it.

  56. #56 Reginald Selkirk
    June 28, 2007

    Do his creationist fans know that Behe accepts as “trivial” the fact that we are African apes, cousins of monkeys, descended from fish?

    Would they care? Behe believes in common descent, but with intervention by the Grand Ole Designer whenever necessary.

    Recall that his creationist fans are people who believe that
    1) Je-e-esus is descended from King David in two different ways, because the Bible says it was predicted so.
    2) Je-e-esus really isn’t descended from King David, because he is a bastard. The Bible says so.

  57. #57 Kseniya
    June 28, 2007

    Saddam was an ass but Bush wanted a war.

    Indeed. This is undeniable. All other considerations were nothing more the justification for the regime change that had been at the top of the neoconservative policy agenda since the mid 1990’s. Bush was pressing his advisors to provide him with sufficient cause to depose Saddam in February 2001. Osama bin Laden provided the Bush administration with just the right kind of currency it could spend towards that end. Saddam’s belligerance, impotent though it was, plus some creative fear-mongering by the neocons pushed the issue beyond the tipping point.

    Whether or not Hussein got what he deserved (or deserved what he got) is irrelevant: The ends do not always just the means. The machinations and fabrications that preceded the invasion, and the abuses of executive power that followed 9/11, must be investigated, and those responsible for transgressions against the law of the land must be held accountable if sufficient cause is found.

  58. #58 rrt
    June 28, 2007

    I think we need to pay attention to Windy’s “front-loaded variation” observation. He’s dead on. The argument may be silly, but it works for most of the ID crowd.

    All Behe needs to do to defend himself from Dawkin’s dogs is borrow this tactic from the Law of Conservation of Information crowd, that tired old Second Law rehash. True, Behe doesn’t appear to be arguing that the universe doesn’t allow the creation of new (poorly defined) “information,” but he can use the “front-loading” excuse that they do. The variation exploited in selective breeding already existed, so we didn’t prove that the mutations that lead to the variations can happen without God’s magic fingers tickling the base pairs. It’s silly, but as I said, it works for them, and I think we need to remember that.

    And Behe’s comment that random mutation is the most important aspect of evolution is a great summary of the ID movement’s motivation and weakness. Why would he falsely grant mutation prime importance? Because as we know, he has ceded everything else. His God of the Gaps has shrunk to one gap: Mutation. So of course it’s the most important thing in evolution for Behe, and by typical creationist projection, it must be the most important thing in evolution for all of us.

  59. #59 Steve LaBonne
    June 28, 2007

    NOTHING will ever get through to the IDiot crowd, so I wouldn’t worry about that. The significance of scientists refuting Behe’s “arguments” in print is simply a matter of keeping the record straight.

  60. #60 Pablo
    June 28, 2007

    I admit, I must vehemently disagree with Dawkins. A Pekingese is anything but adorable.

  61. #61 Rieux
    June 28, 2007

    Boo wrote:

    If Behe were to be consistent he could simply reply that dog breeding worked because the Unkown Intelligent Designer was utilizing their Unkown Intelligent Design Mechanism simultaneously with humanity’s breeding of dogs to create all the different breeds.

    This is exactly what I thought. If you’re willing to ignore the parsimony principle entirely, it seems to me that you can overcome pretty much any factual obstacle–Dawkins’ Dog Dilemma certainly included.

    [Behe] won’t [claim this], of course, because he knows how silly it would make him look.

    Maybe–but geez, isn’t that account exactly the way he explains the evolution of malaria (and everything else more complicated than malaria) in the new book? I.e., that every single step of the way, “a wizard did it“?

    I’m not convinced that he needs to worry about “looking silly” in even this case. Would Behe’s fans know Occam’s Razor if it came up and slashed them in the nose?

  62. #62 Mooser
    June 28, 2007

    From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs — every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

    I hear the heavenly choirs when I read that. All them cheribums and seraphims in full cry, with the Diety, like A.Pa Carter “just bass’t in” now and then.

  63. #63 Chris
    June 28, 2007

    All the talk about WMD was never anything more than a very flimsy excuse anyway. The nation that not only developed nuclear weapons, but used them to attack cities full of civilians has no business telling others what weapons they may or may not posess. It’s just too transparently hypocritical to have any credibility whatsoever.

    Pointing a gun at someone while telling them to get rid of their nasty horrible guns will get you, at best, cooperation under duress until your back is turned. At worst you’ll create a coalition – against yourself, fueled by resentment for your arrogance and hypocrisy.

    P.S. Is it just me, or is Behe’s demand that both mutations be made simultaneously just IC in its simplest form? Only one mutation couldn’t function in exactly the same way as the complete set with exactly the same degree of effectiveness, therefore it couldn’t evolve? This has been refuted dozens of times already, not just for the specific examples but *as a concept*; how can he have the gall to write another whole book based on it?

  64. #64 Michael
    June 28, 2007

    Since Behe is very close to fully accepting evolution, he should emulate these 3 former leaders of Exodus International (the group claiming to use prayer to convert gays to straights) and, at least, admit God and evolution can coexist. He could start by holding news conferences outside ID events and apologize for leading people astray.
    See the article in the Los Angeles Times
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-exgay28jun28,1,6454711.story?coll=la-headlines-california&ctrack=1&cset=true

  65. #65 Jimmy
    June 28, 2007

    I’d have to say someone like Behe is as good an argument as any against tenure.

