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Michael Behe In Britain Part 2


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Michael Behe In Britain Part 2

Michael Behe in Britain Part 2

By Roger Stanyard, Paul Braterman, Roy Thearle and others

Part 1 of this detailed report can be found at Michael Behe in Britain.

The penultimate event on Behe's speaking tour of the United Kingdom was in Bournemouth on 26th November 2010. Our correspondent and member, Roy Thearle went along and report as follows.

Michael Behe: Back in Time at Bournemouth, by Roy Thearle

Bournemouth is a quaint Southern English seaside town with many Victorian buildings, parks and arcades; thus it was a very fitting venue for a presentation that consisted almost entirely of ancient arguments and moth-eaten relics.

Heavy traffic meant I arrived at the hall only a few minutes before the start, but I had enough time to check out the bookstall, which was purely ID material (Darwin's Black Box, Darwin on Trial, Edge of Evolution, God's Undertaker, Expelled and Exploring Evolution - the last of which I am now a proud owner, in addition to a copy of Unlocking the Mystery of Life) and note that the audience was mostly middle-aged or older, though there were a few students in attendance.

[The audience was was approximately 200, somewhat less than the 500 in Glasgow but Bournemouth is a much smaller place.]

Michael Behe was introduced at length by some-one who said he was David from the Centre for Intelligent Design, with the usual website plugs and a comment that some-one has likened Behe to a "slimy toad" on their blog. [Ed. comment: Would be right over the top if C4ID had a blog!]

Darwin's Black Box:

Behe got off to a stunning start when the PowerPoint presentation got stuck on the title slide, and he was left floundering around while it was fixed. This sideshow was certainly more interesting than the next slide, which was Behe's disclaimer than his views are his alone and not shared by his colleagues at Lehigh University yada yada yada. This seemed completely unnecessary to me, since Behe could simply have been introduced as the author of Darwin's Black Box without Lehigh ever being mentioned. But perhaps he was fuelling feelings of oppression.

After a quick shot of a 2005 New York Times op-ed piece he wrote entitled Design for Living, Behe introduced his five point plan:

1) Design is not mystical but deduced from physical structures

2) All agree that life looks designed

3) There are structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution

4) Evolution rests on undisciplined imagination

5) There is strong evidence for design and little evidence for Darwinism

You may have noticed that the above treats evolution and Darwinism as interchangeable - this treatment continued throughout the presentation, and led to a very odd juxtaposition near the end. [1]

Step #1 started well with a method of detecting design: "You can infer design when parts appear arranged to accomplish a function". This was illustrated by a Far Side cartoon of a line of overweight jungle explorers, the first of which had been skewered by a trap, and the third of which was telling the fourth that that was why he didn't like to walk up front. Behe's point was apparently that the trap depicted was obviously designed, and that the cartoon wouldn't work if you couldn't differentiate designed objects from 'undesigned' objects - which point is rather blunted by the cartoon working equally well if the first explorer is being entwined and eaten by a large snake. As well as setting a precedent for many of the failures of logic that were to follow, this got me wondering whether Behe's objection to evolution as being grounded in imagination arose partly because he doesn't possess much imagination himself.

The slides continued with pictures of the Sawtooth mountains, the 'Old man of the mountain' rock formation and Mount Rushmore, and the long-familiar claim that design could be detected if you knew of a template that matched the object in question. Unsurprisingly, Behe didn't say anything about a template against which life or DNA could be compared - possibly because the total lack of any such template immediately scuttles the argument. Behe also claimed that the "strength of the inference [of design] is quantitative". This might have been interesting if he'd actually quantified anything, or even suggested how it could be done, but he didn't, so it wasn't.

Step #2 was demonstrated with several quotes from the Behe's apparent nemesis, Richard Dawkins:

"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."

"We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose, such as flying, swimming, seeing, eating, ... [A]ny engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object."

"Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning."

Checking the full version of the second quote shows that Behe curtailed Dawkins' list. He omitted "reproducing". Draw your own conclusions.

