The Discoveroids’ #4 Accomplishment in 2014

Ever since we posted Oh Goodie — The Discoveroids’ Top Ten for 2014, we’ve been ignoring the Discovery Institute’s pathetic list of the Top Ten creationist events for the year. Instead we posted Discovery Institute Catastrophes in 2014.

Undeterred, the Discoveroids have continued with their catalog of glorious triumphs. We’ll ignore — but link to — their numbers 9 through 5. Those are #9 : The Ham-Nye Creation Debate, and then #8: State-Run Museum Covered Up Collaboration with Atheist Groups. We wrote a bit about that one, the last time being Discoveroid Darwin Day Jihad Gains Momentum, after which the whole thing fizzled out, and we assume the museum proceeded with its plans.

But there’s more to the Discoveroids’ glory list. They have #7: Ciliate Organism Undergoes “Scrambled Genome” and “Massive…Rearrangement”, and then #6: Phys.org Says the Argument for Suboptimal Design of the Eye “Is Folly”, and then #5: Whale Hips, Another Icon of Darwinian Evolution, Takes a Hit.

You can read about those paradigm-shattering events if you like, but they amount to either: (a) quote-mining; (b) shabby public relations efforts; or (c) what we regard as mining for isolated facts — a tactic that illustrates what we call the Creationist Scientific Method:

1. Select a conclusion which you hope is true.
2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
3. Ignore all other evidence.
4. That’s it.

That’s what we’ve been neglecting — along with the rest of the world. Now we’ll jump into the middle of the Discoveroids’ list with today’s post at their creationist blog, which is #4 of Our Top Ten Evolution Stories of 2014: A Key Inference of The Edge of Evolution Has Now Been Experimentally Confirmed. It was written by Discoveroid Senior Fellow Michael Behe, famed for his catastrophic performance in the Kitzmiller case — see Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony.

Behe was the author of the creationist book mentioned in the title of his post, so you can be confident that he knows what he’s talking about. He says, with bold font added by us:

Let me start with some background. Darwinian theory proposes that the astoundingly intricate machinery of the cell developed step by excruciatingly tiny step, by natural selection acting on random mutation. I argued against that in 1996 in Darwin’s Black Box, contending that much cellular machinery was, like a mousetrap, irreducibly complex, could not be made gradually, and required purposeful design.

Uh huh. That’s what he claims. Oh, by the way, Behe’s colleagues at Lehigh University — where he has tenure so he can’t be Expelled! — are so impressed by his brilliance that they have publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”.

Okay, Behe claims that a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms a key inference he made in his book. The paper he’s all excited about is this: Diverse mutational pathways converge on saturable chloroquine transport via the malaria parasite’s chloroquine resistance transporter. We’ve scanned it. Frankly, we see nothing that provides any comfort for Behe. We suspect the authors of the paper are horrified by Behe’s claim that their work supports his.

We won’t take the time to wallow in the details of the PNAS paper. If you care to do that, go right ahead. Here’s Behe’s exciting conclusion:

The bottom line is that the need for an organism to acquire multiple mutations in some situations before a relevant selectable function appears is now an established experimental fact.

Well, isn’t that a shock! But the most shocking thing of all is that the Discoveroids regard this as #4 in their list of Top Ten stories for the year. We can’t wait to see the rest.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “The Discoveroids’ #4 Accomplishment in 2014

  1. Michael Fugate

    One should always set one’s goals at such a level that they are easily obtainable – must maintain self-esteem. I can imagine that just waking up in the morning is deemed by the DI to be a significant accomplishment. or “Look I made poo!” Ah, to be two again!

  2. I’ll add the next few sentences where SC‘s first quote left off, because it says much of the ID mindset:

    Some Darwinists parried with breezy scenarios, imagining intricate systems forming at the drop of the proverbial hat. Vague as the stories might be, though, they often had a surface plausibility that provided an excuse for the reluctant to not look too deeply.

    Breezy scenarios? Vague stories? SC is right, especially the “ignore everything else” part.

  3. As usual, Behe is a lying sack of [edited out]. Seriously, Behe’s academic dishonesty is appalling and quite beyond the pale.

    Behe clearly wrote that a particular trait required two simultaneous point mutations. We know what simultaneous means, right? Behe went to great lengths to “prove” that: A) the “probability” of two simultaneous mutations was too astronomical to ever happen, and, B) sequential mutations would also be “improbable” because the beastie would have reduced fitness.

    Behe also wrote explicitly, pg 147 or so, that Plasmodium falciparum was designed! (including the exclamation mark) Black and white. No waffling.

    Of course, Behe’s entire thesis was demonstrated to be wrong by several biologists, biochemists and mathematicians (who demonstrated conclusively that Behe’s math was simply wrong).

    This PNAS paper not only shows that sequential, not simultaneous, mutations develop the trait, but there are multiple pathways some involving six mutations.

    It’s a real mystery why Behe hails this paper because it obviates his hypothesis. Completely.

    Well, it was Behe who when asked how his disasterous cross-examination went at Kitzmiller replied, “I think it went quite well!”

    Classic case of Black Knight Syndrome.

  4. Here’s Larry Moran’s takedown of Behe over at the Sandwalk.

    How is Behe vindicated? Beats me!

