Thursday, August 17, 2006

Calling someone’s bluff…..

I have attempted to discover precisely what Behe was saying when he made his statement about the literature concerning the origin of the immune system (here).

3 aspects.
1. Do any of these papers present quantitative calculations showing a reasonable pathway for the origin of the immune system by non-intelligent means?
2. Do they acknowledge that gene duplication is different from new protein production?
3. Do they provide mechanisms for the origin of necessary control mechanisms to regulate the immune system pathways?

My point here is that Behe cannot be both wrong and at the same time be making unreasonable demands.

If he is just plain wrong then the papers from the literature which refute the two remaining prongs need to be listed. A paper which provides evidence that the control system was coopted from somewhere else is not a satisfactory prong 3 refutation as it does not explain anything about the origin of the control system.

If he is making unreasonable demands for evidence then this is a different matter entirely and much more difficult to resolve. However if this is the Anti-ID response then I would say that presenting a large pile of papers etc and claiming that they have demonstrated that Behe is wrong is not a very helpful way of making their argument that he is making unreasonable demands. It does not deal with the precise point that Behe is making.

If Behe is making unreasonable demands for evidence then this is a tacit admission that at least technically he made a correct statement about the current origin of the immune system literature.

He cannot be both wrong – (the papers and evidence are there staring him in the face but he refuses to look at them poor fool!)
AND
Be making unreasonable demands for proof – (he is asking for a complete unedited DVD of the history of life on earth … doesn’t he realise that DVD recorders were not around in the Cambrian!)

So let me be clear are you arguing–
Behe is technically correct but asking for a DVD that Amazon do not sell or have the technology to make at present.
OR
Behe is wrong and here are the references.

I personally find a mixture of the two confusing.

28 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

"My point here is that Behe cannot be both wrong and at the same time be making unreasonable demands."

Yes he can be!

His claim that...
"We can look high or we can look low, in books, or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system."
... is directly refuted by "the pile of books, articles and journals."

Please note, Behe said "no answers", not "no answers in impossible detail" (as he later demanded), "no answers" - none at all!

He then goes on to demand, in a (seperate) blatant, transparent and dishonest trick, a level of evolutionary detail that is clearly impossible to achieve, and further is quite unnecessary to establish the validity of the evolution of the immune system.

12:22 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

To further clarify, Behe made:

1) a false statement; and

2) an unreasonable demand.

The two were only tangentally linked to each other, so it is by no means impossible that the first one is false and the second one is unreasonable.

I could as easily state that "all swans are white" and then, when challenged, unreasonably demand a picture of every single swan that has ever lived.

I am forced to conclude that, in your claimed confusion over this, you either:

1) have very little understanding of logic; or

2) are being willfully dishonest and deceptive.

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

On the last thread on this topic...

Andrew said:
" I do think that Behe's literature arguments in DBB carry weight..."

Hrafn asked:
"Andrew would you care to substantiate this assertion? The fact that Behe is neither an expert, nor particularly well-read in, the evolution of immunology, would appear to demonstrate the opposite view."

lifewish asked:
"In what way do you think Behe's arguments (which, IIRC, were mostly about irreducible complexity) have "real weight"?"

Andrew, we're still waiting for an answer. You are expending enormous effort in spinning Behe's Dover blunders in an a futile attempt to restore his reputation, without establishing that he had any scientific stature in the first place.

12:49 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hrafn,

The conclusion sentence of Behe's argument in that section must be taken in the sense in which he has outlined his arument previously. This was with the three prongs I have carefully pointed you to. In the previous paragraph Behe talks about papers and books on the evolution of the immune system. It is not a seperate blatant trick... it is the concluding sentence to his detailed argument.

4:53 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Behe stated "no answer" without any qualification or modification of that phrase. If he did so in conclusion to making his unreasonable demands then this blanket conclusion is unsupported by science's failure to meet his demands.

1) The "pile of books, articles and journals" rebuts his stated conclusion (independently of his eariler demands).

