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From Intelligent Design to BioLogos, Part 4: Reading Behe

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August 18, 2011 Tags: Design, Lives of Faith

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

From Intelligent Design to BioLogos, Part 4: Reading Behe

For those familiar with my work here at Biologos, it might come as a surprise to know that until relatively recently I was a supporter of the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM). In this series of posts, I tell the story of my transition to the view that God uses evolution as a creative mechanism. In the third post in this series, I described how I had been invited to write an essay on “Christianity and Biology” for an edited volume, and simultaneously thrown into a crash-course on the Kitzmiller trial that tested the constitutionality of teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in the U.S. public school system. In this post, I describe my second encounter with the work of Michael Behe, a leading proponent of ID whose work I had found so compelling in the past.

Upon returning from the conference, I set to work on revising the essay. It turned out to be a lot more work than I had expected: in the end, only 10% of the original piece remained. The original had also avoided the creation / evolution issue almost completely, so there was lots to be done. As I had decided, I intended to start my research by reading Behe’s then-new book Edge of Evolution (EoE). I wanted to give the ID movement a fair chance to make its best case before I looked into the evidence for evolution. I checked with my pro-ID colleague down the hall, and sure enough he had a copy I could borrow. I poured myself a cup of coffee, closed my office door, readied note pad and paper, and settled in.

Losing my (ID) religion

To this day I wish I could have recorded myself reading those opening chapters of EoE. It was not long before the first suggestion of a frown would appear. Not many pages hence the frown would deepen into a furrow. I could hardly believe what I was reading: where was the Behe of Darwin’s Black Box that had so captivated me years ago? Though it is not polite to recount it (and I want to be clear that I hold no animosity towards Dr. Behe, but merely want to share my initial reaction) I clearly recall putting EoE down on my desk thinking, “What is this?” I was shocked: I had fully expected to once again be amazed and amused watching Behe take evolution down a peg or two. Yet here I was, knowing virtually nothing of evolution, and already I was seeing nothing but holes in Behe’s argument. Later on, when Behe began to discuss a topic I was familiar with (population genetics) I confirmed what I suspected: Behe was out of his area of specialty and out of his depth. Later work would convince me that this pattern applied to the whole of the book and the core of Behe’s arguments. My note pad was filling up, but not with what I had expected.

Before I had finished Edge of Evolution, I was done with ID. I would lose my faith in ID not by comparing it to the science of evolution, but by reading one of its leading proponents and evaluating his work on its own merits. ID, I decided, was an argument from analogy, ignorance and incredulity. I was looking for an argument from evidence. Due to an interesting set of circumstances, I was able to read Behe both as a credulous lay reader and as a skeptical trained scientist. Behe, I realized, hadn’t changed: I had changed, and what a difference it had made.

Gaining Evolutionary Creation

Having rejected ID, I began to look into the evidence for evolution. I can also clearly recall this transition, and, if memory serves, it happened on the same day I rejected ID. This transition, however, required only ten or fifteen minutes - just as long as I needed to read the first research article on my reading list: the 2005 Nature paper comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes. I put the finished paper down on my desk, said “well, that’s that, then” out loud to my empty office, and sat back in my chair. The contrast with ID could hardly have been starker: here was nothing but argument from evidence. As a geneticist, I was fully capable of evaluating that evidence, and it was compelling. Humans and chimps were close relatives, and I was no longer an anti-evolutionist. Game, set, match. Moreover, my eyes were now open to the wonder and scope of evolution as a foundational theory of biology: everywhere I looked, evolution informed what I knew, whether in cell biology, genetics, immunology or developmental biology. In an instant, the pieces clicked together, and I reveled in the deeper understanding.

As the essay took shape, I was able to put my brand-new outlook on to paper in a coherent form. As I knew, other Christians had walked this road before, and I found two books especially helpful: Finding Darwin’s God by Ken Miller, and The Language of God by Francis Collins. Though colleagues at TWU counseled against being “too open” about my new views, I was determined that the essay reflect what I thought to be the best way to put science and faith together. In the end, the essay would receive positive reviews despite its embrace of evolution as one of God’s creative mechanisms, and its lack of support for the Intelligent Design movement, Young-Earth creationism or Old-Earth creationism. For better or for worse, I had nailed my colors to the mast.