[Ed. comment - the tired old creationist scam of quote mining one's adversaries, then using the quotes out of context - and usually heavily edited - to convince the gullible that biologists and geologists completely opposed to creationism somehow support creationisn. We've seen this deliberate deception thousands of times. One of the worst examples of this sort of deliberate dishonesty is the "documentary" Expelled DVDs of which were on sale during Behe's lectures.]

Step #3 looks like the meat of Behe's argument - structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution. Behe started out with Darwin's quote "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case." Nor, apparently, could Behe.

He started by redefining 'irreducible complexity' as being when a group of parts produce a function that the parts themselves cannot produce - a definition that not only differs markedly both from his original 'can't-remove-a-piece' definition and his more recent 'requires-unselected-steps' one. Then we entered some form of time-warp, as Behe explained why mousetraps are irreducibly complex, and showed us all a diagram of the bacterial flagellum, stating "If it's missing [pieces], you have a broken flagellum." Behe thinks "Irreducibly complex systems are big headaches for Darwin's theory", but neglected to say why, and failed to mention the many criticisms of his ideas that explain not only how irreducibly complex systems not only could and have been seen to evolve, but also that they would be inevitable. Behe may have expected his audience to be aware of these criticisms though, since he stopped short of stating that irreducibly complex systems were the case Darwin hadn't found - an omission that undermined everything else he said.[2]

Behe then continued with a wave of quotes and pictures to prove that life was, like, wow, sooo complex, and sooo like tiny machinery, that... ...well, nothing. He made no attempt to explain why complexity was a structural obstacle, or why complex things couldn't evolve. He seemed to expect the audience to wallow in the same awestruck haze as him, believing that something that complex must be designed without ever bothering to connect any dots.

Step #4 was even weaker. Behe produced no evidence for anything - just a single opinion from Franklin Harold that “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity (Behe 1996); but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”

After likening evolution to Kipling's Just-so Stories, Behe opined that Harold's principle for rejecting Intelligent Design is that it involves extra-scientific philosophical implications - but didn't bother to produce any further quotes as justification, leaving open the possibility that Harold rejected Intelligent Design on the principle that it's merely creationism in disguise, and not worth discussing in any scientific treatise.

Finally, Behe covered Step #5. Or rather didn't cover it - Behe simply announced that it could be concluded from the previous four steps, despite no evidence for design having been presented, strong or otherwise. I will concede that Behe had produced little evidence for Darwinism.

Behe's next announcement stunned me. Behe actually stated that the strong positive evidence for intelligent design was that Richard Dawkins wrote about life having an overwhelming impression of being designed.

That's not strong positive evidence. It's not even evidence at all, it's an opinion. Worse, it's an opinion about an impression! If Behe can't differentiate between evidence and opinion, or between appearance and actuality, then I'll never take his musings on Intelligent Design seriously, and I doubt anyone with any sense would either.[3] I was thinking Behe couldn't do much worse, but he immediately proved me wrong - he said [paraphrased, because I was too staggered and he was too incoherent for note-taking] "Life must be designed because it looks designed, and if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well then that's in-duck-tive reasoning and so intelligent design was a scientific argument and rationally justified."

The Edge of Evolution:

Next, Behe attempted to dissect Darwinism. Behe said that common descent was interesting, but trivial because it doesn't explain the original ancestral organisms. Natural selection is also interesting, but trivial because it doesn't explain how the selected variation occurs. I was hoping to hear that Intelligent Design was interesting, but trivial because it didn't explain how to make pizza, but instead Behe announced that "The critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation"[4].

That's a major problem. Not a major problem for evolution, but a major problem for Behe. Because Darwin never made any claims about random mutation, let alone about its sufficiency. DNA wasn't even known to exist until after On the Origin of Species was published, and its genetic nature wasn't discovered until after he died. All Darwin knew was that variation existed - he didn't know what caused it. So when Behe juxtaposes random mutation and Darwinism, it's evident that Behe either doesn't know or doesn't care what Darwin actually wrote. Furthermore, by accepting natural selection and common descent, and criticising only modern genetics, Behe is actually accepting Darwin's theory. I hope that was worth waiting for.