2) His evidentiary demands are unreasonable and therefore can be ignored in evaluating his conclusion.

There is therefore no contradiction.

The fact remains that Behe lives in his own little world, divorced from scientific standards of evidence and criticism. In this world he is allowed to make impossible demands of legitimate scientific research while claiming that his own unsubstantiated claims cannot be debunked unless and until he himself admits that they have been debunked. The man is quite simply deulsional.

6:42 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Hrafn said...

On the last thread on this topic...


Hrafn asked:etc..


lifewish asked: etc....

"Andrew, we're still waiting for an answer. You are expending enormous effort in spinning Behe's Dover blunders in an a futile attempt to restore his reputation, without establishing that he had any scientific stature in the first place."

hrafn: you have to understand how this blog works: Andrew sets up a thread asking a question or posing a situation, usually cunningly designed to appear neutral and reasonable, but actually posed so as to trap some pro-ID slip from respondents.

When a number of people respond, knocking the ID position into a cocked hat he: either tries to get bogged down in detail and obfuscation or ( and eventually always in any case) declares the thread exhausted and suggests that he start another. he the poses a cunningly designed question.....

Andrew never ever ever answers any difficult questions. You have to admire his tenacilty in sticking to ID against all rational argument and evidence, but you must never expect him to take on any difficult questioning of ID. It's his blog.

8:47 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

allygally:

I know. And this "moving target" effect is one of the reasons I transfered these unanswered questions from the previous thread to this one.

But I see that too many difficult questions have already been raised in this one, so Andrew has already moved on.

3:41 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

In further clarification of my last response to Andrew...

It is perfectly acceptable from a logical standpoint to directly falsify a conclusion, without attempting to falsify the arguments and (purported) facts purported to justify this conclusion.

This route is particularly useful, where attacking the underpinings of the conclusion would simply be to walk into a swamp of obfuscation, equivocation and back and forth argumentation.

As an example, were I to claim that I have seen a white swan, therefore all swans are white, somebody rebutting me would merely need to show a picture of a black swan. They would not then have to also rebut my logical error in getting from my fact to my conclusion.

4:08 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

If you put together a list of all the difficult questions I have failed to answer I will put up a post of them to remind myself of my failure ever to answer any difficult questions.

7:59 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

Have you actually read the whole section in DBB which concludes with Behe's literature conclusion?

Whenever ID people quote evolutionists in precisely the same way as you are doing with Behe there is an outcry about quotemining.

8:04 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

You said:
"To further clarify, Behe made:
1) a false statement; and
2) an unreasonable demand.
The two were only tangentally linked to each other, so it is by no means impossible that the first one is false and the second one is unreasonable."

They are not "only tangentally" linked. The more dramatic statement is his conclusion of a long section of more detailed argument. It is abundantly clear from the context that he did not mean what your interpretation indicates. It is simply unfair treatment to refuse to look at the wider context and will not do your side or the argument any good.

Anonymous's posting of Matt Inlay's article with a real attempt to deal with Behe's arguments is a much better strategy in my opinion.

8:11 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

No, I have not read Behe's DBB - I would not waste my money on an incompetent crank's claims about a field he is neither qualified in, has done research in, nor is well-read in.

That being so, I have depended on your characterisations of his arguments for the sake of this discussion. This is not, and cannot be quote-mining (unless you are claiming that you were quote mining, and that by accepting your characterisation I am guilty of quote-mining at second hand).

The "pile" rebutted Behe's conclusion. I neither know nor care whether Behe erred in his purported facts, or his purported logic, in reaching that conclusion. It is enough for me that the conclusion has been proved false.

The previous paragraph is of course merely a paraphrase of the argument I made above, but then you have ignored that argument completely.

9:06 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

They are "only tangentally linked" in that the arguments (about impossible levels of detail) do not support the blanket conclusion.

"NO ANSWERS" MEANS NO ANSWERS, NOTHING LESS! To pretend that the "context" changes this blanket conclusion would require the context to change the meaning of "no" or "answer" beyond anything contained in the English language.

