Author: Jerry Bergman
Subject: Apologetics
Date: 10/1/2005

I now rarely involve myself in internet discussion rooms with Darwinists (many of whom are, in Stephen J. Gould’s terms, “Darwin Fundamentalists”) because, in the vast majority of cases, they end up viscously attacking, or at the least making fun of, all Darwin critics (and, not uncommonly, all theists).  Feedback from critics is enormously important and is a key to how science functions (called peer review), but I have found critics present very little helpful information on these chat rooms or web sites—although occasionally very useful criticism is provided.  Much more common are cute putdowns and a flow of hateful derogatory sarcasm (note the comments about Darwin skeptic “Charlie Wagner,” below).
A typical example is the responses to “The Revenge of Calvin and Hobbes” posted by Andrea Bottaro, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, on May 30, 2005.  Almost every comment in response to his post was namecalling (the most derogatory comments in the excerpts reprinted below are in bold).  Professor Bottaro claimed that “A recent paper in the journal PLoS Biology is the latest turn in the death spiral of irreducible complexity of the immune system, and I think provides a good opportunity to take a look at how science works, as opposed to ID navel-gazing.”

The article shows that two enzymes, RAG1 and RAG2, used in the immune system are evidently used in another system, namely transposition. The theory is that RAGs/RSSs were the remnants of some sort of transposon system that integrated itself into a non-rearranging immune receptor, and became “enslaved” to it, causing the integrated portion to “pop out” whenever the gene became active, and, in so doing, generated useful diversity for immune target recognition.  This is, at best, circumstantial evidence for Darwinism.  It is not proof at any level.

He then proceeded to explain how this paper could disprove the claim that the immune system is irreducibly complex.  I will not deal with his post here except to say his example does no such thing.  Even if his example were correct, the behavior of Darwinists is unprofessional and typifies the almost universal response to Darwin Doubters, namely name calling.  For example, the following statement by Bottaro indicates that he has little firsthand knowledge about ID.

“Those of you who are used to the ID approach on science, i.e. giving up on it, can probably already see where the problem lies: this is a complex system of functionally inter-related components that, looked at superficially, simply cannot work in isolation.”

As far as I can determine, all of the posters were Darwinists except Charlie Wagner (who was mocked throughout the posts).  I used bold type for some of the almost continuous examples of mocking in this thread. Most of the responses to the article (our concern here) are cut and pasted below. Note the constant put-downs such as calling Dr. Behe “Mr. Behe,” or using mocking quotes around Doctor, such as: “Dr.” Behe, or calling Jonathan Wells “Johnny” (a child’s name).

Posted by Charlie Wagner on May 30, 2005 10:20 AM

 

I’m reading.  I’m absorbing.  I’m thinking.  This could take some time….

 

Comment #32779

Posted by Ben on May 30, 2005 10:26 AM

 

For those of you keeping score, it’s evolution 12, ID q.

 

Comment #32782

Posted by hiero5ant on May 30, 2005 10:51 AM

 

“But… but… it looks designed!”

 

Why do you people hate Christ so much?

 

Comment #32783

Posted by Bill on May 30, 2005 10:54 AM

 

“Those of you who are used to the ID approach on science, i.e. giving up on it…”  Brilliant!

 

Comment #32784

Posted by steve on May 30, 2005 11:15 AM

“I’m reading.  I’m absorbing.  I’m thinking.  This could take some time….”

 

Why don’t you take it to the Bathroom Wall [Charlie]. You aren’t going to say anything relevant to this post anyway. It’s going to be “Blah blah blah Nelson’s Law blah blah random chance accidental fortuitous occurrences can’t make an immune system blah blah…”

Comment #32787

Posted by Burt Humburg on May 30, 2005 11:35 AM

Great writeup.

My favorite example of Behe citing a failure of science as evidence of design, only to be refuted later, is whales. It’s something just about anyone can wrap their brain around: Behe strongly suggested that the absence of whale transitional fossils was evidence of design, but the year after he co-wrote that chapter of the book, three transitional forms were published.

