Intelligent Design

Darwin Devolves: Darwinists see evolution as bottom up; Michael Behe sees it as top down

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In a review of Michael Behe’s Darwin Devolves, Terry Scambray talks about examples of devolution, often promoted as evolution:

According to Darwin, the twin dynamics of mutation and natural selection account for such systems. These dynamics are demonstrated in polar bears, which separated from their brown-bear cousins hundreds of thousands of years ago — a separation triggered at the genetic level by two damaging mutations. One was in a gene called APOB, which is involved in metabolizing fat and helps polar bears ingest copious amounts of seal blubber. The second gene, LYST, codes for skin pigmentation and probably made the fur of polar bears white. Computer analysis of these genes shows that each mutation damaged their original functions. This squashing of genetic information by mutations initially helped one or several bears, perhaps, to survive in the new, frigid environment to which they had relocated for whatever reasons. Then, as bears with intact genetic information began to die off or remain in warmer climates, the lucky losers of genetic information began to grow in numbers, then predominate, until finally bears with these two traits became ubiquitous in their Arctic home. So, the polar bear, Behe writes, “adjusted to its harsh environment mainly by degrading its genes that its ancestors already possessed. Despite its impressive abilities, rather than evolving, it has adapted predominately by devolving.” What this “portends for our conception of evolution,” Behe explains, is “the principal topic” of Darwin Devolves…

Behe offers another example of a mutation that breaks off one-third of the protein in a gene that influences the nervous system of horses. This impaired gene causes the horse that carries it to maintain a smooth trot, a trait that has been bred by horse breeders. …

So, if most mutations warp or destroy what’s already in the DNA of an organism, and circumstances permit the organism to live or die, where’s the step-by-step pathway upward to the new and improved versions, the evolutionary progress that Darwin’s science supposedly demonstrated? Darwinian change is supposed to be vertical, a bottom-up movement. Instead, what Behe sees is a top-down movement: Organisms arrive with their genetic complexity intact, undergo mutations, and, as a consequence, sometimes move horizontally, back and forth within a species. Behe recounts Darwinists’ various self-organizing theories, but none accounts for the type of change in question, let alone for the sophisticated cellular machinery itself.

Terry Scambray, “Review of Darwin Devolves” at New Oxford Review (July-August 2020) (paywall)

16 Replies to “Darwin Devolves: Darwinists see evolution as bottom up; Michael Behe sees it as top down

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    I can understand an English professor like Scambray not grasping a simple truth about evolution but Behe’s apparent misunderstanding is a different matter. The processes of random mutation and natural selection simply don’t care whether a mutation results in a loss of information – whatever that might be in this context. If the effect is detrimental, as it will be in the majority of cases, then the species may well be headed for the extinction suffered by 99% of other species in the past. There are no guarantees. It’s the luck of the draw, which obviously offends the sensibilities of those who would prefer be the favored creature of their God with a special place in the grand scheme of things.

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    That’s not Michael Behe point
    And you criticizing him about not understanding evolution is kind of silly since you didn’t understand his point

    His criticism is on the belief that evolution constantly Innovates, it creates more complexity, and some how has a directedness, but what he is pointing out, is that evolution degrades, not improves, And sacrifice is an incredible amount of information for one novelty, Afterwords natural selection refines that novelty but ends up losing the complexity that we are seeing now

    He is criticizing the idea that evolution progresses to more complicated organisms

    In fact he uses your exact point to show how impossible it is to get to something complex like us

  3. 3
    BobRyan says:

    Seversky

    Science is not truth, nor is it fact. It is based on what is known at any given time. Theories are based on what has been observed and replicated, neither of which has happened with speciation. Should the scientific method be ignored for Darwin, since it does not fit a preconception? The scientific method requires something to be witnessed and replicated prior to a hypothesis becoming a theory. If neither have happened, it cannot be a valid theory based on what is known.

