The Discovery Institute has of course picked up Michael Behe’s new paper in Quarterly Review of Biology, and it’s
distorted summarized by DI bigwig Casey Luskin here. As I predicted, the IDers completely ignore the limitations of this paper (see my analyses here and here), and assert, wrongly, that Behe has made a powerful statement about evolution in nature.
This distortion is hardly news, of course—I’m completely confident that Behe not only expected it, but approves of it—but I feel compelled to highlight it once again. Luskin’s three distortions, which correspond to the three caveats attached to Behe’s results:
1. Luskin doesn’t mention that Behe’s analysis concentrated only on short-term laboratory studies of adaptation in bacteria and viruses.
2. Luskin also doesn’t mention that these experiments deliberately excluded an important way that bacteria and viruses gain new genetic elements in nature: through horizontal uptake of DNA from other organisms. This kind of uptake was prohibited by the design of the experiments.
3. Luskin implies that Behe’s conclusions extend to all species, including eukaryotes, even though we know that members of this group (and even some bacteria) can gain new genetic elements and information via gene duplication and divergence. And we know that this has happened repeatedly and pervasively in the course of evolution.
Luskin’s intent is clear—to claim that Behe has supposedly shown a profound problem with the theory of evolution and natural selection: it cannot explain the gain of new genetic elements in evolution. There must therefore most be another source of these new elements. Ergo Jesus. Behe did not show this, and Luskin
Some Luskin quotes from the piece, generalizing from short-term lab experiments on microbes to evolution as a whole in nature:
Behe doesn’t claim that gain-of-function mutations will never occur, but the clear implication is that neo-Darwinists cannot forever rely on examples of loss or modification-of-FCT mutations to explain molecular evolution. At some point, there must be gain of function. But if loss-of-function mutations are so much more common than gain-of-function mutations that the odds of a pathway following a multiple mutation pathway toward the construction of a new FCT before encountering a local adaptive peak that “breaks or blunts” the FCT may be prohibitively small. . .
. . . If Behe’s article is correct, then molecular evolution, in the world of real biology, faces a similar problem. Remember that Behe found that “the rate of appearance of an adaptive mutation that would arise from the diminishment or elimination of the activity of a protein is expected to be 100-1000 times the rate of appearance of an adaptive mutation that requires specific changes to a gene.” If loss/modification-of-FCT adaptations are 100-1000 times more likely than gain-of-FCT adaptations, then logic dictates that eventually an evolving type of organism will run out of FCTs to lose/modify.
In short, the logical outcome of Behe’s finding is that some process other than natural selection and random mutation* must be generating new FCTs. If Darwinian evolution is at work, it tends to remove FCTs much faster than it creates them — something else must be generating the information for new FCTs.
The evidence cited by Behe does not paint a hopeful state of affairs for Darwinian proponents of molecular evolution.
So typical of these clowns to ignore the insuperable problems with extending Behe’s limited conclusions to evolution as a whole. But I’m absolutely sure that Behe intended his paper to be distorted in this way.
This is only the beginning of the ID distortions to come. I don’t plan on writing more about this, but feel free to post further ID shenanigans in the comments.
*[He means Jesus]