I would further point out, by way of support of the above argument that conclusions, by their very nature, can only take very limited context from the foregoing argumentation. A conclusion is meant to stand alone in what it says, and should depend on the foregoing argumentation only in why it says it. If it does not do this then it is not a "conclusion."

The "pile" rebutted "no answers," by proving that science provides some answers - whether they are sufficiently (and impossibly) detailed anough answers to satisfy Behe is not relevant, as neither we, nor the Dover court, were under any obligation to accept his opinion as to what is "good enough" (particularly given that his opinion is based on neither relevant qualifications nor relevant expertise). They are "answers," so "no answers" is proved false.

Moreover, the whole basis of the purported conflict in anti-ID claims that is the basis of this thread has been repeatedly proved to be false.

9:34 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hrafn,
All I am arguing is that the "no answers" and the "origin of the immune system" in the conclusion statement need to be read in the context of the preceding argument otherwise you make nonsence of some of the statements in the preceding paragraphs. Clearly Matthew Inlay does not deal with Behe in the same way as you are. Would you say that he should have just dismissed Behe as someone who slipped through the tenure net by accident.

10:56 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

So tell me Andrew, what does "no answers" mean? How does the "context" make "no answers" mean anything other than "no answers"?

Behe's whole book is a nonsense, so I see no reason why this should stop me from taking this conclusion as it is clearly, unambiguously, and without caveat or qualification, written.

Matthew Inlay described this conclusion as follows:
"This proclamation is absurd, and academically irresponsible."

Would you care to comment on this description, Andrew?

For myself, I am not attempting a detailed rebuttal of Behe's claims. For one thing, there are already numerous detailed rebuttals. For another, it would be inappropriate to clog up somebody else's blog with such a lengthy document.

What I am attempting to do is defend Rothschild's perfectly valid rebuttal of Behe's conclusion (using the "pile") against your attempts to spin it out of existence.

11:43 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hrafn,
You said:
"Behe's whole book is a nonsense, so I see no reason why this should stop me from taking this conclusion as it is clearly, unambiguously, and without caveat or qualification, written."

You have not read the book yet you know that the whole thing is a nonsense... odd then that you should want to discuss any part of it in any way at all.

12:40 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hrafn,

"Matthew Inlay described this conclusion as follows:
"This proclamation is absurd, and academically irresponsible."

Would you care to comment on this description, Andrew?"

I have not read the article yet so I am looking forward to doing this. It looks well written and he has done some excellent work on the diagrams too.

I have emailed him to ask whether I can use the diagrams of this blog when I go through the review.

My point was that he thought it worth while to address the arguments properly and actually read what Behe said and deal with the arguments in detail.

If you want me to change my mind about Behe then I need to see clearly that he is wrong by looking at the evidence not by lots of people telling me he is an idiot.... do you see what I mean???

12:45 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:
"So tell me Andrew, what does "no answers" mean? How does the "context" make "no answers" mean anything other than "no answers"?"

I tried to work out for myself what Behe meant by 'no answers' and the 'origin of the immune system' and got to his three pronged argument which I mentioned in the first post on this subject at the end of this piece here.

12:50 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"You have not read the book yet you know that the whole thing is a nonsense..."

1) As I have already said, it is written by somebody with neither expertise, research experience nor a detailed knowledge of the subjects covered.

2) I have read numerous reviews and rebuttals of it. You yourself mentioned one, that of Matthew Inlay. Very few sensible books have conclusions that are "absurd, and academically irresponsible."

3) The central thesis of the book, Irreducible Complexity, is an obvious Argument from Ignorance - and any book based on a logical fallacy is in grave danger of being nonsensical.


"... odd then that you should want to discuss any part of it in any way at all."

Actually, the topic was originally about the Dover trial, a topic that I am interested in. You were the one who dragged DBB into front stage.

1:17 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Without some reference to it, the "answer" in "no answer" simply cannot be held to mean "answer to the three prong test."