    Has macro-evolution ever been witnessed in nature? Not one person has ever witnessed anything other than adaptation, which is far different from speciation. If it has never been witnessed, it cannot be replicated. ID does not put the scientific method on hold for any hypothesis, yet that is what Darwinists demand happen with speciation. It does not matter than it has never been observed. The belief that it happened is enough for justification of everything.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    seversky:

    The processes of random mutation and natural selection simply don’t care whether a mutation results in a loss of information – whatever that might be in this context.

    Contingent serendipity. Thank you for confirming that. Unfortunately contingent serendipity is not a designer mimic and has no chance at producing the diversity of life.

    How desperate do you have to be to think the luck of the draw produced minds from the mindless? Very desperate.

  5. 5
    chuckdarwin says:

    Behe has not been taken seriously within the biological community ever since he published Darwin’s Black Box in 1996. In fact, his colleagues at Lehigh University have published a disclaimer disavowing Behe’s “theories” as inconsistent with those of the biology department. The only reason he has been allowed to remain is that he waited until after he had tenure to come out with his bizarre theories.
    Natural selection is about adaptation, be it “constructive” or “destructive.” As to the evolution of the polar bear, the statement that “[t]his [so-called] squashing of genetic information by mutations” ignores the fact that natural selection resulted in emergence of a new species of bear, Ursus maritimus, the largest bear species on the planet and one of the most successful. Unless, of course, humans manage to completely destroy its habitat.

  6. 6
    polistra says:

    We don’t even know for sure that mutations like this were accidental. Recent findings show that intentional modification of genes does happen, both in the epigenetic “switchable” areas and the more “permanent” areas. Even super-simple nematodes have a dedicated mechanism in their nervous system to modify epigenes for the next generation.

    When we know that a light bulb can be controlled by a switch, we don’t assume that the light turned on this morning because of an accidental collision with cosmic rays. We assume somebody flipped the switch.

  7. 7
    AaronS1978 says:

    Cool beans ChuckDarwin, humans suck good job for that pointer

    So one question, out of curiosity do we have any observable evidence of any kind of transforming one species to another using natural selection like legitimately transforming one species into another

    I know we’ve been doing that for years with fruit flies and that never happened

    And the two incidences that we had with bacteria really didn’t transform the bacteria into another species

    So especially with the complex species like a bear I would love to see some actual real physical evidence and not have to reference the idea “evolution can take millions of years so we won’t see it happen but we assume it does” motif

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Evolutionary biologists aren’t taken seriously. That’s because they don’t even know how to test the claims of their very own position.

    ignores the fact that natural selection resulted in emergence of a new species of bear, Ursus maritimus

    Question-begging. Try again.

  9. 9
    drc466 says:

    Sev and CD demonstrate, once again, the “Invincible Ignorance” (call it “II”) of the committed Darwinist. It is not that they are incapable of understanding Behe’s point – it is that they adamantly refuse to, because to acknowledge what Behe is saying would be to acknowledge a flaw in Evolutionary theory – the flaw that there is no empirical evidence that random (or even non-random, pace Polistra) changes are capable of generating innovative new systems that the “code” for doesn’t already exist genetically. So instead they attack the messenger, or pretend not to understand the message.

    Simple analogy, for Sev and CD to exercise their “II” against:
    Scenario 1: You have nothing but bicycles. Using just the parts available on a bicycle, create a drag racer.
    Scenario 2: You have nothing but drag racers. Using just the parts available on a drag racer, create a bicycle.

    Evolution requires Scenario 1 be possible – somehow random mutations can take a handful of parts and create new systems (engines, braking chutes, transmissions, etc.) that didn’t previously exist.
    Behe’s point is that, so far, life forms all follow Scenario 2 – random (or non-random) mutations break/blunt/remove parts so that life takes new forms (drag racer that doesn’t use a chute, e.g.) that look and behave differently, but don’t have any new innovations/systems.