Looking forward, looking back

Though I didn’t know it then, the coming years would provide additional opportunities for engaging science-faith issues. What I had previously largely avoided was now an area of interest, and a natural fit for both my training in the sciences and my commitment to evangelical Christianity. It would also provide an opportunity to make amends for a previous mistake: a story I will relate in the next, and final, segment in this series.


Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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beaglelady - #64082

August 18th 2011

I’ve been enjoying this series. I’m sure your “conversion” from ID went over like a lead balloon over a black hole.


PNG - #64083

August 18th 2011

Why would that be? Dennis already said that his fellow faculty members accepted evolution.


beaglelady - #64085

August 18th 2011

There were ID supporters on the faculty as well, e.g. the one who lent him The Edge of Evolution (paragraph 1).


PNG - #64084

August 18th 2011

Was your essay ever published?


Dennis Venema - #64096

August 18th 2011

Yes, it was. There is a link to it off of my faculty page under publications. 


G8torBrent - #64086

August 18th 2011

I applaud your courage in the face of the temptation to compromise. I.e., not be “too open.”


Uncle Bonobo - #64088

August 18th 2011

“ ID, I decided, was an argument from analogy…”

Cannot be said often enough.  Analogy is not evidence or proof of any sort.  It is rhetoric and a teachign tool, nothing more.  Just watch and see how many ID proponents argue from analogy.


Mazzeratti - #64090

August 18th 2011

Dennis,

You need to write faster. I can’t wait for your next post!

The question was already asked, but I too want to know if your essay was every published and if you ever shared it with Dr. Behe.

Tic, toc, tic, toc..


beaglelady - #64091

August 18th 2011

You need to write faster. I can’t wait for your next post!

Amen to that!


Bilbo - #64093

August 18th 2011

Hi Dennis,

You didn’t bother to make clear what it was that you disagreed with Behe about.  However, you leave your readers with the impression that you, and not Behe, became convinced of the close relationship of chimpanzees and humans.  Would you mind pointing out to your readers that in EoE Behe himself argued from “the evidence” that chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor?


Alan Fox - #64099

August 19th 2011

Regarding whether chimps and humans share a common ancestor, I think the evidence that this is correct is overwhelming, as it is for common descent across all terrestrial life forms. Whether one agrees or not  does not get us to an alternative explanation. You can argue, as IDers seem to, that this or that hypothesis on an aspect of evolutionary pathways is incorrect or unproven but ID fails at suggesting any sort of hypothesis with explanatory power.


Whirlwind - #64095

August 18th 2011

Hi Dennis,


Your colleagues’ counsel about being “too open” reminded me of Ben Stein’s unfortunate movie about the scientific community blocking open discourse about ID. Whatever the argument, it’s disappointing to witness needless caution in institutions of higher learning. In this case, the discussion is between science—which is about fearless exploration—and faith—which is about confidence in our ultimate destiny… I can’t see any room or need for caution. Soldier on!

glsi - #64097

August 19th 2011

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Dr. Venema,

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>It has always struck me how quick the evolutionary texts are to use analogies whenever evidence is lacking.  Dawkins’ “Mount Improbable” is one of hundreds which can be easily named.  But certainly I agree with you on the need for evidence in these matters and especially empirical evidence whenever possible.  

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>The problem comes in the interpretation of the evidence especially when it is as scant as it often is in the field of evolution.  One certainly needs to be cautious in choosing your interpreter.  I’d hasten to say I don’t think Ken Miller is the first one I’d want to go to:

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>

span style=“font: 12.0px Helvetica; letter-spacing: 0.0px”>“b>the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles.”

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Ken Miller, 1994

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>I remember reading this from Ken Miller and so many other “Junk DNA” dealers who popularized the term and brought it into the schools for our children’s consumption.  Although I had no evidence to the contrary, at the time I wondered if all those “wasted” sequences really did have some function that short-sighted scientists couldn’t see.  I recall thinking about how in Darwin’s day scientists believed the cell to be just a bit of  goo which couldn’t possibly have had much function within it.  Still, the confident Ken Millers of the day supposedly had plenty of pertinent evidence as well as the authority and sanction of the scientific community.  How arrogant they appear today.

