Misusing Protistan Examples to Propagate Myths About Intelligent Design

The Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology recently published several papers from a workshop sponsored by the International Society of Protistologists titled “Horizontal Gene Transfer and Phylogenetic Evolution Debunk Intelligent Design.” So here we have a respected scientific society, presumably planning a workshop months in advance, and finally laying out their considered case for why intelligent design fails. As you might imagine, I was most anxious to read about it. Unfortunately, rather than scholarly papers, the manuscripts read like press releases from the National Center for (Darwinian) Science Education. So the introductory essay1 by Avelina Espinosa tells us that ID has “creationist beginnings,” claims that I say “evolution” is “impossible,” and places in my mouth the phrase “design creationism” (I have never Read More ›

God, Design, and Contingency in Nature

I recently received an email asking if the correspondent correctly understood my views about intelligent design and God. Since I sometimes get similar questions, I’m posting this correspondence for anyone who is interested. Q: I understand your current position to be that design is detectable in nature, and that design detection is not merely a theological gloss upon the scientific facts, but is actually an activity appropriate for science. I further understand you to be saying that design detection in itself is neutral regarding the way that the design found its way into nature. Thus, if the bacterial flagellum is designed, it *could* be that God took a regular bacterium and miraculously “tweaked” it, or it *could* be that God Read More ›

Probability and Controversy: Response to Carl Zimmer and Joseph Thornton

The science writer Carl Zimmer posted an invited reply on his blog from Joseph Thornton of the University of Oregon to my recent comments about Thornton’s work. This is the last of four posts addressing it. References appear at the bottom of this post. At the end of his post Thornton waxes wroth. Behe’s argument has no scientific merit. It is based on a misunderstanding of the fundamental processes of molecular evolution and a failure to appreciate the nature of probability itself. There is no scientific controversy about whether natural processes can drive the evolution of complex proteins. The work of my research group should not be misintepreted by those who would like to pretend that there is. Well, now. Read More ›

Severe Limits to Darwinian Evolution: Response to Carl Zimmer and Joseph Thornton

The science writer Carl Zimmer posted an invited reply on his blog from Joseph Thornton of the University of Oregon to my recent comments about Thornton’s work. This is the third of several posts addressing it. References will appear in the last post. Now back to Thornton’s first point, the role of neutral mutations (which he sometimes labels “permissive” mutations). At several places in his post Thornton implies I’m unaware of the possibilities opened up by genetic drift: Behe’s discussion of our 2009 paper in Nature is a gross misreading because it ignores the importance of neutral pathways in protein evolution…. Behe’s first error is to ignore the fact that adaptive combinations of mutations can and do evolve by pathways Read More ›

Not So Many Pathways: Response to Carl Zimmer and Joseph Thornton

The science writer Carl Zimmer posted an invited reply on his blog from Joseph Thornton of the University of Oregon to my recent comments about Thornton’s work. This is the second of several posts addressing it. References will appear in the last post. Now to Professor Thornton’s reply. He writes at length but makes just two substantive points: 1) that neutral mutations occur and can serendipitously help a protein evolve some function (“[Behe] ignores the key role of genetic drift in evolution”); and 2) that just because a protein may not be able to evolve a particular function one way does not mean that it, or some other kind of protein, can’t evolve the function another way (“nothing in our Read More ›