Discovery Institute Ballyhoos Behe Again

The Discovery Institute is continuing their frantic effort to promote the latest book by Michael Behe, a Discoveroid Senior Fellow. The last time we wrote about it was Discoveroids Say: Give To Promote Behe’s Book, but their incessant exertion seems never-ending.

The latest belch in their barrage is Behe Uncensored: A University-Level Course on Intelligent Design, Here Now! It was written by Sarah Chaffee, whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Given the hard limits of academic freedom in our universities, the chances that a scientist could teach a whole course fairly treating intelligent design are, approximately, slim to none. [It’s so unfair!] Even if you were tenured faculty, your colleagues and the administration would come down on you like a hammer.

That’s a reference to the the fact that Behe’s colleagues at Lehigh have publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”. Savvy Sarah then says:

That’s one reason I’m excited about the new 41-episode video series by Professor Michael Behe, the Lehigh University biochemist who helped pioneer the intelligent design movement.

Ooooooooooooh! 41 podcasts! That is exciting. After that stunning announcement, she tells us:

It’s here now! And you can get free, early-bird access when you pre-order Behe’s new book, out in February, Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution. [Link omitted.] If you were to imagine taking a class on ID and evolution from a top scientist in the field, uncensored, at your favorite university, this would be it.

For some reason, we can’t imagine doing such a thing. She continues:

In Darwin Devolves, he argues that evolution’s primary mechanisms, by their very nature, lack the power to create. They can only impart advantages by “devolution” — the opposite of what most people think of when they picture, well, evolution.

Yeah, there’s no such thing as Gene duplication. Skipping a quote from the great man’s book, we read on:

In these videos, Behe discusses the history of thought on evolution and intelligent design, and then delves into the science behind natural selection, random mutation, and irreducible complexity. He covers criticisms of ID as well as relevant new discoveries.

You can’t wait to devour the whole series of podcasts, can you, dear reader? Savvy Sarah ends her post with this:

The lectures are accompanied by quizzes to help track your progress, perfect for everyone from high school students up through college professors! Don’t miss it. The course is a $50 value. [And worth every penny!] But you can get it free by pre-ordering Darwin Devolves. [Link omitted.]

Well, dear reader, what are you waiting for? Buy the book now!

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Discovery Institute Ballyhoos Behe Again

  1. We didn’t have a nickname for him yet, but Ballyhoo Behe suits fine.

  2. “relevant new discoveries?” You mean there are irrelevant new discoveries, too? How about ANY discovery? Just one. A bijou discoveryette.

  3. @Draken

    Goes well with Tally-ho Tooters.

  4. docbill:
    I am putting my money on the “new discovery” being ENCODE.

  5. “teach a whole course fairly treating intelligent design”
    That would take, with a lot of effort, ten minutes at the max.

    “he argues that …”
    Sure enough Savvy Sarah proceeds by talking about evolution, not about IDiocy.

  6. I will be surprised if there is anything describing how Intelligent Design offers an alternative explanation for the variety of life.
    I realize that Behe is on record:
    “… I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old the the physicists say it is. I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms hare a common ancestor) fairly convncing, … I tikn that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world.”
    So what major feature of the world of life is there left for him to offer a novel explanation? Is this to be just another example of the negative?
    There will surely be a resolution on “Irreducible Complexity”:
    Is he going to offer the long-awaited reformulation? Or is he going to let it drop, perhaps with no mention?
    I expect that my local public library will have to get a copy.

  7. Michael Fugate

    “In Darwin Devolves, he argues [wrongly] that evolution’s primary mechanisms, by their very nature, lack the power to create. They can only impart advantages by “devolution” — the opposite of what most people think of when they picture, well, evolution.

    This is so easily refuted.

  8. “hard limits” … like evidence? That’s what keeps out those astrologers,too.

  9. Michael Fugate

    To follow up
    This in today’s Science:

    I also mentioned several papers on how new genes arise – in part by taking advantage of all the junk DNA in eukaryotes – over at Paul Braterman’s blog.