Moving on, Behe started talking about malarial resistance in humans, and said that the genes for sickle-cell trait and thalassaemia aren't positive mutations - they're just broken in a fortuitous way. He quoted Sarah Tishkoff: "Thus, the genetic variability maintained at the G6PD locus appears to be an example of a balanced polymorphism that, with the classic examples of sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, represents one of the best examples of natural selection acting on the human genome." and then blatantly engaged in bait-and-shift by exclaiming that this was "the best example of Darwinian evolution", disregarding all the examples that have been found in organisms other than humans. I had intended asking for this to be clarified during the Q&A section, but after foolishly (gallantly?) surrendering the roaming microphone to a charming young lady who was being ignored by the microphone managers, I didn't get it back until just in time for them to cease calling for questions. I did manage to speak to Michael Behe afterwards, and he admitted that there did exist better examples of evolutionary processes in bacteria.

Last of all, Behe characterised evolution as consisting of breaking things - illustrated with a story of how a broken bridge was useful in preventing opponents crossing a ravine - and claimed that the tiny fraction of helpful mutations are those that are degrading the genome; a claim that anyone who has read up on ApoA-1 Milano or Lenski's experiment will know to be complete bollocks.

Questions and answers:

1. The Q&A session got off to a bad start with a convoluted question about von Hagen, aplastic anaemia and seeding by three men thousands of years ago. I didn't understand it, and I don't think Behe understood it either despite David's attempted translation. But the attempted answer elicited an interesting point: when Behe talks about the complexity of the foundation of life, he doesn't seem to realise that the existing complexity of cellular structures are a result of billions of years of change, and that ancient cells may have been much less complex.

2. Threefold: suggested Behe was not working at the coalface, asked about Dover, and asked about the type-3 secretory system. None of Behe's responses were satisfactory. Behe claimed that he submitted papers to journals, but all he got back were immediate rejections because "we're not publishing anything by him".

[Ed. comment - well at least he is submitting papers; that's very unusual amongst creationists.]

Behe's account of the Dover trial were astonishingly counter-factual. He claimed that he had explained things reasonably, but that the other side had twisted the facts. He excused the result as being because the plaintiffs produced an array of experts, while on the ID side there was "only me". While Steve Fuller and Scott Minnich's testimony may have hindered the defence, I think they would object to being disregarded completely. Behe said there was no evidence that Judge Jones understood the scientific arguments. But even if that was the case - and it wasn't - surely it would be Behe's fault for not explaining them well enough? He characterised the TTSS as sharing "not many, maybe a third" of its proteins with the bacterial flagellum, a value which is either backwards or extracted ad rectum. Finally, he reiterated that irreducibly complexity was dependent on a system's original function and the TTSS could not therefore be a pathway to the flagellum - thus confirming that he neither knows nor cares about exaptation.

[Ed comment: the reader is yet again reminded that the creationists never ever admit to getting anything wrong. Their problem at Dover wasn't Jones. It was that the defendents (the Dover School Board) where a bunch of scientifically illiterate young earth creationist incompetents who lied repeatedly under oath. The Discovery Institute jumped on the bandwagon before it realised what was going on - that the defence and its lawyers (The Thomas Moore Law Center) were hopelessly out of their depth. The Discovery Institute's two senior people, Stephen Meyer and Bill Dembski, cut and ran before giving their testimony leaving Behe right up a certain creek without a paddle. Behe's tale about an incompetent judge is a fabrication. It was the defence that was incompetent. Behe made a fool of himself at the Dover trial. There is a simple cultural thing going on here - many Americans simply cannot stand loss of face. They are in denial mode.]

3. In response to a comment about the best designs being simple, Behe said that Darwinian evolution doesn't try out a few things and discard them if they fail. I guess we can add extinction to the list of evolutionary concepts he misunderstands.

4. "If we evolved from monkeys, how come we've grown hair and not lost hair?"