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>Now that “junk DNA” has suddenly disappeared from the evolutionary lexicon and we’re just beginning to learn the importance and functions of Miller’s “junk and scribbles” is it fair to draw my own analogy between the junk and the goo?

span style=“letter-spacing: 0.0px”>


glsi - #64098

August 19th 2011

Dr. Venema,


It has always struck me how quick the evolutionary texts are to use analogies whenever evidence is lacking.  Dawkins’ “Mount Improbable” is one of hundreds which can be easily named.  But certainly I agree with you  on the need for evidence in these matters and especially empirical evidence whenever possible.

The problem comes in the interpretation of the evidence especially when it is as scant as it often is in the field of evolution.  One certainly needs to be cautious in choosing one’s interpreter.  I’d hasten to say I don’t think Ken Miller is the first one I’d want to go to:

  ***   “the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk and scribbles.”   ***
Ken Miller, 1994

I remember reading this from Ken Miller and so many other “Junk DNA” dealers who popularized the term and brought it into the schools for our children’s consumption.  Although I had no evidence to the contrary, at the time I wondered if all those “wasted” sequences really did have some functions that short-sighted scientists couldn’t see.  I recall thinking about how in Darwin’s day scientists believed the cell to be just a bit of goo which couldn’t possibly have had much function within it.  Still, the confident Ken Millers of the day supposedly had plenty of pertinent evidence as well as the authority and sanction of the scientific community.  How arrogant they appear today.

Now that “junk DNA” has suddenly disappeared from the evolutionary lexicon and we’re just beginning to learn the importance and functions of Miller’s “junk and scribbles” is it fair to draw my own analogy between the junk and the goo?

beaglelady - #64100

August 19th 2011

glsi,

Have you read the Signature in the pseudogenes  series on this site, also by Dennis Venema?  Here’s a link to the first article:

http://biologos.org/blog/signature-in-the-pseudogenes-part-1


glsi - #64106

August 19th 2011

Thanks beaglelady,


One thing I noticed right away is that neither of his 2 articles on that subject refer to the term “Junk DNA”.   Apparently, other folks are still using it according to some of the writers here.  I guess Dr. Venema has moved away from it?  Hey, we might be witnessing evolution in action!  Would that be considered natural or artificial selection?



John - #64110

August 19th 2011

gisi:


“Now that “junk DNA” has suddenly disappeared from the evolutionary lexicon…”

Then, after being challenged:

“Apparently, other folks are still using it according to some of the writers here.”

Thanks for implicitly admitting that your initial claim was a complete fabrication. 

It’s your claim, your evidentiary burden. You didn’t even bother to look for any evidence before making it, did you? Why do you have so little faith in your position that you must avoid examining the evidence, gisi?

beaglelady - #64112

August 19th 2011

That’s like observing (correctly) that the NT doesn’t contain the word “trinity.”

Time to join Holy Trinity Unitarian Church?


PNG - #64101

August 19th 2011

The evidence for evolution is only scant if you’ve never learned to use PubMed or been in an academic library.

Junk DNA has only disappeared from the lexicon of IDists like J. Wells. The fraction of repetitive DNA that has confirmed function is still very small. You should look at Larry Moran’s review of Well’s book.


Moran is rude, but he usually knows that he is talking about.
Better yet, try reading the research literature - not just the bits that Wells and those like him cherry pick, but a wide range. Find out how things really work.

John - #64102

August 19th 2011

PNG advised gisi:

Better yet, try reading the research literature - not just the bits that Wells and those like him cherry pick, but a wide range. Find out how things really work.”
br>
I’d say there’s zero chance of gisi examining evidence for her/himself, despite making claims that would require an intimate relationship with the evidence
br>
It’s all about falsely presenting hearsay as evidence…
br>
Oh, and gisi:
br>
1) Would you please cite the evidence for your claim that the term “junk DNA” has disappeared? Surely one who is opposed to bearing false witness would have such evidence.
br>
2) What proportion of “junk DNA,” a provisional classification, has been shown to have function? What proportion of the human genome still lacks any known function? This also requires familiarity with the evidence, but I very confident that you lack sufficient faith to examine even a shred of evidence for yourself.

beaglelady - #64104

August 19th 2011

So nice to have you back, John!!! Where have you been?