    Here’s Moran:

    UPDATE: Michael Behe, himself, has posted three (count ’em) recent articles on Evolution News & Views (sic). He claims that his ideas on the limits of evolution have been vindicated by confirmation that chloroquine resistance requires more than one mutation. It’s important to keep in mind that every single scientist who ever looked at this problem back in 2007, when The Edge of Evolution was published, knew that more than one mutation (and fixation) was required for chloroquine resistance. None of those scientists thought that this was even close to the edge of evolution. They still don’t.

  5. I wonder how many papers are published each year. And how many dozen’s, 100’s, 1000’s, do the DI’ers have to read in order to fill out their annual top 10 list? You’d think that ID discoveries would be popping up right and left and Darwinists would be falling all over themselves to abandon their theory of “excruciatingly” “tiny” step-by-step natural selection.

  6. Did I miss something in the Discoveroids argument? I read the abstract of the PNAS paper Behe’s crowing about and it shows that there are various levels of chloroquine resistance which result from different numbers of mutations in the chloroquine resistance transporter. Doesn’t that clearly refute the meme that “only a fully functioning mousetrap” would be at all useful and therefore evolution can’t happen.

    Full disclosure: My PhD in biology is from Lehigh, long before Behe showed up there and I fully agree with the Biology Department’s position statement.

  7. Michael Fugate

    Anyone want to wager that one of the top three is a search of scientific papers for the word “design” and the number times it was used without any details as to its use?

    I always remember a colleague of mine talking about a student who earned a “D” in his course. When asked what went wrong, the student replied, “I was aiming for a C-.” A “C-” was the lowest grade that allowed movement to the next course in the series. When were we promised a “full-fledged theory of design” again?

  8. Ken Miller has done a fairly comprehensive takedown of Behe’s nonsense:

    http://www.millerandlevine.com/evolution/behe-2014/Behe-1.html

  9. What strikes me about the items so far is how little the list has to do with any activity from the Intelligent Design group. What did ID have to do with the Nye/Ham “debate”? How can that be reckoned as their
    “accomplishment”? (I wonder how many top-ten lists from scientists would mention the Nye/Ham encounter as worth mentioning, whatever they think of who “won”.) Most of the “accomplishments” are the result of work done by scientists.
    One expects that they would be engaged in their usual advertising fluff, but that they are in so sorry a state as to produce this must be disappointing to the movement.

  10. TomS says: “What strikes me about the items so far is how little the list has to do with any activity from the Intelligent Design group.”

    To be fair to the Discoveroids, they refer to their list as “Top Ten Evolution Stories” for the year. They obviously think such stories are beneficial to them, so I’ve been describing it as their top ten accomplishments. But your observation is nevertheless a good one. They have little to do with anything that’s going on.

  11. “Fair to the Discoveroids?”

    What an unusual concept!

  12. docbill1351 says:

    “Fair to the Discoveroids?” What an unusual concept!

    They’re having a bad year. I decided to give them a break. It probably won’t happen again.

  13. Behe says that in his book he argued that

    much cellular machinery was, like a mousetrap, irreducibly complex, could not be made gradually, and required purposeful design.

    But even the parts of a mousetrap can, in fact, be improved upon, or taken from other objects to build the trap, or both. And if they require purposeful design, so what? Arguing that because some complex objects require a designer they all do is either a leap of faith or a purposeful attempt to deceive the gullible.

    Moreover, such a argument poses a nasty problem for God-fearin’, Bible-believin’ creationists. Surely God Himself, if He exists, is the most complex object in existence. If complex objects need a designer, who or what designed Him? And if the response is that God did not need a designer (because, well, just because, you stinking Commie heretic), why could the universe not have done without one?

    About this time, I suspect, your typical creationist would be reaching for his revolver. If they can’t win any other way, I don’t doubt they’ll be tempted to do so by force.

  14. Google Miller Behe mousetrap for another remorseless Miller takedown of Behe. But wtf is the “we’re-not-creationists” DI doing even mentioning Ham-Nye?

  15. Paul, they mentioned the Ham-Nye “debate” in the way of whining that both Ham and Nye failed to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to bring IDiocy into the conversation. Being ignored really ruffles their feathers.

  16. Ironically the “Creationist Scientific Method” supports the DI’s claim that ID is not creationism. Note that the “ID Scientific Method” is:

    1. Select a conclusion which you hope is false.
    2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might convince nonscientists of that.
    3. Ignore all other evidence.
    4. That’s it.

    Before any fellow “Darwinists” react just like the DI wants them to (with “ID is too creationism!”), let’s all look at the bigger picture. ID is certainly “creationism” in the sense of “any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt of evolution and uncritical acceptance of oogity boogity.” But it is not “creationism” as most people on the street define it (an honest belief in some literal version of Genesis). And that bait-and-switch is exactly what IDers pull, hoping for, and usually getting, the reaction they want.

  17. Eric Lipps: “Moreover, such a argument poses a nasty problem for God-fearin’, Bible-believin’ creationists.”

    Not to mention that it is made by someone who has clearly and consistently conceded ~4 billion years of common descent. But committed Biblical literalists have an uncanny knack for “tuning out” anything inconvenient, as long as it comes from someone who shares their radical, paranoid authoritarian worldview. Besides, committed Biblical literalists usually don’t read Behe, but prefer the likes of Ken Ham, or in the case of those with some science-literacy, Hugh Ross. Behe’s audience is mostly nonliteralists who share his worldview and disdain for mainstream science. Their personal view of the designer may be sophisticated (He’s God, He can do what he wants, how he wants, evolution and all) but they probably share his irrational fear that the “masses” can’t handle the truth.