This was asked by a young boy (who may have fluffed his line). Both Michael Behe and David responded by pointing to their male pattern baldness. Behe tried unsuccessfully to explain about chimp brains not being sufficiently understood to determine whether ours could have evolved from them. Astonishingly, one of the microphone men asked for a round of applause for what he thought was a "perceptive question".

5. What is the spark that makes life work? Rather than talking about vitalism or somesuch, Behe started explaining about protein-folding and the physical properties of amino-acids, and never got close to an answer.

6. How has the presumption of evolution hindered and/or helped science? Behe admitted that comparative biology allowed us to use animals to investigate human biochemistry, but then said evolution was overmalleable and brought up Haekel's embryo images as an example of how textbooks could use anything as evidence of evolution. Apart from the pretence that school textbooks are investigative science, Behe failed to remember that he supports common descent, and would expect embryonic similarity.

7. Are newspaper articles on science to be trusted? No!

8. Is inductive reasoning the only argument for Intelligent Design? Is it conclusive? Could inductive reasoning be used to support evolution too? Answer: Yes, as much as for any other theory, crickets chirping.

9. Commenting on research censorship, Behe said that although research grant boards often requested proposals for more innovative research than the usual minor advances, they always reject proposals to investigate if evolution is true. I expect they also reject proposals to test if planets go round the Sun.

[Ed. comment - the Discovery Institute has its own research arm, the Biologic Institute, which, even with private money, hasn't come up with one iota of science. The creationists in the USA have billions of US$ available if they saw a "return on investment".]

10. Is antibiotic resistance a positive mutation? Behe thinks "no", it's mostly caused by minor changes to protein shape that also reduces protein activity.

11. Behe definitely thinks that the malarial parasite was designed, but must be important for some aspect of the biosphere[5]. he also likened the dangers of malaria to those of cliffs, apparently realising that we have a much better options for avoiding falling off cliffs than we do for avoiding malaria.

12. Does incremental design look like evolution? Behe dodged this one completely, saying it was a judgement call but "evolution is hopeless". Behe also dodged the next question on what he meant by intelligence by saying that atoms and molecules aren't.

13. Asked about Australopithecus etc, Behe said they were uglier than us, but reconfirmed common descent.

14. Last question: Is Intelligent Design true because evolution is false? No - Mount Rushmore shows that design can be identified.

And that was it. A few people got their (new and old) books signed, though they had to run the gauntlet of some idiot[6] who was jabbering on about how life worked through appetites and that people got older because they wanted too. Michael also had a long conversation with a home-schooling couple and their daughter who had been on TV and subsequently been accused of brainwashing[7]. Micheal agreed with them that she wasn't brainwashed, and I think I do too.

Summary of the Bournemouth presentation:

Apart from the last few minutes about malaria, Michael Behe's presentation didn't include anything new - just the same tired stuff about of mousetraps, irreducible complexity and flagella. Most of it could have been taken straight from the Dover trial transcripts, and he spoke as if none of the criticisms or refutations of his ideas had ever existed. He was very vague, and on the few occasions that he made specific points, he almost always failed to follow through - he didn't say that irreducible complexity couldn't evolve, he didn't say that cellular complexity couldn't have evolved, he didn't say how to infer design. It was as if he was afraid to commit himself to anything in case it came back to bite him.

Nor was the Q&A session very impressive. Most of his answers consisted of long rambles on unrelated subjects. His criticisms of evolution were either off-target or empty, and most of the time he seemed no more educated on the subject than the audience.

[1] Yes, this is a blatant attempt to get you to keep reading

[2] Apart from his pronouncement that the bacterial flagellum is "made up of proteins, which are tiny machines in their own right", which just looks wrong.

[3] A sub-sentence ripe for for quote-mining.

[4] Emphasis his.

[5] Preventing overpopulation by humans?

[6] It wasn't just me that thought this - a number of people were rolling their eyes and making side-comments, while Micheal succeeded to remain polite despite not being able to get a word in edgeways, but the guy just wouldn't shut up.

