Recently, I discussed how in his book Only a Theory, Kenneth Miller badly misrepresented intelligent design (ID) as it relates to common descent. Another egregious error in the book comes in Dr. Miller’s section titled “Just Not Good Enough” (pgs. 70-74). Anyone familiar with the Dover trial knows exactly what Miller’s error is and where this is going.
Dr. Miller claims that when the plaintiffs’ attorneys at the Dover trial did a literature-dump bluff on Michael Behe during cross-examination — placing before him over 50 papers and nearly a dozen books purportedly explaining the evolution of the immune system — Behe said, in Judge Jones’s report of the exchange, that they were “not ‘good enough.'” Miller even goes so far as to characterize Behe’s response as follows: “Even when presented with every opportunity to make their case, the defenders of design resorted to little more than saying ‘It’s not good enough or me’ in the face of overwhelming evidence for evolution.” (pg. 74)
And now, the rest of the story.
If by “evolution,” Miller means common descent, then Behe fully conceded that the articles in the literature-dump bluff reflected evidence for common descent. The vast majority of the papers entailed mere comparisons of DNA sequence in the genes that build our immune system to genes in other organisms, claiming that genetic similarities demonstrated their common origin. But as Behe has reminded us in both of his books:
Darwin’s Black Box: “Although useful for determining lines of descent …comparing sequences cannot show how a complex biochemical system achieved its function — the question that most concerns us in this book. By way of analogy, the instruction manuals for two different models of computer put out by the same company might have many identical words, sentences, and even paragraphs, suggesting a common ancestry (perhaps the same author wrote both manuals), but comparing the sequences of letters in the instruction manuals will never tell us if a computer can be produced step-by-step starting from a typewriter….Like the sequence analysts, I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent. But the root question remains unanswered: What has caused complex systems to form?” (Darwin’s Black Box, pgs. 175-176)
The Edge of Evolution: “[M]odern Darwinists point to evidence of common descent and erroneously assume it to be evidence of the power of random mutation.” (Edge of Evolution, pg. 95)
If by “evolution” Miller meant neo-Darwinian evolution, where random mutation and natural selection are the driving force generating complexity in an adaptive, step-by-step fashion, then Behe is on quite firm ground in doubting Miller’s assertion of “overwhelming” evidence. Behe knew this, and thus made the following comments in his cross examination testimony about the immune system:
“In many of [the papers] they’re not actually discussing mutation. They’re discussing similarities and sequences between parts of the immune system in vertebrates and some elements of transposons.”
In another exchange Behe was asked “Now, these articles rebut your assertion that scientific literature has no answers on the origin of the vertebrate immune system?” and he replied:
A. No, they certainly do not. My answer, or my argument is that the literature has no detailed rigorous explanations for how complex biochemical systems could arise by a random mutation and natural selection and these articles do not address that.
Q. So these are not good enough?
A. They’re wonderful articles. They’re very interesting. They simply just don’t address the question that I pose.”
Again Behe said:
Q. Is that your position today that these articles aren’t good enough, you need to see a step-by-step description?
A. These articles are excellent articles I assume. However, they do not address the question that I am posing. So it’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.
Later Behe again emphasized this point:
A. Most of them have evolution or related words in the title, so I can confirm that, but what I strongly doubt is that any of these address the question in a rigorous detailed fashion of how the immune system or irreducibly complex components of it could have arisen by random mutation and natural selection.
Does Behe say, as Miller characterizes it, “It’s not good enough for me,” or in Judge Jones’s words, the papers are “not ‘good enough'”? Not at all, because Behe actually says:
“These articles are excellent articles I assume. However, they do not address the question that I am posing. So it’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.” (emphasis added)
In other words, Behe said precisely the opposite of what Judge Jones said he said. Of course Miller copied the error from Judge Jones, who copied the error from the ACLU’s “Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law” brief. So here’s an instance where we actually do have an “overwhelming” case for common ancestry:
Table 1. Evidence for Descent with Modification of the Mischaracterization of Michael Behe’s views on the Evolution of the Immune System.
|Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller ruling||Kitzmiller Plaintiffs’ Proposed “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law”||Ken Miller’s Characterization of Behe in Only a Theory||Behe’s Actual Words at Trial|
|He [Behe] was presented with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was not “good enough.”||He [Behe] was confronted with the fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine books and several immunology text-book chapters about the evolution of the immune system, P256, 280, 281, 283, 747, 748, 755 and 743, and he insisted that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution — it was “not good enough.||“Even when presented with every opportunity to make their case, the defenders of design retorted to little more than saying ‘It’s not good enough or me’ in the face of overwhelming evidence for evolution.”||“These articles are excellent articles I assume. However, they do not address the question that I am posing. So it’s not that they aren’t good enough. It’s simply that they are addressed to a different subject.”|
Perhaps in this rare case alone, the evidence for evolution actually is “overwhelming.”
This was not the only instance in Miller’s book where he misrepresents Behe’s arguments regarding irreducible complexity. So, sometime soon, I’ll explain how in Only a Theory Miller also badly misrepresents Michael Behe on the irreducible complexity of the blood clotting system.