    Not to mention that evolutionary biology is way past Darwin – but competing against someone dead for 136 years is one way get an edge. Then again, I am not sure even in a footrace Behe could beat Darwin today.

  10. In Edge of Evolution Behe argued that resistance was conferred to the plasmodium by a simultaneous two-point mutation. He supported this assertion with faulty math and improperly snatched numbers, but given all that Behe was still wrong. Behe declared that since resistance was conferred, but it was “impossible” by evolution, ta da!, it had to be designed!

    However, Behe was wrong, of course. In fact there are something like six documented pathways to resistance all involving step-wise single-point mutations. Behe’s entire thesis was that step-wise single-point mutations could not confer evolutionary advantage. Even ignoring the bad math, wazoo-pulled numbers and handwaving, Behe is still simply flat out wrong.

  11. It seems as though Behe is having a hard time giving up his childhood beliefs. Like many of us, he was told early on, perhaps in Sunday School, that there is a God, that He created the world and all in it, including life, and that he would not be a good person if he questioned this. Perhaps he was also told that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that failure to believe is a ticket to Hell.

    He is a learned man and accepts billions of years of Earth’s existence, common descent of life, and other supposed contradictions of science vs. the Bible, and yet he Just. Can’t. Let. Go.

  12. How does Behe make the leap from demonstrated pathways to resistance to god-did-it? How is he still teaching? I really fear for humanity.

  13. Michael Fugate

    I am sure that Biola U. would let him teach the course – to name one. I am sure any number of Christian colleges would love to have him on board and he could get from under the disclaimer on the Lehigh department page.

    If I were to imagine taking a class on ID and evolution from a top [let’s not get carried away] scientist in the field [would that be biology or theology], uncensored, at my favorite university, I could see students showing up each lecture and asking “Hey Mike! have you read this paper that totally destroys your argument? No?, then how about this one? No again?, surely this one? What, no? Ever hear of confirmation bias? Another no?”

  14. Yes, it has been 136 years since Darwin, and there have been improvements on “On the Origin of Species”. Yet none of the suggestions have involved what anything supernatural, spritual, or omnipotent might do to have an effect on life. Despite all of the work that we hear about from all of those bright and well-informed people, NOTHNG!

  15. Michael Fugate

    I imagine the confrontation between Behe and Darwin to go something like this:
    BRIDGEKEEPER: Stop! What… is your name?
    Behe: ‘Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute’.
    BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your quest?
    Behe: I seek the means to destroy Darwinism.
    BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your favorite color?
    Behe: Blue. No, yel– auuuuuuuugh!
    BRIDGEKEEPER: Hee hee heh. Stop! What… is your name?
    Darwin: It is Charles Darwin of Down.
    BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is your quest?
    Darwin: To explain descent and its modification.
    BRIDGEKEEPER: What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
    Darwin: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
    BRIDGEKEEPER: Huh? I– I don’t know that. Auuuuuuuugh!
    Huxley: How do know so much about swallows?
    Darwin: Well, you have to know these things when you’re a competent biologist and not some intelligent design hack, you know.

  16. Larry Moran:

    “It’s kinda cute to see that the Discovery Institute is still under the illusion that they can discredit evolution and convince the world that a creator god exists. It’s been more than 20 years since Intelligent Design became a popular creationist idea and the predictions from back then were that by now we would all be creationists. Instead, evolution is as strong as ever and people all over the world are abandoning religion.

    “I’m 100% certain that I can refute Behe’s latest claim because I’ve seen it all before. Nevertheless, I will wait until I’ve read the book so the creationists can enjoy their yearly round of gloating and premature celebration. It’s just about the only thing they have going for them these days.”

    In the comments [by Faisal Ali]:

    If so, Behe’s claims were already dealt with 8 years ago:

    It’ll be interesting to see how Behe has responded to the criticisms made there.

    Paul Braterman in 2010:

    “Behe constructs an elaborate apparatus for classifying mutations as “gain”, “modification”, or “loss” of what he calls a Functional Coded Element (FCT). The definition is skewed to make “gain” as difficult to prove as possible.”

