Intelligent Design Irreducible Complexity

Karsten Pultz on the recent Behe-Swamidass debate

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Our Danish correspondent Karsten Pultz recently watched a debate between Michael Behe and Joshua Swamidass fifteen years after the Dover uproar. He sends this report:


I watched with great interest the recent debate between Dr. Behe and Dr. Swamidass.  The format was excellent for exposing the total lack of any real responses to Behe’s irreducible complexity argument.

After watching the entire debate I decided to comment. But after a while searching my brain for topics to comment on, I soon realized that I couldn’t remember a word. Of course Behe’s precise and coherent presentation of irreducible complexity (IC) I remembered, but what puzzled me was that I couldn’t recall a single interesting sentence uttered by Dr. Swamidass. After watching the debate a second time (this time armed with pen and paper) I discovered the problem: There was actually nothing worth remembering.

Around the 25 min. mark the moderator Pat Flynn asked Swamidass to address the argument of irreducible complexity (IC) which Behe just presented. He was specifically asked to come up with empirical evidence refuting IC. Swamidass did not fulfill this simple request, he just babbled away, and managed to derail the conversation several times by moving to theological questions instead of just producing the evidence-based arguments against IC that the moderator, Behe, and the rest of us were waiting for.

In my view, Swamidass excels as an expert in smokescreens; he can talk endlessly without nailing down tangible and memorable points. Although pressured more than once by Behe to deliver at least a single counter argument to IC, he did not come up with anything containing even a whiff of substance. Paradoxically, Swamidass insists that Behe is the one creating confusion by the way he uses words and presents definitions. Again this critique was not accompanied by concrete examples but was broadened out to cover everything and nothing.

While failing to provide real arguments, Dr. Swamidass instead spent a considerable amount of energy boosting his own authority. Several times he appealed, not just to authority, but in a cringeworthy way to his own authority using phrases like I’m a scientist, I’m a biologist, I’m a mathematical biologist, as if fearing the viewers had forgotten his qualifications. In the last part of the debate he even tried to interrupt Behe by impolitely and irrelevantly listing all his own credentials. Now that was indeed a weird moment!

I will grant Dr. Swamidass that he almost delivered one coherent argument against IC, namely exaptations (around 40 minutes in). Swamidass stated in response to Behe’s IC: You have to show that each part couldn’t have evolved individually and then come together later, you haven’t done that with the mousetrap and that’s like a major logical gap!  I find that absolutely hilarious because the only real logical gap here is the evolutionary evidence-free “explanation,” that preexisting parts miraculously could find together in a new functional system. Not only did Swamidass fail to deliver any evidence for this fantasy scenario, he also switched the burden of proof to the ID-side insisting that Behe should prove a negative (you have to show that each part couldn’t have evolved individually).

In his book, Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne makes a similar outrageous statement that the onus is not on the evolutionary biologists to sketch out a precise step by step scenario documenting exactly how a complex character evolved. Apparently it is the standard position that evolutionists don’t have to deliver evidence to support their claims, they expect the ID proponents to show that evolution didn’t take place, forcing them to prove a negative, which of course is outrageously unscientific and is exactly what you could call a logical gap.


Readers?

40 Replies to “Karsten Pultz on the recent Behe-Swamidass debate

  1. 1
    ET says:

    I knew that I wasn’t the only person to see through Joshua’s nonsense and diversionary tactics.

    Darwin set the stage with the very criteria Dr. Behe uses:

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” [Darwin 1859, pg. 175].

    Numerous, successive, slight modifications. That was Darwin’s designer mimic, ie design without a designer. Dennett called it his “dangerous idea”.

    The point is that is the standard of evidence Darwin required for his mechanistic idea. “What can asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” Christopher Hitchens

    Swamidass and his motely crew have no intention of meeting that. Heck Nathan Lents writes a book titled “Human Errors” and yet criticizes Dr. Behe for “Darwin Devolves”, even though it is basically the same subject. They just want to fight with an IDist to try to impress their minions. And then they ramble on never really addressing the point at hand. But there’s so much verbiage that it fools people into thinking there must have been something there.