John - #64105

August 19th 2011

Thanks! I’ve been traveling and packing, preparing for a big move.


beaglelady - #64111

August 19th 2011

Well, the truth is we need you here. You know your stuff!


beaglelady - #64103

August 19th 2011

glsi,

Here’s a paragraph from Dr. Venema’s Signature in the PseudoGenes, Part 2:

 All mammals, for instance, are
predicted to be the evolutionary descendents of egg-laying ancestors.
Indeed, the fossil record contains species classified as “mammal-like
reptiles” as well as “reptile-like mammals” that blur the distinction
between these groups. The evolutionary prediction that mammals are
descended from egg-laying ancestors was tested recently using the
hypothesis of shared synteny to look for the inactivated remains of a
gene devoted to egg-yolk production in the human genome. This gene,
called the vitellogenin gene, is used as a component of egg
yolk in a wide array of egg-laying species. This research group wondered
if it would be possible to find the remains of the vitellogenin gene in the human genome. To help in their search, they employed the prediction of shared synteny.


Can you think of a better explanation for why on earth humans have an inactivated  (thankfully) gene devoted to egg-yolk production? Would that explanation be ID?


glsi - #64107

August 19th 2011

p style=“margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; border-top-width: 0px; border-right-width: 0px; border-bottom-width: 0px; border-left-width: 0px; border-style: initial; border-color: initial; font-size: 12px; vertical-align: baseline; line-height: 1.5; “>Thanks beaglelady,

br>
One thing I noticed right away is that neither of his 2 articles on that subject refer to the term “Junk DNA”.   Apparently, other folks are still using it according to some of the writers here.  I guess Dr. Venema has moved away from it?  Hey, we might be witnessing evolution in action!  Would that be considered natural or artificial selection?


beaglelady - #64113

August 19th 2011

Please give your thoughts on our inactivated gene for egg yolk production. 


Alan Fox - #64114

August 19th 2011

div>Quoting glsi (can’t you come up with a name that incudes a vowel?)


Alan Fox - #64115

August 19th 2011

Shoot, Biologos!


I give up. Someone needs to get to grips with the software!!!

beaglelady - #64116

August 19th 2011

You can click the red X to remove formatting. 


Bilbo - #64124

August 20th 2011

Hi Alan,

I agree with you that the evidence for common descent looks overwhelming.  My problem is with Dennis’s apparent (but hopefully not real) misrepresentation of Behe, painting him as someone who would disagree with that evidence, when in fact Behe argued from that evidence for common descent.  Afterall, when Dennis writes:

Behe was out of his area of specialty and out of his depth. Later work
would convince me that this pattern applied to the whole of the book and
the core of Behe’s arguments.”

Since one of Behe’s core arguments, and it comes very near the beginning of his book, is that common descent is true, should we come to the conclusion that Behe came to this conclusion because he “was out of his area of specialty and out of his depth”? 

But the usual pattern Biologos members and guest contributors continues:  misrepresenting what people say.  Applegate, Ussery and now Venema misrepresenting Behe.  Michael Peterson misrepresenting C.S. Lewis.  For a supposedly Christian blog, there seems to be too much breaking of the commandment against bearing false witness.


Christine S. - #64128

August 20th 2011

Bilbo wrote:

“Hi Alan, I agree with you that the evidence for common descent looks overwhelming.  My problem is with Dennis’s apparent (but hopefully not real) misrepresentation of Behe, painting him as someone who would disagree with that evidence, when in fact Behe argued from that evidence for common descent.”

Please Bilbo, read the article again carefully. Dennis is at no point saying, that Behe is trying to imply that common ancestry is wrong. He really is not doing anything of the kind and you are reading that into his words.

Bilbo:
After all, when Dennis writes:
”Behe was out of his area of specialty and out of his depth. Later work
would convince me that this pattern applied to the whole of the book and
the core of Behe’s arguments.”

Dennis clearly referenced that as applying initially to Behes arguments concerning population genetics, Dennis` very field of work. He extended his verdict after looking into other arguments in other fields. He undertook the work in order to prepare his guest article as coauthor.

Bilbo:
“Since one of Behe’s core arguments, and it comes very near the beginning of his book, is that common descent is true, should we come to the conclusion that Behe came to this conclusion because he “was out of his area of specialty and out of his depth”?”