Comment #32789

Posted by Descent & Dissent on May 30, 2005 11:37 AM

It’s good to get Calvin and Hobbes signed up for the cause. It’s far funnier than that YEC cartoon B.C.

Comment #32802

Posted by nidaros on May 30, 2005 01:23 PM

When (if?) Behe addresses some of these issues, one could predict it will be just like another Calvin & Hobbes feature, “Calvin Ball.”  This was a game that appeared in the strip where the rules of the game were arbitrarily adjusted to favor Calvin should he become disadvantaged.  So not to worry! If the old ideas get straightened out, he can just bend some new ones.  This is one of the great advantages of publishing in books where inconvenient delays from peer reviewers don’t happen.

Comment #32812

Posted by Harq al-Ada on May 30, 2005 03:04 PM

Yeah.  Ben’s “Q to 12” joke came from a C&H Calvinball strip.  To be more realistic, we should say something like Evolution 12,312,321; Creationism (including ID) -463 (for the harm to knowledge and critical thought they have induced within the public.)

Comment #32820

Posted by freelunch on May 30, 2005 03:59 PM

The one thing ID Creationists have discovered is the rules of Calvinball. They are very good at changing the rules, though even with whatever new rules they promulgate, they still only seem to score own-goals.

Comment #32828

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on May 30, 2005 06:31 PM (e) (s)

“I’m thinking.”

Nobody cares what you think, Charlie.  Please shut up and go away.

Comment #32829

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on May 30, 2005 06:48 PM

I think the above statement itself is proof of non-design.  Because, if identifying “self” is indeed a finite, small problem, then the easy design is to do “if self do nothing otherwise take some action.”  That is, e.g., why we issue identity cards….

Comment #32832

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on May 30, 2005 08:08 PM

Joseph:

yes, I read Behe’s book in ‘97 (or perhaps ‘98, now I can’t remember), and already the immune system chapter was a total farce.  I had no idea what ID was then. I remember distinctly reading through the first few chapters, especially the flagellum’s, and thinking “maybe the guy has a point”.  Then I reached the immune system description, and I thought “wait a minute – if he can write such b.s. about the immune system, what did he get wrong on the rest?”  So I did some more digging, and here I am.  The immune system and the complement and clotting cascades  were a poor choice on his part, because their origin is relatively recent, and we have a good chance of finding precursors at various stages in living organisms.  Notice that ID advocates rarely if ever talk about these systems any more.

Comment #32841

Posted by Cubist on May 30, 2005 09:30 PM

Charlie Wagner wrote:  “I’m thinking.  This could take some time…”

Given the level of comprehension you typically display, Charlie, I’d say that your last sentence is truer than you realize…

Comment #32852

Posted by Roadtripper on May 31, 2005 01:45 AM

I haven’t read “DBB” and apparently it was time better spent on other books anyway.  I’m just wondering—is there even a single one of Behe’s ‘examples of irreducible complexity’ introduced in his book which is still standing today, or have they all been de-bunked?  So far I’ve heard about immune responses, clotting mechanisms,  bacterial flagellums (er, flagelli?) and for some reason, mousetraps, all of which turned out to be not-quite-IC after all.  So what’s left, if anything?

Comment #32946

Posted by Russell on May 31, 2005 04:44 PM

I wonder if Behe is going to pretend this delightful article by Dr. Bottaro doesn’t exist. Panda’s Thumb has enough visibility I don’t believe for a moment it has not been brought to his attention.

Comment #32949

Posted by Steve U. on May 31, 2005 06:06 PM (e) (s)

Sorry, Mims.  Behe is a fork-tongued idiot.

How idiotic is Behe’s “demand” (which will surely be ignored by biologists, just as the demands of many other cranks and pseudoscience peddlers are rightfully ignored every single day)? 

Behe is like the Sasquatch apologist who says “I’ll believe that there is no such thing as Sasquatch when every square meter of United States wilderness is monitored simultaneously in real time such that no living thing is unaccounted for at ever given moment.  And even when that is done and (hypothetically) if Sasquatch remains unrevealed, that doesn’t mean that Sasquatch doesn’t exist now or never existed.” 