    Pathetic, actually

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Public debates are a form of entertainment, nothing more. They resolve nothing, they prove nothing.

    Behe originally claimed that there were structures or systems in biology for which there were no conceivable evolutionary precursors and which were therefore irreducibly complex. When biologists showed that there were at least conceivable evolutionary origins to his examples, his claim was refuted.

    If Behe wants to re-assert his claim of irreducible complexity then the burden of proof rests with him, it is not for Swamidass to disprove it.

  3. 3
    dougpeters says:

    History:
    Darwin proposed “evolution by natural selection” as a sufficient mechanism to explain all biodiversity — without any appreciation of epigenetics or mutations or cellular biology, and only a superficial appreciation of the fossil record (no criticism: nobody did) — so he is canonized.

    Josh Swamidass:
    Behe challenged evolution by natural selection with “irreducible complexity” — without a complete grasp of all the evolutionary mechanisms and all the possible exaptionary components in play (no criticism: nobody does) — so he is denied scientific standing.

    me:
    huh.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    LoL! @ seversky- Of course public debates do something. They show which person is aware and which person is full of nonsense.

    Behe originally claimed that there were structures or systems in biology for which there were no conceivable evolutionary precursors and which were therefore irreducibly complex.

    IC has nothing to do with mere evolution. Your equivocation is duly noted.

    When biologists showed that there were at least conceivable evolutionary origins to his examples, his claim was refuted.

    There isn’t any “when”. You are lying. No one has ever shown there to be any possible path for blind and mindless processes to produce any bacterial flagellum. seversky is a liar- as are all evolutionists who spew such lies.

    No one on this planet has even come close to refuting Dr. Behe’s claims. seversky is a liar.

  5. 5
    chuckdarwin says:

    “… fifteen years after the Dover uproar.”

    You mean the “uproar” where Behe almost single-handedly managed to lose the case for “Intelligent Design?”

  6. 6
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev,
    “Public debates are a form of entertainment, nothing more. They resolve nothing, they prove nothing.”
    Said every person whose team had just been hammered in a public debate. The assertion is pure nonsense. I will grant that some debates are not useful. This one was very useful. It proved beyond serious doubt that the other side has no answer to IC, at least none that one of their leading proponents can articulate.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    Chuck,
    Behe did not “lose” the case for ID at Dover for the simple reason that scientific theories are not adjudicated in courts. It is odd that you would think they are.

  8. 8
    ET says:

    Earth to chuck- Dr. Behe proves that Judge Jones was clueless and accepted lies and bluffs as evudence. He concludes:

    The Court’s reasoning in section E-4 is premised on: a cramped view of science; the
    conflation of intelligent design with creationism; an incapacity to distinguish the implications of a
    theory from the theory itself; a failure to differentiate evolution from Darwinism; and strawman
    arguments against ID. The Court has accepted the most tendentious and shopworn excuses for
    Darwinism with great charity and impatiently dismissed evidence-based arguments for design.

    All of that is regrettable, but in the end does not impact the realities of biology, which are
    not amenable to adjudication. On the day after the judge’s opinion, December 21, 2005, as before,
    the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would
    immediately be recognized as designed. On December 21, 2005, as before, there are no non-design
    explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories.

    Evolutionists are liars and frauds

  9. 9
    chuckdarwin says:

    Arrington #7
    That is exactly my point, Judge Jones concluded that ID is not science. More importantly, the relevant scientific community has concluded that ID is not science. Jones’ Memorandum Opinion (https://ncse.ngo/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/highlights/2005-12-20_Kitzmiller_decision.pdf) which, as a lawyer, I’m sure you’ve reviewed, is an exemplar of clarity and erudition. It is one of the most well thought-out decisions I’ve ever read. The defendants in Dover declined to appeal. To my knowledge, introduction of ID in science curricula has not been litigated in the 15 years subsequent to Dover.
    Although review of the trial transcript of Behe’s testimony is the best source of the problems Behe’s testimony created, a good synopsis of Behe’s problematic appearance on the stand is found at: https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2008/07/06/kitzmiller-v-dover-michael-behes-testimony/
    An exceptional law review discussion of the case is found at: https://scholarship.law.umt.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2038&context=mlr
    Reprise of the Dover trial, along with Behe’s latest book is, to borrow a phrase from Laurence Peter (The Peter Principle), “the transference of bones from one grave to the next.”