Are sure that one of EoEs core arguments is, that common descent is true? If so, you would be the first person I know of, that makes that claim. Does Behe really make the case for, advance the evidence for and refutes the arguments against common descent one of the main topics in his book? I am asking because that would characterise a “core argument”.
Is it not more to the point that Behe takes “common descent” as a premise, an uncontroversial statement to the consensus on which the real argument about further issues is based - in the case of EoE, the power of what Behe terms “Darwinian mechanisms” to create enough genetic variance for NS to work on to produce the variaty of organisms we see today?

Bilbo:

“But the usual pattern Biologos members and guest contributors continues:  misrepresenting what people say.  Applegate, Ussery and now Venema misrepresenting Behe.  Michael Peterson misrepresenting C.S. Lewis.  For a supposedly Christian blog, there seems to be too much breaking of the commandment against bearing false witness.”

I hope you will think again about whether you really want to imply that Dennis has misrepresented Behe as a dissenter from “common descent” - this is clearly not the case. Not all cases of pointing out Behes mistakes are misrepresentations of his position, sometimes Behe is mistaken and in some cases has conceded as much. 

All the best

Christine


glsi - #64130

August 20th 2011

beaglelady wrote:  Please give your thoughts on our inactivated gene for egg yolk production.


Thanks for asking!  That’s some interesting data on the yolk gene for which I don’t have any way to directly assess.  Let’s watch that for a while, read a variety of viewpoints and see what happens over time.  If I had jumped on the “Junk DNA” bandwagon when it rolled through I’d have yolk on my face right now.  It just didn’t seem correct to me though, and it turned out I was right and a whole lot of PhD’s were wrong.

Hey, speaking of which nobody’s given me a straight answer on my question yet.  What about that change in the jargon?  It seems like a fair question since that’s the load they served up in my kid’s high school science class just a few years ago.  Why can’t a guy like Ken Miller just come out and say that he didn’t really know what he was talking about?

You can learn a lot by watching what they say and don’t say.  When they change their tune over time and don’t fess up  you might want to take the next thing they say with a grain of salt.



Uncle Bonobo - #64131

August 20th 2011

This is very good point.  Behe does not make comment descent a “core argument.”  He accepts it and then inconsistently claims that the “edge of evolution"limits how much change can occur above species level—all without reconciling the fact that all species today had a common ancestor.  So, Behe is internally inconsistent.  Either he does not really believe in common descent and is merely paying lip service, or he is claiming that a vast series of supernatural events took place allowing living things to vault over the “edge of evolution.”  Either position is not a satisfactory position.


beaglelady - #64132

August 20th 2011

That’s some interesting data on the yolk gene for
which I don’t have any way to directly assess.
 

Oh yes you do. Dr. Venema posted a link to it in is Signature in the Pseudo Genes, Part 2:
http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060063

Let’s watch that for a
while, read a variety of viewpoints and see what happens over time.


What might be some alternate viewpoints?  I mean, the inactivated gene is what it is.


glsi - #64133

August 20th 2011

And so was the Junk DNA was what it was.  Except that it wasn’t.


Christine S. - #64134

August 20th 2011

My high-school years were in the early 1980s and we were consistantly admonished to use “non-coding DNA” whenever someone used “Junk-DNA”. Just goes to show how the qualitiy of education of the educators influences the debate. If you still hang your heart on “Junk-DNA” without reflecting on the scientific background to the use of the colloquial term then noone will be able to help you.
Science is more than sophistry.


glsi - #64135

August 20th 2011

Science is science, sophistry is sophistry.  The quote I used above from well-known biology textbook author Ken Miller is from 1994.  


Congratulations on your high school education! 

beaglelady - #64137

August 21st 2011

The quote I used above from well-known biology textbook author Ken Miller is from 1994. 

Just where did you actually quote from a textbook?


glsi - #64139

August 21st 2011

  My goodness, I never accused Miller of sophistry even though his textbooks have contained false information.   You could call it ignorance though, or just plain error.  (early editions of his books even contained Haeckel’s fraudulent embryo drawings which he has since removed).


Both of my kids’ high schools, (one public, one private) purchased these high-dollar books by Miller and Levine.  Obviously, someone’s made a great deal of money on them.

A little review:  mainstream biology departments began promoting the concept of Junk DNA hot and heavy since the seventies.  They called it “junk” because they couldn’t perceive these sequences to have any useful function.   With the passage of time, new technological techniques and additional investigation, science has indeed found a variety of functions for some of this “junk”.   Obviously, this investigation is not complete and additional new functions may be found in the future.     