[7] And apparently they're on TV again on Tuesday night, 30th November 2010


Behe in Glasgow

The Humanist Society Scotland had a dozen people leafleting the Glasgow (Caledonian University) presentation which took place on 23rd November 2010, a few days after the Leamington event.

The event sounds very similar to the meeting at Leamington.

"Hi I was at the meeting. The theatre has a capacity of 500 and was full. The proceedings started 15 minutes late due to the cumbersome check-in procedure which involved checking each name against a list, a bit like voting. Behe's talk overran by an additional 15 minutes or so which meant that there was limited time at the end for Q & A. The talk was very predictable with all the old favourites trotted out - mouse-traps, bacterial flagellum, malarial parasites, etc.. He showed several quotes from Dawkins? books where, for instance, the latter made reference to the fact that many systems in biology give the appearance of being designed. Behe seemed not to notice the word "appearance" and tried to give the impression that Dawkins supported the ID principle.

Many in the audience, not being fully conversant with the situation, could have been fooled by this ploy and similar others. He rambled on for at least and hour and a half before starting on a Q & A session. I'm afraid this achieved very little. Someone presented Behe with a scientific paper that refutes his flagellum theory but he simply rambled on for ages with a lot of technical jargon that few in the audience would understand.

The Man with Microphone then moved quickly on to other questions, most of which were easily countered. Because of the shortage of time for questions and the size of the audience, the Q & A session never developed into a vigorous dialogue which might have revealed what proportion of the audience were pro and anti Behe.

It is probably a reasonable assumption that the majority were 'churchy' people. The turnout indicates the amount of interest this topic has in the area. The meeting was introduced by Alastair Noble who is the director of the Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) in Glasgow and who will be its 'face' in the future. Although they maintain that they will not be targeting schools, it's obvious that their intention is to get their text-books into schools. Noble has said that he has been invited to speak in schools. It's all very depressing; we really need to think about what more we can do to oppose them."

Here is a long, and critical, report of Michael Behe's presentation at the Caledonian University - http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=1434


The IDers get shirty

Perhaps due to the efforts of the BCSE and others, the Discovery Institute's public relations puffery machine was cranked up during Behe's tour. Bill Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, appears to have been the chosen vehicle for the usual round of unsubstantiated Discovery Institute allegations, waffles and half truths. Uncommon Descent is one of the biggest sources of BS on the Internet.

Behe has his own Uncommon Descent blog which raises the question why Dembski's blog was used - presumably to try and distance the Discovery Institute from its own shabby public relations practices.

Well on 24th November, half way through Behe's tour, a long report appears on Dembski's blog claiming how well Behe had "trounced" the opposition (Creationists ALWAYS claim this) even though the events were not even remotely public debates where ID was discussed.

Remember, Behe had a minder to keep any critical questions under control.

Still. no one knows who wrote the report which can be found at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/glasgow-humanists-unable-to-mount-argument/. The alleged author goes under the nom de plume of Jonathan M; according to BCSE's research there is no IDer in the UK with a name even approximating to this. The entire posting is pure public relations drivel, slickly presented.

(We have now traced this person as Jonathan McLatchie a forensic science student from Helensburgh near Glasgow)

Irony of ironies - Behe believes in common descent!

Let's look at some of the gems of PR puffery there:

"Behe is a very gifted speaker, especially when it comes to conveying his scientific ideas and concepts to an audience without a scientific background."

Not at Leamington was he. He floundered and flustered. Not that the audience In Glasgow, was not that of scientists. It's easy to BS when no one knows what you are talking about and doesn't have the skills to see through what you're saying. Behe, of course, completely failed at the Dover trial when faced with a professional "audience" able to use legal procedure to scrutinise exactly what he said. He made a fool of himself there and was disowned by his own colleagues and university. So scared were his Discovery Institute pals, Stephen Meyer and Bill Dembski, that they cut and ran before making their presentations in the court room.

The phantom of the opera, Jonathan McLatchie, then claimed that the Glasgow Humanists attending the lecture handed out anti-ID literature which was "recycled, in large measure, material from the NCSE and from Wikipedia: hardly your most reliable sources of information when it comes to ID."