  10. 10
    ET says:

    Chuck, your willful ignorance is not an argument. Judge Jones doesn’t know anything about science. Judge Jones was fooled by lies and bluffs.

    Read my comment @ 8 and stop being so damn obtuse

  11. 11
    asauber says:

    “Judge Jones concluded that ID is not science.”

    Chuck,

    Opinions don’t make things science or not science.

    Andrew

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    Chuck, I am sure you do think Jones’ opinion is wonderful. That says more about your biases than it does about Jones’ opinion, which was essentially a lazy cut and paste job from the ACLU’s brief.

  13. 13
    chuckdarwin says:

    8, 10 & 12

    I readily admit to bias; whether Judge Jones would admit to laziness, I don’t know. Obtuse? You mean like a triangle?

  14. 14
    asauber says:

    ob·tuse
    /?b?t(y)o?os,äb?t(y)o?os/
    Learn to pronounce
    See definitions in:
    all
    geometry
    biology
    adjective
    adjective: obtuse

    1. annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand
    “he was annoyed that Chuck was being deliberately obtuse”

    Andrew

  15. 15
    ET says:

    Well you do have a pointy little head. But it’s more of a pyramid than a triangle.

    Is Chuck to only person who didn’t see the “Shawshank Redemption”?

  16. 16
    Sandy says:

    When biologists showed that there were at least conceivable evolutionary origins to his examples, his claim was refuted.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  17. 17
    JVL says:

    If the judgement in Dover was so flawed then a) why wasn’t the decision appealed and b) why hasn’t another case been brought forward in another jurisdiction?

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    JVL, want of an appeal is immaterial to a body of evidence warranting the conclusion that the case was badly judged in key respects. KF

  19. 19
    ET says:

    There isn’t any if the judgement was flawed. There is plenty of evidence that proves it was flawed. You would have to ask the school district why they didn’t appeal. And I know of a place that allows telic thoughts to be discussed during biology. It’s just that no one complains so there isn’t any lawsuits.

  20. 20
    ET says:

    There isn’t any doubt that the judgement was flawed.

  21. 21
    JVL says:

    Kairosfocus: JVL, want of an appeal is immaterial to a body of evidence warranting the conclusion that the case was badly judged in key respects.

    That’s silly. That’s EXACTLY why the appeals process is there: to correct a faulty judgement.

    ET: There is plenty of evidence that proves it was flawed. You would have to ask the school district why they didn’t appeal.

    Do you think the lawyers told them: that decision left no room for it to be reconsidered. And maybe: we’ve checked with colleagues and experts and we think you’d just lose again so there’s no point.

    Would you have appealed the decision if it was in your power to make the call?

  22. 22
    ET says:

    JVL, your ignorance of how the US court system works is not an argument. Not just anyone can appeal a judge’s decision. And if I was involved the decision made would have been different.

    I would have had the lawyers object to the literature bluff. I would have had the layers badger all witnesses that said ID requires the supernatural- badger them until they admit they just made it up because they cannot think beyond their own fat butts.

    The judge actually said that requiring evos to support their claims is asking too much! So yes, I would have appealed if the judge was that stupid to accept lies and bluffs as actual evidence.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    JVL- Read Dr. Behe’s response in comment 8- use the link an read the PDF

  24. 24
    asauber says:

    I don’t think JVL understands the nature of court rulings. They aren’t magic. They don’t sprinkle your position with fairy dust that makes everything OK.