    Paul Braterman in 2018:

    And he has a copy of what he wrote in 2010 here.

  17. Edge of Evolution was totally sunk by grad student Abbie Smith engaging Behe on an Amazon discussion thread that Behe failed to close in time. Grad students are on top of the game and Abbie was the top of the top. Behe tried to dismiss her as “a mean girl” but that didn’t wash. Abbie clobbered Behe on the science and after a thorough battering Behe admitted that perhaps he didn’t review the literature so well.

    Ya think? Behe, a tenured professor, was taken to the mat and pinned by a student. Ouch!

  18. Karl Goldsmith

    A whole book on the creationist “No New Information” spiel.

  19. From Larry Mohan’s review (link above): “it looks like it will continue the pattern of trying to show that evolution is flawed rather than trying to show evidence of intelligent design.”

    @KG: “the creationist “No New Information” spiel”
    Which is of couse part of the “devolution, no evolution” spiel. How Kitzmas Mickey squares this with his acceptance of common descent is only clear to him.
    A glass of beer left untouched for a day is less stale than IDiocy.

  20. Thanks, @Michael Fulgate and others, for mentioning my blog piece, which is essentially a Reeve-post of the pandasthumb article, with a minor update based on Discovery Institute publicity.

    Special thanks to Michael for an extremely useful list of links to further evidence about how novelty arises, including how “orphan genes” keep materialising out of the junk.

    As for the idea that “your colleagues and the administration would come down on you like a hammer” if you thought Intelligent Design, Behe was promoted Full Professor, a decision that continues to baffle me

  21. @Paul Braterman
    About promotion from Associate Professor to Professor. First of all, I have no more knowledge about this than any of you. I’m just guessing. Promotion to Associate Professor is often a Big Deal, coming along with Tenure. But to Professor (informally known as “Full Professor”) is more of a matter of a raise in salary. Some schools, I have been told, make the promotion almost automatic for an Associate Professor after a number of years. In other schools, it is a recognition of more-than-ordinary accomplishment, and there are people who retire as Associate Professor, while there are young faculty who are recognized as Professor.
    As I said, I don’t have any information about this particular case.

  22. @FrankB, quoting Moran
    “it looks like it will continue the pattern of trying to show that evolution is flawed rather than trying to show evidence of intelligent design.”
    It’s worse than that. It is a red herring, all the talk about our understading of evolution being flawed, hopoing to get the knowledgeable people to talk about complicated topics – after all, these scientists are scientists and teachers because they are interested in these complexities and like to talk about them. And what is the impression given to us lay people? That there is something deep being raised by the ID advocates. It isn’t a matter of evidence for Intelligent Design. The situation is unchanged since Herbert Spencer pointed out in his 1852 essay, “The Development Hypothesis” They do not describe what Intelligent Design is. It is a case of Cart Before the Horse, to speak of evidence before “evidence for what?”
    If we take “design” literally, then everyone knows that design is not enough to produce a product. Good intentions are not enough, it also takes raw materials and manufacturing. But that doesn’t sound like anything beyond the natural world, so what is it that ID advocates are talking about? Humans who design have to take account of the limitations of the natural world, that is what it means to design, but that doesn’t sound like what what gods do, so what is it that the ID advocates are talking about?

  23. Paul Braterman:
    “Behe was promoted Full Professor, a decision that continues to baffle me.”

    Yeah, and Trump was promoted to Full President. Go figure.

  24. @TomS, promotion from Associate to Assistant Professor is indeed a big deal, and linked to tenure. Where I taught, promotion from Assistant to Full generally required six productive years, and was far from automatic. As you suggest, Lehigh might be different. But even so, Lehigh could quite legitimately have decided not to promote him in what his colleagues had already identified as an exceptional case, so I think my comment stands, especially since, if we exclude his books his publication record was very thin, s.

  25. @TomS: I totally agree, but just thought it worth mentioning that LarryM independently observed the same as me ….