Wrong. As the BCSE was involved in writing the literature referred to, we can attest that neither NCSE nor Wikipedia were used as sources, except as (in the latter case) a link in the accompanying Questions leaflet to the actual text of the Dover trial. However, it is true that the same facts did crop up in the Humanist stuff as you will find in NCSE or Wikipedia. Or Nature, or Science. Or any actual biology text. Surprise, surprise.

Specifically the Scottish Humanists had their own well reasoned leaflet regarding Intelligent Design in general plus "10 + 1 questions for Prof Behe" written by a member of the BCSE and which can be downloaded from our web site at http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/p/bcse-downloadable-resources.html. Anyone is free to use them, the more the merrier.

In any event, Wikipedia is an open platform of considerably higher standing than the idiotic Conservapedia which supports Intelligent Design and whose owner, Andy Schlafly, is repeatedly quoted all over Fundies Say the Darndest Things (www.fstdt.com). If there are any errors about ID on Wikipedia, then can readily be corrected by the proponents of Intelligent Design. The National Center for Science Education, of course, was instrumental in ripping Behe's ID arguments to sheds in the Dover trial. If the NCSE had been wrong, Behe would not have lost spectacularly and made a fool of himself.

So what this slick piece of PR puffery is doing is standard stuff - use the first two paragraphs or so to crudely discredited the opposition (the Humanists, Wikipedia, the National Center for Science Education, the law courts) using a false name for the author and posting on a blog where there is no right to rely. Wiley b******s.

Then Jonathan McLatchie went out to detail Intelligent Design, But, wait a minute, this is the same phantom of the opera who has just claimed the Behe has done all this and outwitted Glasgow Humanists! So why the need to repeat Behe? He's just done that!

Seems that his claim that the Glasgow Humanists were outwitted is as bogus as his name.

But that's not the reason why the Disco Kids are rattled by the Glasgow Humanists. It's because the Humanists came up with some very disturbing claims about DI's "science", rightly claiming that its fellows have no track record at all in turning out peer reviewed "Intelligent Design" science. Jonathan McLatchie conjures up the standard Disco Kid list of alleged peer reviewed efforts of the IDers. Except the list f papers and books is about as bogus as they get. Books are simply not subject to proper peer review before they are published. The DI's list of peer reviewed papers and whatever is about as bogus as it gets. It is an exercise in naked public relations hype and puffery.

Jonathan Mclatchie then attacks Judge Jones and the unfairness and incompetence of the legal system, forgetting to mention that the Discovery Institute had been pushing for years to get Intelligent Design tested in the courts as non-religious. The only reason why the matter was in the courts in the first place is because the Discovery Institute wanted it there because they thought they could win. guess what? They haven't gone back to the courts ever since, not for an appeal, not for a new trial on "fairer" terms...

Anyone get the feeling that the Discovery Institute is a bunch of cowards? They pick a flight, lose and run away crying how beastly everyone is.

To quote Jonathan Mclatchie's BS public relations puffery - "Quite aside from the fact that Jones’ ruling at Dover was baseless and founded on erroneous facts, it is not the place of a district judge to make pronouncements on questions related to the philosophy of science..." But that's exactly what the Discovery Institute wanted him to do!

We seen this dishonesty yet again in Jonathan' Mclatchie's claim that Behe has support amongst scientists - he refers to the alleged list of "Darwin doubters" on the Discovery Institute's web site - see http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/. There is absolutely nothing behind this list to show that the people on it support Behe's Intelligent Design. The BCSE has long thoroughly trashed it - see Intelligent Design Advocates. The "list" is a pile of poo.

Just a reminder, if there are scientists in the key area of evolutionary biology who back Behe, why wasn't he presenting to them in his tour of the UK - or even presenting to science departments? As far as the BCSE is aware, there are no practising scientists in the UK in evolutionary biology who accept irreducible complexity, Behe's core idea.

But, to a public relations puffery artist, it's easy to use to convince the gullible with a long list. Some may remember the redneck claims of a list of paedophiles living in the Paulsgrove Estate in Portsmouth. Same basic game. Lists impress some people.