A fair conclusion which can be drawn then is that Ken Miller, et al., have disseminated bad information.  In Ken’s case it has been to high school students.  

Sophistry?  It’s history.   



beaglelady - #64140

August 21st 2011

glsi,

You seen to have overlooked my last question! (#64137) 

You said,

“The quote I used above from well-known biology textbook author Ken Miller is from 1994.” 
 
So just where in this thread did you actually quote from a textbook?


glsi - #64141

August 21st 2011

Wish I still had one to quote from.  That would be quite interesting.  Hey, I think pretty much all my questions were overlooked here too!  What’s up with that?  


It seems like what’s needed is a face-saving way for the Junk DNA people to just own up to it so they can move on.  Otherwise I don’t know what will help them.

Merv - #64143

August 21st 2011

I’m not nearly as qualified as others here, glsj, to answer your question, but here is my limited understanding:

From what I’ve heard lately in the science/public education interfaces (such as a recent segment on NPR) scientists still think that there are many sequences of non-coding or “junk” DNA.  They are just saying that some function has been discovered for some sequences of it that wasn’t considered before.  A reactive public could try to conclude that if geneticists were wrong about something, they must be wrong about everything.  But that generally won’t match reality.  Just as scientists insisting that “because we don’t know of any function, therefore no function exists” would, or should be uncommon arrogance.  They would more appropriately say:  “No known function exists for that sequence.”

—Merv


glsi - #64145

August 21st 2011

Merv,


Thank you for your very fair response.  The spirit of what you are saying is quite different from the spirit of Ken Miller’s words and what has typically come from the Darwinists for many years.  As Dr. Miller is reportedly a Christian, and due to his authority as a successful textbook author, it seems to me that he has a special responsibility to set the record straight with the many young people he misled on this issue.  

John - #64146

August 22nd 2011

gisi,


I see you’re pivoting to attack Miller instead of admitting that your diatribe about junk DNA has no basis in reality.

Your characterizations of “the Darwinists” are simply false. So why don’t you explain why you were fooled into thinking (and worse yet, promoting) that just because function has been found for a tiny fraction of DNA classified as having no known function means that the entire classification now has function.

And who found the functional sequences? Our side or yours, which has zero real faith that it is correct? 

beaglelady - #64149

August 22nd 2011

I don’t understand why creationists like to attack Ken Miller (and they do, big time). Perhaps it is because for evangelicals, he isn’t supposed to exist: he is a devout Roman Catholic Christian, a working scientist and professor, and a gracious person.


Uncle Bonobo - #64151

August 22nd 2011

glsi asks, “Hey, I think pretty much all my questions were overlooked here too!  What’s up with that?”

answer:  C-value paradox (google it or see general background link below)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-value_enigma#C-value_paradox_history


All of your questions are based on incorrect factual claims, a misunderstanding of Miller’s text and a misunderstanding of basic principles of biology.

The short anwser is that non-coding dna is widely present in various genomes—-hence the vary large otherwise unexplainable size differences in genomes.  Call it “junk dna” if you want. or call it non-coding.  It doesn’t matter—it won’t go away. it’s all over the genome, despite what you think you learned in biology.


beaglelady - #64152

August 22nd 2011

But Uncle B, I beg to differ. I think that my “inactivated” gene for yolk production is actually controlling the Country Bear Jamboree at Walt Disney World. (And I need a chin strap for my tin foil hat.)


Uncle Bonobo - #64154

August 22nd 2011

“That’s some interesting data on the yolk gene for which I don’t have any way to directly assess” says it all.


Bilbo - #64156

August 22nd 2011

Christine: “Please Bilbo, read the article again carefully. Dennis is at no point
saying, that Behe is trying to imply that common ancestry is wrong. He
really is not doing anything of the kind and you are reading that into
his words.”

Hi Christine,

I ask that you look at my comment above (#64093), which I will quote:

     
     
   
   

“Hi Dennis,

You didn’t bother to make clear what it was that you disagreed with Behe about.  However, you leave your readers with the impression that you, and not Behe, became convinced of the close relationship of chimpanzees and humans.  Would you mind pointing out to your readers that in EoE Behe himself argued from “the evidence” that chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor?”

