Behe pwned again

You’ve probably already seen a few reviews of Michael Behe ‘s new book, The Edge of Evolution. I’ve barely cracked open my review copy yet, but I already know that one example that features prominently throughout the book is malaria (hence my interest in it, moreso than any more “irreducible complexity” or bad math). However, Nick’s already managed to take away some of my interest even in the malaria angle, dang him. More below…


One of Behe’s arguments, much like in Darwin’s Black Box, centers on “irreducible complexity” in the construction of cellular flagella (and adds eukaryotic cilia into the mix this time ’round). His argument is, essentially, that there are a host of proteins that must function together for cilia formation–and it’s not just the proteins that make up the cilium itself, but also the proteins that transport the building blocks responsible for its formation (“IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY SQUARED!”, as Behe calls it). The complex that transports these cilia building blocks–the intraflagellar transport (IFT) system, Behe claims:

…exponetially increases the difficulty of explaining the irreducibly complex cilium. It is clear from careful experimental work with all ciliated cells that have been examined, from alga to mice, that a functioning cilium requires a working IFT.

So, no working IFT, no functional cilia, right? However, Nick brings up a paper (hand-waved away by Behe) which found that one species of organism lacked genes for the IFT, but produced cilia anyway. Back to Nick:

Oh, I almost forgot the best part: Which apicomplexan critter is it that builds cilia despite Behe’s declaration that “a functioning cilium requires a working IFT”? Why, it’s Plasmodium falciparum, aka malaria, aka Behe’s own biggest running example used throughout The Edge of Evolution. Yes, it’s the very critter about which Behe wrote on page 237,

“Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts.”

But not, apparently, the parts which Behe thought were required for cilium construction. If there is an Intelligent Designer up there, I suspect He’s having a bit of a chuckle right now.

Classic.

Image from http://www.writersreps.com/images/books/behe.jpg

23 Replies to “Behe pwned again”

  1. Wow. He wrote a book to PROVE that he’s pwned! What a guy. Maybe he’ll win the Ostrich Award, for the least aware writer of the year?

  2. So, as per Behe, malaria is designed? The Intelligent Designer intended for malaria to kill all those people with long, lingering deaths? The Intelligent Designer intended for sickle cell anemia to develop in response to the malaria?

    That ID is one sick puppy.

  3. Ahcuah, good point. The creationists will say that malaria only went bad after the fall, which means one of two things…

    1. God had no foresight that malaria was going to go so wrong. Omniscience is only fun if you can be surprised.

    2. God knew that malaria was going to be a major problem, and designed it regardless of the suffering it would cause. For fun, he tosses in sickle cell anemia. Some people might get some resistance to malaria by based on their parent’s genotype, and a smaller number end up with full blown sickle cell anemia, a painful end unto itself. Genetic lottery is fun! (God did it is so much easier to explain than evolution via natural selection, eh)

    To quote Epicurus

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

  4. ::cackling:: I still may get a copy of it, or, more likely, check one out at the library rather than giving him my hard-earned cash. But the solid wall of destruction hurtling Behe’s way is great fun already! (Not that he’d notice).

  5. Ahcuah,

    So, as per Behe, malaria is designed? The Intelligent Designer intended for malaria to kill all those people with long, lingering deaths? The Intelligent Designer intended for sickle cell anemia to develop in response to the malaria?

    That ID is one sick puppy.

    Yep, hence my interest in the book (even when reading yet another ID screed is right up there on my “to do” list next to pull every body hair out one-by-one). But since he’s already gone to the trouble of refuting himself, meh, I’m less interested. But certainly this shows why so many Christians see ID not only as terrible science but also terrible theology.

  6. One of the strongest arguments against multi-cellular organisms being “irreducibly complex”, is that as adults they all require multiple cells in multi-cellular organs. Some, (such as the heart) cannot function with a number of cells below a minumum. Maybe you could have a single-celled liver, you can’t have a single-celled heart.

    Since all multi-cellular orgnanisms start out as a single cell (which is not a heart cell), how does the heart go from 0 cells, to millions of cells, if a single celled heart is non-functional?

    If a heart is irreducibly complex, then it cannot exist in a simpler form. An irrreducibly complex heart must “poof” into existance at the minimum number of cells necessary to support its irreducible complexity.

    That should be pretty obvious in the the development of all organisms that have hearts. Any irrreducibly complex feature must “poof” into existance at the minimum level of complexity necessary to support its irreducible complexity. If it can exist in any way, shape, or form before then, then that state is not “irreducibly complex”.

  7. Yes, Behe is self-pwned by this book. That’s the problem when using concrete well known examples while “lying for Jesus”. Excellent use of the term, Tara.

    By the way, “pwned” is a mispelling of “owned”. In certain video games, when you completely vanquish a foe, the word “OWNED!” would appear praising your victory, One game had a mispelling due to the fact that the “p” is right next to the “o” on the keyboard. The rest is history. The word “pwned” became a gamers and hackers codeword for getting the better of someone.

    Since Behe and the DI are merely playing a PR game, I think it is appropriate to cite any uber pwnage that occurs against the guy.

  8. He wrote a book to PROVE that he’s pwned! What a guy. Maybe he’ll win the Ostrich Award, for the least aware writer of the year?

    Or we could instate a “Darwin Intelligence Award”, for those which arguments eliminate themselves for the betterment of the rest.

    one that’s unlikely to turn up in any of the Nature or Science reviews, so why not here…

    But it is possible to smuggle it into a paper, for laughs.

    Perhaps not a LOLpaper though: “ID AM PWNED. EVILUSHUN RULZ LIF!”

  9. Something seems fishy (well, fishier than before) with Behe’s numbers on chloroquine resistance. See PZ’s addendum and the comments below by Saurabh, Steve Reuland, Dave, Raven and myself. It looks almost like Behe took the probability of seeing a clinical case of chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum and used that as the probability that the PfCRT gene can mutate — but this is really far outside my field, and I’m not sure quite what all the jargon means.

  10. In the gaming community ‘pwned’ does not just mean ‘defeated’, it also carries a notion of severity. You might win or lose a game, but getting pwned in one implies a total, crushing, painful, perhaps even embarrassing defeat.

    With that in mind it seems a very appropriate choice of words to describe what Nick’s article does to Behe’s (residual?) credibility. As a gamer, it made me smile even before I read Tara’s post.

  11. “Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed.”

    Here’s something to ponder long and hard: why in God’s name would an all loving/knowing Designer think up something as nasty as the Big “M?” To punish little Beningue for taking more than his daily share of rice? I’ll put Plasmodium right up there with Onchocerca on my list of intelligently designed parasites/plagues that the world could definitely do without.

  12. That is a blatantly false assertion. It is BEHE’s responsibility to show there IS an edge, if he is the one positively asserting that there is. And, he has utterly failed to do so. End of story.

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