This would be equivalent to me saying that:
1) I saw a white swan.
2) therefore all swans are white,
...then when it was pointed out to me that not all swans are white, claiming that in (2) I meant "swans" to mean "white swans," in the context of (1).

In the context of Behe's conclusion,
"answer" must mean its ordinary English meaning, "no answer" must mean no answer - to claim anything else is to render the conclusion meaningless.

1:32 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"My point was that he thought it worth while to address the arguments properly and actually read what Behe said and deal with the arguments in detail."

Good for him. However, this thread is about Behe's trial testimony (which I have read), not his book. I am therefore under no obligation to read DBB before entering the discussion.

"If you want me to change my mind about Behe then I need to see clearly that he is wrong by looking at the evidence not by lots of people telling me he is an idiot.... do you see what I mean???"

I am under no illusion that any argument would change your mind.

YOU keep presenting Behe as though he were some sort of credible authority. Each time that you do I will remind you that, in the opinion of both myself and the majority of the scientific community, Behe is a delusional crank, lacking any credibility whatsoever.

Given that YOU have already dodged the question of Behe's credibility at least twice (when I raised it and when Lifewish raised it), there seems to be nothing left but to remind you, and anybody else who might be reading, that this question remains.

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I have not read the article yet so I am looking forward to doing this."

Then I'll post the relevant paragraph here:

"The similarity between RAGs and transposases is not a recent discovery. Similarities between the two systems were known as early as 1979, when the RSSs of the kappa light chain J segments were first sequenced (Sakano, Huppi et al. 1979). In the discussion section, the author stated, "We propose that such a mechanism was initiated when an IS-like [insertion sequence] DNA element was accidentally inserted into one of the multiple V DNA copies of an ancestral polymeric gene,.." While the model has been greatly refined since then, the basic concept remains the same. Why would Behe neglect to mention the transposon-origin model? Sakano et al is cited by 706 other research articles, clearly it is taken seriously by the scientific community[iii]. Instead, Behe cites a two-page commentary in PNAS (Bartl, Baltimore et al. 1994) as the "best" article discussing the molecular origins of V(D)J recombination, to which he describes as making "a valiant stab at accounting for the components, but in the end, it is a hop in the box with Calvin and Hobbes." He also adds, "their proffered solutions are really just a disguised shrug of their shoulders." He makes no attempt to address their model, dismissing it with a wave of his hand. He also fails to appreciate the context of the article, which is primarily a commentary on how the discovery of TCR genes in sharks two months earlier had influenced current opinion. They did not delve into the details of the transposon-origin model not only because the scope of the article was so focused, but also because so many articles before had described it. Their aim was to add to the discussion, not reiterate it. They assumed the reader would already be familiar with the basics of that model. Rather than stopping after reading one article, perhaps Behe should have used the "related articles" tool on PubMed and read one of the other 220 articles listed[iv] . For example, the article "New insights into V(D)J recombination and its role in the evolution of the immune system", is cited by 90 other articles (Thompson 1995). This 9-page review article provides a much more in depth description of the transposon-origin model. Behe was quite incorrect when he stated:

"We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system." (Page 138)

This proclamation is absurd, and academically irresponsible. Behe singles out a commentary for scrutiny, ignoring the wealth of literature on the topic, and concludes no answers exist. He should have looked harder, or asked an immunologist. Hypotheses put forth at the time of Darwin's Black Box's publication have since been confirmed, and the transposon-origin model is now quite robust, especially with the discovery of the transposase activity in RAGs. If only ID could claim similar progress in the last 6 years."

Care to comment, Andrew?

