Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Conclusion - IC in Immunology?

My foray into immunology (here, here and here) was prompted by trying to work out who was bluffing when the large pile of books, essays and papers was used in the Dover trial. Behe maintained that there were no detailed explanations about the origin of the complex parts of the immune system. The anti-ID side maintained that there was plenty of evidence based research work sufficient to illustrate how the immune system originated.

Since the trial the argument degenerated into an argument over what constituted sufficient detail.

I looked at Matt Inlay's web essay responding to the immunology chapter of Behe Book and Matt Inlay and Ian Musgrove were kind enough to help me along through the maze of immunological complexity. (Thank you to you both.) My conclusion as a non-expert is that Matt's argument for the nonIC nature of these three systems is strongest for the complement system. (That is not to say that I think that his explanation is plausible but simply that the argument for its IC nature is not convincing.) I am less convinced by the arguments against the IC nature of the other two systems. I agree however that the arguments do need refining and that this needs to involve someone who is a professional immunologist.

I think that Behe’s points regarding the lack of detail in some of the explanations for the pathways to these complex systems are indeed valid.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, Matt Inlay's article was published several years ago, before several important discoveries about the origin of adaptive immunity were made. These discoveries were presented at the Dover trial.

But you don't understand that because your happy to sit back and make armchair pronouncements dismissing the work of hundreds of scientists in hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, and then pronounce that your completely non-explanatory, non-predictive just-so story ("God did it!") is the explanation instead.

4:11 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

To quote Harlan Ellison:
"You are not entitled to your opinion, you are entitled to your informed opinion. If you are not informed on the subject, then your opinion counts for nothing."

You have presented no evidence that Behe is well-informed in the area of Immunology, and people in that field have stated the opinion (based on his writings on the subject) that he is rather ill-informed.

I would therefore conclude that what Behe thinks "counts for nothing." I would also suggest that you yourself also lack sufficient of a background in Immunology for your own opinion to count.

(Incidentally, your sentence "I am less convinced by the arguments against the nonIC nature of the other two systems." is probably garbled. You appear to have introduced an extra negative, making it the opposite of what I think you intended it to mean.)

4:26 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


Thanks for the error notice. I have corrected the sentence.

8:50 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Daubert Demolishes Behe
There has been quite a bit of mention on the Blogosphere recently of the Daubert SCOTUS decision, which set the current standard for Federal Court rules on scientific evidence.

The four factors that the Daubert decision sets out for judging the relibability of scientific evidence are:
1) Whether the theory or technique has been scientifically tested;
2) Whether the theory or technique has been subject to peer review or publication;
3) The (expected) error rate of the technique used;
4) Acceptance of the theory or technique in the relevant scientific community.

Hypotheses contained in the scientific literature on the Evolution of the Immune System have been:
scientifically tested;
published in numerous peer-reviwed publications; and
is almost-universally accepted by the community.
(I do not know the expected error rates of these hypotheses.)

Behe's claim of Irreducible Complexity of the Immune System:
has never been scientifically tested (and most argue that it is untestable);
has never been published in a legitimately peer-reviewed publication;
claims of IC contain considerable risk of false risk of positives; and
has no acceptance beyond a small (generally unqualified) fringe.

On this basis, for Judge Jones to have accepted Behe's claims as to the Immune System being Irreducibly Complex would have been a clear Reversible Error.

8:44 am  
Blogger allygally said...

Andrew, the DI has issued a press release claiming to have spent $4million on scientific research. Unfortunately the press release doesn't identify any actual scientific research projects which they have supported, or any published results.

See here:

As your blog is called id in the uk, perhaps you could help by telling us what scientific research has been done in support of ID.... here, in the USA, anywhere... it doesn't really matter where, as long as it is genuine science. Or can it be that the "$4million" is the salary bill for the DI for the last ten years, and NO scientific research on ID has been done at all... surely not... that would be too cruel...

9:59 pm  
Blogger allygally said...

They even turned down an offer of help from the Templeton Foundation. See here


"The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

"They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

"From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review," he said."

