If Behe Were King of Science

You may recall that several years ago — way back in 2009 — we presented our coveted Buffoon Award to the Intelligent designer for the truly incompetent job he did in designing us — see Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer.

What brought that long-ago post to mind is something that was just posted at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute, titled Michael Behe: What About “Bad” Designs in Biology? And Other Questions. It’s very brief and it has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

On a new episode of ID the Future [Ooooooooooooh! A Discoveroid podcast!], ID biologist Michael Behe continues fielding tough questions from philosophers Pat Flynn and Jim Madden.

We wrote about the first of those last week — see Behe’s Best Argument for Intelligent Design. Behe was drooling over the theology of Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274). What else does he have for us? The Discoveroids say:

Here in Part 3 of 3 [Egad, we missed the second podcast in the series!], Behe responds to the claim that some designs in biology are bad designs and to criticisms leveled at ID from some Thomists.

What does Behe say about the claim that some biological designs are bad? We may never know, because the Discoveroid post don’t tell us! Ah well, let’s see what they do say:

Also in the mix, the issue of academic pressure to distance oneself from ID, even before those involved understand what the theory of intelligent design actually is.

Academic pressure? Behe’s probably thinking about the attitude of his colleagues at Lehigh University, who for years have had a statement at the university’s website declaring their revulsion for intelligent design — see Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design.

The Discoveroids continue:

Madden [one of the philosophers on the podcast] asks Behe what reforms he’d pursue if he suddenly found himself in charge of the National Academy of Sciences.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What would it be — death to all Darwinists? Alas, we’re not told. There’s just a little bit more to the Discoveroids’ post. Here it is:

Listen in to hear Behe’s response, and much more. Download the podcast or listen to it here. [Link omitted!]

Well, dear reader? You know you can’t resist watching those Discoveroid things, so go ahead. Then get back here and tell us all about it.

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

15 responses to “If Behe Were King of Science

  1. Aristotle had something to say, in Physics book II chapter 8 199b34
    “Now mistakes occur even in the operations of art” and he mentions a writer who makes a grammatical error or a doctor who gives the wrong dose.
    Nowadays, we might think of the limitations of planning, is it even theoretically possible to design DNA to make a given protein?

  2. Full disclosure: I received a PhD in Biology from Lehigh. When I was a graduate student in the department, there was a “tangled bank” of plants and animals, mostly birds, behind the building in honor of Charles Darwin. I was stunned when Behe got tenure there, but very relieved to see the department’s statement on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”.

  3. “the issue of academic pressure to distance oneself from ID”

    Implies that everyone in academia gives a hoot about ID. Sadly nobody cares. Stop being a drama queen Discovery Institute.

  4. Consider the pressure on a teacher at a fundamentalist institution. In any subject, science or other. The prospect of instant dismissal if one deviates. And the small chance of finding employment any place, fundamentalist or not.
    There is pressure.
    Does it ever occur to a student that what a teacher is saying might not represent what the teacher believes, but is what they are under pressure to say.?

  5. Dave Luckett

    I was going to either ignore this completely, or post something to the effect that life’s too short to listen to 45 minutes of Behe and cronies batting falsehoods back and forth.

    Alas, if you’re going to commit to defending an idea, you have to be prepared to defend it. So, “once more into the breach”: I’m sorry for the length of this, and of course nobody will read it, but you either rebut or you don’t.

    1:25: “Darwin’s theory… “would not lead us to expect irreducibly complex systems”.. Let us ignore the fact that it does lead to that expectation, and just forge ahead.

    1:34: “We’ve been able to test Darwin’s theory, and what we find is that it doesn’t build complex new systems, at all, and that it mostly functions by breaking, blunting or degrading.” The descent from false deduction to downright lie took nine seconds. We find no such thing.

    1:47: … “so that’s two fundamental difficulties here.” No, it’s two unblushing falsehoods, capped by a truth. “You can always tell stories.” You can always tell stories, as Behe proceeds to demonstrate.

    2:00: “I guess there’s no logical impossibility for me to think that the Great Pyramids were built by a series of sandstorms.” Another reiteration of the tornado in the junkyard, with the serial numbers filed off. Show me the sandstorm that rejects any grain that does not conform to a perfect pyramidal shape; but the analogy is even more false than that. Sandstorms do build regular, patterned structures. What do you imagine built the serif dunes? Generations of patient Egyptians, working to some master plan?

    2:20: “There’s tons of empirical evidence against it (evolution)”. Another flat lie. There is not a scintilla of empirical evidence against evolution.

    2:22: The interviewer expands on the pyramid nonsense: “Especially if you see the structure inside of them”. Critical thinking? If thought were dynamite, this bozo wouldn’t have enough to blow his nose.