Or Behe is like the psychic apologist who claims that the controls necessary to document the experiment “interfere” with the “properties” of the “ether” necessary to effect the “results” that are obtained under non-experimental circumstances. …The conclusion that Behe is a disgraceful hack is incontrovertible.

But I wonder why the loud-talkin’ “Dr.” Behe refuses to defend himself here?  Instead, our cowardly friend posts his treacle on a Christian website which pretends to be about “science”!!!  Laugh it up, “Dr.” Behe.  Anytime you want to step up to the plate and answer a few straightforward questions about the grease you smear on genuine scientists, we’re waiting for you.

We might ask “Dr.” Behe: who made you the arbiter of what constitutes “required evidence”?  What qualifies “Dr.” Behe or any of the other self-proclaimed “scientists” at the Discovery Institute to declare when evidence is or is not “convincing”?

The facts speak for themselves.  Everyone who understands the facts and speaks honestly about those facts knows that Behe is a pathetic quack whose opinion about what is “convincing” is meaningless.  That includes the vast majority of scientists in Behe’s alleged “area of expertise” and a whole lot of other people who recognize a fork-tongued preacher when they see one.

> Michael Behe

> William Dembski

> Guillermo Gonzalez

> Steve Meyer

> Paul Nelson

> Jay Richards

> Jonathan Wells

> Jonathan Witt

… Um, “Dr.” Behe, perhaps you could tell us in detail how one would test your ancient and worthless claim that the “blood clotting cascade” is “irreducibly complex”?  Or must we all wait for your mysterious alien beings to reappear and do something else that you find “fantastic”?

Please “Dr.” Behe, stop hiding in the Discovery Institute closet.  It’s so crowded in there, especially with Johnny Wells smelling so badly of rotten newspaper.

Comment #32951

Posted by Alan Gourant on May 31, 2005 06:08 PM

Since reportedly Behe has repeated in his allegedly “compelling” response the discredited canard about his “successful muzzling” of Russell Doolittle, what credibility can that “compelling” response have? He should have responded to Ian Musgrave’s essay where his distortion of his encounter with Doolittle was documented, as well as to many other essays showing the fallacies in his position to which he never responded. I believe Forrest Mims is an ID advocate (or at least a sympathizer) rather than an unbiased observer, hence his characterization of Behe’s response as “compelling.” The guys seem to be watching PT though. Good for them.

Comment #32953

Posted by Russell on May 31, 2005 06:15 PM (e) (s)

Mims wrote: “Dr. Behe has posted a compelling response…”

Compelling indeed.

I, for instance, am compelled to conclude that Behe is basically conceding that he’s not interested in serious discussion. I submit that asking for not just a “mutation by mutation account”

but also a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more

[emphasis mine]

Oh, well. Is that all? (Well of course it’s not, since that “and much more” can always be expanded as the need arises to fend off any challenges to Behe’s default to Goddidit.

It seems we’ve considerably upped the ante since DBB – as I read it – posed the challenge that evolution of these supposedly “irreducibly complex” systems was – in principle impossible.

But Behe’s “compelling response” seems to sidestep the seemingly important point in Dr. Bottaro’s post that there is no reason to accept that the immune system IS “irreducibly complex”.

Comment #32954

Posted by Steve U. on May 31, 2005 06:16 PM

(Reposted to correct a formatting problem and insert a few more lines of sarcasm)

Sorry, Mims:  Behe is a fork-tongued idiot.

Let’s ignore for a moment the undeniable fact that molecular biologists and evolutionary biologists have been compiling data relevant to Behe’s “demand” long before Behe’s “demand” was ever articulated.  And those biologists will continue to compile evidence long after Behe and his Cohorts in Crank are forgotten (how many scientists can name a “famous creationist apologist” today?)  And in the meantime Behe and his Cohorts in Crank will contribute absolutely zilcho meaningful discoveries relevant to the evolution of blood clotting.

Yes, let’s just put that trivial information aside to address another issue: just how idiotic is Behe’s “demand” (which will surely be ignored by biologists, just as the demands of many other cranks and pseudoscience peddlers are rightfully ignored every single day)? … The conclusion that Behe is a disgraceful hack is incontrovertible.

