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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?

Comments
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.ET
November 14, 2020
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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.JVL
November 14, 2020
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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.
drc466
November 13, 2020
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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.ET
November 13, 2020
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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!!JVL
November 13, 2020
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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.JVL
November 13, 2020
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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.JVL
November 13, 2020
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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?drc466
November 13, 2020
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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 ET
November 13, 2020
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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.ET
November 13, 2020
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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. Andrewasauber
November 13, 2020
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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 Ciaochuckdarwin
November 13, 2020
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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.JVL
November 13, 2020
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"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. Andrewasauber
November 13, 2020
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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 heuristicET
November 13, 2020
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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.JVL
November 13, 2020
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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. ;) Andrewasauber
November 13, 2020
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JVL- Read Dr. Behe's response in comment 8- use the link an read the PDFET
November 13, 2020
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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.ET
November 13, 2020
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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?JVL
November 13, 2020
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There isn't any doubt that the judgement was flawed.ET
November 13, 2020
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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.ET
November 13, 2020
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JVL, want of an appeal is immaterial to a body of evidence warranting the conclusion that the case was badly judged in key respects. KFkairosfocus
November 13, 2020
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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?JVL
November 13, 2020
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When biologists showed that there were at least conceivable evolutionary origins to his examples, his claim was refuted.
:) :) :)Sandy
November 12, 2020
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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"?ET
November 12, 2020
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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" Andrewasauber
November 12, 2020
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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?chuckdarwin
November 12, 2020
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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.Barry Arrington
November 12, 2020
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"Judge Jones concluded that ID is not science." Chuck, Opinions don't make things science or not science. Andrewasauber
November 12, 2020
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