First, am I correct in thinking that Dennis’s post would leave readers (who were unfamiliar with Behe’s views) with the impression that Behe denied common descent? 

Here’s what Dennis wrote:

“Before I had finished Edge of Evolution, I was done with ID. I
would lose my faith in ID not by comparing it to the science of
evolution, but by reading one of its leading proponents and evaluating
his work on its own merits. ID, I decided, was an argument from analogy,
ignorance and incredulity. I was looking for an argument from evidence.
Due to an interesting set of circumstances, I was able to read Behe
both as a credulous lay reader and as a skeptical trained scientist.
Behe, I realized, hadn’t changed: I had changed, and what a difference
it had made.

Having rejected ID, I began to look into the evidence for evolution. I can also clearly recall this transition, and, if memory serves, it happened on the same day I rejected ID. This transition, however, required only ten or fifteen minutes - just as long as I needed to read the first research article on my reading list: the 2005 Nature paper comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes. I put the finished paper down on my desk, said “well, that’s that, then” out loud to my empty office, and sat back in my chair. The contrast with ID could hardly have been starker: here was nothing but argument from evidence. As a geneticist, I was fully capable of evaluating that evidence, and it was compelling. Humans and chimps were close relatives, and I was no longer an anti-evolutionist. Game, set, match.”

I think it is reasonable to think that after reading Dennis’s comments, someone unfamiliar with Behe’s views would think that Behe rejected common descent, and perhaps even argued against it.  That is why I asked Dennis to make it clear to his readers that Behe ARGUED for common descent in EoE. 

Second, Dennis has yet to make that point clear to his readers.  This becomes clear, because you yourself ask:

“Are sure that one of
EoEs core arguments is, that common descent is true? If so, you would be
the first person I know of, that makes that claim. Does Behe really
make the case for, advance the evidence for and refutes the arguments
against common descent one of the main topics in his book? I am asking
because that would characterise a “core argument”.”
Is it not more to
the point that Behe takes “common descent” as a premise,...”

No, Christine.  Behe ARGUED for the truth of common descent, using the same kind of evidence that Dennis says he found in the 2005 Nature paper. 

Third, the fact that Dennis still has not admitted this fact to his readers seems to mean that he WANTS his readers to believe that Behe did not argue for common descent, and maybe even believe that Behe argued against common descent.  I suggest that Dennis’s continued refusal to admit this means that he is engaged in duplicitous behavior, which I am beginning to believe is rather common among the members and guest contributors of Biologos.


Darrel Falk - #64168

August 22nd 2011

Hi Bilbo,


It is very well known that Behe believes in common descent.  When I read Dennis’s essay, it never even occurred to me that anyone would think that Dennis implied otherwise.  Upon deciding that ID didn’t hold up, Dennis moved on to what was the next big question for him personally—common descent.  Bilbo, it is possible that you’ve not had to grapple with the issues that Dennis and all of us evangelicals have had to struggle with.   For most of us, the biggest issue is  “What about humans?” and Dennis moved on to examine that the same day.

If you misunderstood Dennis or are afraid that others might have, let’s be very clear, we at BioLogos know that Michael Behe believes in common descent.  He’s made this point repeatedly since 1995.  I guess we all thought that was a given, but if you think we should clarify it for our readers—so be it.

In Him,
Darrel

Bilbo - #64157

August 22nd 2011

Uncle Bo:  “This is very good point.  Behe does not make comment descent a “core
argument.”  He accepts it….”

No, he argues for it. 

 ”...and then inconsistently claims that the “edge
of evolution"limits how much change can occur above species level—all
without reconciling the fact that all species today had a common
ancestor.So, Behe is internally inconsistent.  Either he does not
really believe in common descent and is merely paying lip service, or he
is claiming that a vast series of supernatural events took place
allowing living things to vault over the “edge of evolution.”  Either
position is not a satisfactory position.”

Behe argues that not all the mutations involved in evolution have been random with respect to fitness.  In other words, at least some of them were probably done on purpose.  This is not inconsistent with common descent.  Nor have you explained why a vast series of supernatural events would not be a satisfactory position.


Ashe - #64165

August 22nd 2011

A creationist can take up Behe’s arguments and it wouldn’t matter whether Behe himself admits common descent is true. That’s how Behe’s arguments work.




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