But let's go back a moment to the phantom of the opera's claim about the Glasgow Humanists being trounced. His entire article only deals with four points raised by the Humanists; all the others are ignored. Talk about a selective response! But that's how PR puffery works.

Still, by now the reader might be getting the feeling that the phantom of the opera, Jonathan Mclatchie, is not quite what or who he seems to be. An Brit, talking about the US legal system using American terminology and grammar and then casually switching to "science" still using legal terms. Now I wonder who has both a legal and a science background?

Perhaps The Discovery Institute's head of Public Relations puffery, one Casey Luskin, can help on this as he has both. Ask him how much the Discovery Institute spends a year on PR puffery.

Of course, this is not the first time that the Uncommon Descent blog has been used to crudely try to discredit opposition to Intelligent Design in the UK. It was used to attack the BCSE when we drew public attention to Truth in Science in 2006/2007. (Truth in Science launched using Intelligent Design material, Unlocking the Mystery of Life, from an associated organisation, Illustra Media, of the Discovery Institute. If it had not been for the BCSE very few would have realised that Truth in Science was run entirely by fundamentalist young earth creationists.)

Plus ca change. The toad who appears to have largely been responsible, then trainee Pastor David Anderson, ran away afterwards.

The difference between the Discovery Institute and its pals and the BCSE is that with the BCSE you can join our public forum and disagree with us (and correct us). Not so with Uncommon Descent and the blogs of its pals such as young earth creationist Pastor David Anderson. Sycophants only need apply there. These are not pleasant people at all. Few are capable of understanding that they are not exempt from the ninth commandment (presumably because they are ideologues).

(One of the people who helped write this report is so frightened of Pastor David Anderson that she has asked not to be named in it. It is not surprising - Anderson has bragged that he was thinking of having the heads of live animals hacked off in front of his three toddler children so they don't think animals are as described by Beatrice Potter. He's an Internet stalker.)

(Behe's presentation at Westminster Chapel (a fundamentalist and creationist church in central London) is also plugged by a Christian fundamentalist (and his pals) on Uncommon Descent at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/uk-christians-embrace-id/ - the blog of the very same Bill Dembski who planned to be an expert witness at the Dover trial where the IDers claimed Intelligent design and nothing to do with religion, no siree Bob. Or were they just lying under oath? The very same Bill Dembski, btw, who bragged before the Dover trial about "destroying Darwinism in the witness stand" and then ran away without ever saying a word.)

(On 27th November 2010 another posting by Jonathan Mclatchie appeared on the Uncommon Descent website at http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/intelligent-design-pseudoscience-or-a-credible-challenge-to-evolution/ This time it was plugging the debate between Behe and Michael Reiss.)


Summary

Nothing new at all. Behe is basically repeating his expert witness testimony from the Dover trial, where he spectacularly discredited himself. To cover his back, he blames the judge (and just about everyone else) for losing. As we say with ideologues, they think their ideology never lets people down; it is people who let the ideology down.

In Behe and his minder it is difficult not to be reminded of Arthur Daley and Terry McCann and their dodgy wares and practices.

Would you buy a used car, with only one previous lady owner, from Messrs Behe and his minder? You'd probably find it's an insurance write off with the clock wound back, a nylon shirt stuffed in the gear box, severe rust, a nasty wobble in the king pins and an exceedingly dubious looking MOT certificate.

When the issue of the Centre for Intelligent Design came up in September 2010, we at the BCSE concluded that somewhere behind its launch there would be a lawyer pulling strings to discredited opposition to it. We continue to hold that view. Watch out over coming months.


Further Reading and References

Our wiki has a separate 2006 analysis of Michael Behe's position, written by BCSE member Tim Chase. Just click on Michael Behe here to reach it.