But I wonder why the loud-talkin’ “Dr.” Behe refuses to defend himself here?  Instead, our cowardly friend posts his treacle on a Christian website which pretends to be about “science”!!!  Laugh it up, “Dr.” Behe.  Anytime you want to step up to the plate and answer a few straightforward questions about the grease you smear on genuine scientists, we’re waiting for you.

Professors Orr and Bottaro seem to think that because Darwinists’ fantastic claims are very difficult to support in a convincing fashion, then they should just be given a pass, and that everyone should agree with them without the required evidence.

No honest person who has paid any attention at all to this debate could ever make such a disgusting claim about Professors Orr or Bottaro.

We might ask “Dr.” Behe: who made you the arbiter of what constitutes “required evidence”?  What qualifies “Dr.” Behe or any of the other self-proclaimed “scientists” at the Discovery Institute to declare when evidence is or is not “convincing”?

The facts speak for themselves.  Everyone who understands the facts and speaks honestly about those facts knows that Behe is a pathetic quack whose opinion about what is “convincing” is meaningless.  That includes the vast majority of scientists in Behe’s alleged “area of expertise” and a whole lot of other people who recognize a fork-tongued preacher when they see one.

… Um, “Dr.” Behe, perhaps you could tell us in detail how one would test your ancient and worthless claim that the “blood clotting cascade” is “irreducibly complex”?  Or must we all wait for your mysterious alien beings to reappear and do something else that you find “fantastic”?

Please “Dr.” Behe, stop hiding in the Discovery Institute closet.  It’s so crowded in there, especially with Johnny Wells smelling so badly of rotten newspaper.

Comment #32957

Posted by steve on May 31, 2005 06:19 PM

I haven’t read “DBB” and apparently it was time better spent on other books anyway…. With so much great stuff to read, I just can’t justify reading debunked pseudoscience.

Comment #32961

Posted by Steve U. on May 31, 2005 06:40 PM

Sir T

didn’t we already have the discussion about this obvious tactic?  All Behe is doing is the “reversal” tactic where he accuses everyone who disagrees with his stance of the very thing that he himself is most aptly accused of doing.

Indeed.  And all of the swill in Behe’s post boils down that single sentence you quoted.

It’s a classic example of the Big Lie.  Just break it down:

“Professors Orr and Bottaro seem to think that … they should just be given a pass”

How so?  How is honestly relying on the laborious work of thousands upon thousands of scientists, whose efforts are documented in reams of journal articles, asking for a “pass”?

Professors Orr and Bottaro seem to think … that everyone should agree with them without the required evidence.

This claim is simply bizarre.  Behe can believe whatever he wants.  …

Like many other extremists and cranks, however (including those who pay him and his fellow shills to play the role of mouthpiece) Behe labors under the delusion that his opinions deserve to be taken seriously!

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.  Clowns and hapless imbeciles will always provide their audiences with a good laugh.  Behe’s clowning, in addition, has the unfortunate attribute of acting as a screen for a disturbing fundamentalist extremist agenda.

Hence, Behe’s half-baked propaganda is rightfully treated with a combination of disbelief, laughter, and scorn by the “educated, intelligent” members of society.

One hardly needs the intellect of Professor Dolittle to see through the smoke that Behe blows around his “irreducible complexity” inanities.  A solid high school science education will suffice.  Not surprisingly, that is exactly what Behe and his fellow peddlers are aiming to deny children in the United States.

Comment #32966

Posted by Amiel Rossow on May 31, 2005 06:56 PM

Behe has published some peer-reviewed papers on biochemistry (although not recently, apparently being too busy with his creo activities) so perhaps he is not really as dumb as his “compelling” response to Bottaro seems to indicate. Therefore his demand for “mutation by mutation…” etc. proof of evolution sounds more like a deliberate effort to enrage his detractors rather than a real serious challenge. This is a behavior rather typical of people driven into a corner and having no reasonable arguments but desperately trying to save (at least for himself) the remnants of his opinion. Is he in a mousetrap? (sorry for the pun).  If this is not so, the only other interpretation seems to be that he is simply a hopeless fanatic immune to a reasonable discourse.  That such people can get a position of a tenured professor at a respectable university says something gloomy about the situation with science and education in the US.

