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Michael Behe - The Edge of Evolution (Nov-9-07)
Posted: 09 November 2007 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Michael J. Behe, a central figure in the Intelligent Design movement, is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and most recently The Edge of Evolution: Searching for the Limits of Darwinism.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Behe discusses his prominent role in the ID movement, and how he first got involved. He explores the differences between creationism and Intelligent Design theory, and details some of his experiences as a key witness for the defense in the Dover, Pennsylvania Intelligent Design trial. He also explains the thesis of his new book, and talks about what he considers the biases of mainstream science.

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Posted: 10 November 2007 12:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I guess there’s one thing to be said about inviting people with false ideas to the show: It offers an opportunity to review ones arguments.
That said, without having seen the book there wasn’t much there. I was somewhat baffled to see how bluntly that tired old ‘God of the Gaps’ stratagem is still played today as if it were an Ace or a Joker.
First the claim that Darwinians don’t know, or don’t know enough, and next comes enlightenment: An intelligent designer made it happen. You can almost see Behe hopping up and down: “Nana nana naa naa!”
Supposedly, as he says in closing, his goal is to “evaluate how much Darwinian processes can do” - obviously in hopes to hit upon something that cannot be accounted for by mutation and natural selection. But this lazy strategy has one big problem: it provides no real mechanism to effect anything - a Deus Ex Machina doesn’t count. By contrast, its demonstrated mechanism is exactly what makes the New Synthesis so explanatorily powerful.
If you want to have some fun reading I suggest to go to some of the acerbic reviews on Amazon re “The Edge of Evolution”. Lots of discussion there, and Dr Behe also gets a word in edgewise, for what it’s worth.
http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Evolution-Search-Limits-Darwinism/dp/0743296206/ref=cm_cr_pr_sims_t/103-7479516-9966220

One last thought: I resent the dark insinuation that some sociological peer pressure is keeping scientists from joining the ID club. It’s reminiscent of the folks who religiously believe (against all evidence) that 9/11 was an inside job and explain away the fact that nowhere on this earth have any ‘alternative’ theories about the WTC collapses made it to or through peer review. One afflicted aquaintance of mine says the CIA must have infiltrated the editorial boards; Behe says,  in essence, they’re all peeing in their pants. How interesting!

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Posted: 10 November 2007 01:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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If DJ Grothe’s intent was to give Behe enough rope to hang himself he did an excellent job. I especially liked the part where Grothe asked Behe about his testimony in the Kitzmiller trial, and Behe said “Well, personally, myself, I thought my testimony went great.”

The presiding judge had a different opinion. Then again, apparently Behe doesn’t think much of the judge’s qualifications. “I, uh, went over all of the points I wanted to, and I thought I made them clear enough that even a former liquor control board head, uh could, uh, could understand it.” Then Behe agreed the reports his testimony did not go well were just “bad PR.”

What a maroon.

[ Edited: 10 November 2007 01:41 AM by DarronS ]
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Posted: 10 November 2007 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that? 

Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.”  All people die.  If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary.  And something bad is needed to stop a body from living.  If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer.  if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck.  In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria.  There has to be *some* agent of death in this world.  Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.

J. D.

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Posted: 10 November 2007 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:59 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 10 November 2007 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Zarcus, you can download a PDF of the Kitzmiller decision here. All 136 pages. Very interesting reading. Here’s a snippet from the judge.

Moreover, in turning to Defendants’ lead expert, Professor Behe, his testimony at trial indicated that ID is only a scientific, as opposed to a religious, project for him; however, considerable evidence was introduced to refute this claim. Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God.

Could Professor Behe have been disingenuous while Grothe interviewed him?

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Posted: 10 November 2007 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:58 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 10 November 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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D.J. did a wonderful job, he not only gave Behe room to pull enough rope, but he led him to the gallows where Behe pulled the lever himself!

The malaria question was the “coup de grace”.

I have to comment on the general inappropriateness of good and bad scientists to use an academic credentials to comment on anything, Behe earned his credentials in biochemistry, but I have never heard or read anything publicly authored in his field.

I am particularly sensitive to the topic of Medicine, EVERYBODY feels they know better! I am particularly offended by Philosophy PhDs that like to render opinions in other topics beyond the realm of thought/reason.

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Posted: 10 November 2007 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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jdmack - 10 November 2007 07:06 AM

Also, I want to address D.J.‘s final question about the ethics of the hypothetical “Designer.”  All people die.  If we didn’t die, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of us, so death is necessary.  And something bad is needed to stop a body from living.  If it’s not malaria, then it’s cancer.  if it’s not cancer, then it’s being hit by a truck.  In my opinion, if there is a “Designer,” then it would not be unethical of the Designer to design things such as malaria.  There has to be *some* agent of death in this world.  Malaria is as good or as bad as anything else.

J. D.

According to most religions, it is possible to have a place without any death, and therefore no agents of death.  A place big enough for all people who have ever lived as well.  And apparently, such a place will be a reality in the age to come.  Pretty poor designing in my opinion that makes a world too small, and therefore must create agents of death and torture to clear out room for the next generation…especially when the designers’ apparent original intention was to create immortal beings, who only became mortal after they picked the fruit.

