Saturday, June 4, 2016

Professor Michael Behe, Famous or Infamous? You be the Judge!

A new post over on the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution 'news' and Views (EnV) blog announcing the 12th anniversary of Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box".  Here's the link "In Time for Michael Behe's Book Anniversary, Here's a Real Mousetrap in the Cell".  Something the folks at the DI take an inordinate amount of pride, for some reason.  If you aren't familiar with Behe, here's a nutshell biography:
"Michael J. Behe is an American biochemist, author, and intelligent design (ID) advocate. He serves as professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Behe is best known for his argument for his pseudoscientific stance on irreducible complexity (IC), which argues that some biochemical structures are too complex to be explained by known evolutionary mechanisms and are therefore probably the result of intelligent design. Behe has testified in several court cases related to intelligent design, including the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that resulted in a ruling that intelligent design was religious in nature.
Behe's claims about the irreducible complexity of essential cellular structures have been rejected by the vast majority of the scientific community,and his own biology department at Lehigh University published an official statement opposing Behe's views and intelligent design"
(Wikipedia: Michael Behe)

Just for fun. here is another nutshell bio from the Discovery Institute:
"Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Behe's current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. " (Discovery Institute: Michael Behe)
Funny how the Discovery Institute fails to mention that he testified in the Dover Trial where the ruling called him out specifically stating:
"We therefore find that Professor Behe’s claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large. Additionally, even if irreducible complexity had not been rejected, it still does not support ID as it is merely a test for evolution, not design." (Kitzmiller v. Dover Ruling: Page 79)
I wonder why the DI fails to mention that?  Could it be because his testimony didn't help their cause any?  While they are proud to remind everyone that Behe is a Professor at Lehigh University, they also tend to forget to mention that Lehigh has this linked from the home page of the Biology Department:
"The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." 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."
(Lehigh Biology Department:  Statement on Evolution)
So based on this, what are the chances that Behe actually teaches Intelligent Design in his biochemistry classes?  Yea, I agree!  However, as opposed to people like Guillermo Gonzalez and Catherine Croker, he doesn't let his ID hobby get in the way of doing his job.  The schools position is pretty clear, ID is an opinion of Behe, and not certainly not science.  OK, enough about Behe, let's see what EnV says about the 12th anniversary of his book.   They want to start quoting his book, including this delight:
"It's especially delightful because it brings to life an analogy Behe made famous: the mousetrap as an example of irreducible complexity."
Yes, the famous mousetrap, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that intelligence can design stuff.  It doesn't automatically support that a mousetrap is an example of irreducible complexity because, as Kenneth R. Miller showed at a number of times, including his own testimony during the Dover Trial and a 2008 book ("Only a Theory"), a mouse trap is not irreducibly complex because even if you remove pieces and parts, they can still have other uses, they are not limited to just a mousetrap, except in the apparently limited imagination of ID proponents.  But the DI is so proud of a very limited and failed analogy.

The article goes on to repeat some of the other examples from his book.  Remember those?  Those that when faced with actual peer-reviewed research, over 50 examples, that refuted his examples, Behe said that it was not enough.  Even though he hadn't read them!

The article also quotes a 'new' claim of something called serpin antithrombin III (ATIII), being irreducibly complex and the unnamed author justifies is with this:
"But can you be sure ATIII is itself irreducibly complex? First, note that the seven authors of the PNAS paper, all from the University of Massachusetts, never explain how this protein might have evolved. Quite the contrary; their only mention of "evolution" deals with how the protein folds, not with Darwinian evolution. There's no mention of selection, phylogeny, or ancestors. Instead, they seem fascinated by the precise way this machine must be assembled and "cocked" for action. Watch for "mousetrap" again:"
Really?  They didn't go into possible evolutionary paths, so that is the number one reason why it must be irreducibly complex?  Wait just a minute?  Didn't another recent EnV post complain about tracing hypothetical evolutionary paths?  Yes, here it is:
"Biological systems not only need to exist but to function properly. It's no use tracing a hypothetical path of evolutionary descent unless every living thing along that path was fully functional in the real world."
So . . . if you do suggest how something may have evolved, you are wrong because the very limited thinking of the DI says that if it's not in its final functioning form, it can't exist in the real world.  But if you don't suggest an evolutionary path, you are supporting irreducible complexity?  What we seem to have here is another Marie Antoinette moment.  Cake anyone?

OK, I think I've just about had enough.  One last thing.  In the closing paragraph, the author says:
"That gives a modest sense of the overarching lesson here: multiple factors are working together to make ATIII work."
Yes, multiple factors are working together to make ATIII work -- as ATIII . . . but at no point does anyone from the DI show that those same multiple factors could not have another function if configured in a different way.  Where did the pieces and parts come from?  Do they offer any support for ID?  No!  All they do it put a box around ATIII and demand that the conversation is over.  Boxes like this are great for limiting the conversation . . . which seems to along well with the very limited thinking we seem to see all the time from the DI.

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