    3:00 on: Maundering nonsense that assumes the above as a given. Features, at 3:28, the “low, low probability that you’re going to get the bacterial propulsion system out of this thing”. Yes, folks, the bacterial flagellum again, already. As if it wasn’t absolutely destroyed in front of a Federal judge fifteen years back, here it is once more, resurrected.

    4:25: Evolution is an “ad hoc” theory, a low-probability explanation. Nonsense on stilts, of course. It is theory from proximate causes: Malthus’s observations, reproduction with variation, hereditable traits. Given those rigorous facts, it is not only not “low-probability”, it is absolutely inevitable. The probability of it operating is unity.

    5:15: “Two things. Well, maybe one thing; the other one slipped my mind”. No, mate. It was your mind that slipped, and you go on to confirm it.

    5:50 Common descent is conceded, but there is “zippo” evidence that organisms can be “built up by random change and natural selection”. Another lie. Advantageous mutation has been observed repeatedly. “Built up”, yet. What does this idiot think organisms do, go to the gym?

    6:20: “Darwinism cannot build complex structures, and that’s 99% of the philosophical, theological… (whatever) objections to it”. Another lie. Change in allele has been repeatedly observed. The mechanism – genetic mutation – is well known. Natural selection for favorable traits has been repeatedly demonstrated. The development of basal traits into complex and elaborate structures is commonplace in the fossil record.

    7:00 – A long, meandering and fact-free assertion to the effect that common descent does not explain how new features evolve, culminating in the blatant clanger, “We (scientists) don’t know why (the descendants) are different organisms”. Again, a series of lies. Scientists know precisely why the descendants are different organisms. The environment favoured different traits, so their forms diverged.

    8:15: Oh, brother, the eye again. “Darwin’s theory thought to account for eyes and giraffe necks, and wings of eagles and so on.” Why, yes. So it does. But you don’t think so, because you dismiss all evidence for it, and tell lies to yourself and others instead. More maundering, attempting to labour this non-point.

    9:30 We come to audience questions. Dysteleology: the observation that many structures in living things appear to be evidence for poor design. Well, says Behe, they’re actually not. You just think they are. So the human (and great ape) inability to synthesize Vitamin C, an inability caused by a broken gene at the same point – one of the strongest pieces of evidence for common descent – is a feature, not a bug. Say what</em? Scurvy is designed? Oh, c’mon! Dysteleology is “A classic argument from ignorance”, says Behe, as if he hadn’t been making them throughout – only in his case, the ignorance was his own and his interviewers’, not the scientists’. He then displays his knowledge of the neurology of the eye, and I mean that most sincerely. Never have the words “and so on” covered such vast territory.

    12:13 One of the stooges says: “There might just be design constraints that you don’t know about”. Oh, dear. That’s death. Say that in front of a regular creationist, and it’s to the Lake of Fire with you. You have just limited Almighty God. Oh, but it gets worse: At 12:29 we have “poor design doesn’t mean no designer”. I’ll leave that one for the Ken Hams of this world to contemplate.

    13:02: “Now we’re just beyond doing science anymore”. In stark contrast to everything these guys have said so far, this statement is solid gold true. Yes, you’re beyond doing science, all right. The following – er – dialogue descends into bathetic blather about how Behe has been maligned.

    From 15:10 or so we go on a protracted excursion into the wilds of Kantian philosophy. Science as an aesthetic endeavour. No conclusion is reached. Gee, what a surprise.

    18:10 or so, there’s a tilt at the Big Bang theory, which is said to be “indicative of design” for some unexplained reason.

    21:10 ff. Two questions: Is ID an science stopper? Behe asserts that ID is science “because it is based on detailed empirical observation”. That’s possibly the worst lie yet. There is no, repeat, no observation of intelligent design. No “signature in the cell”. No ghost in the machine. No evidence. But “when we see things that appear to have been put together for a purpose, like a mousetrap or such things, we always conclude that they were designed because we can perceive purpose”. Paley’s watch, that is.

    What might we be missing if we disallow ID? Why, says Behe, we’d have to acknowledge that nothing we do can defeat a microbe; it would always find a way around the best antibiotic we can devise. Uh… yes. That’s pretty much the case. We did eliminate smallpox by activating the body’s own immune system, but antibiotics are always defeated by biota, after a while, because natural selection. Behe is busily engaged in torpedoing himself amidships here.

    25:45 We segue into the argument from consequences. ID cannot get you to the acceptance of the Christian God, but it “gets you up a step, and we could use that”. It only gets more incoherent as it goes on.