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Posted: 10 November 2007 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I actually read this book this summer, and found it extremely dissatisfying.  It was my first reading on evolution besides Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” and I wanted to read it before “Blind Watchmaker” which I read right after, just to see what someone would be reading having little knowledge of the other writings on the topic - I kind of think many people that will read Behe’s book have probably not read anything by Dawkins.  (That’s an assumption based on my church days where books on science by authors like Dawkins would not have been worth reading, since we all knew they were ‘wrong’ anyways.)

I felt Behe spent a LOT of time belabouring analogies that seemed completely irrelevant to me.  He would make his point that the cell was too complex, and then rather than giving more proofs or citing studies he had done, he would start explaining the concept of complexity - likening it to old men jumping up stairs where every third and fourth stair was missing, etc.  Large portions of text were devoted to numbers and math, trying to prove that there hasn’t been enough time, or enough generations for human cells to evolve through random mutation to the point that they have. 

He spent a lot of time discussing malaria and how the population of malaria cells is exponentially greater than that of humans, and that since malaria has had only a few helpful mutations in overcoming our drugs and mutations, in the relatively small population of humans there is no chance we could have developed to where we are today through random mutations which, he says would be far too rare in occurance, never mind selecting between them for usefullness. 

I found definite undertones of religion in the book, even in the subtle underlying assumption that in order for evolution to be ‘right’, humans must come out on top.  As if because we haven’t beaten malaria yet, evolution is somehow failing.  But without the belief that an intelligent designer who created humans as the crown of creation, it is of course quite arrogant to think that the laws of evolution are ultimately going to be in our favor for now and forevermore amen.  I can’t remember exact quotes, but I do recall a number of times where I had to stop and think about this because it kind of got snuck in there. 

I was excited to see this week’s guest, and enjoyed the interview!

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Posted: 11 November 2007 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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jdmack - 10 November 2007 07:06 AM

Behe’s accusation that 90% of Judge Jones’ opinion was written and submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyers is a biggy!  Can someone at CFI follow up on that? 

J. D.

I remember hearing about this some time ago and seeing extensive discussion.
Finally found link: positiveliberty.com/2006/12/the-legal-culture’s-intellectual-standards.html#more-1996

Here is a snippet (sorry, it’s missing the live links):
————————————-
Larry Moran has a long post here reflecting on the DI’s portrayal of Judge Jones as a plagiarist. At first, Moran felt that Jones had really done something wrong, but he appears to have taken to heart the explanations here and elsewhere that judges are expected to follow the proposed findings of fact of the party whom they find most convincing. It seems like a simple, innocent misunderstanding. But Moran goes on to make comments that seem like criticisms of the legal culture’s standards of ethics and “standards of brilliance,” that I think deserve some discussion.
————————————-

So basically it’s just another sort of ad hominem attack, only this time against the legal system as a whole. Definitely a sign of desperation on their part.

——————-

I think DJ was at his best in this interview. Calm, penetrating questions, not getting bogged down in debate. Behe was totally unprepared for the final question about the Problem of Evil.  Of Malaria he says “sickness an unintended side product.”  Something God made has unintended side effects??? He’s got to be kidding! It almost seemed like DJ bailed him out of that one by putting less embarrassing words in his mouth: “so it’s all part of God’s plan.”

Richard

[ Edited: 11 November 2007 09:37 AM by rgill ]
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Posted: 11 November 2007 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Does anybody know if the transcripts of the trial are available anywhere online? 

Regarding the claim that the plaintiffs wrote much of the text found in the decision: that’s not irregular at all; it’s very common.  Attorneys for the party in the suit simply submit to the court a “proposed” ruling about the facts presented, applicable law, and the judgment rendered.  These proposals are just a regular court filing.  The judge frequently uses the proposal like a rough draft and makes his or her changes to it to draft the final judgment.  Behe represented it pretty fairly in the interview, imo.  He didn’t suggest there was anything underhanded about the plaintiff’s hand in the wording.  Behe was maybe suggesting the judge was gullible to the plaintiff’s arguments, but not that the judge was malfeasant.

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Posted: 11 November 2007 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:58 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 11 November 2007 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Never mind about the transcript.  I found them at talkorigins.

Zarcus, I think Behe is convinced he’s right and that his side’s evidence disproved the other side’s evidence.  He’s convinced that the judge had to have agreed with Behe, believing his side’s case was so strong.  The judge didn’t, and Behe complains the judge was somehow fooled by the other side.  I agree with you there.  Probably close to 100% of all defendants in this situation would do just about the same.

But Behe didn’t claim the judge and plaintiff had something underhanded going on between them.  He lost, he’s simply whining about the judge; I think that’s kind of expected.  Some on the other side would predictably do the same if decision went against them.

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Posted: 11 November 2007 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[ Edited: 22 January 2008 07:57 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 12 November 2007 08:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I was a little upset that DJ didn’t address the whole “reshaping the groundwork of science” issue.  That is, Behe admitted that his definition of science would include astrology during Dover.  What about alchemy?  To include these would be a re-shaping of the definiton of science as being nature-bound.  I’d love to hear more of his foot-in-mouth attempts to explain this and still admit he is pro-science.

Also, as to whther ID concepts should be taught in public schools: DJ didn’t address the fact that Behe’s main claim (irreducible complexity) requires a level of study that is beyond the middle/high school curriculum.

Lastly, addressing the plaigarism claim: I would be curious to know if Phillip Johnson ever engaged in the process of drafting a ruling for a judge in his carrer as a lawyer.

Otherwise, I think DJ’s content and process rocked.

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