    It’s not that he questions parts of Evolutionary biology. That’s what good scientists do.

    But for a college professor to make the kind of lame “arguments” he has been making is just pathetic.

    They are not even original, since Darwin actually brought up — and addressed — most of the issues himself in Origin of Species.

  66. #66 Kagehi
    June 28, 2007

    Actually, you missed #5 Justin Moretti. Saddam **was** telling some of his neighbors that he still had WMD, knowing that without them to use, half the countries around him would have invaded for us. He played the same, “I have big weapons! You wouldn’t want me to use them right?!”, line that the US and Russia did for years with each other. The difference being a) **we** actually had some to threaten with, and b) there was no GWB and company sitting around in some third super power willing to fall for what, in this case, was a completely fake threat.

    There has been some evidence suggesting also that a) materials did get moved someplace, which have never been found, but can be seen on our own satellite photos as there one day, then completely missing the next and b) that he was talking to a lot of different groups, including some terrorists. Mind you, he was probable arrogant enough that he would have never given them the camps or other things they would have demanded as allies, but we don’t know for certain.

    Its a bit like arguing that because someone missed, or allowed, a mofia boss to go unarrested 10 years earlier, so somehow deciding to *actually* do something about him now is unreasonable. The problem is that Elmer Fudd, Whiley Coyote and the Mad Martian (or what ever he is called) got together and planned it, then insisted that the military, CIA, etc. all follow the Key Stone Cop plans for what to do after, instead of doing their damn jobs right, without interference from a lot of clueless people, both *on* Bush’s team, and one suspects, also some political pushing and shoving from other factions, who also where sitting *here* or in some other country, instead of *on the ground*.

    I mean, how the frack do you conduct a war properly if your information is limited, indirect and about as useful for making long term changes and plans as trying to use Sim City to plan how to found a real one? You can’t. And people have had their fingers, opinions, views, misinformation, bad information, pet theories about what happened *before* they had all the information, etc., all through it. Half the people both “pro” and “anti” war have pulled the same BS Behe did with the holocaust denier in Germany. And I read the information as it came in from multiple sources, so I **know** this kind of, “Well… X, Y and Z happened because of A and B!”, response, followed a few days later by *real* information which completely contradicted it.

    And frankly, that is another problem with the media. They will happilly report the “facts” they don’t have about some event on the front page, then days later, when the complete picture it known, either a) give **no** retraction of their prior misinformation and invalid analysis, or b) post it on page 20, next to the rest of the errata, which only the truly obsessive people pay any attention to. And by then… 90% of the people that read the first article don’t have a clue *what* article they are retracting/correcting. And, early on, I saw entire websites dedicated to doing nothing but repeating claims made *in* such article, by both sides, even months after the real facts where available and the people who where rational enough to pay attention, knew those things where incorrect when they first printed them.

    Its why I stopped reading 90% of the sites I originally tried to use to keep track of what was going on over there. No one, on either side, was willing to accept, admit or even recognize when some of their basic information was exaggerated, based on bad analysis of incomplete facts, or just plain *wrong*. Some of those things, I suspect, have become so ingrained into each sides positions at this point, that if remembered at all, they would be defended as “probably true, because well, everything since seems to support it the original contentions, so *that* must have been right as well”, never mind that it wasn’t.

    It makes my head hurt…

  67. #67 Arnosium Upinarum
    June 29, 2007

    Reality Czech says, “I am given to understand that the aforementioned aeronautical engineer actually attempted to prove that, by the understanding of the day, a bumblebee could not glide… which indeed it cannot.”

    That’s nonsense. Every object, no matter how aerodynamically ugly, has a gliding or ‘lift cooefficient’. Complex shapes and a number of other factors like orientation with respect to the airstream can make the same object a good or a bad glider: an airplane if properly oriented with respect to an airstream makes a good glider; the same airplane in a tailspin is not such a good glider. Human skydivers are gliders – they can maneuver and glide like poorly-designed ‘lifting-bodies’. Believe it or not, even a ‘falling’ brick in fact ‘glides’. Just not very well. A spinning baseball or golf ball is a significantly better glider than an unspinning one. Snowflakes ‘float’ downward, but that’s also a kind of gliding. Anything can be a “glider”. Its just a matter of how much an object’s trajectory in an atmosphere deviates from a strictly ballistic one, as long as no other impulses other than the interaction with the air are present. All unpowered deviations from a ballistic path are by definition a “glide”.

  68. #68 Keith Douglas
    June 30, 2007

    I think that I should put in a claus in my living will that if I ever go off the deep end like Behe has that I should be committed immediately …

  69. #69 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 1, 2007

    As I expected, richarddawkins.net has now posted the review on his own site:

    Inferior Design

  70. #70 Caledonian
    July 1, 2007

    So far, Dawkins’ review is excellent, but I have a quibble with this point:

    Behe correctly dissects the Darwinian theory into three parts: descent with modification, natural selection and mutation.

    That’s not really accurate, and Behe wasn’t really correct. The third part of Darwinian theory is variation, not mutation. A population in which there is heritable variation but no mutation will still go through the evolutionary process if natural selection is applied.

    It’s a subtle point, but one that I think is rather important.

  71. #71 SteveM
    July 2, 2007

    “…A population in which there is heritable variation but no mutation…”

    I thought a “heritable variation” is a “mutation” since in order to be passed on to the next generation it would have to be a change in the genes, and isn’t that the definition of “mutation”?

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