Comment #32972

Posted by 386sx on May 31, 2005 07:18 PM

Mr. Behe: “after all, Darwin himself was frequently confused!

Well by golly that Darwin must have been some wacky dude! Woo hoo hoo! !!!!! 

Mr. Behe: “No matter what it is or who commenced it, I’m against it!

Well Behe didn’t really say that. But it’s darn close! Many exclamation points!!!!! Whoopeee!

Comment #32973

Posted by ‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank on May 31, 2005 07:19 PM

“Dr. Behe has posted a compelling response to “The Revenge of Calvin and Hobbes” at http://www.idthefuture.com/index.php?p=405&more=1&c=1&tb=1&p…Forrest M. Mims III”

BTW, Mr Mims, I thought you were a YEC.  What are you doing hanging around that heretic Behe, who not only thinks that the earth is billions of years old, but also thinks that humans are descended from an apelike common ancestor with chimps?  Not to mention the fact that Behe is, gasp, CATHOLIC !!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment #32977

Posted by Art on May 31, 2005 07:55 PM …

If there’s any doubt that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is THE guiding principle to ID “research”, Behe dispels it completely.  That he invokes it so clumsily and quickly in response to Andrea’s essay tells me that Andrea’s arguments were very, very hurtful to whatever scientific argument Behe thinks he has.  Nicely done, Andrea. 

Discussion

It is obvious that the vast majority of the exchanges in this excerpt are pure invective name calling, and nothing more.  Except Dr. Boltaro’s original post, virtually nothing could be characterized as rational, respectful, discussion.  The omnipresent name calling by Darwinists is also very common in books, even by major academic publishers. For example, Professor Perakh constantly resorts to name calling and ad hominem attacks in his book.  Perakh attacks anyone and everyone he cites who believes God had some role in history, including theistic evolutionists, such as many of the people involved in the intelligent design movement (Behe and Heeren, for example).  A few of the more obvious examples include Phillip Johnson is a “militant dilettante” (p.141), Dr. Hugh Ross is on a “crusade of ignorance” (p. 173), Grant Jeffrey is an “ignoramus” and “arrogant” (p.193, 206) and on and on.  Johnson is attacked because he is a lawyer who writes about Darwinism, yet Perakh is a retired physics teacher who writes about biology.

This common response to theists bothered me when I was an atheist, and it bothers me much more today.  My co-atheists constantly called all believers of the theistic kind stupid, ignorant, uninformed, flat-earthers, arrogant, and almost every other demeaning name imaginable.  My co-atheists felt our kind of believers had the truth, and only we were intelligent, or so we thought. Many of the leading atheists—and I knew some fairly well—were not exactly geniuses and had a good share of their own shortcomings (such as to look down on all theists).  I have also noticed that a clear trend now exists for Darwinists to use more and more hateful inflammatory rhetoric, including likening those that doubt Darwin to “holocaust deniers.”  I would think it is likely that, in the long run, this common ploy will backfire, at least with informed readers.

My problem is I love to debate this issue and, for this reason, find the intellectual challenge invigorating.  Furthermore, often it is very easy to effectively respond to challenges by Darwinists. Since I have been studying this issue for several decades now, it is unusual for me to read an argument to which I cannot effectively respond.  When I have logged on to a site to discuss the controversy, my consistent experience is to be called about every derogatory name I had ever heard of before, (and even a few that I was unfamiliar with).  My critics often use an internet search engine to come up with unfounded charges leveled against me by others and, without researching to determine if the charges are true, uncritically repeat them, adding to the rumor mill.

My consistent experience is Darwin critics usually have no interest in determining if the charges are true, but only in mocking those who have serious doubts about Darwinism. Unless one is a masochist, this experience is not pleasant, nor is it helpful in the debate.  Furthermore, in my experience few persons present any substantial arguments, but I must admit many Darwinists are very talented and creative in using words to mock those persons that they obviously disdain. This generalization is clear in the above exchanges.

References

Perakh, Mark.  2004.  Unintelligent Design.  Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.