With causes of evolution of clotting given, Behe declares otherwise

NOTE: This was first published here on 8.28.08, and is simply being re-published as a separate post now.

Prothrombin appears in an ancient guise with EGF domain(s) attached, the result of a … protease gene duplication and … shuffling. DBB 92 (quoting Russell Doolittle)

The above is only one example of a host of instances of duplications and gene shuffling that Doolittle mentions on pp. 92-93 as causes in the evolution of the clotting cascade. And yet Behe has either the stupidity or the dishonesty to write this:

Now let’s take a little time to give Professor Doolittle’s scenario a critical look. The first thing to notice is that no causative factors are cited. DBB 93

Except that the causative factors were right there in front of his face. He does actually cite them again in the same paragraph, apparently being too dull to recognize a causal factor even when he is writing about it: Doolittle appears to have in mind a step-by-step Darwinian scenario involving the undirected, random duplication and recombination of gene pieces. (Ibid.) Now it’s probably true that Behe does not credit those factors as being adequate causes (and note also that he essentially ignores the role of natural selection), and he could argue against them as such. But it’s nothing less than dishonest (or the kind of stupidity that precludes honest discussion) to say that causative factors (ones that are clearly documented in the genome) are not mentioned by Doolittle.

There is little reason to try to meet Behe’s demands for all of the desired details from a half billions years or more back. The real point is that the evidence does indicate evolution, as even Behe essentially admits in the clotting chapter, “Rube Goldberg in the Blood.” And his various writings become painfully contrary to each other as he continually tries to evade the evidence of unguided evolution. In The Edge of Evolution he writes:

Yet genome duplication…and…time seem not to have given baker’s yeast any advantage it wouldn’t have otherwise have had. EoE 74

Yes, there needs to be selective pressure for duplications to be of any value. More to the point, in the clotting cascade, as well as in many other cases (plants are particularly known to be “evolvable” due to their frequent genetic duplications), the opportunity to evolve advantage does appear to have come partly from gene duplications.

The more I read Behe, the more I recognize these obvious lacunae. He will generalize from a single example, as with the yeast, while completely ignoring the fact that duplications are not expected to always have a dramatic effect and that sometimes they apparently have allowed for dramatic evolution. Plus, one has to wonder how competent he is at any science when he can list the causes that Doolittle adduced for the evolution of the clotting cascade, then to blithely state that no causative factors were cited.

Furthermore, he is clearly treating similar evidence in completely different ways between duplications involved in the origin of the clotting cascade and duplications in yeast. Since he insists that the clotting cascade did not evolve, the duplications behind the clotting cascade are magical, intelligently caused duplications (the “designer” is revealed as supplier of mutations in EoE), and duplications in yeast are merely accidental. How does he know that? Easy, he had already decided that the clotting cascade did not evolve as it appears to have done.

A real scientist looks at the evidence for common descent and apparently random mutations, plus selection, and asks how the clotting cascade evolved by those causes (among others), since one must match up cause and effect in science. Behe is quite the opposite, because he had already decided that life was designed. He simply looks at the sort of evidence he accepts in the evolution of yeast and tries to come up with a “designer” whose causation does not leave effects different from those of unguided evolution (aside from providing a more efficient supply of beneficial mutations, that is), which is easy to do when one’s “designer” was always one that could simply “do anything” at all. Proving only that those who won’t give up “design” will shift their concept of “the designer” until it can no longer be distinguished from mindless processes.

This is part of a series of posts that I am combining into one long post, which may be found at Darwin’s Black Box.

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