    28:45 We get a series of concessions. Behe concedes common descent (again) and says “mutation and natural selection certainly work”. That, of course, is evolution right there. But he goes on to say “in many cases it didn’t happen by chance, but needed guidance or direction or programming or something”. Uh-huh. Well, that’s rigorous sciency style thinking there. Lots that can be tested about that. Not.

    To be fair, this is as part of a disquisition against Thomists. Nevertheless, that’s what Behe says, and it’s dynamite. He’s conceded evolution, except in what he calls “many” cases. How many? And where is this “guidance or direction or something”? Of what does it consist? When and where did it happen? Of course, there is no answer.

    There follows a bunch of windy irrelevancies. Their quarrels with the Thomists continue. Big deal.

    At 35:40, they ask Behe what he would do if he were chair of the National Academy of Sciences. He literally hems and haws for a long time, but finally: he’d prevent anyone from “gratuitous attributions of things to evolution”. By this, he explains, he means that a “prior assumption of materialism, Darwinism” would be “changed”, ie, banned. He dances the macro-micro mambo for a few sentences – I can only attribute this to a desire to complete his creationist bingo card, since nobody asked him to – and finishes by accusing everybody in biology of “begging the question” (that is, assuming what has to be proven). But they are actually assuming the fact, not begging the question. There is no question, and Behe has already conceded that. But he’d shut them down, by crikey.

    From 38:30, we get a protracted plug for Behe’s books, followed by mutual congratulations and farewells.

    That’s it. That’s all. As Captain Blackadder observed of Baldrick’s poetry: “It started badly, but tailed off a little in the middle, and the less said about the ending, the better”.

  6. Thanks to @Dave Luckett for taking up the task. We all have learned by experience that the evolution deniers have nothing worth examining. Yet perhaps someone must take up the chore. I listened to the first 40 plus minutes, and was not surprised that there was nothing worth the time.
    Has Behe ever addressed the indirect path – the analogy of the natural arch? I thought that at one time he seemed to recognize that and sort of promise to make some adjustments to ID.
    Of course no one has ever told us how
    or why or when or where or what a designer can or must produce a design of a living thing to solve a problem posed by the natural world. How to change DNA to make an eye.

  7. Thanks for the review, Dave Luckett. The podcast experience must have been worse than I could have imagined.

  8. @ Dave Luckett Bravo! You took one for the team, and spared the rest of us a nightmare experience.

    You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

    @ Our Curmudgeon: May I hereby nominate Dave Luckett for the prestigious Curmudgeon Legion d’Honneur for extreme valour in the face of enemy BS and courage above and beyond the call of duty!

  9. BOOM. Dave Luckett just put a GPS guided munition into the Behe warehouse of willful ignorance and con man creationist bloopers. Noice job Dr Dave…..somebody had to do it. Glad it was you.

  10. @Megalonyx: I second that nomination! Dave did a wonderful service to the rest of us.

  11. @Our Beloved Curmudgeon, Peace be with him: As President for Life of the Darwinian Pressure Group, Delta Pi Gamma, I second the nomination of the esteemed Dave Luckett.

  12. In accordance with the power vested in me by the Cosmic Aardvark, and by popular demand, it is declared that Dave Luckett, having endured 45 minutes of a Discoveroid podcast, retaining his sanity, and then reporting to us about the experience, is hereby awarded the highly coveted Curmudgeon Legion d’Honneur.

  13. 🏆

  14. Thunderous applause for our valiant antipodean warrior!

  15. Dave Luckett

    Valiant, schmaliant. It takes no courage to do this, nothing more than determination, time and a peg on the nose. No, that’s a metaphor, too. It doesn’t even take that much.

    But it has to be done. There is no victory in nolo contendere. Of course it would be better if it could be done in front of the legions of drooling dimwits who think Behe is some kind of scientist or scholar or something. But that’s the internet for you. No way is the DI going to allow that on their own blog.

    I do better on YT, where I sometimes wade into the worst of the worst. As here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6dhd5LVdso&lc=UgzcTHaEGe2L_wn_4n14AaABAg.9MIX59MwXw79QRrTdzg4Y4, where I am the seabird. YT are not free of the urge to silence stuff they don’t like, but it’s better than trying to beard Behe in his den. But science has to be defended.

    C M Kornbluth, SF author now long out of favour, wrote a story called ‘The Marching Morons’, about a future society that has spent many generations inadvertently selecting against intelligence, and has been taken over by idiots. When I read the YT comments on videos featuring prominent creationists – Hovind, Ham, Comfort, whoever that dingaling from ICR is – I hear the tramp of marching feet, and am grateful that I won’t be around to see the outcome.

    But dammitall, I won’t go quietly.