The National Center for Science Education has a 2000 online report, Of Mousetraps and Men, analysing Behe's position on biochemistry. It is at http://ncse.com/rncse/20/1-2/mousetraps-men-behe-biochemistry Ken Miller reviewed Darwin's Black Box way back in the 1990s and the review is also on the web site of the NCSE at http://ncseprojects.org/cej/16/review-michael-behes-darwins-black-box

Miller is one of the fiercest of many critics of Michael Behe and was a formidable adversary against Behe at the Dover trial (Miller publicly destroyed Behe there). Miller's 2008 book Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul is the outcome of his effort at Dover. The title, though, is indicative that the real issue is America's culture wars.

Robert Pennock's 2009 report Creation of Christian Soldiers a Chilling Sidelight of Darwin Bashing hints at the underlying willingness of some creationists ad Intelligent Designers to resort to violence to impose they pseudo-science on society. It is at http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/room-for-debate/2009/2/18/creation-of-christian-soldiers-a-chilling-sidelight-of-darwin-bashing.html. The finger is pointed at Bill Dembski and Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute.

The American writer and Christian, Chris Hedges, is much more blunt that Pennock, taking the view that Americas' conservative evangelicals and creationists are basically deeply reactionary fascists (Christopher Hitchens has an interesting line on this, arguing that the Nazis in Germany were the product deeply conservative Christianity). Amongst Hedges better articles is the 2007 Creation Science is the Christian Right's Trojan Horse Against Reason, to be found at http://www.alternet.org/rights/49811/ Hedges is dead right in one sense; fundamentalism and creationism are political movements which is why everyone should be so concerned about C4ID and, in particular, Alastair Noble and his activities at CARE.

Just to scare you, try reading Hedges 2007 book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America published by Simon & Schuster. It is one of the most deeply disturbing books I have read in years. The key is to understand Dominionism - see http://web.archive.org/web/20070311031441/http://www.harpers.org/FeelingTheHate.html

There is a nice summary of an interview Behe gave to National Public Radio in the USA which can be found on the web site of the National Center for Science Education at http://ncse.com/rncse/22/1-2/michael-behe-intelligent-design-national-public-radio It shows that many of Behe's points give during his 2010 UK tour are exactly the same as he gave back in 2002.

Talk Origins has a long section debunking Irreducible Complexity. It is at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html

There is a Behe PowerPoint presentation on the web site of Premier Radio; it was used during his tour of the UK but appears to be somewhat out of order - see http://www.premier.org.uk/~/media/87809B06C34444DDB31D8B016F711D4A.ashx

During November 2010 Bill Dembski debated with Christopher Hitchens over te existance of God. Whilst this is an off-topic subject to the BCSE, it gives an insight into Bill Dembski. The programme of the debate can be found at http://www.pcawebcast.com/2010debate/ and http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=D1B974AFCBF41420&ref=nf Hitchens gave Dembski a right hammering, as he did Tony Blair just over a week later in Canada. See here and here for commentary and comments on the debate with Dembski.

BCSE member the Rev Michael Roberts (a geologist by training) has long been fighting creationism and has produced some very interesting papers: In 1999, for example, he criticised Michael Behe in Design Up to Scratch? A Comparison of Design in Buckland (1832) and Behe. It can be read at http://api.ning.com/files/WTG3WDw-Oatgi72tGvm9FWrWHd3VDeWyyZAjvn-eZftEt9A9FpCgmtFLlxrwWujw2RE*YPVe7N4Q7o8sZfdhCSRR-S-hyVk4/DesignUptoScratch.htm.

Darwin's Doubts About Design, also from Michael, can be found at http://api.ning.com/files/IwsczPDhr0zcKfR3NMTC7kcYSwFB7XbdRjN*y-dItPNvoEtLbkyu*7KjCH7eKAF-qkMzc2ptRQWnIAc-5sKmGvqdU2VC3qUW/robertsdarwindoubtdesign.pdf

November 2010 also saw Intelligent Design advocate John Lennox in Scotland promoting his own book attacking Stephen Hawking. See http://www.thecourier.co.uk/News/Dundee/article/7847/christians-converge-in-dundee-ahead-of-professor-john-lennox-talk.html. It is not clear whether this was entirely coincidental.


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