    Obtuse might be the applicable word here. 😉

    Andrew

  25. 25
    JVL says:

    ET: So yes, I would have appealed if the judge was that stupid to accept lies and bluffs as actual evidence.

    I thought you would have!

    Asauber: I don’t think JVL understands the nature of court rulings. They aren’t magic. They don’t sprinkle your position with fairy dust that makes everything OK.

    Obviously. What I’m trying to figure out is why the ID community hasn’t pushed the point again and further if they strongly feel the decision was flawed.

  26. 26
    ET says:

    How do you know what is being taught in every school in the USA? I know telic thoughts are allowed in my kid’s school. And I know that not one teacher or scientist can test the claims of unguided evolution. And I know that no one uses unguided evolution for anything. It is a useless heuristic

  27. 27
    asauber says:

    “Obviously. What I’m trying to figure out is why the ID community hasn’t pushed the point again and further if they strongly feel the decision was flawed.”

    JVL,

    And we want to know why you care so much about what the ID Community does or doesn’t do in it’s spare time.

    Andrew

  28. 28
    JVL says:

    ET: How do you know what is being taught in every school in the USA?

    I don’t know but that’s not the issue I am interested in at the moment. Why do you think no appeal was launched?

    Asauber: And we want to know why you care so much about what the ID Community does or doesn’t do in it’s spare time.

    Just curious. I haven’t heard from an ID supporter who agreed with the Dover ruling; I’ve heard from several ID supporters who said they would have appealed the ruling . . . so I’m wondering why an appeal never materialised. I would think you would be curious too.

  29. 29
    chuckdarwin says:

    A couple final observations.
    Re #22 Since this was a federal district court decision, the defendants had an automatic right to appeal.
    Re #25 you correctly reiterate my original observations. I think the real reason that the case was not appealed is that an adverse federal circuit court opinion would have been the absolute death knell for ID. The likelihood of success on such an appeal would have been less than 20% based on appellate outcome data in federal courts.
    I think the reason there has been no subsequent litigation seeking to introduce ID into public school science curricula is that the status quo creates a fertile ground for victim signaling by the Discovery Institute and ID. That, in turn allows them to keep on this quixotic crusade that the scientific establishment keeps stomping on their rights to come forward with an alternative theory to supplant evolution. That in turn drives book sales and conferences and podcasts and so on to keep the money machine well-greased. It also allows the ID movement to avoid doing the hard work of science, i.e. experiments, data collection, field work, etc.), while claiming to be scientists. It brings to mind a second observation by Laurence Peter (see # 9) called Peter’s Placebo: “An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.” The quote is also independently attributed to David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame….Eddie Van Halen–RIP
    Ciao

  30. 30
    asauber says:

    So, if the Evolutionists in this thread think Dover should be appealed, but not by them, then they should set up a donation site or something to help us poor waifs get the ball rolling.

    What a waste of threadspace and time and nice weather.

    Andrew

  31. 31
    ET says:

    JVL:

    Why do you think no appeal was launched?

    I know why. Willful ignorance. I would bet that no one in that school district understands ID or what the debate involves. So if you don’t even understand what is going on you don’t have any ground to file an appeal. And if you don’t care what is going on you won’t file an appeal. But if it ever does come up in a Court again- the mentioning of ID is a science classroom- I am sure the lies and bluffs of the plaintiffs in the Dover case will fully come to light.

    Right now I would really love for students to start asking the hard questions about the proposed mechanisms. How can blind and mindless processes produce proof-reading, error detection and error correction systems? What observation lead to that inference? What is the testable hypothesis for such a claim?

    And then film them as they mumble and double-talk their way around the issue.

  32. 32
    ET says:

    Earth to chuck- having the right and exercising that right are two different things.

    And again, you have to be a rube to think that science can be determined in a courtroom.

    Dr. Behe’s response to Judge Jones is very telling. And it is also very telling that rubes like you avoid it at all costs.