    Most people recognize that there is a world of difference between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2. And that Scenario 2 is well-supported by empirical evidence and laboratory experiments (e.g. polar bears are dragsters that process fuel/fat differently, but still burn fuel/fat using the same systems). While Scenario 1 is an unsupported hypothesis, that cannot be replicated in a lab environment.

    Yet the II of Sev/CD/et. al. makes them claim that Scenario 1 = Scenario 2, or that Scenario 2 is a sub-case of Scenario 1, or that Scenario 1 has been replicated in the lab, or has been “proven” by gene studies, etc. You can lead an evolutionist to water – but you can’t make him drink.

    [Edited for grammer]

  10. 10
    AaronS1978 says:

    Well if they actually have observably evidence or the smoking gun of such a transition they can easily google and post it.
    They could go to wiki evolution criticisms and post all of the raging evidence from there
    I’m mean instead of just claiming there is overwhelming evidence (like most Articles and never show a fraction of this OVERWHELMING evidence) maybe they could show us proof of the transition for speciation

    Oh and maybe we should clear up the often through misconception that we don’t believe evolution happened at all, A misconception used to support the idea overwhelming evidence for evolution, I just wanna be clear that we just don’t believe Darwinian evolution through strictly natural selection and random processes to produce complexity well beyond our understanding in a lot of cases

    Sorry We don’t believe in dice
    We want a better explanation other than
    “With enough time it can happen” gaps argument which is core to Darwinian evolution

  11. 11
    EugeneS says:

    It’s the luck of the draw

    That is the essence of the so-called ‘theory’ of evolution. No predictions, no figures, no possibility of falsification. Wunderbar!

    People who are promoting this as a scientific theory have very low standards for what should or should not be considered science.

  12. 12
    Querius says:

    Great analogy, Drc466! 🙂

    -Q

  13. 13
    EugeneS says:

    Behe has not been taken seriously

    That, I am afraid, is very worrying. If I were a biologist, I’d be concerned because what Behe says makes a lot of sense to information theorists and engineers. Biology has been polluted with ideology.

    The essence of today’s biology is the claim that a non-directed process could create directed processes that prevent other non-directed processes from happening. Is that sound?!

  14. 14
    MikeW says:

    All Darwinists understand that the vast majority of mutations are harmful. But Darwinists believe that the selection of one-in-a-million beneficial mutations every now and then can improve an organism and lead to the evolution of its species. Behe’s insight was the realization that harmful mutations are always constant and unrelenting, and that they always overwhelm any possible beneficial mutation long before it can become fixed in a population. Thus the Darwinian process always leads to devolution. So far, Behe has been proven correct in all known observations of the Darwinian process, including most recently in Lenski’s citrate mutant.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/michael-behe-on-how-the-new-lenski-paper-demonstrates-a-key-problem-with-darwinism/

  15. 15
    Pearlman says:

    Cow slaughtered: no change in the age of the universe, as predicted and attested to in Torah testimony, which aligns with all the empirical observation, with no fudge factor and no gaps. The empirical observations and basic science are in full alignment with 5780 years to date w/ the most distant departure point of visible starlight, CMB,..
    That we see here and now 5780 LY to date. even from the most distant visible stellar objects that all agree (SCM-LCDM and SPIRAL) were no more than 4B LY distant when that light and other radiation departed, early in the formation of the universe.
    If SPIRAL also predict the universe attained mature size and density w/in 4/365(5780) fraction of history of the universe.
    No change to 5780 YA design/creation of the physical universe that was the start of time, because Moses had it right to begin with.
    reference SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis and model volume II of the YeC and ID ‘Moshe Emes’ series for Torah and science alignment.

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    Pearlman,

    Are you familiar with the book, Genesis and the Big bang written by Gerald Schroeder? If you don’t already know this, he’s an Orthodox Jewish physicist who suggests that both six days and about 14 billion years can both be true depending on one’s frame of reference according to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

    Warning: Your website, Torahdiscovery.org seems to host a Trojan virus. You might want to have someone check it out.

    -Q

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