I hate to admit it, but now and again I like to go slumming among the Darwhiners at Talk.origins and Pandasthumb (Darwhiner, pronounced DAR-wheye-ner, is my version of Denyse O’Leary’s Darwinbot). Not all Darwinists are Darwhiners. Some Darwinists, like Michael Ruse, follow an argument, engage issues, and genuinely attempt to understand the other side’s position.
Darwhiners, on the other hand, are reflexive Darwinists. Push the right buttons, off they go complaining how evolution is being misrepresented, how those attacking it are fools, and how its patron saint (Saint Charles) is being smeared (for an amusing instance of this last point, go here and then note the very extensive comments here). Darwhiners don’t reflect — they react.
A beautiful example of this recently appeared at Talk.origins. Michael Behe had defended his work on irreducible complexity against Andrea Bottaro (for Bottaro’s attack, go here; for Behe’s defense, go here). You decide who got the better of this exchange.
In replying to Bottaro, Behe wrote:
Professor Bottaro, perhaps sensing that the paper he cites wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be persuasive to people who are skeptical of Darwinian claims, laments that Ã¢â‚¬Å“Behe and other ID advocates will retreat further and further into impossible demands, such as asking for mutation-by-mutation accounts of specific evolutionary pathways…Ã¢â‚¬Â Well, yes, of course thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exactly what I ask of Darwinian claims Ã¢â‚¬â€ a mutation-by-mutation account of critical steps (which will likely be very, very many), at the amino acid level. But thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s neither a Ã¢â‚¬Å“retreatÃ¢â‚¬Â (In Darwin’s Black Box (page 176) I implied that many small details would be necessary for a real Darwinian explanation) nor is it unreasonable Ã¢â‚¬â€ thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simply whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the level of explanation that is needed. What part of Ã¢â‚¬Å“numerous, successive, slightÃ¢â‚¬Â 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. Alternatively, Darwinists could present a series of experiments showing that RM/NS is capable of building a system of the complexity of the adaptive immune system.
Professors Orr and Bottaro seem to think that because DarwinistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ fantastic claims are very difficult to support in a convincing fashion, then they should just be given a pass, and that everyone should agree with them without the required evidence. Fuggedaboudit. As Russell Doolittle helpfully showed, Darwinists find it easy to imagine that evolution could proceed along pathways which nature would never allow. Like Calvin and Hobbes, in their imaginations they hop into a box and fly over treacherous evolutionary terrain that nature would have to try to cross on foot. There is no reason for skeptics to trust DarwinistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ imaginations.
The following reply to this passage on Talk.origins is pure Darwhiner. The amazing thing is that this actually passes for high level argumentation in Darwhiner circles, replete with backslapping and hearty congratulations for showing up those IDiots. The level of dysfunctional group-think in these circles is staggering. But hey, enough of my commentary — enjoy:
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
I mean, what part of “perverse, evidential, demand” is so hard to
So, asking for a detailed, testable Darwinian pathway to show that evolution occurs is now a perverse evidential demand. Yes, you heard right. By the way, I’m in the process of selling the Brooklyn Bridge for $1000. Please send me your check, and I’ll get the deed to you right away. And please, no perverse evidential demands.