RE: [asa] FYI: Arrogance, dogma and why science - not faith - is the new enemy of

From: Austerberry, Charles <>
Date: Mon Aug 20 2007 - 14:42:41 EDT

I think John makes some valid points. Personally I prefer Robert John
Russell's idea of God as a mutator who acts in a manner undetectable to
science, but I try to give ID proponents like Behe a fair hearing.

I won't repeat my previous defenses and criticisms of Behe. Having now
read most of "Edge of Evolution" I would like to critique what I think
is his central argument. Behe seems to feel that virtually no novel
biochemical interactions can evolve without scientifically-demonstrable
intelligent design. Evolution in which science cannot detect design
might explain variations between related species (or breeds of dogs),
but that's because the underlying biochemistry is virtually the same
(for example, dogs vary tremendously anatomically, yet I think vets can
prescribe mostly the same drugs for them all, at dosages relative to the
mass of the dog).

Behe's evidence that low frequencies of apparently random mutations
limit apparently unguided evolution's ability to generate biochemical
novelty comes from studies of microbial evolution, in nature and in the
lab. Problem is, Behe takes numbers from such studies and runs with them
to conclusion that most scientists (including those who actually
generated the numbers) would not.

For example, Barry Hall found that IMP-1 metallo-beta-lactamase was
unable to evolve increased resistance to the antibiotic imipenem in the
lab, and he predicted that IMP-1 won't evolve increased resistance in
nature either. But, the evolution of novel drug-inactivating enzyme
structures might happen more readily in nature than we can estimate in
the lab. Behe (on p. 237 of Edge of Evolution) quoted from Hall's
abstract: "These results predict, with > 99.9% confidence, that even
under intense selection the IMP-1 beta-lactamase will not evolve to
confer increased resistance to imipenem." But right after a similar
sentence in the paper itself, Hall noted: "That prediction depends on
the sensitivity with which we can detect increased resistance in the
laboratory. I cannot eliminate the possibility that increased
resistance, below the level of laboratory detection, could be selected
in nature."

Also, both Behe and Hall surely know that anti-microbial drugs can be
resisted by multiple mechanisms, including lower rates of drug uptake,
greater drug efflux rates, and overexpression of existing
drug-inactivating enzymes. Evolution of novel drug-inactivating enzyme
structures is not the only way. IMP-1 alone makes bacteria about 15x
less sensitive to imipenem, and clinical dosages can still control the
bacteria. But mutations in channels by which the drugs must enter
bacteria can multiply resistance another 15-fold. Both White and Hall
surely know that resistance can spread quickly through sexual
recombination and selective sweeps in nature. They probably also know
that lab simulations of resistance evolution underestimate what happens
in nature, not only because the degree of increased resistance might be
too small to detect, but also because lab cultures that can't engage in
sexual recombination have clonal competition that hides (causes
undercounting of) resistance-increasing mutations. Perfeito et al.
(Aug. 10, 2007 Science Vol 317, 813) observed 1000x more frequent rates
of adaptive mutations in bacteria when they reduced clonal competition.
By the way, they also estimated the average selective advantage of the
mutations to be only 1%, perhaps (I personally think) below what might
be detectable in less careful lab studies.

I wish Behe were not so isolated. I wish he had simply talked with Hall
and others before using their data as evidence for evolution's "edge"
and intelligent design. If he had, perhaps Behe would have understood
that the data were relevant for specific situations, and maybe cannot be
extrapolated so widely.

Or maybe not. Soon after "Darwin's Black Box" was published, I told
Behe at a meeting about pseudocilia (non-motile, relatively simple
structures that might resemble evolutionary ancestors of motile, 9+2
cilia). I noticed that Behe stopped using cilia as examples of
irreducible complexity for quite a few years, preferring to focus on
bacterial flagella. But now he's again using cilia, ignoring pseudocilia
and primary cilia as well.

Like all of us, Behe has his own biases. But the problem with ID
scientists is that they don't seem to trust their fellow non-ID
scientists to fairly critique their ideas. So, they usually don't
present their ideas at meetings and in peer-reviewed journals, but
instead publish books that appeal to people not familiar with the
science. Oh well, I still think Behe is a nice guy, and I wish him
well. I won't be teaching his ID science in my biology courses,

Charles (Chuck) F. Austerberry, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Hixson-Lied Room 438
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178
Phone: 402-280-2154
Fax: 402-280-5595
Nebraska Religious Coalition for Science Education

Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2007 15:44:32 -0400
From: "John Walley" <>

I think the thrust of his latest "Edge of Evolution" is worthy of
It is the first empirical analysis of the power of random mutation to
a popular audience that I am aware of. You recall we discussed this
earlier and I quite surprised that no one else has picked up on this.

I think it is a valid contribution that in all the generations of
Malaria we
have seen only 2 base pairs mutated and this is the hallmark of

I read all the reviews including all the ones on PT and the majority of
the claims were nit-picking about the details. Some railed about his
10^20 and one cited evidence of a three position base pair mutation in
organism but none of these refute his basic premise that their exists a
known limit to random mutation at some point.

Dawkins' review was a hatchet job full of vile and the only substantive
science in it countered Behe's arguments with dogs, but that doesn't
any sense Behe because freely conceded that random mutation accounts for
different species and possibly classes.

Coyne's review was even more telling simply because he concluded that if
Behe was correct, then God is the "Great Mutator". This is an
in my opinion because for once it establishes a scientific position for
faith that is not at odds with science. He even quotes a NCSE
that admits that theistic evolution is compatible with science. This
further than Collins because Collins just kind of takes a pass on where
line is drawn between random mutation and God and says he doesn't know.
least Behe takes a stab at drawing the line and I haven't read any
substantive scientific objections to this major premise.

I think beyond the first round of hit-piece reviews, science is
silent on this hoping it will all go away and they won't have to deal
it anymore. None of the reviews failed to mention both Dover and
Complexity as well with a liberal sprinkling of choice adjectives like
"discredited" and "debunked".

Granted, Behe may still be overplaying his cards a little bit by drawing
distinction between Design and theistic evolution, insisting on this
evidence of design intervention instead of just leaving the door open to
embedded algorithm, but nevertheless, I think he deserves credit for
the math to this problem and putting the lie to "Darwinist's fanciful
thinking" as he calls it.

And I think that is a valid critique as well. Behe may be guilty of some
science but there is plenty of that to go around. From Haeckel's
and the peppered moths and all the "Icons of Evolution" that would still
taught without any qualification if it wasn't for Wells, it is not fair
measure it just to Behe and give everyone else a pass.


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Received on Mon Aug 20 14:45:35 2007

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