Every time a creationist who categorizes himself as a proponent of intelligent design starts talking about what it would take for scientists to convince him that evolution is plausible, you just know that the criteria he outlines are going to be changed the instant the relevant research is produced. That’s exactly what happened when a staff crank at the Discovery Institute, Dr. Michael Behe, was pointed to research by biologist Joe Thornton, who not only demolished his claims of “irreducible complexity” but did it according to Behe’s own criteria.
Now, if Behe was still a real scientist rather than a professional sophist with an inflated sense of self-worth, he’d be rethinking his assumptions and whether becoming a PhD for creationists to wave around was really a good career move. Instead, he’s shamelessly lying about the research and what it shows, trying to move the goalposts. It’s like he ordered a steak cooked medium rare and when what can only be described as a picture perfect medium rare steak hits his plate, he backs away and says that this isn’t what he meant when he said medium rare at all. Well, that’s ok if you’re a fussy restaurant patron. But if you want to be a scientist, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard.
As we can see by Behe’s eager acceptance of a fellowship at a think tank for wealthy evangelicals who want to go back to the days of the Scopes Trial by any means necessary, he’s not about to do the honorable thing and admit that science met his challenge. Instead, he’s even been raving about how the very research that shows his assertions to be ridiculous are actually proof of those ridiculous assertions by mangling Thornton’s work. Thanks to an intervention from science writer Carl Zimmer, Thornton delivered a lengthy, detailed debunking of Behe’s criticism on The Loom, although he admitted to a little trepidation before countering creationists in public. It’s not the he’s unsure of his research. If he were, he wouldn’t have published it. His concern is about something totally different…
I am well aware that Behe and his supporters might portray my response as an indication that there is scientific debate over the possibility of adaptive protein evolution: “Look, an evolutionary biologist who actually does scientific research is arguing with me; let’s teach this controversy in public schools!” Because Behe has grossly misinterpreted the results of my research to support his position, however, I feel some responsibility to set the record straight.
He’s absolutely right to be worried about this turn of events. Consider the Institute’s fiasco with organizing a debate between Dr. Nicolas Gotelli and one of their hacks. It seems that the likes of Behe and Dembski are desperate to hear anything addressed to them by an actual scientist for a chance to try and show how smart they supposedly are, they don’t even care that it’s a condescending shrug and an explanation of why they have no valid arguments on their side. Or maybe Behe already forgot the brutal smackdown he received from Ken Miller about his notion of irreducible complexity? Although to forget that, our theologically inclined biochemist would probably have to be suffering from amnesia.
[ as per tradition, illustration by Controversy Wear ]