1:54 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

A further quote from Matthew Inlay relevant to this thread:

"Oftentimes in the evolution/creation debate, the question of motivation arises. Proponents of evolution will state that the ID advocates are religiously motivated, and the ID advocates will in turn state that the evolution proponents are materialists, or dogmatic Darwinists. This form of ad hominem argues against the motivations of the individual, and distracts from the heart of their arguments. This is generally considered a fallacy, and should be avoided. However, much of the evidence of evolution is subject to interpretation, and often requires the experience of an expert to understand. If the lay person is unable to interpret the data for themselves, they must rely on the opinion of the expert. In that case, it may be important to understand the motivations and biases of those who claim to be experts on the subject. In chapter 6, Behe writes as though he considers himself an authority on immunology. However, many of his statements display a lack of understanding of some fundamental concepts of immunology. For example, he states that a non-rearranging antigen receptor would be useless to the organism. As has been previously mentioned, this is in stark contrast to what is observed. Behe also questions the validity of certain molecular mechanisms for mediating evolutionary change, such as gene duplication. He has demanded in each chapter detailed molecular explanations for how these systems could have originated. Usually, when an individual shows extreme skepticism for one concept, it is because they are already convinced by an alternative concept. In Behe's case, that would be Intelligent Design. However, his degree of skepticism toward "Darwinian" evolution is not equally directed towards his own thesis. He has offered no detailed mechanisms for how these systems could have been designed, how they were implemented, and how often they occurred. In the 6 years following Darwin's Black Box's publication, he has made no attempt to answer any of these questions, nor conducted any research to further ID as a scientific concept. On the other hand, much progress has been made towards increasing our understanding of how these systems arose through evolution. In fact, about two-thirds of the articles cited here were published after 1996. So why does Behe continue to espouse ID? Why does he display such critical skepticism for evolution, when ID has nothing to offer? Why does he make such strong conclusions based on erroneous assumptions and an argument from ignorance? It is here that the issue of motivation arises, not as a justification for dismissing his arguments, but as an explanation for why he would continue to deny the abundance of evidence that supports an origin of these systems through "Darwinian" evolution."

I think this goes directly to the questions that many of us have raised over Behe's credibility, and would like Andrew to respond.

1:55 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

Behe is a biochemistry professor at a college which is 28th in the US for best value. He has a respectable research record. Cerainly he has very unorthodox views about evolution but I think
"delusional crank, lacking any credibility whatsoever" is considerably over doing it. Presumably any scientist who sympathizes with ID thinking also by definition joins the ranks of the delusional cranks lacking any credibility whatsoever.

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

1) By your own admission, Behe's qualifications are in Biochemistry (and both his tenure, and his undergraduate degree, were in Chemistry, not Biology), not in Evolutionary Biology nor Immunology. This means that he has no relevant qualifications.

2) Lehigh's Biology Department have publicly distanced themselves from and disavowed his claims.

3) He has published virtually no research since becoming interested in ID in the early 1990s.

4) His claims have been repeatedly, throughly and rigorously debunked, but his insists that none of this is valid unless and until he himself admits to the debunking.

5) He makes evidentiary demands on evolutionary science that are impossible for any historical science to meet.

I think this qualifies him as a "delusional crank."

I also refer you to Matthew Inlay's comments on Behe's credibility (quoted above).

2:36 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Further, given Behe's activities for the last decade (which many would consider could be better described as "apologetics" rather than "science") and his lack of scientific research output, many would argue that he can no longer be considered to be a "scientist" at all (delusional, crank, or otherwise).

3:20 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew said:
"Allygally,If you put together a list of all the difficult questions I have failed to answer I will put up a post of them to remind myself of my failure ever to answer any difficult questions."

I suppose I could, but one will suffice. Six months ago you said you would produce a refutation of the Dover judgement. In recent threads you have tried to excuse Behe for not reading the relevant publications, and implied that the trial was biased because he was caught out on this, but you have made no serious attempt to address the judgement point by point. If you did that it would re-open many other questions which we could address...

10:56 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Allygally,

Is this where I said I would produce a refutation of the Dover judgement?

"I think that you assessment of Dover is very PandasThumbish and I have the feeling reading your response that it is pointless me saying anything to you about what I think the problems are with the Dover Judgement because you have made up your mind totally...

I will have a go but you will have to be patient!"

Or were you thinking of somewhere else?

1:30 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home