    Whether Intelligent Design is Science
    A Response to the Opinion of the Court in
    Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District

  33. 33
    drc466 says:

    JVL,
    Everything you need to know about why the ID movement has never pursued appeals on the Dover decision is answered by this article that the Discovery Institute wrote at the time:
    Comparing Jones and ACLU
    The fact of the matter is that any Evolution v Not-Evolution legal case is never going to be decided by the legal merits of the case, but by the personal beliefs of the judge in question. In Judge Jones case, he clearly a priori believed that Evolution was the only “scientific” theory regarding origins, and that any competing theory must be religious in nature. This is made clear by the multiple instances in his ruling, copied directly from the plaintiff’s arguments, where he falsely claims that ID is essentially Creationism, therefore a religious teaching, therefore legally impermissible in public education.
    Re-litigating the case would not prove a single thing legally. It would only prove what the personal belief system of the presiding judge was. So why waste the time and money just to allow a Judge to be hailed as a Savior of the Republic and one of the Finest Judicial Minds of all time, simply because he knows how to Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V?

  34. 34
    JVL says:

    Asauber: So, if the Evolutionists in this thread think Dover should be appealed, but not by them, then they should set up a donation site or something to help us poor waifs get the ball rolling.

    Not even close to the point I was making. Well done.

  35. 35
    JVL says:

    ET: I know why. Willful ignorance. I would bet that no one in that school district understands ID or what the debate involves.

    Why is that? I understood that the Discovery Institute sent advisors there to help the local authorities in their case.

  36. 36
    JVL says:

    Doc466: Re-litigating the case would not prove a single thing legally. It would only prove what the personal belief system of the presiding judge was. So why waste the time and money just to allow a Judge to be hailed as a Savior of the Republic and one of the Finest Judicial Minds of all time, simply because he knows how to Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V?

    But surely the point of being able to appeal a case is to show that a legal decision was flawed based on a lower court’s interpretation of the law for whatever reason.

    I’m sorry but I have to say that all the replies from ID supporters sound like ‘poor, poor pitiful me’ responses. If you are sure you have a case then pursue it. Take it to the courts and present your evidence. Don’t just sit and bitch and moan, do something!!

  37. 37
    ET says:

    Wow. Not anyone can step in and appeal a Court’s decision. You do realize that experts have checked into the plaintiffs literature bluff, right? And Ken Miller’s testimony has been destroyed.

    But again, science is not and cannot be decided by a Court. It’s as if you are just warped or something.

  38. 38
    drc466 says:

    JVL,

    But surely the point of being able to appeal a case is to show that a legal decision was flawed based on a lower court’s interpretation of the law for whatever reason.

    Correct. Which is exactly what I was trying to say – an Evolution v. ID case, at any level from local to Supreme Court, will not be decided on an “interpretation of the law”, but a personal interpretation of whether ID is properly classified as a “scientific” or “religious” theory. Judge Jones ruled that ID was religious in nature. If this is true, then as a matter of law, he ruled correctly. If, however, this is false, then he ruled incorrectly. So the problem is not, and never will be, an “interpretation of the law” – all courts are basically agreed that “establishment of religion” prevents the teaching of, say, Creationism. What is not agreed is whether ID qualifies as religion or science.
    If ID proponents (and I’m a YEC, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight) took it all the way to the Supreme Court, the final decision would still depend on individual belief, not interpretation of law. As ET correctly puts it,

    ..science is not and cannot be decided by a Court.

  39. 39
    JVL says:

    ET: But again, science is not and cannot be decided by a Court. It’s as if you are just warped or something

    I never said science was “decided” by a court. I’m trying to figure out why the decision wasn’t appealed. Or why, if an individual judge’s personal opinion was the problem, a similar case wasn’t brought before a different court.

  40. 40
    ET says:

    I told you why it wasn’t appealed. And other places don’t bring stupid things to Court.

    As I said I know that telic thoughts and discussions are allowed at the local high school biology classrooms. No one is whining about it.

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