See here

10:39 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...


Given that all the DI's claims are couched in terms like "scientific and scholarly research" it is quite possible that they aren't funding any scientific research at all, just dishonest propaganda masquerading as scholarship, such as Jonathan Wells' Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design and Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler

4:00 am  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

"My conclusion as a non-expert is that Matt's argument for the nonIC nature of these three systems is strongest for the complement system."

Andrew, let me make one thing clear. My argument is not that these systems are not irreducibly complex, as Behe defines the term (i.e. a system where multiple parts are essential for the function of that system). By Behe's original definition, I fully agree that all the systems he describes in his book are IC. My argument is that IC systems are completely evolvable.

3:06 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


I have no information about where the DI is spending this research money.

As I understand it some money in the past has gone to Douglas Axe in support of his research on the sensitivity of enzymes to conservative amino acid substitutions.

Given that this work has been published I think it is unfair to portray DI as a completely research free organisation.

12:49 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


"They even turned down an offer of help from the Templeton Foundation."

There are I think two sides to this story too. See here

12:55 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew: Douglas Axe severed his ties with the Discovery Institute a number of years ago. I have heard of no other genuine research scientist being funded by them.

The Templeton Foundation-funded "research" that the Discovery Institute claims amounts to funding for proposals resulting in two books (one of which is the infamous "written in jello" No Free Lunch) and an article to be published in Philosophia Christi. Total scientific research value (measurable in number of research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals): ZERO

3:55 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

I notice that Andrew is happy to see this thread run off onto a tangent, rather than dealing with the substantive issues: e.g. Behe's lack of courtroom credibility under Daubert and Matt's argument that IC systems can in fact evolve.

4:16 pm  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

By Andrew:
"As I understand it some money in the past has gone to Douglas Axe in support of his research on the sensitivity of enzymes to conservative amino acid substitutions.

Given that this work has been published I think it is unfair to portray DI as a completely research free organisation."

While the DI has given funding to Axe, and Axe has produced research using this funding, the research itself has nothing to do with Intelligent Design. But don't take my word for it.

Douglas Axe:
"These three statements summarize my position:

I remain open-minded with respect to the possibility that a sound argument can be made for intelligent design in biology.

I have not attempted to make such an argument in any publications.

Since I understand that Bill Dembski has referred to my work in making such an argument, I shall remain open to the possibility that my published findings may support such an inference until I have had a chance to see his argument."

(boldface mine)

This is a classic bait-and-switch. Axe legitimately publishes non-ID research, but because the DI funded him, they can claim that the research is relevant to ID. A full analysis of the Douglas Axe article can be found here:

Sorry for the digression. I'll post a comment on your conclusions shortly.

6:49 pm  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

Hi Andrew, I re-read your post, and few of your others on this issue. Thank you for taking the time to share with us your thoughts on the matter. Now that you're wrapping up your analysis, I have a few remaining questions for you, to help me get a sense of what you took away from this experience.

1. Do you feel that science has made progress understanding the origins of these systems since the publication of DBB?

2. Do you think science will continue to make progress understanding the origins of these systems? (Regardless of whether the final result of the research will ultimately satisfy Behe's requirement.)

3. Do you think that it is impossible (or implausible) for any IC system to have evolved?

4. Do you still consider it reasonable for Behe and company to conclude intelligent design based on the existence of IC systems in biology?

5. What do you see as to the future of the IC-to-ID argument? Do you think IDists will be able to further develop the concept, or will evidence against it continue to accumulate? In other words, will the IC-to-ID argument improve over time, remain the same, or decrease?

6. Do you think it is important for IDists to develop their own theory of origins, with "detailed, testable" models, or do you feel that the evidence against evolution is sufficient to take a pro-ID stance?

7. Do you think IDists will ever develop a "detailed, testable" model of ID?

8. Do you think ID is science? If so, why?

I'd love to hear whatever answers you have to any or all of these questions. You also know my email address, so feel free to contact me privately if you don't want your answer public.

Thanks again,

12:04 am  

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