June 1, 2005

Michael Behe's inflationary arguments

Like the fish that keeps getting bigger with each iteration of the story of its capture, Michael Behe's complaints against evolutionary biology, though they have not included anything new for quite some time, appear capable of continuously expanding to encompass his rhetorical need.

Behe's latest post at the IDthefuture blog takes both his incredulity and demand for more factual documentation and runs even farther than before with them. In the past, Behe has fretted over the great sweep of what we do not know, and many of his arguments in this piece follow that hard line of reason,
"The most important point to note, I think, from Doolittle's error is that it showed clearly he did not know how Darwinian mechanisms produced the clotting system. If he did, he would simply have said so in the essay, or else would have cited a paper (or, rather, a long series of papers) where the system had been accounted for by "numerous, successive, slight modifications". And if an expert such as Professor Doolittle does not know, then nobody knows."
"Russell Doolittle knew all about gene duplication, yet couldn't explain how Darwinian processes produced the clotting cascade. And if Russell Doolittle doesn't know how the clotting cascade could have been put togther in a Darwinian fashion, then Allen Orr certainly doesn't either, nor does anyone else on earth."
Not only is he still harping on Russell Doolittle, he's also continuing to put a fine point on the size of this gap. After all, if Doolittle doesn't know, and Allen Orr doesn't know, then neither does anyone in all of the whole friggin' infinity of multiverses, or anywhere else for that matter!

I think we get the point. There's something for which no one has an answer, so Behe is free to fill in the blanks with his incredulity-fed speculation.

And this speculation is intimately tied to his ever-expanding requirements for evidence. In discussing an essay about protein evolution by Andrea Bottaro (over at the Panda's Thumb) Behe accedes that the reaction Bottaro predicted to come from ID theorists is right on the money,
"Well, yes, of course that's exactly what I ask of Darwinian claims - a mutation-by-mutation account of critical steps (which will likely be very, very many), at the amino acid level."
He goes on to say that this is not a "retreat" (into impossible demands in Bottaro's parlance, I would call it another expansion of demands) nor is it unreasonable,
"...that's simply what's necessary to actually explain the appearance of a complex, functional system in a Darwinian fashion, to show that it could indeed happen as Darwinists claim. Proteins change single mutation by single mutation, amino acid by amino acid, so that's the level of explanation that is needed. What part of "numerous, successive, slight" is so hard to understand? And not only a list of mutations, but also a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more."
Well, let me be the first to say I'm glad Mike isn't being unreasonable. In that same spirit, I'd like to request that he supply us with a time-machine, x-ray vision, and several other gadgets for the lab toolbox and we can whip up that detailed scenario for him in no time.

In fact, all of this suggests to me a better way to oppose Behe's views. Instead of discussing the validity of his arguments, I think we should challenge his identity, his very humanity if you will. After all, how do we know that Michael Behe was born of human parents? I mean, we know that humans are generally born of human parents, and Behe is demonstrably human, so reasonable inference (rather than an insistence that we explore the facts of every single individual's development) would normally allow us to assume that the same processes were at work in Behe's case, wouldn't they?

Behe has convinced me otherwise. I think it is only fair to suggest that until he can provide cell division by cell division documentation of his development from embryo to adult, plus a detailed account of the environmental influences upon this development along with the expected time scale for each of the changes he claims occurred, we are justified in believing he is the progeny of little green men (and women?) from Mars.

Absent evidence to the contrary, I believe Behe should relinquish his position at Lehigh until this mess is cleared up. Oh, and a visit to the INS is probably a good idea (for a, yes you guessed it, green card).

I mean, what part of "perverse, evidential, demand" is so hard to understand?


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